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The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

Since Ken Burns’ documentary The Roosevelts: An Intimate History aired on PBS during the week of September 14th, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum has experienced an overwhelming upsurge in interest. Museum visitation is up 25%, and the parking lots are overflowing. Visits to the Library’s website jumped 650% during the week that the film aired. Research requests to the Library’s archives and museum doubled, and sales in the New Deal Store increased 39%.

All of the Library’s social media platforms also saw a huge increase in views.  The real standouts were our blog and Flickr page.  The number of total views for September 2014 for our In Roosevelt History blog increased 117% over the same month last year. The total views for the Library’s Flickr page for September 2014 was 126,105, a 114% increase from September 2013.

We appreciate everyone who has called, written, or visited the Library, and gone to our website and social media to learn more.  When FDR created this presidential Library and gave it to the American people, his hope was that people would visit here and learn from the past so they would be able to create a better future for themselves.  That mission of discovery and learning is something we take very seriously here, and we try very hard to fulfill that mission by welcoming visitors from all over the world, offering interesting and innovative public programs and providing innovative educational programs.

Want to do your part to keep the Roosevelt Legacy alive? Support the work of the Roosevelt Library by becoming a member today!!

Courtyard entrance to the FDR Library & Museum


Eleanor Roosevelt launches UNICEF Halloween “Trick or Treat” program at the United Nations with Captain Kangaroo.

Eleanor Roosevelt – “My Day”

I went to the United Nations the other afternoon to be photographed with some of the children who are taking part in the Halloween Trick or Treat program for the benefit for UNICEF.

UNICEF stands for the U.N. International Children’s Fund. The “E” used to be for “emergency,” but while it is still left in the alphabetical name, the program is no longer an emergency program. It goes on every day, all year around, feeding children who are hungry, wherever it is possible to do so throughout the world, helping people to feed their children better with local foods, and in cooperation with the World Health Organization putting on campaigns against diseases which attack children.

The idea of making Halloween serve two purposes has become very popular and on October 31 last year 7,500 communities from Alaska to Florida and from Hawaii to Puerto Rico participated. A million and a half youngsters had the pleasure of dressing up and ringing doorbells, holding containers into which pennies could be dropped to help the world’s children…

It has become a real community undertaking, and instead of people being afraid of tricks that might be played upon them and real vandalism, which often did occur in days gone by, we now know that with the pennies we have saved to give, something can be done for children in the world. And often added to the pennies are cookies and candies for the children who thoughtfully go about collecting for youngsters in other parts of the world.

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Congress has restored funding of appropriated activities and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum is open for both museum visitors and researchers.

Due to the Federal Government shutdown, the FDR Library is closed. We are unable to post or participate in any of our social media channels during this closure. All National Archives facilities are closed, with the exception of the Federal Records Centers and the Federal Register until the Federal government reopens.

Did you know that the land in front of the FDR Library is active farm land? President Roosevelt used the large hayfield between the Library and Route 9 (the road at the edge of the property) for farming, and he often expressed the hope that the practice would continue after his death. We continue to honor FDR’s wishes.

Every year the fields are used by a local farmer and in the late summer visitors to the Library are able to see hay bales on the front lawn.

It was FDR’s belief that the field had been farmed by the Native Americans long before it was taken over by the Dutch and English colonists. As proof, he pointed to the several large oaks in the field, some of which still exist. Their spreading lower branches, he said, could have developed only in open spaces, and the only open spaces in Dutchess County before the colonial period were the Native American cornfields.

by Lynn Bassanese

Most days at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum are really good; some could even be classified as great. But every once in a while a day becomes exceptional. Last Thursday, July 11th was one of those exceptional days.

We were hosting 120 school counselors and college and university professionals who were attending the Overseas Association for College Admission Counseling (OACAC) conference on the Marist College campus from July 9-11. Marist College is just down the road from the Library and a terrific partner; hosting our website and working with us on digitization projects. Marist arranged for several regional excursions on the last evening of the conference and the Library was very pleased to host part of the group.


Their visit started in our auditorium seeing the engaging orientation video and then Education Specialist Jeff Urbin welcomed them with the story of King George and Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Hyde Park in 1939. We hoped to make our visitors feel as special as the Roosevelts had made the British monarchs feel. Yes, hot dogs were on the picnic menu that Marist was providing later in the evening.

Next we sent them over to our new permanent museum exhibits and set them loose. During their time in the exhibits they had the opportunity to visit our Dutchess County conference room to see some of our most famous original documents. I walked through the exhibits as they visited, answering questions and encouraging them to see everything.

IMG_0808At six o’clock the group gathered in our Visitor Center for a delicious picnic supper. During my welcome at dinner I explained to them what a presidential library was and how important access was to our Library and to our agency, the National Archives and Records Administration. And I reminded them that it was FDR’s vision that people could learn from the past to better create their own future that was the driving force behind all the Library did.

