You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2012.

Summer is coming to an end and the Roosevelt Library is back in the swing of things with public programs. The Pare Lorentz Center at the FDR Presidential Library presented “Documentary Film: Then and Now” a documentary film festival on Saturday, August 18, 2012. The program opened with screenings of two groundbreaking films by Roosevelt-era film maker Pare Lorentz: “The Plow that Broke the Plains” and “The River.”

Afternoon films included a series of youth-produced short works created at the Children’s Media Project ( as well as two award-winning films recommended by the International Documentary Association ( “To Be Heard” and “Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey.” Roland Legiardi-Laura, producer/director of “To Be Heard” (, introduced the film and took questions following the screening. The film festival had 32 attendees.

We will host two individual book talks in August and September 2012. On Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 7:00 p.m., the Library will present an author talk and signing with Hyde Park Town Historian Carney Rhinevault and Tatiana Rhinevault, co-authors of “Hidden History of the Lower Hudson Valley: Stories from the Albany Post Road.”

On Sunday, September 23, 2012 the Library will present a talk and signing at 2:00 p.m. with Frank Costigliola, author of “Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War.” Both talks will be in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center. Following each presentation, the authors will be available to sign copies of their books.

Summertime in Hyde Park

“All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944


Springwood, FDR’s childhood home, was often called Roosevelt’s “Summer White House.” Owned by his mother Sara until her death in 1941, the property remained Roosevelt’s home throughout his presidency. He returned here often for respite and family events, including his mother’s 80th birthday party, as shown below.

The Roosevelt family on the lawn of Springwood – FDR, Jr; Elliott; James; John; ER; Sara; FDR; Ruth; Betsy; Sara; Eleanor; Curtis; Anna – September 21, 1934. Photo by Margaret D.M. Brown.

 Living by the Hudson River greatly influenced Franklin Roosevelt’s interest in all things nautical. He amassed a large collection of ship models, many of which are within the museum collection at the FDR Library. Included are some of Roosevelt’s own creations, which he made to sail on the Hudson with his children. Below is an example of FDR’s handiwork along with a photo of the Roosevelt family sailing a ship model.

Ship Model of the ORTONA, made by Franklin D. Roosevelt.


FDR with sons Elliott and James, sailing a ship model off Rosedale point on the Hudson River, Summer 1922.


Two miles east of Springwood, the Roosevelts established the Val-Kill estate in 1927, originally the location of Val-Kill Industries. After the business dissolved in 1938, Eleanor used the property primarily as her private retreat as well as a place to entertain guests. Franklin was the contractor and builder of the property and even assisted in designing the swimming pool. Below is a photo of Franklin, Eleanor, and Missy LeHand enjoying a day by the pool.

Val-Kill pool, Summer 1940.

During the Presidential years, the Roosevelts had a new pool built with a better filtration system and installed closer to the cottage. After the President’s death in 1945, Eleanor used Val-Kill as her permanent Hudson Valley residence. She continued to swim and entertain at the site. Below is Eleanor’s bathing suit along with a photo of her by the pool wearing the suit.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s bathing suit. Made by Sak’s Fifth Avenue.


Eleanor on the lawn by the Val-Kill pool, Summer 1959. Photo by Keith M. Taylor.

Top Cottage

FDR’s own private retreat, Top Cottage, was built in Hyde Park during his second term in office as a place for the President to relax and entertain special guests away from the increasingly busy home estate. To learn more about the construction of the cottage, please visit:

A few of those special guests included King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England for the Roosevelts’ famous Hot Dog Picnic, which took place on the lawn on June 11, 1939. Other guests included Crown Princess Märtha of Norway, who can be seen in the photo below enjoying a summer’s day with friends while sitting on the porch at Top Cottage.

Crown Princess Märtha of Norway, King George II of Greece, FDR, and others on the porch of Top Cottage – June 27, 1942.


Katherine Sardino

There is something about working at the FDR Library that is addictive. There is a reason why so many of its staff members are former interns who just could not leave. I am no exception. The objects, the projects, the history, and the camaraderie of the staff keep you coming back for more.

After several years of working in museums and archaeology in the New England area, I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree (ALM) in Museums Studies. As part of the requirements for the program, I worked in the Museum Department at the FDR Library as an intern during the summer of 2005.

That summer, we began the process of inventorying the entire museum collection of over 34,000 objects. This meant photographing, measuring, and writing descriptions and condition reports for each object. We only completed a small portion of the project that summer, so I stayed on as a volunteer to continue the endeavor. I went on to become a part-time contracted Museum Technician and in March 2010 I was hired as a full-time employee.

Though the 100% inventory project was completed in the fall of 2008, a re-inventory of the collection began soon after and continues as an ongoing project. On any given day I could be answering research requests, fixing a problem with the exhibits, writing entries for the “From the Museum” section of the blog, helping develop the interactives for the new permanent exhibit, preparing museum objects to be sent out for conservation work, processing department purchase orders, planning the final move of the collection into new compact storage, or developing a descriptive audio tour for the future exhibits. With such a broad scope of duties, I enjoy being able put my hands on several different projects at once.

