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Gifts from the Roosevelts
It has become a time-honored tradition for the President and First Lady to distribute Christmas cards and gifts during the holiday season. Below are a few of the items Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt gave to family, friends, and staff during their time in the White House.
During the Roosevelts’ first year in the White House they began a tradition of distributing Christmas cards to family, friends, Cabinet members, and staff.
In 1934 was FDR published a book titled On Our Way, which outlined his plans for the New Deal and raising the United States out of the Depression. Autographed copies went sent out at Christmastime.
1935 – 1939
In 1926 Eleanor Roosevelt and friends Nancy Cook, Marion Dickerman, and Caroline O’Day created Val-Kill Industries on an estate purchased in Hyde Park. The enterprise created employment for local craftsman. To promote the business, the Roosevelts gifted several pieces created in the Val-Kill pewter forge during the holidays.
This year the Roosevelts choose to give White House staff members key chains with a figure of FDR’s beloved Scottish Terrier Fala attached. Some staff, Cabinet members, and friends received money clips and initialed desk pads.
Autographed photos of the President and First Lady were sent out this year to all staff and friends. Cabinet members, family, and select friends also received bound copies of FDR’s speeches.
With the country at war, Americans were encouraged to contribute to the war effort by purchasing defense bonds and stamps. The Roosevelts promoted the idea by giving black leather folders containing war savings bonds for Christmas.
One of the Christmas gifts from the Roosevelts this year was a magnifier paperweight.
On June 6, 1944, what became known as “D-Day,” President Roosevelt addressed the nation with a blessing for the American troops invading German-occupied Europe. The prayer, entitled “Let Our Hearts Be Stout,” was printed that December and given as gifts by the Roosevelts. Below is a facsimile copy of the prayer that is available for purchase at the FDR Library’s New Deal Store.
Pearl Harbor Prisoner Petition, December 8, 1941
The “unprovoked and dastardly attack” by Japan on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, brought an immediate unity of purpose to the nation. Thousands of letters flooded into the White House after the attack, and especially after FDR delivered his War Message to Congress (the “date which will live in infamy” speech) on December 8th. Citizens of all political persuasions and from all parts of the country pledged their support, volunteered their service, and offered to enlist in the military. One of the most interesting examples among the President’s papers is a petition that FDR received signed by prisoners at Folsom State Penitentiary in California. This is the first page of the bound petition that contains 39 pages and 1,746 signatures.