As the folks were getting back on the buses to leave so many people stopped to tell me how much they enjoyed their visit and the new exhibits. So far, I was thinking this was going into the great day category because what Library director does not get a special feeling when people appreciate and love what we have presented. But then an older woman came up to me and took my hand and said she wanted to thank me. She said she was from Venezuela and with tears rolling down her cheeks she squeezed my hand and told me how much this visit meant to her.

“This is what democracy looks like,” she said with the most beautiful smile. And all of a sudden July 11, 2013 became one of the Library’s exceptional days.

These days much of our time is spent on reports and audits, and we must spend so much time looking for ways to cut our budgets and doing more with less. But we should never forget that at National Archives facilities all over the country; at our presidential libraries, at our regional centers, at Archives I and II; we are what democracy looks like. I will always remember the lovely woman from Venezuela who reminded me of that. And how could there be any more important and rewarding job than that!

The installation of the new museum exhibits has started! Here are some photos of what has been done so far.

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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.

Val-Kill Items


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.

MO 2011-1-4a&b


One of the Christmas gifts from the Roosevelts this year was a magnifier paperweight.

MO 1990-16-5


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.


Last week 27 people traveled from all over the country, and even across the Atlantic Ocean, to visit the FDR Library’s research room. They came to interact with the estimated 17 million pages of primary source materials housed here within nearly 400 separate manuscript collections related to the Great Depression, the New Deal, and World War II.

FDRL Research Room

A view of the FDR Library research room on Tuesday, June 26, 2012.

FDR strongly believed that the records of government — those created by presidents, civil servants, and citizens alike — should be preserved, organized, and kept open for future generations. In developing this Library, he envisioned an institution both an archives and museum, to become a center for the study of the entire Roosevelt era.

In 1939 as plans for the Library were still being drawn, Roosevelt said of his voluminous papers:

I have destroyed practically nothing. As a result, we have a mine for which future historians will curse as well as praise me. It is a mine which will need to have the dross sifted from the gold.

He went on to say that neither he nor any scholar of his age could do that “sifting” task appropriately.  Instead, we:

[…]must wait for that dim, distant period […] when the definitive history of this particular era will come to be written.

Today’s generations of researchers are some of the very people FDR sought to reach.

FDRL Research Room

Research topics on Tuesday included education policy analysis; a study of the “Clergy Letters” detailing New Deal programs in rural communities; and Harry Hopkins’ wartime correspondence.

Vision for the Future of Democracy

71 years ago the Nation’s first Presidential Library opened its doors to researchers and museum visitors. In June of 1941 the threat of world war loomed heavily over the opening day proceedings. In his dedication address FDR said:

And this latest addition to the archives of America is dedicated at a moment when government of the people by themselves is being attacked everywhere. It is, therefore, proof—if any proof is needed—that our confidence in the future of democracy has not diminished in this Nation and will not diminish. 

There are now 13 Presidential Libraries within the National Archives and Records Administration, including one for every U.S. President since FDR.

Above: Watch a newsreel reporting on the Library opening

For more information:

1934 Hawaiian Visit

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.

FDR, adorned with flower leis.

FDR, adorned with flower leis.

The Hawaiian Islands, located at the northernmost part of Polynesia,  were annexed by the United States in 1898, and in 1959 became the nation’s 50th state. By the time of Roosevelt’s presidency Hawaii was characterized by an incredible diversity of cultural ancestry, including Native Hawaiian, pan-Asian and North American. To this day, the state remains one of the most ethnically diverse places in the world.

In July of 1934 FDR became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Territory of Hawaii. He traversed the Pacific aboard the USS Houston,  debarked at both the ports of Hilo and Honolulu, and stayed on the Islands for several days to tour both cultural landmarks and military areas. The people of Hawaii made every attempt to welcome the President and share with him the best of Hawaiian culture, both ancient and modern.

Original caption reads: "The Last of the Royalty of Hawaii Salutes the President - 26July 1934."

Original caption reads: “The Last of the Royalty of Hawaii Salutes the President – 26July 1934.”

When FDR arrived at Honolulu he was greeted by an estimated 60,000 people, including a flotilla of traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoes. He was adorned with customary flower leis, was an honored guest at a traditional luau feast complete with a kalua pig cooked in a traditional imu (underground oven), and the legendary surfer, Duke Kahanamoku, gave lessons to FDR’s sons. Roosevelt’s Hawaiian hosts  also showed him the most modern of their New Deal inspired building developments and educational facilities.

FDR's itinerary for July 26, 1934 included military inspections and a Hawaiian luau.

FDR’s itinerary for July 26, 1934 included military inspections and a Hawaiian luau.

In his departing remarks to the people of Hawaii on July 28th, the President thanked them and wished to all, “Aloha from the bottom of my heart.” FDR’s next and final visit to Hawaii would take place ten years later, in 1944, near the end of World War II. By that time the small yet influential Pacific Island chain had taken on a more infamous role in world history.

The National Archives has shared a new “set” on the Flickr photosharing website that contains photos and documents relating to Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. See the images.

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