Books & People

“Books can not be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory… In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man’s freedom.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt

While many people are familiar with FDR’s philatelic fancies, few know that he was an ardent book collector from an early age. At Harvard he was the librarian of the Fly Club (a post not quite as arduous as it sounds, as presumably there was secretarial backup, but still important in the days before Harvard’s libraries carried any sort of popular reading: FDR was in charge of buying books for his fellow Club members.) He was also a member of the Union’s Library Committee, which at the time, housed Harvard’s principal undergraduate library, the equivalent of today’s Lamont. His notes and letters home are peppered with references to book purchases and in fact a principal impetus in founding his presidential library at Hyde Park (the first one in the country) was the sheer mass of material he had collected over the years, particularly on nautical matters, where his collection of manuscripts and prints was considered one of the finest in the nation.

To reflect FDR bibliophile tendencies, the Suite has slowly been collected books from the early 1800′s to 1904. This is not a quick process: not only do the books have to fall within a strict timeline, they have to represent books that FDR and Lathrop might have wished to acquire in terms of subject matter, and the quality of the volume itself. (No cheap books here.)  Additionally, we have to find books that are old, but still look reasonably new – it is after all 1904 in the Suite, and everything, with the exception of rare antique volumes, would have appeared fresh off the press, as it indeed they were.

This past winter, I and two student interns spent weeks inventorying the Suite, photographing each item, and selecting additional photographic views for the Internet museum we’re engaged in building. For the books, that mean choosing to highlight some of the internal illustrations. Today I thought I might share with you a few of the images that caught my fancy along the way. (Click on any to expand.)

The first three come from a grand leather-bound volume called Napoléon en Égypte; poëme en huit chants. (Paris 1829)

Here we have Napoléon waiting (impatiently) to disembark: (Note the barely detailed sailors on the deck below half-heartedly raising a cheer, also waiting to diseembark; reminds you of trying to get off the back of a packed 777 from coach!)

napolean

Encountering the wonders of the Egyptian desert:

desert

And perhaps my favorite of all, leading his troops past the pyramids.

pyramids

Here’s a delightful book given FDR’s Hyde Park associations: Summer Days on the Hudson (New York 1875) detailing a holiday up the Hudson, and showing the interior of Washington Irving’s study at Sunnyside. Amazingly, today’s visitor sees much the same view. (For those of you who haven’t taken the trip up the Hudson from New York to Albany (or vice versa) I highly recommend it. It’s a marvelous romp through some of the most beautiful countryside in the US and absolutely stuffed with incredible historic sites. Much maligned Albany and its wonderful museums is worth a couple days alone.) sunnyside
And how about lovely hand-tinted scene from Cape Cod by Henry David Thoreau? (It makes reading Thoreau, never one of my favorites, almost entertaining.) (Boston, 1896)

cape cod thoreau

And finally, a handy little volume donated by Steve and Susan Heard, the 1842 Massachusetts Register, which details, among others, a small college in Cambridge:

register

All I can say is, thank god Commencement is no longer held in the first week of August!

These books and several hundred more are now part of our growing on-line collection. It’s a huge project to digitalize them all, but we persevere, counting as ever, on your support.

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Hasty Pudding Season

On Thursday I went to the Hasty Pudding Play with some fellows and again on Friday with the Quincy’s & dined there also. Saturday afternoon after rowing I went into the Touraine & saw Muriel…. Then took the 8 PM train to Groton and am just back from there after a nice quiet Sunday…. FDR to Sara, May 1902

front cover 1

As the 2013 Hasty Pudding Show, There’s Something About Maui, comes to the end of its run, we’re pleased to have received the donation of a very rare piece of FDR ephemera: the complete score of the 1902 Hasty Pudding production Hi-Ka-Ya, the very play that Pudding member Franklin Roosevelt writes that he saw not once, but twice.

