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Happy 70th Birthday, FDR Library!!!!!

On June 30, 1941, President Roosevelt stood in the courtyard of his presidential library and opened it to the public for the first time. Among the guests in the courtyard were his mother Sara Delano Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and members of the Norwegian Royal Family who had fled to America after Germany invaded their homeland.

The Archivist of the United States, R.D.W. Connor, was present that day to accept the Library as part of the National Archives, and he stated: “The raw materials of history are the records of past human affairs, and only when such records have been preserved and made available to him can the historian truly reconstruct and interpret the past. It must have been some such thought that inspired the idea that finds concrete expression in this library which we dedicate today.”

Then the President approached the podium and spoke to the gathered dignitaries and the American people listening at home on their radios. By declaring the opening of the Library to be America’s “act of faith”, President Roosevelt was showing a world inflamed by war and dictatorship how a democracy trusts its people “so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future.”

He then invited everyone to come into the Library “and see the building and what is in it.” Today, 70 years later, we invite everyone to follow the President’s urging and come see the Library for yourselves. Even during its current multi-year renovation, there is always something for our visitors to see and do. And in 2013, new permanent exhibits will open that bring a New Deal for a New Generation of Library visitors.

James MacGregor Burns rightly can be called the Dean of Roosevelt Biographers.  His first volume on Franklin Roosevelt, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox (1956), was barely edged out of the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for biography by John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage.  Its companion volume, Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom (1970), won the 1971 Pulitzer for history and the National Book Award.  The two volumes together serve as the first complete political biography of Franklin Roosevelt.

His study of Franklin Roosevelt led Burns to explore more fully the nature of leadership, and his 1978 book Leadership is still considered the seminal work in the field of leadership studies.  His theory of transactional and transformational leadership has been the basis for more than 400 doctoral dissertations.  He received his B.A. from Williams College, his PhD in political science from Harvard, and attended the London School of Economics.  He is currently the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Government Emeritus at Williams College

Burns first registered as a researcher at the Roosevelt Library on August 7, 1952, and he was issued card #392.  As one of the Library’s early researchers, he had the privilege of working in the same research room with other highly respected scholars of the Roosevelt era, including Frank Freidel, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and William Leuchtenburg.  This group fulfilled one of FDR’s visions for his library—that it serve as a place for scholars to come, study, and interpret the Roosevelt era.

James MacGregor Burns has influenced generations of historians and political scientists, among them historians Michael Beschloss and Susan Dunn.  Burns, Beschloss and Dunn appeared on stage together at the Roosevelt Library’s 8th annual Roosevelt Reading Festival on June 18, 2011.

Being an intensely modest man, Burns had never read publicly from his own work.  But in his appearance at the Reading Festival, Burns read excerpts from his seminal work, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox, for the first time.  After each excerpt, Burns, Beschloss and Dunn then engaged in a lively historical discussion, which had a lovingly personal feel to it.  The affection that these three outstanding historians—the teacher and his students—had for each other was obvious.  It was a truly special occasion for all those present.

Now 92, James MacGregor Burns has stated that his appearance at the Roosevelt Reading Festival was his last public appearance.  The Roosevelt Library is honored that Burns began his exemplary career here in 1952 as researcher #392 and that he chose the 2011 Roosevelt Reading Festival for his valedictory appearance nearly 60 years later.

To watch the Burns, Beschloss and Dunn panel from the 2011 Roosevelt Reading Festival, visit the C-SPAN video library online.

“Declaration of Independence” Crocheted Wall Hanging (MO 2005.298)

As the Fourth of July approaches, we celebrate Independence Day with a gift sent to President Roosevelt by a patriotic admirer. This handmade crocheted wall hanging was made by Nellie L. Plummer, a widow from Defiance, Pennsylvania, and sent to FDR in June 1943, just a few days before the Fourth of July and during the height of World War II. See a letter to FDR from Mrs. Plummer below and well as a copy of the response from the President’s Secretary.

