Lathrop Brown, Long After Harvard

[For this this issue we’re delighted to have Pam Canfield Grossman, Lathrop Brown’s granddaughter, as guest author. – Eds.]

lathrop family

Lathrop Brown, Helen Hooper Brown, and daughters Halla and Camilla, about 1915

Questions about my grandfather Lathrop Brown and his life after Harvard keep surfacing in these pages, most recently concerning the Tin House at Big Sur. The life stories of Lathrop and Hélène Brown could practically be told as a succession of the houses in which they lived, nearly always at the edge of the continent. First on Long Island where Lathrop raised and raced horses [now the Knox School], then near the White House in Washington while Lathrop was in Congress and, later, when he was assistant to the Secretary of Interior. Afterwards they lived in Manhattan, then Montauk Point, and Boston. 

Saddle Rock and the Cove

Saddle Rock and the Cove

In 1924 they traveled to Carmel, California in search of a secluded site at the ocean. On a horse and mule trip to the Big Sur area they found Saddle Rock Cove where a waterfall poured over the rocky bluff into the Pacific. They purchased the adjacent 1800 acre cattle ranch and began a bi-coastal life, maintaining a residence in Boston as well as Big Sur.

THE BIG SUR & PACIFIC

The Big Sur & Pacific Railroad

The old ranch house at Saddle Rock was soon replaced with a new house built using the local redwood trees.  Electrical power was supplied by a waterwheel driven by the stream. In 1939 construction began on Waterfall House. Sited halfway down the cliffs from the newly built highway above and reached by a short funicular railway, it was a beautiful contemporary building, with gardens around the house and across Saddle Rock cove.

Waterfall House from the West

Waterfall House from the West

The Tin House, which the family called the Gas Station, was built in the mid 1940s high on the hills above Saddle Rock cove. It could only be reached by a rough dirt road climbing steeply up through the ranch to a bluff overlooking the ocean.

The house was actually constructed of materials from two abandoned gas stations and, oddly, had no windows facing the spectacular view. I have no idea why my grandparents built it.

The Tin House

The Tin House

The story that it was to be some sort of vacation retreat for FDR is pure fabrication. It was a small, primitive, and nearly inaccessible place, wholly unsuited to a wheelchair bound president. It has now fallen into total disrepair.

When Lathrop died in 1959, my grandmother left Big Sur and gave the ranch and the house to the state of California as the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. She wanted the house to be used as a museum and a center for local artists, and insisted that the house be destroyed if that was not possible. When funds for that purpose could not be found the house was bulldozed into the ocean below.

Pamela Canfield Grossman, Berkeley, California.

[There was one last amazing Brown housing project: at the time of Lathrop’s death, the Browns were in the process of converting a former Mississippi paddle boat into a winter home on Sanibel Island, Florida. It was never completed. For more on Lathrop’s fascinating life, see HERE – Eds]

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Republican

Republican Club CardIt seems almost impossible, but here it is, clear as day:  F.D. Roosevelt, a member of the Harvard Republican Club!  What could have happened? Have we moved into the realm of alternate history?

The answer, as it turns out, far more mundane and consists of a mere two letters: TR.

Although FDR’s father had traditionally voted Democratic (one of the few wealthy families in his district to do so), blood bonds proved stronger than political ones, and Father James, along with his son, loyally threw their support to the man FDR had idolized since a boy when he ran with McKinley in 1900.

teddy 3

Cousin Ted, from a period button now in the Suite Collection

FDR to Sara, October 31 1900

Last night there was a grand torch-light Republican Parade of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We wore red caps and gowns and marched by classes into Boston and through all the principal streets, about 8 miles in all. The crowds to see it were huge all along the route and we were dead tired at the end!

