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Marion Dickerman’s Toga Costume (MO 1975.38a-b)


Franklin Roosevelt’s harsher critics sometimes compared him to a dictator. In 1934, the President and his staff turned this criticism into a lighthearted joke at FDR’s 52nd birthday party.

The party was held on January 30, 1934, at the White House by members of the Cuff Links Gang, a group of longtime political advisers and friends who joined Roosevelt every year for his birthday. The 1934 party had a “Caesarian” theme, with guests wearing togas and centurion costumes. Marion Dickerman, a friend of the Roosevelts, wore the muslin toga costume seen above to the party. In the photo, FDR, as “Caesar,” is surrounded by friends, family members, and close advisers, including Eleanor Roosevelt (as the “Delphic Oracle”). Dickerman is standing at the far right, wearing the toga. Just below her is Louis Howe, FDR’s longtime political adviser, dressed as a member of the Praetorian Guard.

This photograph, along with hundreds more, can be seen in a new exhibit opening this Spring at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum: The Roosevelts: Public Figures, Private Lives.



As we’re nearing the last days of January the National Archives staff — along with our friends at the National Park Service — prepares to celebrate Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthday on January 30th. At 3:00 p.m. the National Park Service will hold a Rose Garden Ceremony and, following the ceremony, the FDR Presidential Library will invite attendees to return to the Wallace Center for birthday cake and refreshments. This reception is always a wonderful opportunity to meet with community members, Roosevelt admirers and visitors from all over the world.

In February we’ll be hosting a special afternoon of events on Saturday the 18th to commemorate Presidents Day Weekend. The FDR Presidential Library will host an author talk and book signing at 2:00 p.m. with Washington College Professor of History Richard Striner, author of “Lincoln’s Way: How Six Great Presidents Created American Power.”

Following the book talk members of the Library’s archives staff will display original documents from the Roosevelt Library archives bearing the signatures of many of our nation’s Presidents including: Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. Over 30 signatures will be on display — most of which were collected by Franklin Roosevelt himself. There will also be a video presentation and family-friendly activities relating to presidential history courtesy of the Library’s education department.

The Public Programs department strives to offer a host of innovative programs and events for the general public each year here at Roosevelt Library. These events include author talks and book signings, lectures, conferences and panel discussions, historical encampments, films and music programs grounded in the Roosevelt era. The Library is able to develop, publicize, and implement this full calendar of popular public programs through the financial support of Roosevelt Institute.
Programs include the late winter Eleanor Roosevelt Forums with Catharine Street Community Center in Poughkeepsie, New York; President’s Day Weekend events; the Memorial Day Weekend “USO Show” and World War II Living History Encampment; the Roosevelt Reading Festival — featuring 15-20 authors of recently published books based on research at the Roosevelt Library; a fall panel series exploring historical themes from the Roosevelt era and their relevance today; and Holiday Open House events in December.
Public Programs staff also oversees the “facility use” of the Library, Wallace Center and grounds; the volunteer and internship programs; and all public and media relations for the Library.

75th Anniversary of FDR’s Second Inaugural and a New Inauguration Day

January 20, 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of Franklin Roosevelt’s Second Inaugural Address. It also marks the first time that a president was sworn in on January 20th, the date having been moved by the 20th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Previously, American presidents were sworn in on March 4, the date established by the language of the 12th Amendment. This made sense to the Framers when newly elected presidents and members of Congress had to travel great distances by horse and carriage.

But as American society grew more complex and the nation became more industrialized, the four months between election day and inauguration day were increasingly anachronistic. Outgoing incumbent presidents were powerless lame ducks, and presidents-elect had no authority to influence events. The so-called “Interregnum” between FDR’s election and first inauguration – when the nation remained paralyzed as the Depression deepened and the banking system collapsed – was a perfect example of the crisis this delay could cause.

The Twentieth Amendment was proposed by Congress on March 2, 1932 and was speedily ratified by the necessary three-fourths of the states. But by the amendment’s terms, it did not take effect until October 15, 1933. As a result, FDR became both the last president to take the oath of office on March 4th (1933), and the first president to be inaugurated on the new date of January 20th (1937).

On that cold January day 75 years ago as he stood in the driving rain delivering his Second Inaugural Address, FDR saw “one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished” and declared that “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

This is the first post for our new monthly feature on “Staff Perspectives.” Every month we will be introducing you to a member of the staff here at the FDR Library and giving a look into who we are and what we do.

Matt Hanson

I first began working for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library during the summer of 2004 when I spent ten weeks working as a public programs intern. After graduating from St. John Fisher College with a B.A. in history in 2005, I was hired by the Library as an Archives Technician.

I earned an Advanced Certificate in Archives and Records Management from Queens College in 2010, and was promoted to an Archives Specialist that same year. In June 2011 I became a full-fledged Archivist. My responsibilities include answering research queries submitted to the Roosevelt Library by researchers unable to make a personal visit, supervising researchers working in the research room, photograph and audiovisual reproduction orders, and leading a team working to create a database of projects around the country built by the New Deal agencies.

