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How Did They Find Theodore Roosevelt’s Stolen Pocket Watch?

nside-the-Front-Cover-with-Inscription-22Theodore-Roosevelt-From-J.R.-C.R.R.22 - Source NPS

An important piece of U.S. history has been recovered: Theodore Roosevelt’s pocket watch, stolen nearly four decades ago, has been returned to the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site in Cove Neck, New York.

In 2023, an auctioneer in Florida came across a late 1800s pocket watch, suspecting it might have presidential significance.

Sagamore Hill
Sagamore Hill

His research led him to contact the Sagamore Hill and Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Sites, confirming that the watch belonged to Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States.

About the Pocket Watch

The watch, a Waltham 17-jewel with a coin silver case and a hunter-style case, is a simple pocket watch, but its sentimental and historical value is huge.

It was a gift from Roosevelt’s sister, Corinne, and her husband, Douglas Robinson Jr., inscribed with “THEODORE ROOSEVELT FROM D.R. & C.R.R.” This personal connection made it a cherished possession.

SAGAMORE HILL NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE - Inside the Watch - How Did They Find Theodore Roosevelt’s Stolen Pocket Watch? Article
SAGAMORE HILL NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE – Inside the Watch – Image Courtesy NPS

Roosevelt carried this watch during pivotal moments in his life, including the Spanish-American War’s Battle of San Juan Hill in 1898, and throughout his presidency from 1901 to 1909.

On May 5, 1898, President Roosevelt wrote to his sister, thanking her:

“Darling Corinne, You could not have given me a more useful present than the watch; it was exactly what I wished…Thank old Douglas for the watch – and for his many, many kindnesses.”

Jonathan Parker, superintendent at Sagamore Hill, emphasised its value: “It has travelled thousands of miles over the last 126 years, or about 4 billion seconds.”

Theodore Roosevelts silver watch resting on his office desk
Theodore Roosevelt’s silver watch resting on his office desk – Image Source – NPS

The watch had been part of Sagamore Hill’s collection since Roosevelt’s death in 1919.

In 1971, it was loaned to the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo, New York, but was reported stolen on July 21, 1987.

Despite extensive investigations, the watch remained missing for over 36 years.

Conclusion

Its reappearance at a Florida auction house prompted a collaborative investigation by the National Park Service (NPS) and the FBI.

Special Agent Robert Giczy of the FBI Art Crime Team confirmed the watch’s provenance, leading to its recovery. “The repatriation of the watch would not have been possible without the close collaboration between the FBI and NPS,” Special Agent Giczy stated.

SAGAMORE HILL NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE Watch Face
SAGAMORE HILL NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE Watch Face – Image Source – NPS

On June 27, 2024, a repatriation ceremony in New York marked the watch’s return to Sagamore Hill.

Representatives from the NPS and the FBI attended, celebrating the successful recovery of this national treasure.

The watch is now set to be displayed at the Old Orchard Museum, offering visitors a glimpse into the life of a beloved president.

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