This fascinating little bit of ephemera – most likely dating from FDR’s freshman year –  came to me via author Geoffrey Ward, who’s preparing the companion volume to the new Ken Burns film on the Roosevelts, and who’ll be our speaker next April. Geoff had written to inquire whether or not I knew anything about the mysterious “shingle” referred to on the card. I could certainly guess the context: the term “hang out one’s shingle” still has some meaning today, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it referred to in this context. Then by chance, we acquired a new book, Harvard College by an Oxonian, published in 1894. It contains the most interesting passage:

mckinley button

Another of our recently purchased TR buttons. This one FDR might have acquired at Groton when TR passed through, campaigning for McKinley in the fall of 1900. McKinley was assassinated  on September 6, 1901, and “Cousin Ted” became president.

“The rooms we visited in Hastings were on the top floor. They were pleasant and comfortable — very like the rooms in one of our Colleges, only the bedchamber was far better. There was the wide window-seat with its red cushions and out-look over the tops of the graceful American elms. Above the two doors of the sitting-room were hanging one or two printed notices, which had been appropriated or misappropriated by some means or other. It is the pride of a Freshman to have his walls adorned with signs and ” shingles ” which he has ” ragged.”  [stolen] An oblong piece of wood called a shingle takes the place in America of the brass plate on the outside door. It is not fastened to the door, but is hung near it on the wall. These shingles, and in fact all kinds of announcements and notices, the adventurous Freshman delights to carry off, surveying his room with just pride, when he sees on the walls such inscriptions as : ” Jones & Co., Civil, Sanitary, and Landscape Engineers”; “Thomas Smith, M.D., Office Hours 2-4; 7-9 ” ; ” Hair-dressing and Complexion Parlors ” ; ” Under- takers. Locker’s Casket Warehouse ” ; ” The College Dining Rooms and Ice Cream Parlors.” These trophies correspond to the door-knockers which have been known to adorn the rooms of a Christ Church undergraduate. One kind of shingles is won by easier, but, perhaps, no less glorious means, ” Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war.”  Harvard abounds in clubs, and each club has its own shingle.

teddy 2Ah ha! Mystery solved! Or, at least, the bit about the shingle. But what of the larger question: how did FDR go from Democrat to Republican and back to Democrat again? According to Ward in his monumental A First Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the move had little to do with political convictions: “… as early as his sophomore year at Harvard, Franklin had evidently decided to become a Democrat. His reasoning was crisp and pragmatic. The Republican Party was filled with young members of the family whose claims to the President’s mantle were more plausible than his. Only as Democrat could a Roosevelt from outside Sagamore Hill hope to rise very high – and Franklin Roosevelt would never willingly settle for less.”

Simply put: there were already too many Roosevelts on the other side (TR alone had four sons), and FDR wanted to be the biggest fish in the smaller pond.

No burning passion (except perhaps that of self-advancement), no huge sense of mission. Just cold pragmatic calculation: where best can I shine?

Some of FDR’s more altruistic friends were appalled…

Interesting to ponder the alternate history if FDR hadn‘t decided to switch back….  Just another Republican Roosevelt among the pack. Some more progressive, some less, but no standouts. A term of two in Congress perhaps. Certainly no hardened politician to propose the New Deal. No wise, steady hand at the helm during WWII. Almost as fascinating to contemplate as another little-known historical what-if: Hoover, who in 1920 had yet to declare a party affiliation after his lauded service in WWI, seriously considered running as the Democratic candidate with FDR as his running mate. Hugely popular after his successes in Europe clothing and housing refugees, Hoover might very well have won. Imagine: without the laissez-faire economics of Coolidge and Harding, there’s no run-up to the stock market crash; no crash at all in fact, just a regular recession, which FDR, now president after Hoover’s two terms, inherits. His unpopularity soars, and the Big-stick Republicans return to power in 1932, their bellicose worldview matched by the rise of fascism. We enter WWII  in 1939, before we were truly prepared to fight, with disastrous results. Germany dominates Europe, England and Russia are reduced to smoldering ashes – it’s Churchill not Hitler who dies in his bunker – and Imperial Japan dominates a newly formed Empire in the East. The US, hounded on all sides, beaten and bankrupt, surrenders, loses Alaska and Hawaii as well as all its overseas territories, and is reduced to a third-rate power…

Hmmm… all that from a tiny switch in party affiliation… Remarkable how seemingly mundane actions create a nexus in time that alters everything that comes after!