As with most Pudding affairs, the plot is predictably silly. As the 1902 Harvard Bulletin noted: Hi Kaya [sic] is a comic opera in three acts, the scene of which is laid, in the first and third acts, among the Eskimos in the arctic regions. The scene of the second act is laid at the Sheepshead Bay racetrack.

Paul Revere Hall, a man about town, Professor Lasher, a geologist, and Obediah Ham, a grind, go to the polar regions together to see Hi-Kaya, the chief of a northern tribe, and they prevail upon him to return with them to America. In the second act they are seen at the Sheepshead Bay racetrack in New York. In the third act they become involved in international complications in the polar regions. English, German, French and Austrian warships with their officers are trying to get possession of the country, but finally relinquish to the United States all their claims.

(How typically Teddy-Rooseveltian!)

Judging by reviews in the Crimson and the Harvard Illustrated Magazine, the 1902 effort was quite well received, with particular notice going to the score.

What I find fascinating about this, aside from the very fact that this score survived at all, is how many of the inside jokes we still understand, or rather, how many we understand now, after five years of Foundation research.

Take for instance, the ‘Geologist’s Song’

Perhaps you think it odd
That these many miles we plod
To learn the dip and strike of all the glaciers in the land
To make the matter plain
I’ll say once and then again;
‘Tis the little drops of water that make the little grains of sand!”

Professor Lasher, we now know, is a very thinly veiled caricature of Harvard Geology Professor Nathaniel Shaler, whose Geology 4 course FDR took his freshman year, and who was equally famous for his congenial student field trips about New England — and his notoriously easy grading.

page 34 1

Click to enlarge

Nor, five years ago, would we have known much about the subject of this little ditty:

Nice oranges, good people, buy a few.
Five cents will by you two.
I need the money, good people, more than you!

Frequent readers of this column may also remember my recent post on “Shopping for Gems and Snaps,” and recall that in FDR’s era, students who paid too much attention to their studies were called “grinds.”

Well, in Hi-Ka-Ya they receive their own song:

I’m a typical college grind
I look it you’ll admit, you’ll admit, you’ll admit.
You’ve heard it’s a grind to be a grind
Not a bit, not a bit, not a bit.
Just the opposite!

Don’t let my words belie my looks.
My happiness is in my books.
I love to work.
I hate to play.
For me life’s simply the other way.
Don’t enlist your sympathy,
I’m as happy as can be,
For to read my Latin Grammar
Is life in Arcadie!
Oh grinding I adore it!
My work is joy to me!

The score, incidentally, arrived to us intact but in pretty rough shape: cover torn, pages faded and water damaged. However, thanks to the miracles of modern digital restoration (and about a full day’s labor on our part) the entire 60 page score went from the front cover 2condition you see at left, to the crisp, shimmering original white version you see above. Hi-Ka-Ya, along with the rest of our Harvard ephemera collection, is currently being digitalized and restored, soon to be available online via our new FDR Suite Internet Museum.

All thanks to supporters like you, of course! Donations to the Foundation are quick, easy and tax deductible using the button below. Frequent fliers: consider using your airline miles credit card to help us and help yourself at the same time!



The FDR Suite Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)3 U.S public charity dedicated to expanding the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and preserving the historic nature of Adams House, Harvard College, including the newly restored Franklin Delano Roosevelt Suite in Westmorly Hall. Your contributions to the Foundation are deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Foundation to Publish New FDR Bio

We’re delighted to announce that thanks to a $20,000 donation from a supporter who wishes to remain anonymous, we’ve been able to bring two fantastic projects to fruition: The FDR Suite Timeline, and a new presidential biography, FDR: A Life in Pictures. Both are outlined in the short intro to our new book,  included below. The 150 page volume, which given its origin, pays special attention to FDR’s Harvard connections, should appear next month and will be available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and bookstores worldwide. Sales, of course, to benefit the Foundation, so start thinking Christmas and birthday gifts to your favorite FDR fan!

front cover shadow 8.5

From the Introduction:

