July 23rd, 2019

“Bully!” — Theodore Roosevelt’s Guns In NRA Museum

Theodore Teddy TR Roosevelt NRA museum bully

Theodore Teddy TR Roosevelt NRA museum bullyStory by Lars Dalseide for NRAblog.
Back in 2012, the National Firearms Museum received a shipment from Sagamore Hill — the ancestral home of President Theodore Roosevelt. While Sagamore Hill undergoes renovation, the National Parks Service was kind enough to lend a portion of the estate’s collection to the NRA Museum. For quite some time, that collection was displayed at the NRA Museum as an exhibit named “Trappings of an Icon”.

“Basically it tells you about the life of Theodore Roosevelt,” explains Senior Curator Phil Schreier (in photo above in coat). “Hunter, Statesman, Soldier. In the first case we had two firearms from his hunting career. First an 1886 Winchester rifle known as the tennis match gun because he used winnings from a tennis match to purchase the gun.”

The second firearm on display was a suppressed Winchester model 1894 rifle. This was favorite of the President’s when clearing the grounds of the local, pesky critters. Schreier explains: “Archie Roosevelt wrote that his father liked to shoot varmints around Oyster Bay with this gun so he wouldn’t disturb the Tiffany and Du Pont families that lived near by.”

President Theodore Roosevelt was a strong supporter of marksmanship competitions. In fact President Theodore Roosevelt could be called a “founding father” of the NRA National Matches*. Teddy Roosevelt believed that, to assure peace, America needed to be prepared to fight. At the 2011 NRA National Championships, Dr. Joseph W. Westphal, Under Secretary of the U.S. Army, echoed the views of Roosevelt: “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 men to shoot.”

Theodore Roosevelt also has a strong connection to the “President’s Match” fired every summer at Camp Perry. The President’s Match was patterned after an event for British Volunteers called the Queen’s Match started in 1860 by Queen Victoria and the NRA of Great Britain. The tradition of making a letter from the President of the United States the first prize began in 1904 when President Roosevelt personally wrote a letter of congratulations to the winner, Private Howard Gensch of the New Jersey National Guard.

*In February 1903, an amendment to the War Department Appropriations Bill established the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (NBPRP). This government advisory board became the predecessor to today’s Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, Inc. that now governs the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). The 1903 legislation also established the National Matches, commissioned the National Trophy and provided funding to support the Matches. This historic legislation grew out of a desire to improve military marksmanship and national defense preparedness. President Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary of War Elihu Root and NRA President General Bird Spencer were among the most important supporters of this act.

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