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Medjez el Bab Horseshoe (MO 1944.104.6)

In November 1943, President Roosevelt traveled to the Middle East to meet with other Allied leaders and discuss strategy at the Cairo and Tehran Conferences. While en route, FDR visited Tunisia to tour the sites of several battles fought there during the previous year.

During a November 21 stop at Medjez el Bab, FDR lunched with General Dwight D. Eisenhower and three members of his White House staff: General Edwin M. “Pa” Watson, Admiral Wilson Brown, and the President’s physician, Ross T. McIntire. During lunch, a member of the party spotted this horseshoe lying on the ground nearby. FDR had the horseshoe sent to the Roosevelt Library as a memento of this outing.

The Thanksgiving Before War, 1941

It was Franklin Roosevelt’s yearly tradition to go back to Warm Springs, Georgia, and celebrate Thanksgiving with the patients and staff at the polio rehabilitation center he had founded there. The patients would always prepare a little program with skits and songs, and FDR would carve the turkeys himself.

Thanksgiving 1941, though, had been much postponed. FDR’s original plans to travel to Warm Springs had been interrupted by urgent matters in Washington–the tensions with Japan were reaching a critical stage. He had delayed his visit by a week, but FDR finally arrived in time for a rescheduled Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, November 29th.

This is a transcript of President Roosevelt’s extemporaneous remarks made at Thanksgiving dinner following the skit. A somber FDR reflects on how the rehabilitation center has grown and evolved through the years and on the simple pleasures of an American Thanksgiving and traditional football games. But the war clouds looming on the Pacific horizon weigh heavily on him, and he expresses his fears that the boys playing football that day may be defending American liberties the next year.

FDR’s comments were prescient. The President had hoped to stay in Warm Springs for several more days, but he was urgently called back to Washington by his Secretary of State. He left Warm Springs the very next day, on Sunday, November 30th–exactly a week before the attack at Pearl Harbor. As he said goodbye to his Warm Springs family, FDR declared “This may be the last time I talk to you for a long time.” He would not return to his beloved Warm Springs until 1943.

 

 

“Let’s Talk Turkey” Poster (MO 2005.13.34.252)

 

During World War II, the U.S. Government created a wide range of posters aimed at inspiring Americans to contribute to the war effort. Many concentrated on increasing defense production. As the war progressed, new initiatives and methods for improving production were embraced. Ideas were collected from all sources, including civilian employees.

This poster was one in a series of Suggestion Posters created by the War Department to encourage civilian employees to make suggestions on how to increase productivity. It was displayed in the offices of civilian employees to thank them for their contributions. This poster is part of a large collection of posters donated to the FDR Library by the Adriance Memorial Library, Poughkeepsie, New York in the 1960s.

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Thanksgiving Proclamation

At the beginning of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, Thanksgiving was not a fixed holiday; it was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation to announce what date the holiday would fall on. President Abraham Lincoln had declared Thanksgiving a national holiday on the last Thursday in November in 1863 and tradition dictated that it be celebrated on the last Thursday of that month. But this tradition was difficult to continue during the challenging times of the Great Depression as statistics showed that most people waited until after Thanksgiving to begin their holiday shopping.

Roosevelt’s first Thanksgiving in office fell on November 30, the last day of the month, because November had five Thursdays that year. This meant that there were only about 20 shopping days until Christmas; business leaders feared they would lose the much needed revenue an extra week of shopping would afford them. They asked President Roosevelt to move the holiday up from the 30th to the 23rd; however he choose to keep the Thanksgiving Holiday on the last Thursday of the month as it had been for nearly three quarters of a century.

In 1939, with the country still reeling from the effects of the Great Depression, Thanksgiving once again threatened to fall on the last day of November. This time the President did move Thanksgiving up a week to the 23rd. Changing the date seemed harmless enough but it proved to be quite controversial as can be seen in this letter sent to the President in protest.

 

As opposition grew, some states took matters into their own hands and defied the Presidential Proclamation. Some governors declared November 30th as Thanksgiving. And so, depending upon where one lived, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the 23rd and the 30th. This was worse than changing the date in the first place because families that lived in states such as New York did not have the same day off as family members in states such as Connecticut! Family and friends were unable to celebrate the holiday together.

President Roosevelt observed Thanksgiving on the second to last Thursday of November for two more years, but the amount of public outrage prompted Congress to pass a law on December 26, 1941, ensuring that all Americans would celebrate a unified Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November every year.


 

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and “Chief” Charles Alfred Anderson, 1941

In 1941, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt flew with one of America’s first black pilots, Charles Alfred Anderson, over Tuskegee, Alabama. Mrs. Roosevelt’s flight was well-publicized, and it demonstrated to the public and the military that African Americans could be competent pilots. Shortly after the flight, the Tuskegee flight training program for black pilots was established. This photograph is in collections of the Smithsonian Institution and was provided to the Roosevelt Library by Maxwell Air Force Base. (Titled “C. Alfred Anderson” via  National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, SI Neg. No 90-7010)

In her April 1, 1941 “My Day” column, Mrs. Roosevelt commented on her flight saying “Finally we went out to the aviation field, where a Civil Aeronautics unit for the teaching of colored pilots is in full swing. They have advanced training here, and some of the students went up and did acrobatic flying for us. These boys are good pilots. I had the fun of going up in one of the tiny training planes with the head instructor, and seeing this interesting countryside from the air.” (Complete article)

If you are interested in more information on the Tuskegee Airmen, please see our educational curriculum guide “Red Tailed Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen” available on our website.