The origins of this book are, like many I suppose, serendipitous. During visitor tours of FDR’s newly restored student rooms at Adam House, I noticed that many of our guests had questions as to where, exactly, the FDR Suite stood in the grand scheme of things. Did Roosevelt have polio when he was at Harvard?  Did we have pictures of the president as a student? How exactly did FDR get into politics? What were his later relations with the University? When exactly was he governor of New York? Wasn’t Roosevelt also the secretary of the navy before coming president? What about Sara? What about Eleanor…? Just enough time has passed since FDR’s death in 1945 to make the general outline of events slightly fuzzy for many, so I proposed building a simple illustrated exhibit in the hallway outside the Suite to place the restoration in the larger historical context of FDR’s overall life.

Simple. Yes, simple. That was the original idea. A quick, easy project. But there is nothing simple about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his life, his family or his political career, and given that we only had ten feet of wall space to cover the events  of 63 eventful years, deciding which life moments were singular enough for inclusion became an almost impossible triage. I must admit to having felt rather daunted — that is until I had another grand idea, to consult my good friend and member of the Foundation’s historical advisory board, Dr. Cynthia Koch, the Past Director of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum at Hyde Park. Cynthia was kind enough to donate hours of her spare time to guide me through the thousands of pictures available from the FDR Library, and with her help and counsel, our exhibit was born. Still, there were so many wonderful images left over, so many interesting aspects of the FDR legacy necessarily left out, that I felt strongly we ought to combine our top selections into the volume you now hold.

This book is in no way meant to be inclusive or definitive; you would need a thousand pages for that, and perhaps still fail. What it is meant to do, and what I think it uniquely succeeds in doing, is to give a real sense of the multi-faceted richness of FDR’s life and times. In most of his biographies to date, illustrations are small and necessarily limited to a few pages. That’s a shame, as FDR’s life coincided with the great advance of photography that made it possible for the very first time to document events in actuality, rather than merely descriptively. FDR’s privileged childhood comes so much more alive when he is seen dressed in his perfectly tailored riding outfit, ready for the canter; the vivaciousness of his youth is immediately evident as a strikingly handsome FDR sits at the polished wheel of his sailboat, steps off a bi-plane or whizzes across the frozen Hudson in an ice-yacht; the inexperienced first-time candidate is amusingly revealed as he peers down his pince-nez; the boy-grown-to-man standing with a newly married Eleanor and — as always — mother in between, tells volumes; the travel-weary face returning from Yalta painfully etches in place the ravages of wartime office and responsibility. The Dustbowl, the breadlines, the wheelchair, the smoke over Omaha beach: these pictures speak as no words ever could.

To the 70-plus full-page pictures that form this extraordinary visual chronicle we’ve added explanatory captions, many extended, which attempt to give the reader some sense of how each photo relates not only to FDR’s life, but also to American history as a whole. Some of the images in this book have never been published; some have been published the world over; all of them are revelatory, a few extraordinarily so. None, however, are more extraordinary than the man we remember as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and it’s my hope that FDR: A Life in Pictures provides a suitable tribute to one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th century.

The World Turned Upside Down

Tradition holds that as the defeated British soldiers retired off the field at Yorktown, their regimental band struck up an ancient march, The World Turned Upside Down:

If buttercups buzz’d after the bee
If boats were on land, churches on sea
If ponies rode men and if grass ate the cows
And cats should be chased into holes by the mouse
If the mamas sold their babies
To the Gypsies for half a crown
If summer were spring
And the other way ’round
Then all the world would be upside down!

I was reminded of these verses the other day, when looking through our collection of historical Harvard student room photos in preparation for a project we’re sponsoring, the Adams Room Catalog, which will allow occupants new and old to see who has lived in a particular suite before them. One of my favorite images has always been the one below. Simply put, it is precisely what you imagine when you think: Victorian room.