The piece depicts the Committee of Five of the Second Continental Congress—consisting of Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Robert Livingston—presenting a draft of the Declaration of Independence to Congress. This image is based on the John Trumbull painting currently on display in the United States Capitol Rotunda.

 

One of FDR’s favorite foods was his mother Sara Delano Roosevelt’s Kedgeree, a hearty rice and fish dish. In case you want to try it yourself at home, here is the recipe. Enjoy this little taste of history!

1 cup cooked flaked fish or crab, lobster, or canned fish
1 cup cooked rice
1/4 cup cream or fish stock
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 hard cooked eggs

Mix the fish with the rice. Moisten with the cream and saute lightly in butter. Do not press down–dish must be light and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper. Add the eggs, cut in quarters, sliced, or chopped. Heat thoroughly. Serve with extra grating of freshly ground pepper or dash of Worcestershire.

 

June 22, 1944: FDR signs the G.I. Bill of Rights which offers educational assistance to veterans.

Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the G.I. Bill.
June 22, 1944
FDR Library Photo Collection. NPx. 64-269.

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Did you know:

  • On June 26, 1935 FDR issued the executive order establishing the National Youth Administration.
  • On June 30, 1938 FDR laid the cornerstone of the federal building at the New York World’s Fair in New York City.
  • On June 30, 1941 FDR dedicated the FDR Library in Hyde Park, NY.

June 27, 1958

“HYDE PARK—Since it is impossible to get anything into the Soviet newspapers except their government’s own story and explanation, I suppose the Soviet people have to believe that the United States government inspired all the demonstrations at Soviet Embassies over the execution of Imre Nagy and his associates.

One can hardly expect, nevertheless, that the people here in the U.S. will feel any happier as they read the facts that have been omitted in the Soviet press.

The execution of the Hungarian leaders, which may or may not have been inspired by the Soviet Union, was, however, a very serious mistake for the U.S.S.R. Perhaps it was not such a serious mistake as concerning the Soviets’ relations with their own people, who are kept from communication with the outside world, but it certainly was a mistake in its effect upon the uncommitted areas of the world.

These countries are bound to realize that when leaders of a movement against a government in power must be executed, that government is uncertain of the control of the people. And they will understand, too, that the mere fact of the executions contradicts the Soviets’ own story that the Hungarian uprising was not really a people’s revolt.

The action of the Kadar government in these executions shows that both it and the Soviet government underestimated the change that has come over the world conscience.

This leads me to something I have been wanting to say about the recent House Un-American Activities hearings in New York involving such personalities in the entertainment field as directors, actors, musicians, etc.

Because they refused to answer questions concerning past affiliations with the Communist party and took refuge in the First and Fifth Amendments, several of them lost their jobs.

I wonder whether the public realizes that many people really believe that nobody has a right to ask anyone about his political affiliations, past or present? We are not at war.

In these cases there was no question of any action to overthrow our government, so the question is based on one’s right to hold opinions and beliefs contrary to the usually accepted pattern. Down through history this has been the American citizen’s right, and it still is his right to claim, under either of these Constitutional guarantees, the refusal to answer.

In addition, the pattern followed in questioning a person who is willing to answer consists of asking him to divulge the names of those who were Communist party members with him. In wartime this may be necessary, but at present in the entertainment field it is nonsense.

I was taught as a child that to be a tattle-tale and thereby get other children into trouble was a despicable thing, that it was better to bear unfair punishment than to tell on a friend…

We do things in wartime because then the protection of our country comes first, but in peacetime we first must protect the liberty of the individual in thinking, speaking and changing his mind.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

Silver Cocktail Set (MO 1972.14a-g) and Pernod Absinthe Bottle (MO 1976.331)

 

 

FDR had a long-standing practice of hosting a pre-dinner cocktail hour in the White House residence during his presidency. It was a time when he could cast aside the burdens of office at the end of the day and relax with close friends and family. Topics related to politics or government policy were banned from discussion.

