S.S. President Roosevelt Amsterdam: 1928. Unbound. This four-page letter (no accompanying envelope) is written on printed stationery that reads: “American Olympic Team / Ninth Olympiad, July 28th to August 12th, 1928 / S.S. President Roosevelt / Amsterdam / Address all communications / care of American Olympic Team / 13 Rokin, Amsterdam, Holland”. It is dated “July 23, 1928” and signed “Joe”. In nice shape with 1” closed tear to the second leaf.
Although the letter is only signed “Joe”, there is a penciled on the bottom of the last page that reads, “Water Polo / Joseph Farley” and, indeed, a Joseph Farley was a member of the 1928 U.S. Olympic Water Polo team and a teammate of Johnny Weissmuller. He wrote this letter to his mother a couple of days after arriving in Amsterdam:
“We arrived safe and sound on Friday about 1230 noon. . .. the greatest thrill that I got all the way over was when we were coming in the canal. You see to get to Amsterd. from the ocean you have to go up a canal about 20 miles. Just as we started up the canal the cruiser Detroit from the Navy was coming out and she had all the sailors, and officers at attention on the deck and they had the navy band play the “Star Spangle Banner” and that was the greatest kick the whole team received on the entire trip. Everyone cheered and whistled. . .. The town of Amsterdam is very clean and new. The people can’t understand the Americans and when we walk through the main street we always have a big crowd. . .. They get a big kick out of seeing us where our knickers, ‘pants filled with wind’ and they laugh and joke about them whenever they see us. We still eat & sleep in the boat. . .. We worked out the first day in a very dirty place but our coach changed it the next day. We then tried another one and that was still dirty so now we travel about 20 minutes in a bus to a town named Harlem and swim there in nice clean cold water." Very good. Item #009453
Try as I might, I couldn’t find another personal letter from an Olympic athlete from a games venue, but they must exist. As of 2019, nothing similar is for sale in the trade, and no auction records for similar letters are listed at Rare Book Hub. OCLC doesn’t identify anything similar, although there is likely something in one of several institutional collections of Olympic athletes’ personal papers.