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A Picture from History: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Pistols

In this Picture from History, we take a look at former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's love of guns and shooting.

In 1928, shortly after FDR became the governor of New York, his wife, Eleanor was told that she needed a bodyguard.

While appearances seemed to indicate that Eleanor was never a fan of being followed around, she agreed. Fatefully, this would lead to her lifelong friendship with the man who was trusted to protect her, Earl Miller. 

Eleanor Roosevelt and Earl Miller at Chazy Lake, New York in 1934
Eleanor Roosevelt and Earl Miller at Chazy Lake, New York in 1934

Miller was no stranger to fighting. He’d previously worked as a New York state trooper before fighting in both World War I and World War II with the U.S. Navy.

He was a middleweight boxing champion who had even served as an alternate for the United States’ boxing team in the Olympics.

The man not only knew how to shoot out a quick jab but was also proficient with firearms. 

Eleanor Roosevelt and Earl Miller in 1930
Eleanor Roosevelt and Earl Miller in 1930

In 1933, the year FDR became president, Miller gifted Eleanor with what is widely believed to have been her first handgun. It was a .22 S&W Outdoorsman revolver. 

Engraved on the box which accompanied the revolver was, “Oct. 11 1933 / May your aims always be perfect / EARL.

Eleanor Roosevelt shoots revolver at Chazy Lake, New York
Eleanor Roosevelt shoots revolver at Chazy Lake, New York

Did Eleanor Roosevelt Concealed Carry?

Apparently, Eleanor applied for a pistol license that same year.

After she died, it was discovered that she held a pistol license from Dutchess County, New York in her wallet. It was permit #8043 and was granted in 1957.

On that permit, it states that Eleanor had also received a pistol permit back in 1933. 

Eleanor Roosevelt's concealed carry permit
Eleanor Roosevelt’s concealed carry permit

Eleanor was 49 at the time that Miller gifted her the .22.

This appears to also also be the year that Miller began teaching Eleanor how to shoot.

Eleanor was instantly drawn to target shooting, and would later say, “If the necessity arose, I do know how to use a pistol.” 

Eleanor Roosevelt and Nancy Cook with targets after shooting
Eleanor Roosevelt and Nancy Cook with targets after shooting

A Compromise is Reached

It was during this time that Eleanor’s habit of taking long trips solo began to cause headaches for the Secret Service.

William Moran, the head of the Secret Service, begged Eleanor to take a police escort, a bodyguard, or someone as she traveled the country alone. But Eleanor consistently refused.

She liked traveling alone.

William H. Moran congratulates his successor as Chief of the United States Secret Service, Frank J Wilson
William H. Moran (left) congratulates his successor as Chief of the United States Secret Service, Frank J Wilson (right)

A compromise was eventually reached when Eleanor agreed to carry a pistol with her as she traveled. Moran then gave her a revolver (apparently an S&W .38 Special) and taught her how to use it. 

After her death, Eleanor’s prized .22 would be sold at auction. In October 2014, a private collector purchased it for more than $50,000. 

Eleanor Roosevelt’s .22 Smith & Wesson Outdoorsman
Eleanor Roosevelt’s .22 Smith & Wesson Outdoorsman

This is a new style of article for Pew Pew Tactical, if you liked it — let us know in the comments! If you didn’t enjoy it…well phooey. To catch up on previous Pictures from History, click on over to our History Category.

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12 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    173rdLRRP

    Definitely never a woman to be taken lightly intellectually or physically . Her sons served well in the military

    March 30, 2022 1:12 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Eric

    Enjoyed the article immensely. Interesting that even the wife of the most powerful man in the USA was required to get her CCW and Owner's permits.

    March 28, 2022 5:01 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jacki Billings, Editor

      Thanks for reading!

      March 29, 2022 7:07 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bob

    Enjoyed the article and hope to see more like it!

    March 27, 2022 5:56 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jacki Billings, Editor

      Thanks for reading!

      March 28, 2022 6:43 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    David

    The Secret Service used to train at my gun club here in Dutchess County Dutchess County Pistol Association still running today.

    March 27, 2022 2:46 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Judy Byrd

    Loved the article and history!

    March 27, 2022 1:50 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mike

    Liked the article

    March 27, 2022 1:23 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Cody

    I love this whole series but please make them longer!

    March 27, 2022 12:44 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Stacia F

    Awesome! Not too much info that it turns into a history lesson but enough that makes it fun and interesting.

    March 27, 2022 12:41 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mark Nighswonger

    Very enlightening!

    March 26, 2022 5:02 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Tom-de-saeger

    Great article!

    March 25, 2022 3:14 pm
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