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This summer, I’ve asked our Franklin Delano Roosevelt Fellows to check in periodically to let us know how they are doing. Here’s the first report, from Amanda Hess, in Kenya: MDW
So far this trip has been absolutely incredible! The classes and educational aspect of this experience are exceptional but it’s the Kenyan people who’ve made it so profound for me. I’m working with a community based organization called St. Ann’s. They represent a small village about 45 minutes outside of town. This little community has been nearly devastated from HIV/Aids, an annual cholera outbreak from nearly nonexistent water sanitation, and a generalized poverty which has it’s grip on every home I’ve visited so far.
I’m working closely with the matriarch of this village, Lorane. She is a widowed superwoman. After 5 children, the youngest suffering from a mental disability which prevents him from being able to speak, HIV killed her husband. She’s poured herself not only into her family (all of her capable children have either gone to or are in college) but also her community. She’s begun a micro lending program for the grandmothers of their village and she lead the plea for the installation of a water kiosk, which will provide everyone with clean drinking water.
My project is to offer this community with something sustainable that will lead to their betterment and a heightened quality of life with the fewest unintended negative consequences as possible. At first, this was a bit daunting. However, I believe that I’ve devised a program that will actually make a substantial difference for these beautiful people.
Because of the HIV/Aids pandemic about 97 children have been orphaned as a result. Most often these children have no family members who are either close enough in proximity to take care of them or they are too impoverished to offer them anything that would make much of a difference. Also, because these deceased parents were usually unable to work in the last year to several months of their life they’ve left their children with no inheritance. So, the eldest of the siblings is responsible for taking care of the younger children. (Often times the eldest is a boy and there is a huge cultural stigma against men rearing children and this has posed to be an unusual barrier in their advancing within society.)
My program will be a joint micro-lending/mentorship program geared towards supporting these eldest orphan children who have nothing but are still expected to provide for their siblings. These children will be paired with a mentor; someone from the community who is trustworthy and also a business owner. this mentor will act as a co-signer for a micro loan from Kiva (we’ve already begun the process for setting them up with profiles) that will be awarded to our young entrepreneurs once they have devised a business plan with the help of myself and their mentor. (Training will also include basic personal finance management and accounting.) The mentors will work closely with their apprentices to establish the business and repay the loan. As incentive for our mentors, once the loan is repaid and the business has stabilized (making an average daily living wage for the child and the child’s family) the mentor will receive %10 of the profits and will continue to aid the child with their accounting, savings, and finding and maintaining healthy business relationships with clientele. The %10 is also reason for the mentor to do everything possible to make sure the business is thriving because the better the business dose, the higher that %10 will be.
The mentor/apprentice pair will report bi-weekly to the community board. This includes the chair members of St. Ann’s as well as the Chief of the village. During these meetings the progress of the business will be reported and if any obstacles or problems have arisen the board will offer advice and assistance whenever necessary. Board members will also be given the authority to “check in” on the pairs whenever they like, similar to a health inspector, as a way to ensure the child’s protection from any sort of corruption.
The chief has volunteered to serve as a mentor to the mentors. They will have a monthly meeting to make sure everything is running smoothly and to offer one another ideas, advice, and potentially partner whenever possible. Once our young entrepreneurs are capable of running their business on their own (something that will be determined by the board and the child) they will take over 100% of the profits.
The community is incredibly excited to get started and I am so thrilled that they’ve been so receptive to my plan. Next week we’ll be pairing our mentors with the children. (On average these kids are around 16)
Thank you again for your support and I’ll be sure to send updates as the program develops!
A while back one of our Adams alums, Rick Porteus ’78, who also happens to be the Vice President of the Fly Club Board of Directors, had written to me kindly noting that perhaps it was time to pay a little more attention to the club FDR actually joined, rather than the club he didn’t. Fair enough. And to back up that sentiment, Rick invited a number of us to dinner the night before historian Geoffrey Ward’s lecture. It was a grand affair, made all the more pleasant by the company of Geoff, who sat fireside where FDR surely had, regaling us with fascinating bit of Roosevelt legend and lore. The Club also presented the Foundation with a lovely framed photo of FDR and his Fly Brothers from 1904. This visit got me thinking more and more about FDR and the Fly, and our quest to acquire a Fly Club medal, which coincided nicely with renewed interest at the Fly in its own history. FDR had played a prominent role there: he was club librarian, and eventually sent three sons to the Fly as well.
Meanwhile, you may remember that recently—after a great search—we found a Porcellian Club medal for Lathrop. Now precisely why we ever thought that Lathrop was a member of the Porcellian is entirely murky. Lathrop’s descendants certainly thought so, having remembered reading it somewhere. I did, too—the part about one roommate getting into the Porcellian and the other getting his dreams crushed (FDR was still smarting 20 years later) has become a potent element of our narrative concerning these two men. How wonderful of them, I always thought, to have overcome what might have proved to be a large obstacle to their continuing friendship.
So, sparked by our visit, we renewed our efforts to find a Fly Club medal for poor old FDR. We’d been looking for a while, but this hunt was complicated. The Fly was originally part of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, which was founded at Hamilton College in 1832. Long story short: the Fly seceded not once, but twice from the national chapter, and was in the process of wrapping up this divorce just when FDR was active in the club. These days the Fly sports a leopard rampant on its crest, but previously it had been the star and crescent of the Alpha Delta Phi, which is what FDR would have possessed.
Then enter Elisha Lee ’80, who had come across my postings online, and who as a former collector of Harvard medals—exonumia for those in the know—pointed out to me several facts I had not been aware of, namely that the club medals were generally worn with their club color ribbons, not their class colors as we were showing in the Suite, and suggested several possible venues where I might locate a Fly Club medal. But which medal?