This particular picture has also been very important for us in terms of guiding acquisitions for the Suite. It is so clearly photographed that we can use digital enhancement to pick out the finest details. In particular, this photo led us to discover the wire carte de visite hangers we see again and again in the various period room photos. Here’s a closeup:

Eventually, after much searching we managed to find two of these extremely rare wire holders – at considerable cost. Here’s one of ours, above FDR’s desk:

But ours doesn’t look quite the same, does it? Rather bare in fact. Well, the reason is that the cards have mysteriously been dropping off the hanger. The slightly breeze or touch, and they fall like leaves off an autumn tree. There’s probably at least a good dozen on the floor behind the desk as I write. The solution however, is finally at hand: it seems I had hung the holders upside down: the Victorian hangers don’t clamp the pictures as modern refrigerator holders do, but rather support them in a wire loop from below – something you can clearly see in the period enlargement above, and which I saw, oh wise curator that I am, for the first time the other day. I wonder what other little jokes from the past await my discovery… The world turned upside down indeed.

And speaking of the future: Today’s article in the Wall Street Journal notes that with the potential change in tax laws for 2013, now is a particularly good time to consider year-end charitable giving, stating that “Under current law, donations of assets that have risen in value, such as shares of stock, often qualify for a deduction at the full market price, enabling donors to skip paying capital-gains tax on the appreciation.”

As a registered 501(c) 3 public charity, the Foundation stands more than ready to accept your charitable donation, and we can certainly use your support to fund our upcoming scholarship and educational programs.

 Some people read history, others make it. Support the FDR Suite Foundation




 

Foundation Receives Inaugural Gift to its Scholarship Endowment Fund

We are delighted to announce that the Foundation has received the first major donation towards its Scholarship Endowment Fund from C. Stephen Heard Jr. (’58) and his wife Susan Renfrew Heard. The fund, initiated this year and separate from day-to-day accounts, seeks to raise sufficient capital to permanently finance the operations of the FDR Suite Foundation, its collections and preservation programs, as well as its educational initiatives, including the new Franklin Delano Roosevelt Global Fellowship Program.

While the Foundation hopes to finance future scholarship outlays from income derived from investment, given the Heards’ enthusiastic donation, the decision was taken this year by the Foundation directors in conjunction with Adams House Masters Judy and Sean Palfrey to launch the initial year of the FDR Global Fellowship Program through direct contribution.

For the summer of 2013 the Foundation will offer a new grant to support summer undergraduate field-research, experience or study in the areas of international relations, international trade, economic affairs and development, global governance and affairs, international languages, humanities, sciences or global medicine, to be guided by the spirit of FDR’s Fourth Inaugural Address: “Today, in this year of war, 1945, we have learned lessons—at a fearful cost—and we shall profit by them. We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other Nations, far away… We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community. We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that, ‘The only way to have a friend is to be one.’”

Participants will be known as Franklin Delano Roosevelt Fellows.

The Foundation will award one grant this year. The size of the grant will vary depending on the country of destination, length of stay, and type of program in which the recipient will be participating, as well as on the applicant’s individual budget and financial need.

Current Harvard College freshmen, sophomores & juniors are eligible to apply, with special consideration given to students from FDR’s own Adams House. The FDR Global Fellowships are restricted to students who 1) can demonstrate family income below 50K per year and  2) who would otherwise have to work during the summer to meet term-time expenses. The Foundation will grant up to $6000 for summer expenses, as well as an additional stipend of up to $4000 upon successful completion of the summer program to make up for lost summer wages, the amount being determined by the student’s previous summer earnings.

Susan & Steve Heard at Harvard Yale 2012

Emphasizing the non-partisan nature of the Scholarship Endowment Fund, it’s fitting that the initial gift was received from an avowed South Carolina Republican from Leverett House. Heard, a successful attorney who worked his way through Stanford Law, put it this way:  “Over the years, I have come to realize that Harvard gave me a road map that changed the way I look at everything. But that was just the beginning.  My journey was equally enriched by an incredible three years in Spain – in a prospering, peaceful Europe, a Europe due in no small part to a certain Franklin Roosevelt and his internationalist vision of a post-war world. So when I learned that a scholarship was being organized in FDR’s memory to provide a period abroad for some deserving young man or woman, Susan and I knew we wanted to participate.  May each recipient find their own new and exciting road map through this opportunity.”