FDR always mixed the drinks at these events, often using the Chinese silver cocktail shaker and cups seen above. The President especially enjoyed making unusual martinis, mixing together copious amounts of vermouth with whatever liquor or juice he had on hand. He was also known to add a few drop of absinthe “for flavor” according to his personal secretary, Grace Tully. The Pernod absinthe bottle seen here was from FDR’s tray of liquor in the White House.

 

FDR even indulged in the practice at diplomatic meetings. “It is cold on the stomach,” remarked Stalin, after being served one of FDR’s concoctions at the Teheran Conference.

Below is the recipe for the “FDR Special” found in the Val-Kill Cookbook:

2 parts gin
1 part dry, light vermouth
olive or lemon peel for garnish
crushed ice

Shake up gin and vermouth in a container half filled with chipped ice. Pour into chilled martini glasses, straining out the ice. Add garnish.

 

 

FDR Library Supervisory Archivist Bob Clark visited the construction site of the FDR Four Freedoms Park on June 14th and brought back these photos.

The Park, located on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in the East River, will be an open air park lined with trees and granite markers commemorating important events in the Roosevelt Administration.

It will culminate in a massive granite “Room” providing the most spectacular views of the United Nations building—a real tribute to one of FDR’s most important international legacies.

For more information on the FDR Four Freedoms Park, go to http://www.fdrfourfreedomspark.org/home

And you can find information on the Four Freedoms Speech, which celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, by going to the Library’s website: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/fourfreedoms

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June 16, 1929: FDR is the Grand Marshall of his 25th Harvard Reunion.

FDR at his 25th Class Anniversary at Harvard.
June 16-20, 1929
FDR Library Photo Collection. NPx. 48-22:3701(11).

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Did you know:

  • On June 16, 1933 FDR departed Washington D.C. for a vacation in Campobello, New Brunswick, Canada. This marked the end of the “First Hundred Days.”
  • On June 15, 1934 FDR signed the national guard act establishing the national guard as part of the arm in wartime or in a national emergency declared by Congress.

June 16, 1953

“HIROSHIMA, Japan…To arrive in Hiroshima is an emotional experience. Here is where the first A-bomb ever to be dropped on human beings, actually was used.

The people of the U.S. believe that the President and our military leaders thought long and carefully before they used this dreaded weapon. We know that while the head of the state must think first of the welfare of his own people, consideration was given to the fact that if the war went on, there would be in many parts of the world great loss of life and much damage done, and in Japan itself step by step fighting from one end to the other would mean complete devastation and incalculable loss of life. In spite of this conviction we still cannot see a city and be told of the area that was destroyed, the people who died or were injured, some of them still suffering from the results of those wounds; we cannot go and look at the model of the city showing what it looked like after the bomb had dropped and fire had swept through the city; we can’t see the photographs of some of the victims without a deep sadness. To see the orphanage where children whose parents died are still being cared for is impossible without wishing with our whole hearts that men could learn from this that the time has come when we know too well how to destroy and we must learn instead how to prevent destruction.

It is useless to say that Germany started the war and began the research which we were then obliged to take over and which led to the discovery of the atom bomb.

I can remember only too well my husband’s feeling and the feeling of the people of the U.S. when we first heard of Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was only the final action which resulted from years of growing misunderstandings and antipathies throughout the world. Out of all this came Hiroshima. But it is not only here that civilian men and women suffered. All over the world civilians suffered as a result of the last war and the increase in our power of destruction. So it seems to me the only really helpful thing we can do is to pledge ourselves to strive for the elimination of the causes of war and for the greater awareness of the people, and to bringing about such arrangements as can only be made through the use of the U.N.. If we use the machinery set up through an organization such as the U.N., time must elapse before wars can be begun, people may then understand a little better and may have more chance to be heard.

As one contemplates Hiroshima, one can only say God grant to men greater wisdom in the future.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

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