You may remember, not too long ago, we told you about the revelation that Ronald Reagan carried a pistol in his briefcase while president. Well it may come as a surprise that Eleanor Roosevelt had a handgun she sometimes carried while she was First Lady of the nation.
Roosevelt, a Democrat who traveled the country to highlight the plight of the poor and marginalized, owned a prized .22 Smith & Wesson Outdoorsman revolver, according to this story posted by the Poughkieepsie Journal.
It was discovered that the former First Lady applied for a pistol permit in Durchess County, New York in 1957. The document, which was technically still valid until 2008, was added in June to the extensive materials at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park. It indicated that she had previously been granted a pistol license in 1933.
“This is an example of a record that is out there—it was intended for an administrative purpose, but it has long-term, historical implications,” said Bob Clark, acting director of the facility. “It’s very important that it has a permanent home here at the library.”
It’s well known Eleanor received death threats during her husband’s long tenure as president, especially while traveling the south on a civil rights tours. FDR had also survived an assassination attempt in Miami awaiting his first inauguration in 1933. Afterward, he reportedly suggested to his wife that she let the Secret Service protect her. She declined the offer, as she preferred to travel alone.
Clark says in October 1933, Eleanor’s bodyguard Earl Miller taught her how to shoot a gun on her 49th birthday.
“He worked with her to show her the proper way to shoot a pistol and that was really the beginning of Mrs. Roosevelt’s interest with handguns,” Clark said.
Eleanor’s .22, a gift from Earl, was sold at auction in October 2014 via the James D. Julia auction house to a private collector for $50,600.
When Roosevelt’s S&W Outdoorsman with a 6-inch barrel, patridge front sights, a round top frame with adjustable rear sights, and pearl grips was sold, it was complete with its original silver medallion and diamond checkered walnut grips and was housed in a distributor-supplied, green velvet lined hard case, with nicked bras pocket cleaning rod and a small collapsible screwdriver.
The silver plaque on the lid is engraved “Oct. 11 1933 / May your aims always be perfect / EARL.”