Ah well, no more time to ponder alternate histories: I must track down one of these shingles for the Suite!

 

 

 

 

Not Your Average Summer Vacay

In the movie “Legally Blonde” actress Reese Witherspoon anounces to her ditzy friends:  “Girls, I’m going to Harvard!”

“Like on Vacay?” they scream in reply. “ROAD TRIP!!!!!!”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is not a tale of your average “vacay,” though it does involve an extensive road trip. More than one, in fact.

I think I speak for the entire House when I say we are deeply proud to present this 8-minute film that chronicles the summer odysseys of two very remarkable young people, our inaugural Franklin Delano Roosevelt Global Fellows, Charlotte McKechnie ’15 and Ty Walker ’14.


 

 

The Ghost of Lathrop Brown?

As the Cambridge air has turned cool, we’ve begun to notice that strange things are afoot in the Suite. Haunting melodies of ragtime are floating in the air, and occasionally our 1899 upright starts playing by itself, spirit fingers at the keyboard!!!  Could it be the ghost of Lathrop Brown? You be the judge:

 

Whoever it is, it’s certainly not FDR, as he never had a ragtime hand like that! (Or four, actually.)

Kidding aside: it’s clear that our former “unspirited” and underused piano now plays magically by itself, thanks to a technological mini-miracle that allows old uprights like ours to be sent out and returned as part of the 21st century. I’m not sure what portion of this transformation amazes me more: the fact that the piano is controlled from a smart phone; that  no physical alterations to the historic case or mechanism were required; that it plays 5000 songs; or, even better, it records actual performances! We’ve already engaged a phenomenal pianist at Quincy House, Chase Morrin, to come and preserve for us songs from our extensive period sheet music collection. Think of it! Soon the Suite will echo once again to the 1904 tunes of “Cindy, Your My Dream” or “Hello Central? Get Me Heaven” – songs that haven’t been heard within these walls for over a century. (What many people forget is that this music was originally recorded live, embedded on paper player rolls, which have now been transcribed. These are the actual performances of 100 year ago, by major talents of the day.) Most importantly, this transformation allows us to share for the first time this wonderful period of music with our students and guests.

Ghosts, it seems, have an infinite repertoire, unencumbered by availability.

Needless to say, this modernization wasn’t cheap – $6500 – but we’ve had a pledge from an anonymous donor for half the amount, and we’re hoping that there are one or more of you who’d like to give the gift of music of the last century to an entirely new generation of listeners.




The World: Its Cities and Peoples

I’ve commented often in this newsletter about how, occasionally, things just seem to fall into place by themselves, almost as if they were destined to be.

Well, it’s happened again, most remarkably.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that my favorite used book seller was going out of business. The owner, a charming lady “d’une certaine age” had decided to retire and spend more time with her children in California. All books 70% off. Titles under $10 –  $2.

I grabbed the Foundation checkbook and headed right over.

(You’ll remember of course that FDR was an avid bibliophile, and I’ve been complaining in past articles how difficult it was to obtain the quality of books we know would have been in the Suite for anything close to a reasonable price these days.)

Let’s just say this time I hit the mother load.

I won’t bore you with a complete list – I acquired a dozen or so leather bound titles for under $250 – but I do want to share with you the most remarkable: The World: Its Cities and Peoples.

This 10 volume set was published by Cassell sometime around 1882, the year of FDR’s birth. It’s undated, but from the references in the text it’s obviously early 1880’s. It was published by subscription only – probably globebecause of its high cost – and is perhaps the most comprehensively illustrated set of Victorian volumes I have ever seen. Almost every other page is covered with the most exquisitely detailed engravings, which by their portait-like nature almost certainly were done from photographs. There are literally a thousand pictures over the 1800 odd pages, perfect snap shots of a time before mass travel had homogenized cultures across the globe. And speaking of globes, you may remember our almost miraculous acquisition of an 1882 globe a few years back…. Now you can spin our globe, drop a random finger, from Timbuktu to Toledo, and have a good chance of finding a picture in our new volumes showing you exactly what life was like at that point in time and space.

