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FDR’s speech at Gettysburg, July 3, 1938

Today, one hundred-fifty years later, we pause to remember one of the greatest speeches ever made by a US President: Abraham Lincoln’s poetically beautiful Gettysburg Address, given November 19, 1863, upon the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

On July 3, 1938, speaking on the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, President Franklin D. Roosevelt reflected on Lincoln and his words:

“Immortal deeds and immortal words have created here at Gettysburg a shrine of American patriotism. We are encompassed by ‘The last full measure of devotion’ of many men and by the words in which Abraham Lincoln expressed the simple faith for which they died.

“It seldom helps to wonder how a statesman of one generation would surmount the crisis of another. A statesman deals with concrete difficulties—with things which must be done from day to day. Not often can he frame conscious patterns for the far off future.

“But the fullness of the stature of Lincoln’s nature and the fundamental conflict which events forced upon his Presidency invite us ever to turn to him for help.

“For the issue which he restated here at Gettysburg seventy five years ago will be the continuing issue before this Nation so long as we cling to the purposes for which the Nation was founded—to preserve under the changing conditions of each generation a people’s government for the people’s good.”

FDR found that Lincoln’s words were timeless. Roosevelt drew strength and insight from the promise of Lincoln’s words while leading the country in the defining battles of his own time.

Roosevelt and Lincoln

“I live, temporarily, in the same house and the same rooms once occupied by him. The very window from which he gazed in the dark days is the same.”

-Franklin D. Roosevelt, Remarks on Visiting the Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.
June 24, 1936

President Roosevelt was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. He often cited the revered nineteenth century president in speeches, evoked his image in campaign material, and collected or received over 100 pieces of Lincoln related ephemera.

These objects from the FDR Library’s Museum collection reflect the connection between President Roosevelt and President Lincoln.

MO 1985-9 MO 1967-10-10

 Both FDR and his opponents referred to Lincoln in their campaign material. The poster on the left was used during Roosevelt’s 1932 campaign. The button on the right was used by Republicans in 1940 to criticize FDR’s attempt to seek a third term.

MO 1941-4-18

Henry Weber of Oakville, Indiana, made this desk piece from the wood of a 350 year old white oak tree that stood beside the trail leading from the Lincoln cabin to the grave of President Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln in Spencer County, Indiana. Mr. Weber’s son, Horace, was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the area and sent the stump of the tree to his father in 1933. The granite piece at the bottom was taken from Devil’s Den at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Webers sent the completed piece to FDR as a gift in 1937.

MO 1947-93-117

President Lincoln gave this pair of Colt pistols to Kıbrıslı Mehmed Emin Pacha, Governor of Adrianople, Turkey, in 1864. The gift was presented in acknowledgement of his services in securing the assassins of Reverend William Ward Merriam, an American missionary. Rev. Merriam was killed when his caravan was attacked during a return trip from Constantinople to his post at Phillipopolis. In March 1945, the pistols were presented to President Roosevelt by Baron Francis J. Solari of Izmir, Turkey, and Rome, Italy, through Myron C. Taylor, the Personal Representative of the President to Pope Pius XII. The firearms are Model 1862 .36-caliber Colt police pistols, with silver handles by Tiffany, serial numbers 25513 E and 25514 E.

MO 1943-61-1

Dr. John E. Washington, author of the book, They Knew Lincoln, a history of the President’s White House staff, gave this photograph of historic pieces to FDR in 1942. Fixed to the photo is a small “Lock of hair removed from Pres. Lincoln’s head by Wm. Slade his messenger while preparing the body for burial,” and a small “Piece of dress worn by Mrs. Lincoln the night of the assassination showing blood of Pres. Lincoln. Given by Mrs. Slade to her cousin Mrs. Brooks.”

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