The Scholarship Endowment Fund actively seeks your support. For more information, contact Michael Weishan ’86, Volunteer President, FDR Suite Foundation Inc.

Some people read history, others make it. Support the FDR Suite Foundation!





New Views of the Suite, November 2012

I was at the Suite yesterday, the day after Thanksgiving, beginning what’s going to be a three-month intensive effort to catalog the objects in the collection for inclusion in our new Internet museum. I was working away contentedly at Lathrops’ desk for an hour or so, when just before twilight, I realized that for the last few minutes I had been idly eyeing the room. Perhaps it was Thanksgiving-dinner-post-partum, or else simply the distraction of the hour; whichever, I noticed that the late afternoon light was casting lovely patterns of sun and shadow about the room, and so decided my time might be better spent with a camera.

It’s been a while since we’ve taken still photos for the blog, and I think you’ll agree this was indeed the golden hour.

Above: craftsman Lary Shaffer’s latest and second-to-last last creation for the Suite, the new daybed, takes pride of place in the study. (Double click on any image to expand; these are but thumbnails.) Lary and I reverse-engineered this piece from a tiny, grainy photo over a period of six months, and I’ll be doing a future post on how this magnificent creation came together. In the meantime, it’s easy to appreciate how the rich walnut and plush fabrics add to the Victorian elegance (not mention comfort!) of the room – especially when you compare these views to those taken in April 2010.

Above: On the smoking table, young Frank at Groton, 1899, next to “Uncle Ned’s dog tobacco jar” and our collection of pipes.

The Atlantic of 1903, record-holder extraordinaire, looking ready to sail at a moment’s notice.

Our exceedingly rare John the Orangeman mug caught in a golden beam on the mantle. Immediately behind is a recently acquired etching of Harvard Yard in the 1840s.

Another mantle view, this time with the light catching our Harvard football mug, and the 1904 stein recently gifted to the Foundation, already looking right at home.

 

FDR’s desk glowing in the sunlight. When this inventory project is finished, you’ll be able to click on any of the above objects to learn their individual history, and how that particular piece relates to other pieces in the collections, as well as to the history of the Suite as a whole. For instance, that large volume sitting on top the revolving bookcase? That’s not just any book, it’s the 1900-01 bound edition of the Harvard Crimson, where FDR’s soon to become a reporter. And that young lady next to Eleanor, why that Alice Sohier and of course you know how that affair went…  Ah, and then there’s the elegant Half Moon II… How fortunate to have your own yacht in the harbor… Given that there are currently well over one thousand objects to classify and digitalize, this isn’t going to be the quickest project in the world, and we will require substantial help – in fact, thanks to a recent pledge of support, we’ve already hired two student researchers half-time during Harvard’s new Winter Session. But given how far we’ve come, I have no doubt we’ll get there, especially with help from viewers like you!

Come Make A Little History. Support the FDR Suite Foundation!


 

Time to Toast our President-Resident, This Saturday November 10th!

Just when I thought there was no more Harvard Class of 1904 memorabilia to be found anywhere, one of our supporters discovered this remarkable tankard on E-Bay and donated it to the Foundation, where it will join our fireplace collection. The original owner was one E.C.Kerans, a classmate of FDR. The tankard however is a bit of a mystery. The top of pewter cup carries a large copper DELTA with an almost illegible inscription DIKAI ****THEKE – which doesn’t exactly ring a bell… It’s obviously a club or organization motto; we’ll just have to track it down.

But while we ponder this little mystery, I want to remind you that the FIFTH Annual FDR Memorial Lecture and Dinner is this coming Saturday. There are only 10 dinner tickets left, and we would love to sell them out, so please consider joining us for a fun and informative evening. If you’re unable to attend, we would happily accept your donation of the ticket price to help us cover the event cost by sponsoring one of the twenty-five free student places we’ve set aside. Both can be done online, HERE.