What do you suppose the chances of that are? If I were a betting man, I certainly wouldn’t take that wager.

At any rate, I’d like to take you on a little whirlwind tour across the world of 1882, first to Greenland (which still had some ice) to see the Eskimos: (Click on any image to enlarge.)

Greenland Eskimo

Next we’re off to Amsterdam before the hordes of tulip-seeking tourists ever dreamed of garden travels, where we witness a riotous local street scene: (Note the vegetable vendor actually wearing wooden shoes.)

Amsterdam

Then, down to sunny Spain, to the heart of Madrid where a water seller sits quietly in the shade with his dog, waiting for trade. (Note the sheepskin pants! Just having been to Madrid with HAA travels, I can guarantee you this sight is long gone.)

spainaird

Now, a quick stop in the mysterious Near East, where a Bedouin greets us with his steely gaze:

bedouin of sinai

Off now across the Pacific to our western shores, for a stop in the most amazing boom town in America, San Francisco. The building in the distance is the famous Palace Hotel, the largest in the western United States,  renowned for its innovative luxuries like electric call buttons in each room, private baths, and “rising rooms” (elevators) to whisk passengers to their intended floor.

palace hotel SF

It was here Enrico Caruso was staying when all this disappeared in the 1906 earthquake. The hotel, billed as “fireproof” survived the shaking, but was destroyed along with every other building you see here in the subsequent conflagration, which, judging by the next picture of an alley in Chinatown, was just waiting to happen:

Washington Alley SF

 

Finally, a quick stop on our return to Boston, a visit with some of the last Native Americans still in their original homeland:

Pawnee indians

There are even pictures of a small New England college named Harvard, but I think that’s enough travels for one day. Next time, prewar Vienna? Or how about “Florence on the Elbe” – Dresden – before the fire bombings? Perhaps spending some time with the natives of unexplored Papua New Guinea, or the impassable Amazon jungles?  Tour the Pyramids? A trip down the Nile?

I know, tea in Ottoman Constantinople!

Wherever you wish…

Remember, these astounding coincidences are not entirely coincidental, in that their continuing occurrence depends entirely on contributions from people like you.

Help support the FDR Suite Foundation! Donations are easy though any major credit card.


 

FDR: A Life in Pictures

The Foundation is DEE-lighted, to borrow a turn from TR, to announce the publication of its new Roosevelt biography, FDR: A Life in Pictures.

front cover shadow 8.5

From the back cover:

“Lightweight yet Machiavellian. Frivolous but intense. Socialist and fascist. Devious yet charming. Communist while Caesar. Both traitor and savior combined. Rarely have such contradictory descriptions been attached to a single man. But at one time or another, each was tagged to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, perhaps the most influential political figure of the 20th century. Here for the very first time in one volume: a visual road map through the extraordinarily rich timeline of FDR’s life, charting step-by-illustrated-step his amazing progression from pampered youth to 32nd President of the United States. Meticulously compiled from more than 70 large-format, digitally restored period photos — some never before published, and most with extended captions — FDR: A Life in Pictures documents as no other book can the remarkable living legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

This 154-page volume features several newly discovered photos found in our archives, as well as a half-dozen full color spreads of the Suite. Three of these were recently shot for us by noted photographer Ralph Lieberman, who’s in the middle of a two year campaign to document the architecture of Harvard in conjunction with the Fine Arts Library and the Graduate School of Design. This is one of his great wide angle views, which finally shows the extent of the study.

2013 Suite 02 lieberman

This book has been a real labor of love, arising out of the hallway timeline exhibit I put together over the winter with my friend Dr. Cynthia Koch, the former director of the FDR Presidential Library and now public historian in residence at Bard College. The short story is that having spent a huge amount of time tracking down and digitally restoring so many fine images – and then researching and writing the extended captions –  I discovered due to limits of space we’d need to exclude dozens of important photos. So rather than limit the work, I expanded it, and decided to put the full range together in a book, and there you have it. This volume is particularly helpful for the Foundation, as not only does it expand awareness of the Suite and its activities, but it also goes a long way to placing FDR’s Harvard experience in the wider context of his life and presidency.

