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The FDR Presidential Library and Museum presented a well-attended author talk and book signing with Martin Professor of Constitutional Law and Dean Emeritus at New York Law School JAMES F. SIMON who spoke about his most recent book FDR AND CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES: THE PRESIDENT, THE SUPREME COURT, AND THE EPIC BATTLE OVER THE NEW DEAL.

Prof. Simon talked about researching and writing this book about the most significant struggle between the executive and the judiciary branches of the federal government in the twentieth century — one with critical implications for today’s battle over President Obama’s health care law.The program was held in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center and 60 people attended including a local AP United States Government class. Following the presentation, Professor Simon signed copies of his book.

This April, the Roosevelt Library will host two of the eight “Fireplace Lounge Chats” discussions on civility and democracy in America being held throughout the mid-Hudson region this spring. These expert-led discussions feature representatives from local colleges, area high schools, county legislatures, the Roosevelt Library and SUNY Orange and are made possible by support from a New York Council for the Humanities grant. This is the first of two programs to be held at the Roosevelt Library will focus on civil rights and will take place on Wednesday, April 11, 2012. The second event, on Wednesday, April 25, 2012, will center on FDR’s Presidency.

Both programs begin at 7:00 p.m in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home. The issue examined across all eight programs is the question of civility in American political discourse and how it relates to the topic of the evening. For more information on the “Fireplace Lounge Chats” programs, contact Paul Basinski, chair of the SUNY Orange Global Studies Department, at (845) 341-4828 or click here.

1942 Wartime Party Game

We came across this interesting little item in a recent donation by the family of Charles H. McCarthy, Sr., an original member of the so-called Cuff Links Gang who gathered every January 30th to celebrate FDR’s birthday.

It seems that at the 1942 birthday bash the guests played a party game called “6 Shots at a Ratzi”, a sort of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game where Hitler’s posterior was the donkey. This game, printed on very lightweight paper, involved placing a lit cigarette on a red dot next to the player’s favorite weapon of choice. You could choose between a tank, a rifle, and a variety of machine guns and cannon. The cigarette apparently ignited a narrow line of chemical painted on the paper from the weapon to the swastika on Hitler’s behind. The player who successfully hit the swastika won the game.

The handwritten notation on the game was made by Mr. McCarthy and identifies it as coming from the 1942 birthday dinner for the President. There’s no record of who won the game, but we hope everyone followed the printed warning “Avoid lighting in draft.”

 

“Following the Footsteps of His Illustrious Namesake”

One of the great joys of being an archivist is helping a researcher fill a gap in their own personal history. We recently received a request from Frank Green seeking documentation about his father, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Green, who was born in Staunton, Virginia in 1933 and named after President Roosevelt. Mr. Green has graciously allowed us to share his story.

Based on the information Mr. Green provided to us, we were able to locate correspondence about his father in a special Namesakes File in the presidential papers. It turns out that in early November 1933, William Green wrote a letter to FDR about the birth of his son who was being named after the President.

FDR’s personal secretary, Missy LeHand, replied on behalf of President Roosevelt, congratulating the parents on the birth of their child and enclosing a keepsake for FDR’s little namesake. Typically, the keepsake for boys sent by the White House was a handkerchief with FDR’s initials embroidered in the corner.

We were struck by the elder Mr. Green’s sense of optimism and hope for his son’s future even though they were an African-American family in the segregated South during the Great Depression. We couldn’t help but wonder what happened to young Franklin Delano Roosevelt Green, and our researcher sent us the following:

“My grandfather was an Army Officer in World War I. My three uncles all volunteered and fought in World War II (William Jr. was a Tuskegee Airman), and my father [Franklin Delano Roosevelt Green] volunteered and fought in Korea. After Korea he became an attorney in Philadelphia. He was one of the first African American attorneys to work for the Department of Labor and was a law partner of civil rights pioneer Cecil Moore.”

Surely it can be said that Franklin Delano Roosevelt Green had the “active and useful life” President Roosevelt wished for him and that his entire family can rightly be proud of his accomplishments and of a life well-led.

 

Darian Rivera

I can remember it like it was yesterday. Flop! The atlas-sized exam hit the rickety student desk in front of me. I was a deer in headlights. A year’s worth of notes had been erased completely from my memory. How could this happen? American history had been my best subject all year and I could not remember a thing. What was I going to do? If I failed this test I could be condemned to another year of junior high school, and lose my chance of trying out for the FDR High School baseball team. I had to pass this test. I had to pass!

Then, suddenly, I remembered a Saturday afternoon when my family and I went to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. My memories of that visit were as clear as day. I could picture every exhibit about the Roosevelts, the President’s car, and FDR’s Private Study, which he used to deliver some of his famous “fireside chats.”

I flipped through the essay questions, and quickly spotted one that I could answer. “What was President Roosevelt’s ‘Day of Infamy’ speech about?” Yes! I knew this one! My number 2 pencil tried to keep up with the memories that raced through my head of my day at the museum. Surely, I was on my way to an “A.” Then, all of a sudden, my writing hand came to a screeching stop. In an awkward pause I asked myself, “Was Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 or 1942?” Oh, no…

Today, I am proud to say that I passed my eighth grade American history exam, and now work in my home town of Hyde Park, New York as the Special Events Coordinator for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. I have worked at the Presidential Library for almost 6 years coordinating conferences, education programs, and group tours. I also operate audiovisual equipment for public functions at the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center, and Pare Lorentz Film Center.

