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How the Roosevelts Spent Christmas, 1936

As the holiday season approaches, we often get asked for details about how the Roosevelts spent Christmas in the White House. This memorandum describes the plans for Christmas 1936, including how the White House was decorated, the First Family’s schedule and house guests, and even procedures for opening presents. Christmas Eve activities concluded with the President giving his traditional reading of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to his family.

Christmas was also a busy time in the White House mail room. In addition to all the holiday gifts that you see described in this memo, the Roosevelts received thousands and thousands of Christmas cards every year. According to another document we found, during the their first Christmas in the White House in 1933, the Roosevelts received 300,000 cards.

So may your holiday season be filled with joy and family, and be glad you don’t have to respond to 300,000 cards!

Fala’s Christmas Stocking (MO 2006.347)


In 1941, the staff at the Roosevelt Library celebrated the new institution’s first Christmas by decorating President Roosevelt’s private study. The adornments included this small, blue stocking for FDR’s beloved Scottish terrier, Fala. The stocking can be seen in the photo above hanging next to the President’s.

The scene in this photo was assembled by the Library staff in order to create a Christmas card to send to the President. The Fala sock was supplied by Fred Shipman, the Library’s first Director. The name card was created by James Whitehead, an Assistant Archivist who later became the Museum Curator. The basket of pine cones by the fireplace was sent by the mother of Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (FDR’s distant cousin, who gave Fala to the President in 1940). The greens were collected by Archivist Dr. John S. Curtis and Junior Laborer Steve Bielski. Custodian William J. Plain supplied the logs for the fire.

Please visit the FDR Presidential Library and Museum this holiday season to view the stocking and other holiday decorations temporarily on display in the Museum.


What was President Franklin Roosevelt doing on December 7, 1941, before he learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? Which advisers did he summon when he realized that America was on the brink of war?

Most Americans know where the President was on December 8th, but where was he on December 6th . . . or the 9th? Find the answers in a new feature of the Roosevelt Library’s website at

See the events of December 1941.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Pare Lorentz Center at the Franklin Roosevelt Library officially unveils a new online database of President Roosevelt’s daily schedule: “Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day.” This interactive chronology documents Roosevelt’s daily activities as President, from March 1933 to April 1945. The project was inspired by the work of Pare Lorentz, a Depression-era documentary filmmaker, who dedicated much of his life to documenting FDR’s daily activities as President.

“Day by Day” which is supported by a grant from the New York Community Trust to the Pare Lorentz Center, features digitized original calendars and schedules maintained by the White House Usher and the official White House stenographer, as well as additional historical resources scanned from the Roosevelt Library archives. These records trace FDR’s appointments, travel schedule, social events, guests, and more. A searchable database based primarily on these calendar sources is available so that researchers can search the chronology by keyword and date.

As a fulfillment of Pare Lorentz’s original vision, “Day by Day” also includes an interactive timeline of additional materials from the archives of the FDR Library to place each day’s calendar into larger historical context. These materials include scanned photographs, letters and speeches as well as descriptions of events in United States and world history.

To explore President Roosevelt’s daily schedule or for more information on the project, please visit “Day by Day.”

“Remember Pearl Harbor” Weathervane (MO 2005.377)

Tomorrow, December 7, marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In the early morning hours of that December Sunday in 1941, Japan unleashed a devastating surprise attack on American military installations in the Pacific. The worst blow came at Hawaii, site of the giant Pearl Harbor naval base and other American military installations. In just two hours, Japanese bombers destroyed or damaged 21 American naval vessels and over 300 aircraft. The attacks resulted in the deaths of over 2400 military personnel and civilians, and shattered the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

“Remember Pearl Harbor” quickly became a rallying cry for Americans as the nation entered World War II.  The expression appeared frequently in the press, on posters, and in other media throughout the war. These words were also incorporated into hand-made items produced by everyday Americans. Some sent their handiworks to the President as gifts. This painted cast iron weathervane was made by Claude C. Ferdinand of Hawthorne, New Jersey shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack. Mr. Ferdinand sent his weathervane to FDR on January 27, 1942. It links the American cause in World War II to an earlier conflict—the American Revolution—by depicting two iconic figures from the American Revolution flanking an American eagle and a “V” for victory symbol. On the right is the figure of the Minuteman, immortalized in a famous statue that stands at the site of the Battle of Concord in Massachusetts. The figure on the left is Molly Pitcher, who is shown stoking a cannon at the Battle of Monmouth, which was fought in New Jersey in 1778.


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