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Elephant Table (MO 1971.46)

 

This wooden table with base consisting of a carved figure of an elephant (with ivory eyes) was used by Eleanor Roosevelt in her East 74th Street apartment in New York City (see photo below).

The table was presented to the First Lady at the “Festival of Dance and Music” for the African Academy of Arts and Research in New York City on April 26, 1946. In her “My Day” newspaper column for that day, Mrs. Roosevelt said of the Festival, “The language of the drums, which is the oldest language in the world, is always fascinating to me, and I must say that the rhythm is very hard for anyone to resist.”

Mrs. Roosevelt mentioned this table in her autobiography published in 1958, “On My Own.” She noted that it was given to her “by a boy from Nigeria who was then a student in this country but now is finance minister in his own land.” Mrs. Roosevelt was referring to Kingsley Ozuomba Mbadiwe, who was President of the African Academy of Arts and Research in 1945 while also attending Columbia University. He later went on to become Nigeria’s Minister of Commerce in 1957.

 

The Great Hurricane of 1938: Government and Citizens Working Together

As Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast of the United States, it brings to mind the Great Hurricane of 1938 that brought devastation to Long Island, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. On September 21, 1938, entire coastal communities were simply swept off the map and into the sea. Some 700 people died in the storm and hundreds more were injured. Rhode Island was particularly hard hit by the winds and the storm surge. Two billion trees across New York and New England were ripped from the ground, leveling old growth forests.

Before FDR, such a disaster would have been responded to only by local authorities and private aid groups such as the Red Cross. But thanks to the New Deal, thousands of Americans were employed through the Works Progress Administration, the National Youth Administration, and the Civilian Conservation Corps and were readily mobilized to assist in short-term rescue and recovery and long-term rebuilding efforts.

On October 14, 1938, President Roosevelt used his annual radio address for the Mobilization for Human Needs charity campaign to talk about the importance of the partnership between private organizations and the government. The two are not mutually exclusive, FDR pointed out. Working together, the government and private citizens can respond more effectively to disasters such as the Great Hurricane of 1938, and can better lift up that one-third of a nation still ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished to a standard of living worthy of America.

The document displayed here is FDR’s reading copy for the radio address he delivered from the White House.

Great Hurricane Speech

Found in  the Archives: Victory Gardens and Shared Sacrifice

As we go about our daily business at the FDR Library, we often come across documents that really hit home and have an unexpected emotional impact. Take this one, for example.

Last week we were visited by a group of state nutritionists. As we were identifying some documents on the subject of food that might interest them, we found this item in the President’s Official File on Victory Gardens. It is a draft of a statement that was released by the White House on January 22, 1945, just two days after FDR’s fourth inauguration and the same day that the President left Washington for the Yalta Conference. It was drafted by the Office of Price Administration and the War Food Administration in preparation for 1945’s food information programs. This simple document recalls just how unified the American people were during the war, and how everyone shared in the sacrifices that would lead to victory just a few months later.

The residents of the White House were not immune from shared sacrifice. Mrs. Nesbitt, the White House cook and housekeeper, used ration stamps to buy food for the Roosevelts and their guests. In 1942, the White House lawn was found to be unsuitable for vegetables, and a Victory Garden could not be planted that year. Mrs. Roosevelt stated at a press conference that “It will grow nothing but grass. The Agriculture Department experts who checked on the plot reported the subsoil full of rubble. Any dirt farmer will know what that means.” But the White House flower beds proved more fruitful, and in 1943 a small Victory Garden was planted.

One last point about this document: note the little scribbling at the bottom of the second page. That is FDR’s famous method of approving documents, a simple “OK FDR”. But this one is poignant in that it is small, shaky and cramped–a reflection of the great burden he had carried for 12 years. He would make the ultimate sacrifice just three months later, dying at Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.

Tarpon caught by FDR (MO 2007.779)

President Roosevelt was an avid, lifelong fisherman. After his mobility became limited when he contracted polio in 1921, FDR spent a great deal of his leisure time either sailing or fishing.

Dr. Ross McIntire, Roosevelt’s personal physician when he was President, advised Roosevelt to go on as many vacations as possible to improve his health. McIntire later recounted, “Despite our bargain about regular vacations, I doubt, however, if he would have kept the agreement except for his love of the water and fishing.”

