Crime

Theodore Roosevelt’s Stolen Watch Winds Its Way Home

CrimeJul 02, 2024

Theodore Roosevelt’s Stolen Watch Winds Its Way Home

It has been returned to the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site in New York nearly 40 years after being taken while on loan to a Buffalo museum.

Pocket watch belonging to Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt
This pocket watch that belonged to Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, has been recovered by the National Park Service and FBI after being stolen 37 years ago.
Oyster Bay, N.Y.—A pocket watch that belonged to Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt has been recovered after being stolen 37 years ago, the National Park Service (NPS) announced last week.

Taken while on loan for a museum exhibition, the watch eventually found its way from New York to a Florida auction house, where an auctioneer’s suspicion that the piece may be connected to the 26th president of the United States led him to research its origin.

NPS special agents, with assistance from the FBI Art Crime team, were tapped to recover the artifact after two historic sites connected to the former president’s estate confirmed its authenticity. 

A repatriation ceremony took place June 27 in New York to officially mark the return of the timepiece to Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, where it had been since Roosevelt’s death in 1919.

Located on New York’s Long Island in the town of Oyster Bay, Sagamore Hill was Roosevelt’s home and was known as the “Summer White House” for the summers he spent there while president from 1901 to 1909.

The watch will be on display in a special exhibit at the historic site, free for public viewing for the next three months. 

It was last on public display at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo, New York.

Sagamore Hill had loaned the timepiece to the museum for an exhibition. 

On July 21, 1987, the FBI reported the pocket watch had been stolen.

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt’s pocket watch
Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt’s pocket watch was stolen in 1987 from the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo, New York, where it was on loan for an exhibition. (Photo courtesy of NPS)


No suspects were arrested in connection with the theft, and the watch’s whereabouts were unknown for decades until it reappeared at an auction house in Florida last year, NPS said. 

The auctioneer thought the 1800s pocket watch may have belonged to Roosevelt, who had many pocket watches during his life.  

According to the NPS, this particular timepiece was a gift from his youngest sister, Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, and his brother-in-law, Douglas Robinson Jr., in 1898, ahead of his departure to fight in the Spanish-American War. 

The Waltham-manufactured pocket watch bears an inscription reading, “THEODORE ROOSEVELT FROM D.R. & C.R.R,” as seen in the photo at the top of the article. 

On May 5, 1898, Roosevelt wrote to his sister, “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.” 

 Related stories will be right here … 

The watch accompanied Roosevelt, a lieutenant colonel, as he led the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry and was with him during his charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba and while hunting in Africa.

Roosevelt mentioned the watch while detailing a difficult bayou crossing in his 1914 book, “Through the Brazilian Wilderness,” writing, “One result of the swim, by the way, was that my watch, a veteran of Cuba and Africa, came to an indignant halt.”

The timepiece was repaired following Roosevelt’s overseas adventures, and NPS said it likely went on to accompany him throughout portions of his presidency, including his two inaugurations.

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt’s pocket watch
Roosevelt’s timepiece is a Waltham 17-jewel watch with a hunter-style case made of inexpensive coin silver. (Photo courtesy of NPS)


FBI Special Agent Robert Giczy, a member of the FBI Art Crime Team who investigated the provenance of the watch, described the timepiece as a “fairly pedestrian” Waltham 17-jewel watch with an inexpensive coin silver case. 

It is a “Riverside” grade, model 1888 with a hunter-style case, meaning it has a lid on either side which fold and encase the dial and the movement.

Giczy praised the NPS, saying the agency does a “great job in enforcing and recovering our national property.”

“The repatriation of the watch would not have been possible without the close collaboration between the FBI and NPS. This partnership ensured that this historic treasure could be returned safely for future generations to enjoy,” he said.

The June 27 repatriation ceremony was attended by NPS Director Chuck Sams, members of the Roosevelt family, and representatives from the NPS, as well as representatives from the FBI, including the New York, Miami, and Tampa field offices and members of the Art Crime team.

“It is an honor to have a role in preserving American history for current and future generations to learn from,” Sams said, according to NPS. 

“Recovering and returning this remarkable piece of presidential history, a cherished personal item of President Theodore Roosevelt, to its rightful home here at Sagamore Hill reflects the dedication and hard work of NPS and partners in the spirit of preservation.”

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt’s pocket watch
Theodore Roosevelt’s silver watch resting on the desk in his office (Photo courtesy of NPS)


The watch will be featured in an exclusive exhibit at the Old Orchard Museum, part of Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, and available for free public viewing over the next three months. 

It is one of thousands of items originally gifted to the NPS by the Roosevelt family through the Theodore Roosevelt Association in 1963 and will remain part of the permanent museum collection. 

“The stories this watch could tell over the last 126 years include colorful and profound moments in American history,” said Jonathan Parker, superintendent of Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.  

“Historic objects are powerful because they are literal participants in historic events, and in the case of this storied watch, it is also a beloved family heirloom of a renowned American president. Almost 40 years have passed since the public had last seen President Roosevelt’s watch, and we’re excited to place this watch back into the light on public display.” 

The Latest

Bulgari high jewelry campaign
FinancialsJul 24, 2024
LVMH’s First-Half Jewelry, Watch Sales Dip 5%

Tiffany & Co. is focusing on its “iconic” collections while the company has made changes at the top at TAG Heuer and Hublot.

Chaumet Paris 2024 Olympics medals
MajorsJul 24, 2024
See Chaumet’s Paris Olympic Medals Inspired by its High Jewelry

The Parisian brand is the first jewelry company in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to design the medals.

Jewelers Mutual and Union Life and Casualty logos
MajorsJul 24, 2024
Jewelers Mutual Acquires Pawnbroker Insurance Provider

Union Life & Casualty will join JM Insurance Agency Partners, expanding the provider’s pawnbroker coverage.

