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FDR’s Secretary Desk (MO 2011.11a,b)

When President Roosevelt created his Library in 1941, he made sure that it included a Study where he could relax and spend time with his papers and books. After FDR’s death in April 1945, his Study was left largely as it was the last day he visited Hyde Park— with several exceptions. Roosevelt family members inherited a few pieces of furniture from the room, including this secretary-desk. Sixty-six years later, the secretary has returned home.

Before FDR used the secretary in his Study, it was owned by his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt. After his death, the piece was bequeathed to his son, James. It was later acquired by Donald W. Stern, an antiques dealer.

On April 20, 2011, the secretary arrived back at the Library, donated through the generosity of Mr. Stern, Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel, and the Roosevelt Institute. For now the secretary will remain in storage until the completion of the Library’s building renovation in 2013.

The piece is an American late Federal or New York Classical style secretary desk, dated 1810-15. The secretary is in two sections. The upper section has a flat projecting cornice above two Gothic mullioned glazed doors enclosing adjustable shelves. The lower portion has a recessed bank of five short drawers and a full width fold-out writing surface over one long drawer and two short drawers centered over an arched kneehole. The whole piece is veneered in highly figured book matched mahogany and raised on four spiral reeded baluster legs ending in carved paw feet.

Below are photographs of the secretary arriving at the Library.

Check out the July edition of our online newsletter On Our Way for more information about this piece and other recent acquisitions at the FDR Library and Museum:

“This Is No Ordinary Time”

Tensions ran high as Eleanor Roosevelt approached the podium to address the delegates of the 1940 Democratic National Convention. The prior evening’s raucous proceedings, which led  to FDR’s nomination for an unprecedented third term candidacy, had been long and trying. Now FDR’s subsequent insistence on Henry Wallace as Vice Presidential running mate was unpopular and controversial. The war in Europe loomed threateningly over the American psyche and ideological differences concerning neutrality, and a host of other political issues exposed fissures in the Democratic Party ranks. The Convention was at a standstill and bordered on outright revolt.

FDR (who was in Washington) and Frances Perkins (on the ground in Chicago) encouraged Mrs. Roosevelt to immediately fly to Chicago to bring the party together. She agreed to do so, and when she appeared on stage that night she called for unified action, saying [excerpt]:

“You must know that this is the time when all good men and women give every bit of service and strength to their country that they have to give. This is the time when it is the United States that we fight for, the domestic policies that we have established as a party that we must believe in, that we must carry forward, and in the world we have a position of great responsibility.

We cannot tell from day to day what may come. This is no ordinary time. No time for weighing anything except what we can do best for the country as a whole, and that responsibility rests on each and every one of us as individuals.”

The effect of her words was transformative. A silence marked by respect and admiration followed her message, somberly and palpably shifting the atmosphere. Balloting began immediately after she sat down and the Convention went on to nominate  Henry A. Wallace to run alongside Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 election.

Eleanor Roosevelt delivered this historic speech using only a single page of notes:

Eleanor Roosevelt's notes for the 1940 convention speech

Eleanor Roosevelt's 1940 Convention notes

Read the full speech online by visiting the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Sara Delano Roosevelt’s Pendant Watch (MO 2008.30)

This late nineteenth century Cartier pendant watch was a gift from James Roosevelt to his wife, Sara, to mark the conception of their son and future president, Franklin. The watch was later passed down to Laura Delano Eastman, the daughter of FDR’s cousin and a close friend of the Roosevelts. After her death in 2005, Laura bequeathed the watch to the Roosevelt Library.

The timepiece is constructed of green enamel in a solar guilloche pattern with a diamond star design on the reverse. The watch hangs from a gold, pearl, and enamel chain with diamond accents.


July 18, 1940: FDR was nominated for an unprecedented third term as president.

ER addressing the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
July 18, 1940
FDR Library Photo Collection. NPx. 69-96.


Did you know:

  • On July 18, 1939 FDR released a public statement on the necessity of revision of the neutrality laws, saying that failure to do so “…would waken the leadership of the United States in exercising its potent influence in the cause of preserving the peace among the nations in the event of a new crisis in Europe between now and next January.”
  • On July 20, 1944 FDR was renominated for president, becoming the first president nominated for a fourth term.

July 18, 1942

“NEW YORK, Friday—Yesterday morning, Miss Alice Nichols, who is in charge of the Victory Food Campaign for the Department of Agriculture, attended my press conference. I was much interested to find that we have had such a splendid response to the appeal made by the Department for more food production. Now they are going to be able to tell us at certain periods what foods we ought to buy and eat fresh, because they are so plentiful on the market.