On one such trip in May 1937, FDR and his son, Elliott, traveled to Port Aransas, Texas, to fish for tarpon. It was a very successful outing for both father and son. The fish seen above is one of the tarpons caught by FDR during the excursion. To see a video of this trip in which Roosevelt reels in a large catch, visit our YouTube page: http://youtu.be/ywOOjxn-TBg

 

August 18, 1938: FDR receives and honorary degree of doctor of civil laws at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

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Did you know:

  • From August 17-24, FDR conferred with Prime Minister Churchill in Quebec, Canada at the first Quebec conference.

 

August 20, 1951

“HYDE PARK, Sunday—Day by day, those who are responsible for our policies in the Far East must revise their actions in the light of new events. I constantly get questions asking why we do not have a definite policy and stick to it. The reason is simple. We cannot govern other people nor control what may happen in the various parts of the world. We can only meet what happens as best we can, as it occurs, keeping always in mind our basic objective of peace.

I think perhaps we might play a better game of guessing what is going to happen if everyone were gifted with foresight and imagination. Many of our diplomatic representatives, prior to their arrival at the country in which they are stationed, are not very well versed in its history and literature. Hence they are not always successful in interpreting the reasons for the actions of people living in parts of the world which are little known to the greater part of the people in the United States.

Someone offered me a plan the other day for bringing in an ever-increasing number of people to this country, both old and young, and letting them stay for a few months before going back to tell what they have seen and heard. Of course, there is nothing so valuable as firsthand information, and it would help us, too, if we sent people abroad. You may think you can get the feeling of something by reading, but you do better if you actually see it.

I don’t know whether any plan of travel exchange could be carried out on a sufficiently wide scale to be of any value in the fight against Communism, but I am sure that every incident which brings better first-hand knowledge is important. For instance, I was told at the World Youth Conference that one of the delegates from the French Cameroons, on reaching here, found that he had to put one of his fellow delegates in a New York City hospital. He did this with great reluctance; but when he went to visit his comrade he found two colored boys in a room with two white boys, and all were getting the same attention from a white doctor and a white trained nurse. This completely changed his opinion of race relations in this country. He confided in one of the World Youth Assembly staff members that he had been told by the Communists that in the United States no colored man was taken into a hospital, no matter how ill he was, nor would he be allowed to eat the same food as the rest of the people.

People who preach isolationism or do anything to lessen the bonds between the United States and the United Nations are deliberately fostering fears which will eventually bring us war. Not supporting the continual strengthening of our forces at home, and not fostering a sense of responsibility for our work with the United Nations to create closer world relations and wider acceptance among our own people of their position in the world and their ability to accept leadership, will do us great harm in the long run…”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

This week’s “Found in the Archives” post is a very special one for us. We had the pleasure of having an amazing group of young women as our summer interns this year. Thanks to their hard work and dedication we were able to accomplish more this summer than we could have imagined.

So we posed the question to them of “what did I do during my summer vacation at the FDR Library” and here are their stories about some of their experiences.

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Ali Caron

My name is Ali and I am a graduate student at Simmons College in Boston, MA, working toward a degree in Library Science. This summer I am an intern at the Library. As an intern, I’ve been assigned a variety of projects ranging from data entry to compiling a list of resources for researchers.

My favorite project this summer has been researching the life of Margaret Suckley and writing a short biography. Margaret was a distant cousin of President Roosevelt’s, a close friend, and one of the first archivists at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.

I spent time learning about her and how she lived her life. I was even able to look through some of her papers; the Library has a small collection donated by Margaret. Her papers contain a variety of material. There are fun things, such as letters from school children asking questions about Fala, and work related material, like an old code of conduct handbook. Being able to look through Margaret’s papers was what made this project unique. Seeing notes she wrote and records she kept makes her real in a way that other research cannot. I learned about her life using books and the Internet, but I learned about what kind of person she was through her own papers. It’s been a great summer and an excellent learning experience, and I’ve enjoyed every minute.

