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Alexander Historical Auctions LLC

Lot 169

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Description: HERBERT HOOVER'S BULLET-PROOF VEST
An unusual relic, a 1920s period armored vest used by Herbert Hoover during his 1928 tour of South America. The vest, which features cloth-encased flexible armor for both chest, back and crotch, was standard issue for U.S. Post Office employees who worked processing mail aboard railroad cars to offer protection against robbers armed with shotguns and pistols. This vest was kept by sailor Sulo H. Keisala, who, according to census records, was born in Fitchburg, Mass. in 1906. His papers, which accompany this lot, and are housed in a large ledger book, indicate he served in the Navy for some time, first aboard the U.S.S. Seattle and then the U.S.S. Utah. Keisala served in the navy until at least 1942 as his name appears on the watch list of the U.S.S. Broadbill on Oct. 19, 1942 (included in this lot). In 1928, the Utah was part of a naval contingent that sailed to Latin America carrying then President-Elect Hoover on a goodwill tour of Latin America. The tour, which Hoover announced only days after his election to the Presidency, included visits to eleven nations. Due to poor relations with many Latin American countries at the time, there was some fear that someone might attack the president-elect. Those fears were confirmed with the arrest of an Argentine anarchist who had threatened to shoot Hoover. The vest is accompanied by several documents including a short note, signed "SK" reading: "Keep this for me 'Protector Vest' Mr Hoover wore this at port" The lot is also accompanied by a short note in the hand of LOU HENRY HOOVER on her personal calling card to which has been affixed a seal from the U.S.S. Utah, writing "Merry Christmas Mr and" just before her printed name, "MRS. HERBERT HOOVER". From what we can gather, this may have been the note of enclosure when Keisala received the vest. The ledger includes several pieces of ephemera from the cruise including a race ticket from the Swift & Co. Race Course in Montevideo printed on "UTAH DAY DECEMBER 12, 1928"; a Y.M.C.A. guide to Rio De Janeiro; a trade card for the "ANGLO-AMERICAN JEWELRY SHOP" in Rio De Janeiro as well as two dinner menus for banquets held aboard ship. The lot also is accompanied by two letters from the Washington Naval Museum to a previous owner of the vest. One, dated July 11, 1990, notes that: "...It appears that the Secret Service issued Mr. Hoover one of the vests for his Central and South American cruise in late 1928. The Navy did not use body armor at that time..." The vest itself is quite worn with some moth damage and fraying at some seams, but still retains the armor and the original buttons. A very unusual relic from the first time a sitting or elected president was requested to wear any sort of protective body armor. Certainly worthy of further research. Interesting to note that the present President of the United States also routinely wears a bullet-proof vest!

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March 30, 2011 11:00 AM EDT

Stamford, CT, US

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