Dame Nature has had a hand in this, and from now on we should be eating as many Georgia peaches as possible. Young chicken should form a large part of our diet, and even if Englishmen can only get one egg in every three weeks, we may have as many as we want every day and feel patriotic.

Someone brought up the cost of some of these products, which in spite of being plentiful still are fairly expensive. Miss Nichols told us that a number of the chain stores are planning to get together and sell these Victory Food Specials at cost as they are announced month by month.

If peaches are plentiful, there is no reason why even a woman in the city could not buy an additional amount and preserve them, if she has space enough for shelves where her fruit can stand ready for use in the winter months…”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

Log of the Houseboat, Larooco

In 1924, FDR and friend, John Lawrence, purchased a second-hand houseboat that the two named, the Larooco. FDR, at that time still coming to terms with his polio diagnosis, hoped that the fun and relaxation of seasonal houseboat life in the warm waters of Florida would benefit his health and recovery. Trusted friend and adviser, Louis Howe, presented FDR with this light-hearted gift of an artistically enhanced ship log to commemorate the Larooco’s first voyage:

The cover of the ship log reads, "Log of the Houseboat Larooco; Being a more or less truthful account of what happened (expurgated) for the very young."

Roosevelt made three trips in all aboard the vessel, his last in 1926. The Larooco washed inland during a hurricane and was later sold as scrap in 1927. As FDR wrote to his mother, “So ended a good craft with a personality.”
FDR with prize catch, aboard ship in Florida, 1924.

Here is FDR, pictured with a prize catch aboard the Larooco. Florida, 1924. NPx 48-22:3983(5)

Button Vest (MO 1973.44)


This unique vest is among the many unusual gifts admirers sent to President Roosevelt. Lined with brown silk faille, it is completely covered with buttons of all sizes, shapes, and colors. On the back, “FDR 1944” is formed in white buttons.

The donor of this singular piece, Luella Smith of Inglewood, California, was a descendent of the van Stoutenburg Family, which—like the Roosevelt family—settled in the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam. In the letter below, Mrs. Smith claims to have “adopted” both Franklin and Eleanor, hinting at the history between the two families. When Roosevelt ancestors Claes Martenzen van Rosenvelt and Jannetje Thomas died, Pieter van Soutenburg adopted and raised the Rosenvelt children.



July 14, 1939

“NEW YORK, Thursday…A number of letters have come to me complaining bitterly about the fact that I said in an article recently that the repeal of prohibition had been a crusade carried on by women. I know quite well, of course, that the Democratic Party took the stand in its platform that prohibition should be repealed. I have always felt, however, that the women’s organization for repeal, which was a nonpartisan organization, laid the groundwork which finally brought about the vote for repeal.

I was one of those who was very happy when the original prohibition amendment passed. I thought innocently that a law in this country would automatically be complied with, and my own observation led me to feel rather ardently that the less strong liquor anyone consumed the better it was. During prohibition I observed the law meticulously, but I came gradually to see that laws are only observed with the consent of the individuals concerned and a moral change still depends on the individual and not on the passage of any law.

Little by little it dawned upon me that this law was not making people drink any less, but it was making hypocrites and law breakers of a great number of people. It seemed to me best to go back to the old situation in which, if a man or woman drank to excess, they were injuring themselves and their immediate family and friends and the act was a violation against their own sense of morality and no violation against the law of the land.

I could never quite bring myself to work for repeal, but I could not oppose it, for intellectually I had to agree that it was the honest thing to do. My contacts are wide and I see a great many different groups of people, and I cannot say that I find that the change in the law has made any great change in conditions among young or old in the country today.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

July 10, 1934: FDR became the first president to travel to South America while in office.

FDR – with three others in Panama, standing on gangplank with ship in rear.
July 11, 1934
FDR Library Photo Collection. NPx. 48-22:3660(35).


Did you know:

  • On July 11, 1936 FDR spoke at the dedication of the Triborough Bridge in New York City.
  • On July 11, 1944 FDR announced he would accept the nomination for a fourth term.


FDR with his press secretary Steve Early in the Oval Office, January 1941.

We often get asked for details about FDR’s famous pinky ring, so here’s the 4-1-1. The ring that Roosevelt wore on his left hand pinky finger was made of gold with a bloodstone center. The stone was engraved with the Roosevelt Family crest, and the inside of the band was engraved with the date “1853”. The date is the same year that FDR’s father James Roosevelt married his first wife Rebecca Howland. FDR inherited the ring from his father when he died in 1900, and FDR wore it for the rest of his life. After the President’s death in 1945, the ring passed to his eldest son James. The ring’s current whereabouts are unknown. FDR also wore another simple band behind the bloodstone ring, but we do not know whether it was a wedding band or had some other significance.

Closeup of Pinky Ring

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