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Georgina Garcia

During my internship at Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, I had the honor to work with a wonderful staff who taught me the art of archiving.  I come from a library science background focusing on digital image management and rarely study or research archives.  My stay at FDR allowed me to explore a different entity of information and library science.

One of my more elaborate and interesting projects at FDR was to work with Ali Caron, another summer archiving intern, and create an artificial collection on Pearl Harbor.  This was my first time working with archives and with the help of the FDR staff, Ali and I successfully completed our summer project; in addition, I had my first time experience writing a finding aid for our artificial collection, collaborating research information with Ali to create our Pearl Harbor Guide, and create a collection box containing Pearl Harbor information from December 6, 1941, to December 8, 1941.  This artificial collection will be available for researchers to use.

I also had the opportunity to perform historical research using the library’s primary sources on FDR’s speech writing. This was an exciting project since I got to view some of President Roosevelt’s Master Speeches which include: The Banking Crisis (Fireside Chat #1), 1st Inaugural Address, and Day of Infamy Speech.  I examined all three speeches and analyzed FDR’s writing style and technique. My article will be featured on the library’s website and it is an honor to have researchers and the staff read my work.

My summer internship has been a wonderful invaluable experience that I will always remember.

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Amy Berish

My summer internship at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library has been an enriching and educational experience. As I am still completing my education as an undergraduate Library Science student, this internship has given me my first opportunity to gain hands-on experience with archives. With the guidance of the archives staff, I was able to better understand the work of an archivist and even construct my first finding aid.

This finding aid was a part of the Oral History Project I was responsible for. I was able to digitize the Eleanor Roosevelt Oral History Transcripts and compose a finding aid to accompany the documents. These transcripts will eventually be available for online viewing.

The greatest opportunity I had during my internship was being able to do historical research on FDR regarding his polio attack. I was able to view and handle all of the documents and photographs pertaining to FDR and polio. In completing this research, I composed a web article dealing with FDR’s polio attack and its effects on his career and health. I also was able to digitize the entire Infantile Paralysis folder from FDR’s Family, Business, Personal Collection which contains historical documents concerning FDR’s contraction of the disease. This folder in its entirety as well as my web article will now be available online for the use of researchers. I am privileged to have my work featured and greatly appreciative of all I have been able to learn and accomplish this summer at the FDR Presidential Library.

August 14, 1935: FDR signs the Social Security Bill into law.

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Did you know:

  • On August 14, 1936 FDR set forth a foreign policy of neutrality at Chautauqua, NY.
  • On August 14, 1941 FDR announced the Atlantic Charter.

 

August 11, 1942

“HYDE PARK, Monday—…Some of the students who were at the institutes there were able to remain in New York City for a few days. We had much singing and gaiety, but also some serious discussion on the personal stake of each boy and girl in the war. Most of the boys will soon be in the service. I was interested to find how many of the girls felt that their contribution might be made in factory work.

Sometimes I grow a little weary of the older people, who through the medium of the press, thoughtlessly suggest that everything done for young people today is unnecessary. It is a privilege to fight for your country and the world, but with that privilege must go the assurance that when the war is over, if you survive, you will have a part in creating the conditions under which you want to live.

The fact that we are now obliged to call our youth to this kind of sacrifice, shows that some of us in different parts of the world failed to live up to the ideals to which we gave lip service in World War Number One after it came to an end. Perhaps we did not realize that it meant political and economic changes, not only at home but abroad.

In any case, we were not prepared to face the situation. The boys of today are going into the armed forces as rapidly as they can be equipped, trained and used, and perhaps it is worthwhile for them to have a conviction as to what they are fighting for. They may fight better. It will help them if they know we really care about their convictions and will continue to carry on the interests which they, as young people, are consecrated to in the future, while they, at present, fight the war.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

August 6, 1918: FDR finds himself under fire on the Verdun front with General de Haye.

FDR at La Citadelle in Verdun, France.
August 6, 1918
FDR Library Photo Collection. NPx. 47-96:4802(83).

Excerpt from FDR's 1918 Diary.

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Did you know:

  • On August 1, 1933, the NRA blue eagle made its official appearance.
  • On August 2, 1939 FDR signed the Hatch Act which prohibited federal officeholders from active participation in political campaigns.

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