The reasons why I love working at the Roosevelt Library are many. First, answering research queries provides me with the opportunity to research a wide variety of topics. In a single day I might get to search through records on Allied aircraft production during World War II, read letters to the Roosevelts from people rescued from destitution by the New Deal relief agencies, and watch film footage of the shenanigans on board a Navy ship during a “crossing the line” ceremony.

Another reason that I love working at the Roosevelt Library is that the materials in our collections are evidence of some of the most significant events in the history of the United States, and even the world. The Einstein Letter, for example, led to the creation of the Manhattan Project and the birth of the Atomic Age. The promise of nuclear energy and the threat of nuclear war both exist in the world today because of that letter.

Finally, I love working at the Roosevelt Library because of the people here with whom I have the pleasure and privilege to interact on a daily basis. The Library staff is helpful and supportive, and has embraced me as one of their own. The researchers are enthusiastic about their topics, and I learn as much from them as they do from me. Some are devoted admirers of the Roosevelts, others are fierce critics, but all appreciate the impact that Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had on the world around them.

Do you remember your childhood excitement when you received an invitation to a party? Imagine how exciting it would be to receive an invitation to a party at the White House!

Eleanor (Sistie) Dall Seagraves and Curtis (Buzzie) Roosevelt on the south lawn of the White House, Washington, DC with German Shepherd.

While Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s children were all adults during the White House years, two of their grandchildren lived for a time in the White House. Anna and Curtis Dall, known to many as “Sistie” and “Buzzie,” were the children of Anna Dall, the Roosevelt’s eldest child and only daughter.

According to “Buzzie,” he and his sister lived in the White House from September 1933 to November 1935. They visited the White House from Christmas 1936 through the Inauguration in 1937 and then again during Christmas 1939. They returned to the White House to live from 1944-45, though they spent most of that time at boarding school.

While in the White House Anna and Curtis hosted many birthday and holiday parties. Invitations to those parties are found here in the archives at the FDR Library.

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Renovation of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum began on May 27, 2010 as Kirchhoff-Consigli Construction Management, LLC , Pleasant Valley, NY was given the notice to proceed on the first phase of a three year project with a budget of $35 million in federal funding.


The project is designed by the architectural firm of Einhorn, Jaffe, Prescott of Albany, With the exception of two wings added in 1972 in honor of Mrs. Roosevelt, it is the first overhaul of the Roosevelt Library since it was completed in 1941. The new work carefully preserves the building’s historic appearance, while bringing its archives and museum up to the National Archives’s standards for the long-term preservation of historic collections.

We have 35,000 museum objects and 20 million pages of documents in our collections. New drainage, plumbing, and roofing systems and new electrical, security, fire protection and other systems will address longstanding facility problems.



Museum visitors and researchers will enjoy improved amenities, including, for the first time, full accessibility for people in wheelchairs. Phase One of this two phase project has been completed and Phase Two is scheduled to proceed on January 17, 2012. Stay tuned to our blog for monthly updates of our progress. To view renovation photos visit our Library Renovation collection on Flickr.

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First President to Fly in/Steer a Blimp?

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first sitting president to ride in an airplane, an occasion marked by a very long overseas flight to attend the 1943 Casablanca conference. FDR’s distant cousin, Theodore, was the first president ever to fly, a trip that took place back in 1910 shortly after he had left the presidency.

FDR may have set an additional aviation first – we think he may have been the first president to fly on-board a dirigible airship (also known as a blimp or zeppelin)!

During World War I, serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR traveled to Europe to inspect US Navy facilities. Several weeks into his trip, on August 17th, 1918 he visited a base in Paimboeuf, Western France where he was offered a ride aboard a French-built airship.

Here is FDR’s own account of his visit to Paimboeuf, France:

Log showing 8/16-17, 1918

Log, continued











“I tried my hand at running the lateral stearing[sic] gear and also the elevating and depressing gear. The sensation is distinctly curious, less noise than an areo.[sic] and far more feeling of drifting at the mercy of the wind.”

Here is a photograph showing FDR aboard what we believe to be the deck of the French dirigible:

FDR in Paimboeuf, France. August 17, 1918.

Considered too vulnerable for use on the front, airships were primarily used for scouting missions and mine clearance throughout Western Europe during the war. The use of airships later declined as airplane technology advanced and after several high profile accidents. FDR was serving his second term as president when the infamous Hindenburg crashed in New Jersey in 1937.

Do you know of an occasion in which a sitting, former, or future president traveled aboard such an aircraft before 1918?

On January 18, 1935, President Roosevelt spoke to Congress on social legislation. He asked for broad social security programs, unemployment compensation, old age pensions, federal aid for dependent and crippled children, and federal aid to state and local public health agencies. Later that year on August 14th, FDR signed the Social Security Act into law.

Below is the first page of the press release of FDR’s speech to Congress. The complete speech can be viewed on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day website.

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