There are still times when I think back to that test and wonder what might have happened if I didn’t pass. Let’s just say that I’m glad that I remembered the year 1941.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Wedding Anniversary

MO 1968.25.33 – Usher’s Stickpin
MO 1949.4.1.1-3 – Wedding Veil Lace
MO 1948.80.3 – Artificial Orange Blossoms
MO 1968.25.53 – Lace Handkerchief

On March 17, 1905, after a year and a half long engagement, Franklin Delano Roosevelt married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. The 20-year-old bride was escorted down the aisle by her uncle, then President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. The ceremony took place at the New York City home of Eleanor’s great uncle and aunt, Edward and Margaret Livingston Ludlow. The reception took place next door at the home of her cousin, Susan Parish.

Though no photographs of the day are known to exist, several artifacts from the wedding are in the FDR Library’s museum collection. The groom’s ushers were each given a gold, diamond, and pearl stickpin (MO 1968.25.33), shown above, in the style of the Roosevelt family crest. FDR designed this pin and his daughter Anna donated it to the Library in 1967.

Also shown are pieces from Eleanor’s wedding attire, including her veil (MO 1949.4.1.1-3), which was given to her by her maternal grandmother, Mary Livingston Ludlow Hall. The veil is a Point de Gaze Belgian lace and was donated to the Library by Anna in 1948. Eleanor also wore a sprig of artificial orange blossoms in her hair (MO 1948.80.3), which she donated to the Library in 1948, and carried a lace handkerchief (MO 1968.25.53), donated by Anna in 1966.

Below are a series of images from Franklin and Eleanor’s courtship and honeymoon. These photos and 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.

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Hard hats are mandatory and it’s starting to look like a construction site again as Phase 2 of the Library renovation gets into full swing. Workmen are in the temporary exhibit gallery getting it ready for new windows and minor changes. As soon as this work is completed we will start to fabricate our new photo exhibit so we can turn the permanent exhibit space over to the contractors. In the Library basement abatement and demolition are underway. Messy but very necessary work.

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2012: The Girl Scouts of America turns 100

March 12, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the first organized meeting of the Girl Scouts, hosted in Georgia by founder Juliette Gordon Low.  Several years later, as First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt served as Honorary President of that organization throughout her tenure in the White House.

Eleanor Roosevelt pictured with Girl Scouts in Kentucky. 1934.

Eleanor Roosevelt pictured with Girl Scouts in Kentucky. July 7, 1934.

In the 1930s and 40s individual Scouts sent letters, scrapbooks and gifts to both the President and Mrs. Roosevelt.  Below is one such letter to ER from Scout Julie Ann Dorr, then age 11, sent in August of 1941. She wrote to the First Lady: “I thought you would be interested in hearing Camp Osito news, including word about the horses they have up there.”

Letter from and 11-year-old Girl Scout, August 1941

Page 1 of a letter from an 11-year-old Girl Scout, August 1941.

Click here to Read the entire letter along with Mrs. Roosevelt’s August 21 My Day column that inspired Dorr to write.

We thought this would be a great photo to share in celebration of International Women’s Day:

Eleanor Roosevelt and Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt displays a Spanish language version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Lake Success, NY, November 1949.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948 in the midst of an especially bitter phase of the Cold War. Many people contributed to this remarkable achievement, but most observers believe that the UN Commission on Human Rights, which drafted the declaration, would not have succeeded in reaching agreement without the leadership of the Commission’s chair: Eleanor Roosevelt. ER herself regarded her role in drafting and securing adoption of the Declaration as her greatest achievement.

Read the whole story of Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

March 17, 1935 marked Franklin and Eleanor’s 30th wedding anniversary. They were married on St. Patrick’s Day in 1905 in New York City at the home of Eleanor’s aunt, Mrs. Henry Parrish Jr. The bride was given away by her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt. They took their honeymoon over the summer and visited England, France, Germany, Italy, Scotland and Switzerland.

Below is the front of a card sent to the President and Mrs. Roosevelt for their 30th wedding anniversary. The rest of the card and letter sent to the Roosevelt’s can be found on Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day.

“To Capture a Great Dream Before it Dies”

Historians often speculate what FDR would have done after the presidency had he lived. Would he write his memoirs? Would he run the United Nations? Recently, one of our archivists came across this exchange of letters between Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish and FDR that sheds some light on this question.

In May 1943, Archie MacLeish – a Pulitzer Prize winning poet – wrote a candid letter to the President stating that he would resign as Librarian of Congress when FDR left the presidency and asking if FDR could help him find work to do that would benefit the war effort.

In his reply, FDR reveals his own thoughts on his post-presidency: he would become a librarian himself at his presidential library in Hyde Park, write “scurrilous articles” about people for publication after his death, and grow his beloved Christmas trees. He also urges MacLeish to put his writing and administrative skills to work compiling concise and readable histories of America’s wars, particularly how the wars affected the lives of the citizenry.

To FDR, making our history accessible to the American people is like capturing “a great dream before it dies.” This is a mission that all of us who have the privilege of working at his Library try to achieve every single day through our archives, museum exhibitions, and education and public programs.

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