FDR’s “Lucky” Campaign Hat (MO 1945.58.20)

This hat is one of several distinctive “lucky” felt hats Franklin D. Roosevelt wore during his four presidential campaigns. As you can see in the photos below, these trademark fedoras were a common sight on the campaign trail.

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After the 1940 election, Roosevelt generously donated this hat to be auctioned at a fundraiser for the Motion Picture Relief Fund (MPRF). Well-known actors Edward G. Robinson and Melvyn Douglas—both strong FDR supporters—jointly purchased the hat for $3,200 (roughly $50,000 in today’s dollars). This act by the President was a surprise to some, including the First Lady. “The President is very superstitious about that hat, I never expected him to part with it,” she told Jean Hersholt, actor and President of the MPRF.

During the summer of 1944, as Roosevelt campaigned for a fourth term as president, Robinson and Douglas returned the hat to the President. At the time, Robinson was entertaining troops overseas and Douglas was serving as a captain in the US Army. “I believe most men have a special affection for their old hats,” wrote Grace Tully, FDR’s secretary, in her response.

Letter from Mrs. Edward (Gladys) G. Robinson to FDR. August 3, 1944.

 

Copy of the response letter from FDR’s Private Secretary Grace Tully to Mrs. Robinson. August 24, 1944.

After winning the 1944 election, FDR gave this hat to the Roosevelt Library. The hat will be on display in the Library’s new permanent exhibit, opening June 30, 2013.