Armistice Day, November 11,1941

On November 11, 1941 – seventy years ago – President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his Armistice Day Address at the Amphitheater at the sacred site of Arlington National Cemetery. Although this annual event was a presidential tradition, the speech this year took on special meeting, for the world was again aflame in war. Most of Europe was now under occupation by Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union was valiantly fighting against the German armies. Here at home, FDR’s efforts to render aid to Britain and to build up America’s defenses were opposed by isolationists in Congress and out.

President Roosevelt used his Armistice Day Address to remind the American people why our soldiers had fought and died in World War I: “to make the world habitable for decent and self-respecting men and women” and “to make the world a place where freedom can live and grow into the ages.”

This document is the third draft of the speech from the President’s Master Speech File. FDR received drafting assistance from Archibald MacLeish, the Librarian of Congress. The handwritten changes you see were made by Roosevelt himself.

 

To read the full text of the speech, please go to the following link: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=16041&st=&st1=#axzz1dJvoepek

Women in the Military Rag Dolls (MO 1945.47.13-16)

 

Millions of young Americans served in America’s military during World War II. With FDR’s support their ranks included 350,000 women, who served as nurses and in special service branches established throughout the military.

In May 1941, Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts proposed a bill to establish the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corp (WAAC, later the WAC). The bill was passed a year later and the first enlisted auxiliaries arrived for training at Fort Des Moines in July 1942.

In the same month, the U.S. Navy established the Naval Reserve “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service” (WAVES). Later in 1942, the U.S. Coast Guard launched their Women’s Reserve, the SPARs (the group’s title was taken from the Coast Guard motto “Semper Paratus”—“Always Ready”). In February 1943, the U.S. Marine Corps created the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.

These four dolls, made in 1944 by Mrs. W.W. McGee of Fitzgerald, Florida, represent different branches of the U.S. military and commemorate the service of American women in the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps during the war. Mrs. McGee sent these dolls to President Roosevelt as a gift.

 

The following is an excerpt from the Fall 2009 Rendezvous article, “Eleanor Roosevelt at 125,” by Allida Black:

In 1962, as ER battled fatal illness, she also sought to complete her final call to action. In Tomorrow is Now, she dared us to recognize the power we had as citizens and to use our power carefully and boldly. “I would like to see,” she wrote, “our people fired by the vision of building a new and peaceful world.” This could only happen if “we cast out fear and face the unknown. . . with imagination and integrity, with courage and a high heart.”

Why? “For where there is no vision the people perish.”

Eleanor Roosevelt died at her home in New York City on November 7, 1962, at the age of 78. She was buried alongside FDR in the Rose Garden of their estate at Hyde Park, NY, now a national historic site, and four U.S. presidents (former, sitting, and future) attended her funeral.

On November 9, 1962, Adlai Stevenson delivered a eulogy to the United Nations General Assembly. He stated,

“Yesterday, I said that I had lost more than a friend — I had lost an inspiration: for she would rather light candles than curse the darkness and her glow had warmed the world. My country mourns her; and I know that all in this Assembly mourn with us.” Hear the full eulogy.

For more on Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy, including information about her voluminous papers and artifacts that are housed at the FDR Presidential Library & Museum, see theFall 2009 Rendezvous honoring her 125th birthday.

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Thinking of Sunnier Climates

The recent October nor-easter snowstorm made us all think about warmer and sunnier places. And once again, the serendipity of archives provided us with a vicarious escape from the piles of snow. In July 1934, FDR took a lengthy fishing and inspection cruise aboard the USS Houston, traveling to Haiti, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, through the Panama Canal to the Cocos Islands, and on to the Territory of Hawaii, where he toured the islands from July 24-28th before proceeding back to the US mainland.

While researching a question about FDR’s travel schedule, one of our archivists came across a wonderful booklet of period postcards from Hawaii that were sent by an admirer to the President in May 1934 in anticipation of his visit. We plan on looking at these often during the coming winter!

 

If you’d like to see the full itinerary of the President’s 1934 fishing cruise aboard the USS Houston, just go to the new FDR Day by Day website at the following link: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/daybyday/resource/july-1934-2/

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The Washington Star published this political cartoon by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Clifford Berryman on October 31, 1934. The parade of jack-o-lanterns asking, “FDR, how long will the cash hold out?” refers to expenditures by President Roosevelt’s New Deal “alphabet agencies.” These agencies, often referred to by their acronyms, were created to reform the nation’s financial system, stimulate job and business growth, and provide material assistance to Americans enduring the Great Depression. By the fall of 1934, they included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Public Works Administration (PWA) and the National Recovery Administration (NRA). Several examples of the NRA’s distinctive eagle symbol hover over the parade of jack-o-lanterns.

Berryman presented this original cartoon to FDR’s Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (who appears next to FDR in the cartoon). The Morgenthau family later gave the cartoon the Roosevelt Library.

 

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