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Theodore Roosevelt

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“As you know, I have a fervent belief in rifle clubs,”

which “render a real and great service to the nation.”

Theodore Roosevelt, 1858–1919.  26th President of the United States.  Typed letter signed, Theodore Roosevelt, one page, 7” x 9¼”, with integral leaf attached, on engraved stationery of the White House, Washington, Oyster Bay, New York, July 5, 1904.  With original envelope.

This letter shows the appeal that rifle shooting had for Roosevelt, who both enjoyed the sport personally and thought it important that Americans know how to use firearms.  Here, Roosevelt writes to the president of the National Bundes Schuetzenfest, the German-American National Shooting Festival, to thank the members for a trophy, and he expresses his “fervent belief in rifle clubs,” which he said “render a real and great service to the nation.”  He writes, in full:  “I thank you most cordially for the beautiful cup you have sent me.  I shall value it all the more highly because I remember well the occasion some years ago when I participated in a friendly contest withy certain of your members.  As you know, I have a fervent belief in rifle clubs, and I congratulate your organization and its affiliated bodies for what they have done to promote marksmanship with the rifle among our people.  They thereby render a real and great service to the nation.  /  With all good wishes, believe me,  /  Sincerely yours . . . .”

In 1908, in his eighth annual message to Congress, Roosevelt lamented that the “great body of our citizens shoot less and less as time goes on.”  He urged Congress to “provide a complete plan for organizing the great body of volunteers behind the Regular Army and National Guard when war has come” and to assist “those who are endeavoring to promote rifle practice so that our men, in the services or out of them, may know how to use the rifle.”  The government should, he said, “encourage rifle practice among schoolboys, and indeed among all classes, as well as in the military services by every means in our power. Thus, and not otherwise, may we be able to assist in preserving peace in the world.  Fit to hold our own against the strong nations of the earth, our voice for peace will carry to the ends of the earth.  Unprepared, and therefore unfit, we must sit dumb and helpless to defend ourselves, protect others, or preserve peace.  The first step—in the direction of preparation to avert war if possible, and to be fit for war if it should come—is to teach our men to shoot.”

This letter is on stationery that appeared for only a few years.  The White House was known as the “Executive Mansion” before Roosevelt’s presidency. Early in his first term, perhaps coinciding with when he stopped using black-bordered mourning stationery headed “Executive Mansion” following the assassination of President William McKinley, Roosevelt changed the stationery to reflect the mansion’s common name, “White House.”  That is the name that appears here.  Our research shows that Roosevelt used the black-bordered “Executive Mansion” stationery as late as October 16, 1901, and began using stationery headed “White House” by November 1, 1901.  With one exception, Roosevelt used the stationery headed “White House” through July 11, 1905.  The exception is a handwritten letter dated November 21, 1907, that Roosevelt wrote on evidently leftover “White House” stationery. Otherwise, by at least by October 7, 1905, his letters began to appear on stationery headed “The White House,” which the presidential stationery still uses.  Thus it appears that the “White House” stationery on which Roosevelt wrote this letter was in regular use fewer than four years.

Roosevelt has designated this letter “Personal” in type under the printed letterhead, and he has added “not for publication.” by hand below that.  He has signed with a huge 4½” black fountain pen signature.  There is brushing, likely from Roosevelt’s hand, to the handwritten notation at the top and to Roosevelt’s signature, particularly to the first few letters of “Theodore” and to the last two letters of “Roosevelt.”  The letter has one normal horizontal mailing fold, with some soiling at the margins around the fold and scattered handling marks that are not as obtrusive as the light reflection in the scan below makes them appear.  There are also vertical staple holes above and below the fold in the center of the letter that come close to, but do not touch, the typewritten text.  The original envelope has been opened cleanly at the right end, but it is considerably soiled, and the stamp has been torn away, leaving paper loss in the upper right corner of the envelope front.  Overall the letter is in fine condition, and the envelope is good to very good. 


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