Herbert G. Theurer
Papers, 1934-1938

SC20612

Quantity: 1 box (0.25 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Purchase: Charles Apfelbaum, Rare Books and Collections, Valley Stream, New York, October 1992
Processed By: Kayleigh Paster, Student Assistant (University at Albany), Manuscripts & Special Collections, February 2014

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Biographical Note:

Herbert G. Theurer (1890-1938) served as postal inspector for President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1938. He was personally responsible for all mail received and sent by the president, and accompanied him on his travels in the United States and abroad.

Born in Johnstown, New York, Theurer married Ella “Joanne” Teetz (1889 - ?), also of Johnstown. The couple had one child, Hebert R. Theurer (1912-1937). By 1915 Theurer was working for the postal service in Johnstown as a clerk and carrier. Some time after 1920 Theurer and his family moved to Springfield, Illinois, and by 1927 he had been promoted to postal inspector in Illinois. He later served as Roosevelt’s personal postal inspector from the time of the presidential inauguration in 1933 until his death while on assignment in 1938.

Theurer handled all incoming and outgoing mail, as well as other official documents, for the president during his travels throughout the United States, Central America, and Europe. He performed a number of different duties during this time, including establishing and running temporary postal depots and carrying letters and documents to and from the president. His responsibilities involved delivering letters and documents in difficult conditions, such as during a fishing trip that Roosevelt took in Texas in 1937. When bad weather prevented Theurer from flying time-sensitive documents to Roosevelt’s location twelve miles off the coast, he was forced to travel 200 miles by car and then by boat on the U.S.S. Moffet in order to get the documents to the president before a midnight deadline.

Theurer died December 15, 1938, in Los Angeles, California, while on special duty for the president. He was found dead the morning of December 16 in the washroom of a Beverly Hills night club. Police determined that his death was due to natural causes; his funeral was held in Gloversville, New York, on December 20.

Scope and Content Note:

This collection consists chiefly of letters Herbert G. Theurer sent to his wife from 1934 to 1938. He wrote about duties as postal inspector for the president and about the president’s health, schedules, and the social engagements that characterized the president’s travels throughout the United States and abroad.  

Theurer writes about handling the expense account after a long trip, securing time for leave, his role as the “honor guest” at a luncheon in San Juan, handling the large volume of incoming mail for the president; his plans to leave for Florida in order to prepare for the president’s trip to Honolulu; and his being entertained by the governor of San Juan prior to his departure. One letter, written aboard the S.S. Coolidge, details Theurer’s travel plans involving the presidential train.

The letters written in November and December 1934 describe his travels between Paris and London, and trips to Brussels and Germany. Theurer describes his time in Europe as more “like a vacation” than work and writes that he has made friends during his time in Europe. Individuals mentioned in Theurer’s letters include the American Consul in London, Mr. Parks, as well as a Mr. Gernier and a Mr. Richardson, both of whom he accompanied on a trip to an estate in Orleans, France, where they hunted pheasants and rabbits.

Theurer’s letters from 1935 discuss his travels to Boulder City, Nevada, his return to Washington, D.C. after a trip to Panama, and a visit to Atlanta, Georgia. Theurer mentions in his letter from Washington, that Roosevelt may go home soon, which will have an impact on his workload when he already has a great deal to do. Theurer also mentions being featured in a newspaper article that was printed throughout the country. 

Two of Theurer’s letters from 1936 mention President Roosevelt multiple times. In the letter detailing his arrival in Warm Springs, Georgia, Theurer writes that although the president left the train to visit the Warm Springs Foundation, Theuer stayed behind with some of the others accompanying the president on the trip. He also writes that he has been very busy, and discusses his plans to return to Washington soon and then make a trip home. In the letter written at Bar Harbor, Maine, he mentions seeing the president off the ship at Rockland, Maine, that he spent an hour on the presidential yacht Potomac before returning, and that he will be staying on the U.S.S. Owl for the remainder of the trip.

Only two trips are discussed in Theurer’s letters from 1937. The first letter, written in Fort Worth, Texas, describes the end stages of a trip characterized by numerous parties. The other two letters written in 1937 were composed while Theurer was en route to Honolulu, Hawaii, aboard the S.S. Monterey. He writes that there are five people aboard, including President Roosevelt, who is referred to as “the chief.” Theurer mentions Roosevelt’s health in the first letter, noting that he is feeling better and gaining strength. Theurer also writes that he believes that the trip will be good for Roosevelt’s health.

Theurer’s letters from 1938 discuss trips that he made throughout the United States and Panama. While some of his letters, such as those written in Los Angeles, Kansas City, and en route to Phoenix, are brief and focus mostly on his travel plans, others talk about his work for the president as well as the president himself. Theurer writes in his first letter from Panama that a radio broadcast about his work was played on July 16. Theurer also writes about waiting for the arrival of a pouch of dispatches that, once completed, will be sent out either by plane or by boat. In Theurer’s second letter from Panama he describes taking mail out by ship.

A letter that was composed aboard the U.S.S. MacDougal during his return trip from Panama describes the president’s upcoming travel plans, which involve a bridge dedication in Cape Vincent, New York, a visit to the president’s home in Hyde Park, New York, and a trip to the Canadian Rockies. Theurer’s letter from Cincinnati, Ohio, describes his upcoming travel plans as well as a conversation he had with “the chief” about going on vacation.

The collection includes two letters addressed to him. The first is from his father, Jacob Theurer (1861-1935), written May 31, 1934. This letter discusses Herbert Theurer’s upcoming transfer and move to Albany, New York, from Springfield, Illinois; his own ongoing health problems; a rental property on Long Island where the tenant had not been paying rent; and a recent visit from Joanne Theurer’s mother, Elizabeth Teetz.

The second letter addressed to Theurer is from S.W. Purdum, the fourth assistant postmaster general in Washington, D.C., written July 21, 1934. Purdum’s letter is an acknowledgement of receipt of a letter that Theurer had sent. Purdum thanks Theurer for his assistance and cooperation, as well as for the kind things that Theurer said in his letter.

Also present among the papers is a list of names for “thank you” notes to be written. Number 74 on the list is “President and Mrs. Roosevelt, Washington D.C.”  The note itself is undated, but references to Roosevelt as well as postal inspectors around the country indicate the list may have been drafted after Theurer’s funeral, which was attended by a number of postal officials.

Box and Folder List:


Box Folder Description
1 1 Letters: Herbert G. Theurer to Joanne Theurer, January-July 1934
  1. [New York], January 8, 1934
  2. The Condado Hotel, San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 3, 1934
  3. The Condado Hotel, San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 6, 1934
  4. En route to San Francisco, [California], [July 11, 1934]
  5. S.S. President Coolidge, en route to Los Angeles, [California], August 1, 1934
1 2 Letters: Herbert G. Theurer to Joanne Theurer, November-December 1934
  1. Oddenino’s Hotel, London, [England], November 7, 1934
  2. Oddenino’s Hotel, London, [England], November 13, 1934
  3. Hotel Albert Premler [Premier], Brussels, Belgium, November 15, 1934
  4. Hotel Astor, Paris, [France], November 18, 1934
  5. Hotel Astor, Paris, [France], November 22, 1934
  6. Hotel Astor, Paris, [France], November 24, 1934
  7. Hotel Astor, Paris, [France], December 9, 1934
  8. Hotel Astor, Paris, [France], December 17, 1934
1 3 Letters: Herbert G. Theurer to Joanne Theurer, September-November 1935
  1. Boulder City, Nevada, September 30, 1935
  2. Grace Line [S.S. Santa Elena], en route to Panama, [October 12, 1935]
  3. Grace Line [S.S.] Santa Elena, en route to Panama, [October 15,1935]
  4. S.S. Pennsylvania, [Habana, Cuba], en route to New York, [October 23, 1935]
  5. Hotel Continental, Washington, D.C., [October 29, 1935]
  6. Piedmont Hotel, Atlanta, [Georgia], [November 21, 1935]
1 4 Letters: Herbert G. Theurer to Joanne Theurer, April-August 1936
  1. Warm Springs, [Georgia], [April 9, 1936]
  2. Bar Harbor, Maine, [July 13, 1936]
  3. Alex Johnson Hotel, Rapid City, South Dakota, [August 29, 1936]
1 5 Letters: Herbert G. Theurer to Joanne Theurer, May-July 1937
  1. [Fort Worth, Texas], [May 12, 1937]
  2. [S.S. Monterey], Los Angeles Harbor, en route to [Honolulu], Hawaii, [July 21, 1937]
  3. [S.S. Monterey], en route to Honolulu, [Hawaii], [July 25,1937]
1 6 Letters: Herbert G. Theurer to Joanne Theurer, July 1938-December 1938
  1. Southern Pacific Railway, en route to Los Angeles, [California], [July 15, 1938]
  2. [U.S.S. Henderson], en route to Panama, July 23, [1938]
  3. Hotel Tivoli, Ancon, [Canal Zone, Panama], [July 28, 1938]
  4. Hotel Tivoli, Ancon, [Canal Zone, Panama], [July 31, 1938]
  5. U.S.S. MacDougal, en route to Pensacola, [Florida], August 8, 1938
  6. Hotel Gibson, [Cincinnati, Ohio], [October 11, 1938]
  7. Pickwick Hotel, [Kansas City, Kansas], [November 15, 1938]
  8. [The Golden State Limited], en route to Los Angeles, [California], [December 6, 1938]
  9. The Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, [California], [December 13, 1938]
1 7 Letters: addressed to Herbert G. Theurer, 1934
  1. Jacob Theurer to Herbert [Theurer], Johnstown, New York, May 31, 1934
  2. [S.W. Purdum] to H.G. Theurer, Washington, [D.C.], July 21, 1934
1 8 List of recipients of “thank you notes” to be written; possibly written in December of 1938 by Joanne Theurer after her husband’s funeral
Last Updated: September 24, 2014