The Rough Riders, signed by Theodore Roosevelt, inscribed by one of his Rough Riders to the soldier’s mother, and finely bound by Zaehnsdorf for Asprey of London
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1899. First edition. Full leather. This is the first edition of Theodore Roosevelt’s chronicle of perhaps the most famous regiment in American history and the “crowded hour” during the Spanish-American War that propelled Roosevelt’s fame. Unique and compelling, this copy is signed by Roosevelt, inscribed by a Rough Rider to the soldier’s mother, and magnificently bound in full brown morocco by Zaehnsdorf for Asprey of London. The upper recto of the leaf preceding the half-title is signed “Theodore Roosevelt”. A five-line inked inscription below the author’s signature reads: “To my dear mother, | from her loving son | Henry W. Bull | Sergt. “K” Troop | 1st U.S. Vol. Cavalry.” The elegant binding features a hubbed spine, gilt-ruled and decorated compartments, gilt-tooled spine bands, elaborately gilt-bordered covers, and gilt-ruled edges. The gilt-edged contents are bound with hand-sewn head and foot bands. Generous turn-ins with decorative gilt tooling frame marbled endpapers. The original brown cloth cover is bound in at the rear. “BOUND BY ZAEHNSDORF FOR ASPREY & CO” is gilt-stamped on the lower front pastedown. Condition is fine, the binding pristine, the contents clean, bright, and free of markings apart from light spotting limited to the frontispiece verso.
Statesman, reformer, explorer, naturalist, soldier, rancher, and author, Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) was the 26th and youngest ever president, both herald and agent of America’s assumption of global power. Before the Spanish-American War, as Under-Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt pushed the boundaries of his authority to prepare the American Navy, enabling decisive victory over the Spanish at Manila Bay. But no sooner had Congress declared war on Spain, on April 25th 1898, than Roosevelt declared he would resign to volunteer for the army, contrary to wishes of his friends, colleagues, and President. Volunteer regiments were “to be composed exclusively of frontiersmen possessing special qualifications as horsemen and marksmen.” However, Roosevelt so successfully promoted the regiment that 20,000 applications were received in five days for fewer than 800 places. “Projecting a vision of a unique fighting force that would represent a microcosm of the country itself, Roosevelt persuaded the authorities to enlarge the regiment to include a troop of easterners.”
Henry Worthington Bull of Troop K, raised in New York’s high society and a graduate of Columbia University, was among them. (In the Appendix A muster-out roll his name is misspelled “Buel”, but is correctly recorded in the national archives.) Newspapers called Bull’s cohort a variety of names, including “millionaire recruits” and “Fifth Avenue Boys”. Roosevelt made them part of a cohesive unit, ensuring that “cowboys and wranglers slept side by side with the scions of financiers” and bringing “easterners and westerners together in the daily chores of washing laundry and digging and filling latrines.” (Kearns Goodwin, Leadership) The experience was perhaps not unlike that of Roosevelt himself in the Badlands, which he had entered as a privileged dilettante and left as a seasoned rancher.
Roosevelt’s Rough Riders arrived in Cuba on 23 June 1898. By 17 July the Spanish had surrendered Cuba. In the intervening weeks the regiment proved worthy of its press and Roosevelt’s charge during the Battle of San Juan Hill ultimately carried him to the White House. Henry Bull returned to the world he left, working as a stockbroker and serving as president of the Turf and Field Club as well as the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association. In 1904 he married Maud Livingston, who had been engaged to Willie Tiffany, a fellow rough rider who died in service. In 1910, Bull was selected to hand-deliver a reunion invitation to Roosevelt in London, who returned to New York for the event. One of the Bulls' adopted children, Phyllis Livingston Baker, eventually married Fred Astaire, with whom Bull shared a love of horses. Bull died in 1958 at the age of 84. Item #005720