Dear Bird: The 1934 Courtship Letters
In an age of Twitter, Instagram, and texting, these intimate letters between a young man and his sweetheart reveal a refreshing look at the language of love. They are available to researchers by appointment. View the online collection here.
September 15 - From LBJ to Lady Bird
Write me that long letter. Tell me just how you feel - give me some reassurance if you can and if you can't let's understand each other now. I'm lonesome. I'm disappointed but what of it. Do you care? - Lyndon Baines
September 26 - From Lady Bird to LBJ
Your letter yesterday sort of put me on the spot, didn't it, dear? All I can say, in absolute honesty, is --- I love you, I don't know how everlastingly I love you, - so I can't answer you yet. - Lady Bird
Lyndon and Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor met in early September 1934 in Austin. On their first date, Lyndon Johnson proposed, and for the next 2 ½ months the two exchanged approximately 90 letters using words and emotional expressions rarely used as we communicate today. They also exchanged photographs.
Lyndon was working as a Congressional Aide in Washington, D.C.; he was lonely and impatient to marry. Lady Bird, who was living in her hometown of Karnack, Texas, was cautious but called her suitor “electric” and was sure she didn’t want to lose him.
On November 17, 1934, Johnson and Lady Bird drove to San Antonio to “commit matrimony,” as she would later describe it. According to Lady Bird, she still had not made up her mind to marry Johnson as they drove to San Antonio for the wedding. However, once in San Antonio, she was committed to proceeding with the ceremony.
LBJ didn’t have a wedding band and asked Dan Quill, friend and Postmaster of San Antonio, to get one. Quill bought a wedding band at the nearby Sears, Roebuck & Co. for $2.50. Lyndon Johnson and Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor married on November 17, 1934, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio. They honeymooned in Mexico and remained married for 39 years.
The newly released letters were written between Lyndon and Lady Bird from September to mid-November 1934. While selected letters have previously been released, this is the first time all have been made public.
Did You Know…
LBJ gave Lady Bird an unusual gift on their first date...an inscribed book entitled Nazism: An Assault on Civilization. In an interview, historian Mike Gillette asked Lady Bird about that date. "I do believe before the day was over he did ask me to marry him," she said, "and I thought he was just out of his mind." —Transcript, Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson Oral History Interview IV, 2/4/78, by Michael L. Gillette, Internet Copy, LBJ Library.