Untitled design.jpg
Brought to you by
The End of an Era? Lab-Grown Diamonds' Journey Towards Price Stability

As the demand for lab-grown diamond jewelry may still be increasing, the most notable change we are likely to see is price stabilization.

Bradlei Smith
MajorsJul 24, 2024
Ben Bridge Announces 2024 Lonia Tate Scholarship Winner

Los Angeles-based Bradlei Smith was selected for this year’s award.

Weekly QuizJul 18, 2024
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge by answering these questions.
Take the Quiz
National Jeweler columnist Peter Smith
ColumnistsJul 23, 2024
Peter Smith: The Case for Optimism in Sales

In his latest column, Smith shares multiple reasons why people who look at the glass as being hall full often make better salespeople.

De Beers rough diamond display
SourcingJul 23, 2024
De Beers’ Production Drops 15% in Q2

The company also reported the $150 million sale of an iron ore royalty right, part of its ongoing effort to divest “non-core” assets.

1872 x 1052 Gemolite.jpg
Brought to you by
Meet Gemology’s Next Generation Microscope: GIA® Gemolite® NXT Professional Edition

GIA®’s most advanced microscope has new features to optimize greater precision and comfort.

Long’s Jewelers giveaway promo
IndependentsJul 23, 2024
Long’s Jewelers Is Giving Away a Luxury Cape Cod Vacation

The giveaway is part of the New England jeweler’s summer bridal event.

Sophia Moreno-Bunge of Isa Isa modeling Guzema’s Hidden Beauty collection
CollectionsJul 23, 2024
Guzema Debuts ‘Flower Power’ Campaign

The ad features three celebrity florists creating floral sculptures while wearing jewelry by Guzema.

Tresia Shituula, Monkgogi Moshaga, Mohamed Samu
Policies & IssuesJul 23, 2024
Diamonds Do Good Announces Its 2024 Entrepreneurship Grant Winners

The grant provided a total of $100,000 to support 13 entrepreneurs from diamond communities in Africa and India.

Elyssa Jenkins-Perez and Effie Marinos
Policies & IssuesJul 22, 2024
JVC’s Elyssa Jenkins-Pérez Joins RJC

The organization also announced Effie Marinos as its new specialist advisor for technical standards, as well as four other appointments.

Karen Rentmeesters
SourcingJul 22, 2024
AWDC Names Karen Rentmeesters as CEO

Rentmeesters has served as interim CEO since April following former CEO Ari Epstein’s resignation.

Brian and Jessie Mann
IndependentsJul 19, 2024
Longtime D.C. Jeweler Brian Mann Dies at 70

Mann, whose family’s jewelry store was located inside the Pentagon, is remembered for being a thoughtful champion of the industry.

Tudor store in Denver
IndependentsJul 19, 2024
The 1916 Company Opens New Tudor Boutique

The 500-square-foot boutique is located in Denver’s Cherry Creek Shopping Center.

Messika’s So Move Max Necklace
CollectionsJul 19, 2024
Piece of the Week: Messika’s ‘So Move Max’ Necklace

Dance all night long with the “So Move Max” set’s necklace.

Julien Tornare and Antoine Pin
WatchesJul 18, 2024
TAG Heuer, Hublot Will Have New CEOs

Luxury giant LVMH is reshuffling the leadership in its watches division.

Etsy billboard rendering in NYC
MajorsJul 18, 2024
New Etsy Campaign Prioritizes Creators Amid Backlash

Sellers and shoppers have spoken out against a rise in mass-produced merchandise on the platform meant to highlight handmade goods.

Ariana Grande Modeling in Swarovski Jewelry
MajorsJul 18, 2024
Swarovski Names Ariana Grande as Its New Brand Ambassador

The celebrity will star in Swarovski’s holiday campaign.

Grizzly emerald
SourcingJul 18, 2024
Grizzly Emerald Auction Garners $32.5 million

The miner said an 835-carat emerald saw “stiff competition” in its July sale.

Tahnee Barbee, Gigi Sui, and Daniela Villacorta
Events & AwardsJul 18, 2024
MJSA Education Foundation Announces 3 Scholarship Winners

The winners were awarded $3,000 each to pursue a professional career in jewelry making and design.

Radhika Merchant’s Wedding Portrait
EditorsJul 17, 2024
6 Lavish Looks from the Ambani Wedding

Feast your eyes on the elaborate jewels worn during the wedding celebration of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant.

Smiling Rocks Haute Couture Dream Necklace
Lab-GrownJul 17, 2024
Lab-Grown Diamond ‘Dream’ Necklace Sells for $122K at Charity Auction

The piece, created by Smiling Rocks, was the top lot at the recent Ormeley Dinner.

Diavik Diamond Mine solar power plant
SourcingJul 17, 2024
Rio Tinto’s Diamond Production Down 28% in Q2

The company’s sole remaining diamond operation, Diavik, produced 702,000 carats of diamonds, down from 970,000 a year ago.

Buccellati high jewelry earrings
FinancialsJul 17, 2024
Richemont’s Q1 Jewelry Sales Up 2%

In contrast, the luxury giant’s watch sales fell 14 percent.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the jewelry design contest.
Events & AwardsJul 16, 2024
2024 AGTA Spectrum Awards Open for Entries

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the jewelry design contest and the deadline for entries has just been extended.

Macy’s Herald Square store
MajorsJul 16, 2024
Macy’s Ends Buyout Talks

The retailer will not be making a deal with Arkhouse Management and Brigade Capital Management, opting to focus on its turnaround plan.

×

This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy