Theodore Roosevelt and James Andrew Drain

Dec 03, 2015

We often hear from descendants of those with whom TR corresponded regarding original letters that have been passed down in their family. Recently, Mark Bardenwerper contacted us about a series of such letters to James Drain. Bardenwerper sent us copies of the original signed letters for the digital library. We took the occasion to catalog the corresponding letters from Drain to TR (mostly from the Library of Congress Theodore Roosevelt Papers), “knitting back together” their conversation.

Theodore Roosevelt’s relationships were sometimes based on his passions for reading and hunting. His relationship with James Andrew Drain, president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), was one of those connections. TR read Drain’s Stories of Some Shoots, or the Chronicles of a Gratified Gunner with enthusiasm. The book described Drain’s hunting adventures in Scotland in 1911.

The letters between Drain and Roosevelt, which span the period 1901 to 1917, also illuminate the development of the National Rifle Association and its relationship to the National Guard. In a letter introducing Drain to Gifford Pinchot, Roosevelt writes that Drain “has done more than any other man to help rifle shooting in the national guard and among citizens.”

Roosevelt’s later letters to Drain reflect his concerns about patriotism and willingness to fight on behalf of one’s country. In one of these appears a statement made by TR numerous times in varying ways, most memorably after the death of his son Quentin in France in 1917: “No man is fit to live unless he is ready to quit life for adequate cause.”

Roosevelt and Drain’s correspondence can be viewed here. To read the letters in order, change the sort order from “relevance” to “date.”

Bardenwerper is the author of a 2013 biography of Drain, Single Handed.


Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to James Andrew Drain, July 14, 1916. America Collection.

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