For now, copies are only available through Amazon or through us (Click here to order.). Proceeds, of course, go entirely to benefit the Foundation. So start thinking about that perfect gift for FDR fans on your list!

 

 

 

Foundation Announces 2013 FDR Global Fellows

Adams House and the FDR Suite Foundation are delighted to announce the 2013 inaugural FDR Global Fellows.

FDR Global crimson 6Charlotte McKechnie ’15 of Adams House and Glasgow Scotland will work in rural Tanzania this summer with the NGO Support for International Change teaching educational seminars about HIV/AIDS  transmission and treatment options. Estimates indicate that 5-10% of the population is HIV-positive; however there are few treatment resources in the rural areas. Charlotte travels to Tanzania as part of a movement not only to put HIV-positive people in touch with health resources but to provide crucial information about how to avoid the spread of this devastating disease.

A sophomore concentrating in History and Literature, Charlotte is a highly acclaimed classical singer who has made many televised and radio appearances mckenniewith the BBC and ITV.  She has also recorded with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir, the BBC Concert Orchestra, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and given recitals in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Rome, Turin, Paris, Copenhagen, Nurenburg, Leipzig and China.  At Harvard she is a University Choir Choral Fellow and sings with Lowell House Opera and Dunster House Opera.

Charlotte is keen to utilize her experience and enthusiasm for bringing music to communities and, in her free time, aims to teach music classes in the village in which she will live. These classes, she hopes, will help bridge the oft-taboo subject of HIV and AIDS education in Tanzania.

As for the future, Charlotte hopes for a career that combines her keen interest in activism with her love of music.

ty (1)Government and East Asian Studies Concentrator Tyrell Walker ’14 of Asburn, VA and Mather House will be heading out to Kunming China and Taiwan this summer to study how Chinese minorities interact with their government. Though minority rights discourse dominates national and international media forums, Chinese minorities are often left out of the discussion in China studies, despite the fact that they amount to over 100 million people.  Studying how young minorities in China and Taiwan engage with their government’s ethnic policies will allow Tyrell to frame this discussion – the topic of his honors thesis – and help illuminate the young generation’s attitudes towards government-supported integration programs and celebrations of their respective cultures. Do minority programs create feelings of alienation or value? Do they benefit their communities? Do these modern minorities tend to shed their cultural stereotypes in order to assimilate? And most importantly,  is democracy the best promoter for ethnic minority livelihoods, or can an autocratic or communist regime protect them just as well? These are just a few of the questions Tyrell hopes to answer through his studies this summer.

Tyrell, who began studying Mandarin in high school (where he became a successful student activist and lobbyist when the local school board attempted to shut down the pilot language program) is now a fourth year Mandarin student at Harvard. Active in various ESL groups on campus, Tyrell also finds time for theatrical arts, having directed two plays and acted in six. He is considering a career in academics.

The Foundation, in conjunction with the Institute for Global Health and the Asian Center will  pay the full cost of their summer programs abroad, as well as provide the pair with a stipend to make up for lost summer income – income which Harvard requires them to pay towards their tuition costs. Without this support,  these talented individuals would be back home working in low paying service jobs for the summer.

Charlotte and Tyrell will be taking video cameras with them, and we look forward to frequent updates on their travels.

Remember, the FDR Global Fellowship Program, along with all other Foundation activities, are entirely supported by your donations. We receive no monies from Harvard, and look forward to your continued help to realize our endeavors.

To support the FDR Suite Foundation & the Global Fellowships you can safely donate online with any major credit card, or mail a check to FDR Suite Foundation, Inc., Adams House, Mailbox 471, 26 Plympton Street, Cambridge 02138




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.

Please help support the FDR Suite Foundation.
We exist solely through the contributions of our supporters and your our donations are tax deductible



 

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.