University Archives

Lot 279

Previous image preload Next image preload


Theodore Roosevelt Declines Speaking Opportunity during 1884 Election and Votes for New Members of the Academy of Arts and Letters

When his wife and mother died on the same day in February 1884, two days after the birth of his first child, Theodore Roosevelt was distraught. He left his newborn daughter in the care of his sister and focused his attentions on his duties in the New York State Assembly and in the Republican Party. He supported the presidential aspirations of Senator George F. Edmunds of Vermont and controlled the New York Republican state convention. He attended the Republican National Convention in Chicago in June, but supporters of James G. Blaine won the nomination for their candidate. Roosevelt reluctantly announced his support for Blaine and spent time on a ranch he had established the year before in the Dakota Territory. He returned to New York in October and campaigned for the Republican ticket, as this brief letter makes clear.

Founded in 1898, the National Institute of Arts and Letters was organized for “the advancement of art and literature.” Among the charter members of the Institute were Theodore Roosevelt, Daniel Chester French, Henry James, and Woodrow Wilson. In 1904, the Institute and two other organizations created the American Academy of Arts and Letters as an honor society for the country’s leading, architects, artists, composers, and writers, from within the membership of the Institute. As vacancies occurred through the death of members, existing members elected new members. The Academy also administers several awards and prizes in Literature, Music, and Fine Arts. In 1993, the Institute dissolved itself, and all 250 members were enrolled in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. This envelope with Roosevelt’s signature held his ballot for new members. A penciled notation indicates it was from 1910.

The thirty-nine living members of the Academy, sometimes dubbed the “Immortals,” were invited to meet in New York City in December 1910 to select persons to fill the eleven vacancies, created by the deaths of such members as Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain), Julia Ward Howe, and Winslow Homer.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT, Manuscript Letter Signed Secretarially, to W. A. M. Grier, October 20, 1884, New York, New York. On black-bordered mourning card. “B.” beneath signature may indicate that the card was written and signed by Roosevelt’s sister, Anna “Bye” or “Bamie” Roosevelt Cowles (1855-1931), who cared for Theodore Roosevelt’s infant daughter and did not marry until 1895. 2 pp., 4.5ʺ x 3.5ʺ. Also includes THEODORE ROOSEVELT, Typed Envelope Signed, that once included Academy of Arts and Letters ballot, ca. 1910. 1 p., 5.25ʺ x 4.125ʺ. Card has chipped corner and 1ʺ tear at bottom. Envelope has fold in center and lacks flap from opening.

Complete Transcript
W. A. M. Grier, Esq.
Dear Sir
Have been out of town and just received your letter. Am greatly obliged to you for your kindness but I do not wish to run for any office this Fall. It is quite impossible for me to speak at the meeting on 25th as every day until election is engaged. Am very sorry
Yours Truly
Theodore Roosevelt / B.
422 Mad. Ave. / Oct 20 / 84

Academy of Arts and Letters / Ballot for Candidates
Name of Member Voting / Mr. Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) was born in New York City, graduated from Harvard University in 1880, and attended Columbia Law School. In 1880, he married Alice Hathaway Lee (1861-1884), with whom he had one daughter. Two days after their daughter’s birth, Alice Roosevelt died, plunging Roosevelt into grief. He served in the New York State Assembly from 1882 to 1884, and as president of the New York City Police Commissioners in 1895 and 1896, then as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1897 to 1898. After service in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, he won election as Governor of New York and served from 1899 to 1900. He ran as Vice President to William McKinley in 1900, and became President in September 1901, when McKinley was assassinated. Reelected in 1904, Roosevelt was President until 1909. A prolific author and naturalist, Roosevelt was instrumental in the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century, helped preserve the nation’s natural resources, and extended American power throughout the world with a focus on a modern navy. In 1912, he again sought the Republican nomination for President, but when the convention chose incumbent William Howard Taft, Roosevelt formed the Progressive Party and out polled Taft in the general election. The Republican division allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency.

William A. M. Grier (1833-1922) was born in Pennsylvania and graduated from Lafayette College in 1856. He learned telegraphy in 1850 and opened offices and instructed operators for the North & West Branch Telegraph company. After graduating from college, he became a banker in Danville, then Hazleton, Pennsylvania. From 1867 to 1881, he was the managing partner of a banking firm. In 1882, he moved to New York City, where he was president of the Corry Radiator Company until 1901. He supported James A. Garfield in 1880 and was the first delegate to vote for him at the Republican National Convention. He supported James Blaine in 1884.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


Online Payments Accepted

Accepted Forms of Payment

American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Money Order / Cashiers Check, Paypal, Personal Check, Visa, Wire Transfer


We do our own in-house worldwide shipping!

Applicable shipping and handling charges will be added to the invoice. We offer several shipping options, and remain one of the few auction houses who proudly provides professional in-house shipping as an option to our clients. All items will ship with signature required, and full insurance. Most items are sent via Federal Express, with P. O. Box addresses being sent through USPS. We insure through Berkley Asset Protection with rates of $.70 per $100 of value, among the lowest insurance rates in the industry. Our shipping department cameras document every package, both outgoing and incoming, for maximum security. In addition, we compare our shipping and handling rates against those of other auction houses, to ensure that our charges are among the lowest in the trade.

Upon winning your item(s), you will receive an invoice with our in-house shipping and handling fees included. ***We will ship to the address as it appears on your invoice, unless you inform us otherwise, immediately upon your receipt of invoice***

International shipments: In order to comply with our insurance provider, all international shipments will be sent via Fed Ex and customs paperwork will show a value of $1.00. International buyers should contact our office directly with any questions regarding this policy.

Third Party Shipping Option: If a third party shipper is preferred, the buyer is responsible for contacting them directly to make shipping arrangements. For your convenience, we have provided some recommended shippers. For your protection, we will require a signed release from you, confirming your authorization for us to release your lots to your specified third party Please copy and paste this following link into your browser: http://universityarchives.com/UserFiles/ShippingInfo.pdf. At that point, our responsibility and insurance coverage for your item(s) ceases. Items picked up by third party shippers are required to pay Connecticut sales tax. Items requiring third party shipping due to being oversized, fragile or bulky will be denoted in the item description.

Please see our full terms and conditions for names of suggested third party shippers.

After payment has been made in full, University Archives will ship your purchase within 5 business days following receipt of full payment for item.

Please remember that the buyer is responsible for all shipping costs from University Archives' offices in Westport, CT to the buyer's door. Please see full Terms and Conditions of Sale.

September 30, 2020 10:30 AM EDT

Westport, CT, US

You agree to pay a buyer's premium of up to 25.0% and any applicable taxes and shipping

View full terms and conditions

From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000