I had spent much of my collegiate studies learning about earlier periods of American culture, so having access to the tangible records of the last century has given me an invaluable history lesson. It is truly motivating being able to handle so many items related to the lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the world they influenced. There is a difference between reading about FDR’s efforts to suppress from the public the totality of his disability and feeling the actual ten pound weight of his steel leg braces. This significantly put his hardships into perspective. I gained an appreciation for each artifact realizing sometimes even the smallest trinket in the collection had something to do with shaping Roosevelt’s personality and therefore his principles as an individual and as a president.

Social Security Placard (MO 2012.2.4)

Soon after its enactment, FDR began working to expand Social Security. Congress ignored his calls to open coverage to farm and domestic workers and other excluded groups. But in 1939, lawmakers passed amendments that added Social Security benefits for the spouse and minor children of retired workers. Congress also provided survivor benefits to family members in the case of the premature death of a worker.

During Social Security’s early years a major debate erupted over the program’s funding. Critics argued the government reserve fund established to hold Social Security contributions inevitably would be raided by the government for other purposes. Others worried about the effect of Social Security payroll taxes on an economy still mired in economic depression.

In response, Congress moved up the date for Social Security benefits from 1942 to 1940 and postponed scheduled increases in Social Security tax rates. These actions decreased the size of the reserve fund and took the program off the funding path FDR had charted. Seeds of future fiscal problems had been planted.

The display item above was created in 1940, just as the first Social Security benefit checks were being received. At almost two feet tall, the cardboard placard with easel was designed to inform workers about Social Security benefits and encourage them to enroll in the program. This rare placard was a gift to the FDR Library from Michael Agee in February 2012.

Enacting Social Security

On August 14, 1935 legislators and advisors crowded into the White House Cabinet Room to witness the signing of the Social Security Act. News photographers and film crews recorded the moment for history as FDR put his signature on the bill. Standing directly behind the President was the person most responsible for it – Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins.

After signing the Act, the President read a short statement. “We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life,” he observed. “But we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protections to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.” The headline in that day’s Washington Post red “New Deal’s Most Important Act.”


The Atlantic Charter

FDR and Winston Churchill aboard the HMS Prince of Wales at the Atlantic Charter Conference. August 10, 1941. FDR Library Photo

The Atlantic Charter was the statement of principles agreed to by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill of Great Britain at their first wartime conference, August 9-12, 1941. The conference was held on board naval vessels anchored in Placentia Bay, off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The Charter was not an official document, but rather a joint statement expressing the war aims of the two countries–one technically neutral and the other at war.

The Charter expressed the two countries’ beliefs in the rights of self-determination, of all people to live in freedom from fear and want, and of freedom of the seas, as well as the belief that all nations must abandon the use of force and work collectively in the fields of economics and security.

One of the major provisions of the Atlantic Charter declared as follows:

“. . . [A]fter the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, [we] hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want. . . . [S]uch a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance.”

Atlantic Charter Dinner Menu

The agreement is often cited by historians as one of the first significant steps towards the formation of the United Nations.

The joint declaration was issued by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill on August 14, 1941.

For more information on FDR’s daily activities as President, please visit Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day.

The Olympic Torch Stopped in Hyde Park

Excitement over the present-day Summer Games of the XXX Olympiad reminded us that the famous torch once paid a visit to the FDR Home and Library.  

On February 4, 1932, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt formally opened the III Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, NY.

FDR opens the 1932 Winter Olympics

FDR at the opening ceremony for the 1932 Winter Olympics. NPx 55-34.

On February 5, 1980, the Olympic torch relay carried the flame for the XIII Olympic Winter Games through the town of Hyde Park, NY before continuing northward to Lake Placid. The runners paused at FDR’s grave site for a torch lighting ceremony where they lit a 7-foot tall stationary torch commemorating the former Governor and President’s role in opening the 1932 Games,  nearly 50 years prior.

Joan Barnum, a Hyde Park resident who coordinated the event, said the flame brought a “message of peace, truth, fraternity and love,” consistent with the Roosevelt legacy. Around 600 people attended the ceremony and observed a minute of silence to honor both the former President and the symbolic lighting.  The graveside torch remained lit throughout the 1980 Winter Games.

1980 Torch lighting ceremony

1980 Torch lighting ceremony. NPx 80-107(19).

Eleanor Roosevelt and Gore Vidal

The recent death of celebrated author Gore Vidal (1925-2012) led us to explore his relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt. The following “My Day” column drafts and letters from Gore Vidal are found the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers here at the Roosevelt Library.

From the beginning of Vidal’s literary career, ER read and enjoyed Vidal’s books and theatrical works.  Indeed, after having read Vidal’s first novel in 1946, she wrote in her “My Day” column that she believed Vidal had a promising career ahead of him.  How right she was.

Eleanor Roosevelt's "My Day" column draft, dated May 26, 1946

Eleanor Roosevelt’s “My Day” column draft, dated May 26, 1946. Click the image above to read this complete draft and others discussing Vidal.

Gore Vidal moved to Dutchess County, New York in the 1950s, and ER became his friend and political adviser.  When Vidal unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Democrat in the heavily Republican 29th district in the Hudson Valley, he looked to Mrs. Roosevelt for encouragement and political insight.

Gore Vidal to Eleanor Roosevelt, circa 1957-1962

Click the image above to read letters from Gore Vidal to Eleanor Roosevelt, circa 1957-1962.

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