Cheers, everyone!

Menu for the FDR Memorial Dinner Announced

Here’s the menu for this year’s FDR Memorial Lecture & Dinner. As you can see, we’re celebrating in style with a five course Dinner Dance based on a 1960 Eisenhower State Dinner for Charles de Gaulle. Yum!

COCKTAIL HOUR: open bar

RAW BAR:
Shucked Oysters
Shucked Clams
Shrimp Cocktail
Assorted sauces and condiments

APPETIZER COURSE
Crostini chicken liver pate, cornichon and red onion jam.

FISH COURSE
Trout roulade shrimp mousse citrus butter sauce.

Aperitif
Lemon Sorbet

MEAT COURSE
Beef wellington, horseradish sauce scallop potatoes French green bean and braised shallots.

SALAD COURSE
Baby iceberg wedges, smoked bacon, Roquefort cheese buttermilk lemon zest dressing chipped chive, toasted almonds and fleur de sel.

DESSERT COURSE
Apple pandowdy whipped cream and caramel sauce  
Stilton, Coffee, Tea

Vegetarian main course: Vegetable Wellington

Tickets go on sale today to general alumni. Places are limited, so order yours now by clicking HERE.

 

2012 FDR Memorial Lecture and Dinner: Now Order Tickets Online!

We celebrate in true bi-partisan style this election year with award-winning presidential biographer Jean Edward Smith, author of Grant, FDR and now the critically acclaimed Eisenhower in War and Peace. Professor Smith’s lecture on the masterful warrior-president from Abilene begins at 4:30, followed by a book signing in the Conservatory, a cocktail reception & our now famous Roosevelt Raw bar in the Gold Room, along with guided tours of the newly restored FDR Suite. Then we adjourn to the majestic Adams House Dining Hall for an elegant dinner-dance featuring a specially catered menu drawn from actual Eisenhower-era State Dinners and the musical wizardry of DJ ‘Dance With Lance’, Lance Kussell ’87, who’ll be spinning toe-tapping tunes from the Eisenhower era and beyond.

Saturday November 10, 2012 at 4:30 PM
Adams House, 26 Plympton Street, Cambridge

This year you may order your tickets directly online, using THIS link. Reserve your tickets now. Seating is limited to $120

If you are unable to attend, won’t you consider contributing the cost of your tickets (or any amount) to the Foundation using THIS link? We need and value your support!

Shopping for Gems and Snaps

In years past, the course, Introduction to Congress, had a reputation as one of the easiest at Harvard College. Some of the 279 students who took it in the spring semester said that the teacher, Matthew B. Platt, an assistant professor of government, told them at the outset that he gave high grades and that neither attending his lectures nor the discussion sessions with graduate teaching fellows was mandatory. “He said, ‘I gave out 120 A’s last year, and I’ll give out 120 more,’ ” one accused student said.   New York Times, August 31 2012

As the College’s indelicate cheating scandal unfolds in unexpected directions (I would like to know: what is the purpose of an open, take-home final exam, anyway?) many have commented that today’s pressure to succeed fosters a culture of students shopping for classes with easy A’s, rather than subjects of material worth or interest. Such classes are called ‘gems’ by the current undergraduates. However, this practice of searching for the easiest route is hardly new. In FDR’s time, easy courses were called “snaps” (as in “Was it easy?”  “Sure, a snap”). Nathaniel Shaler’s immensely popular and notoriously benign Geology 4, which FDR took freshman year, was one such, and if the Lampoon is any guide, ‘snaps’ were as sought after as ‘gems’ are today:

The only difference between then and now would seem to be motivation: today’s students have an ever wary eye open to graduate and professional schools, while I’d guess FDR’s pals were more worried about finding sufficient time for  “chorus girls and lots of fizz.”

O tempora, o mores!


Some People Read History. Others Make It.
Come make a little history: support the FDR Suite Foundation!