In honor of President’s day, we take a look at some of the hardware associated with the men who have occupied the Oval Office.
A military man, the country’s first Commander and Chief, President George Washington had at least seven sets of pistols recovered from Mount Veron after his death. This set, likely made by William Woolley in the 1760s, is one. (Photo: Mount Vernon)
One of his more treasured pieces was the .71-caliber flintlock pistol given to him by British Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock in 1755 during the French & Indians War when Washington was a Virginia militia officer. Marked with Braddock’s own initials, Washington carried it on campaigns throughout most of his service. It is now in the Smithsonian’s collection. (Photo: Smithsonian)
Pennsylvania gunsmith John Philip Buck presented this flintlock long rifle to President George Washington in 1791. The .44-caliber rifle was similar to those used by elite light infantry units under Washington’s command during the Revolutionary War such as Morgan’s Riflemen. It is now in the Frazier in Louisville (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
As noted by Monticello, Founding Father and primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote to his 15-year-old nephew, Peter Carr, concerning what he considered the best form of exercise: “… I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprize, and independance to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun, therefore, be the constant companion of your walks.”
Jefferson bought these pocket pistols from John Dealtry in London in 1786, paying £4-10. “Because of its small size and detachable barrel, this type of pistol was useful when traveling. Visitors to Monticello noted that he hung a pair of pistols at the foot of his bed, but it is not known whether these are the ones he kept at hand.” They are displayed as such in Jefferson’s Bed Chamber today. (Photo: Monticello)
Serving in the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War, Abraham Lincoln knew firearms and famously test fired the Spencer carbine on the White House lawn during the Civil War. The below 1860 Henry rifle, engraved “Lincoln/ President/U.S.A.” was presented to Honest Abe during the conflict. However, the Army, in the end, ordered far more Spencers than Henrys. It is now in the Smithsonian. Incidentally, John Wilkes Booth’s Derringer is also on public display across town at Ford’s Theater.
Lincoln’s engraved presentation Henry (Photo: Smithsonian)
Renowned as a big game hunter for whom the Teddy Bear was named, this “Big Medicine” Holland & Holland .500/.450 Nitro Express double rifle was presented to President Theodore “Bull Moose” Roosevelt in 1909 to specs provided by hunter Edward North Buxton. It is now in the Frazier in Louisville. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
President Theodore Roosevelt, whose resume included New York City police commissioner, Lt. Col. of the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War, and Asst. Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, was an avid firearm buff and the National Rifle Associatin’s National Firearms Museum has several of his guns on display including an Adolph Double Rifle and a Smith & Wesson revolver.
TR’s nephew Franklin D. Roosevelt also knew his way around a gun. Here he is as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during WWI, firing and handling a Springfield M1903 at the Marine Corps’ rifle range at Winthrop, Maryland in 1917.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice president later moved into the Oval Office in 1945 on Roosevelt’s death. However, back in 1917, Harry S. Truman was a National Guard captain called into federal service to go to France at the head of a battery of field artillery in the front lines, making the argument that he was a big fan of things with a caliber of 75mm and up.
The M1911 and web belt belonging to Truman, which he carried through the war and on drill weekends and summer camps through the 1940s, is now at the Truman Library and Museum in Independence, MO (Photo: NPS)
On December 16, 1953: “Deputy Sheriff Dwight D. Eisenhower was presented with a nickel-plated .38-caliber revolver today to use if he’s ever called up for posse duty. Eisenhower tried the gun for size in his inside coat pocket after checking the chamber and twirling the cylinder to make sure it wasn’t loaded. The President, who is an honorary deputy sheriff, was given the weapon by the National Sheriff’s Association “to back up his authority in the event he is ever called upon for posse service.” (Photo: Smith & Wesson)
While serving as a U.S. Senator, WWII vet John F. Kennedy sought out a lottery M1 Garand through the Director of Civilian Marksmanship– and he got a beaut.
The Type 1 National Match M1 Garand was rebuilt to Type 2 standard by no-less a rifle wizard than MSG Raymond E Parkinson, a gunsmith assigned to the Army’s Advanced Marksmanship Unit at Ft. Meade. (Photo: RIA)
While a Democrat, JFK was also a life member of the NRA as well as a sports shooter and firearms collector. Once he moved into the White House he was later presented a vintage Spencer Carbine, serial number 44066, because of his fascination with the Civil War, by a delegation from the Springfield Armory, which is now in on display at the JFK Presidential Library.
Spencer Carbine, serial number 44066, presented to the President in Dec. 1962. (Photo: Springfield Armory National Historic Site)
President Ronald Reagan was presented with a replica Kentucky rifle on Dec. 7, 1981. The former President noted in his diary that day about the muzzleloader that, “It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of work I’ve ever seen.”
Next to Reagan in a suit is then-NRA Executive Vice President Harlon Carter while gunsmith Christopher Hirsch is in buckskins slightly obscured by the rifle. It is now in the NRA Museum. (Photo:Reaganlibrary.gov)