John Pye papers

Object Details

Scope and Contents
The John Pye papers, which date from 1911 to 1979, document the personal and professional life of John Pye. The collection contains material related to his employment at the Elks Club in Washington, D.C., as the chauffeur for the Secretary of the Navy, at the United States Post Office, and as a valet, messenger, chauffeur, and butler in the the White House from 1913-1952. Very notable are correspondence and event invitations from the Truman and Roosevelt administrations. The papers include letters, certificates, newspaper clippings, invitations, photographic prints, photographs, and a book on President Harry S. Truman by his daughter Margaret Truman. The collection is organized into four series: Series 1: Biographical, Series 2: Correspondence, Series 3: Career, Series 4: Miscellaneous, and Series 5: Photographs. Series 1: Biographical, 1925-1979, undated, consists of newspaper clippings and writings detailing the personal and professional life of John Pye. Series 2: Correspondence, 1911-1966, undated, consists of letters of recommendation for Pye, invitations, and other correspondence from his employment at the White House. Series 3: Career, 1944-1952, undated, consists of lists of White House Luncheon attendees, a certificate recognizing Pye's WWII civilian service, and a signed broadsheet commemorating his retirement from the White House. Series 4: Miscellaneous, 1938-1947, consists of news transcripts and clippings. Some discuss the advancement of African Americans into formerly white-dominated professions. Series 5: Photographs, circa 1920-circa 1965, undated, consists of photographs from John Pye's work and private life. Some photographs are inscribed portrait photos of Pye's employers, including Presidents Harding, Roosevelt, and Truman.
Biographical / Historical
John Pye, 1888- , moved from Newburg, Maryland, to Washington, DC, in 1900. His first documented employment was with the Elks Club. In 1916 he became a chauffeur for Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, and in 1920, he worked for the Post Office. He occasionally acted as a chauffeur for Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. In 1933, upon Roosevelt's ascent to the presidency, Pye was brought on as a White House employee. Pye worked as a valet, messenger, chauffeur, butler, and occasional cook in the White House from 1913 to 1952. After his retirement, he continued to supervise select events at the White House and other elite DC-area institutions. Pye lived in Northeast DC during his career. In later life he moved to Gainesville, Virginia, with his wife Thelma.
1.54 Linear feet (3 boxes)
The John Pye papers were donated to the Anacostia Community Museum in 2003 by Ethel L. Pye.
Use of the materials requires an appointment. Please contact the archivist to make an appointment:
John Pye papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Ethel L. Pye.
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Photographic prints
Politicians -- United States
African American men
African Americans -- Employment
African Americans -- Washington (D.C.)
John Pye papers
Finding aid
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