Thus one afternoon while I was stuck on the phone on what seemed an interminable hold, I dashed off a note to Bob Clark at the FDR Presidential Library asking him if perchance they had any Fly Club or Alpha Delta Phi medals in the Museum collection. It was a small chance, but I was banking on two well known facts: FDR almost never threw anything away; and that FDR had maintained an active relationship with the Fly for the rest of his life, even returning to Cambridge as president for Fly events. And sure enough, the Museum did indeed have an Alpha Delta Phi “medal,” inscribed with FDR’s name and class year, sill perfectly preserved in its leather box. Within seconds I was on eBay, looking; and miraculously, there was a vendor with a 1904 “medal” for sale.
Hurrah! But wait: after triumphantly announcing my news, Elisha wrote back to me pointing out that this was the Fly pin, not the medal—a fact that became totally obvious when this tiny, tiny, tiny little box arrived in the mail to reveal a pin the size of my small fingernail. In all fairness, the picture at left was the one I viewed online, never reading the measurements. Caveat emptor! So foiled again! Well, partially: the pin is quite nice, enamel and gold, but oh, ever so small and expensive at $230! (Broad hint for a donor.) But FDR did have one, so it’s absolutely correct.
Ah, but the story gets even better! Elisha also produced the 1907 Fly Club member rolls, and who’s name should appear but Lathrop Brown’s? Uh-oh… A quick search of the FDR bios on hand reveal no mention of our remembered Porcellian association. Uh-ho, Uh-ho. Then a check of the Porcellian records reveals no Lathrop. Big uh-oh. Finally, Rick Porteus chimes in to say they have just received back from the book binder the club minutes from that precise period, and sure enough, Lathrop was not only a member, but also secretary and briefly president! His brother Archie (elder by a year) was also a member, as would be his younger brother Charles in a few years. In fact, Lathrop was a member before FDR, and he and Archie would have voted on FDR’s election.
Fly 2; Porcellian 0.
All this to say that we have been barking up the wrong tree. Howling might be more apt, and it goes to show what happens in history when facts aren’t thoroughly checked: if you repeat a lie often enough, Goebbels once said, it becomes the truth, or in this case, the accepted truth, however erroneous.
There is still one missing piece to this whole Porcellian-Fly Club biz, which Rick Porteus has promised to check on. Originally, there were only two “final” clubs, the A.D and the Porc, so called because they were the terminal points of the club system. You could only join one. All the others were “waiting” clubs, the Edwardian equivalent of circling the airport, waiting to land. One by one, however, these waiting clubs voted themselves final during this period. Precisely when this occurred at the Fly is still being researched. The only reason this matters is that it rewrites the narrative in a rather potent way: instead of some variant of the oft-used phrase “FDR was forced to settle for the less prestigious Fly,” which occurs in almost every FDR bio, the tale should possibly read “FDR chose the Fly with his Groton chum and roommate Lathrop Brown, but was foiled in his attempt to advance to the Porcellian.” Or, “FDR failed to get into the Porcellian and at the urging of his roommate Lathrop Brown, decided to join the Fly.”
We’ll see how this falls out. Either way it’s not quite the listless casting about portrayed in the history books; it makes great sense that these two life-long friends would have gone to the same club.
These revelations, however, put us in a real bind, because now we need not one but TWO very rare silver medals that look like the one above. If seen, please contact immediately! In the meantime, nostra culpa.
I’m pleased to announce that as of the 1st of May 2014, the Foundation will be changing its legal name from the FDR Suite Foundation to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation. This will generally be followed in print and online by the descriptive “at Adams House, Harvard College.”
In the six years since our founding, the mission of the Foundation has grown exponentially, and we decided it was time for our name to reflect these new fields of endeavor. The new Foundation will be comprised of three linked departments:
The Suite Museum & Historical Collections division will manage the day-to-day running of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Suite in Westmorly Hall and maintain the Suite’s collection of almost 2000 pieces of FDR and Harvard memorabilia. In addition, the Suite will continue to sponsor the annual FDR Memorial Lecture, lead Harvard Alumni Association historic tours, and host other cultural events to promote awareness of FDR, Adams House and Harvard College history.
The FDR Global Citizenship Program assumes charge of our non-historical undergraduate and alumni educational programs, including the FDR Global Fellowship, which each year awards summer grants to undergraduates whose international research in the sciences or humanities embodies FDR’s admonition that “that the only way to have a friend is to be one.”
The Foundation’s newest division, the FDR Center for Global Engagement, plans to honor FDR’s legacy by working with practitioners of international relations, global innovation, and public diplomacy on research and programs aimed at understanding and adjusting to the challenges of the 21st century. Jed Willard ’96 of the Harvard Kennedy School has kindly agreed to come on board to lead these endeavors as the Center’s first Director.
Heady times indeed, and all thanks to the continuing support of people like you.
Adams House and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation are delighted to announce the FDR Global Fellows for 2014:
Gina Kim ’15, of Adams House, who is also this year’s Lillian Goldman Scholar, will be traveling to China and South Korea to conduct senior thesis research on sex trafficking in East Asia. There she will interview government officials, NGO workers, journalists, and academic experts to research how sex trafficking works in the two countries and how they combat this horrific, amorphous issue in their own ways. Her senior thesis research question is: “Under what circumstances do sex trafficking policy changes occur in China and in the Republic of Korea? Do the factors influencing policy change also affect the effectiveness and implementation of the adopted policy?” After graduation, Gina plans to pursue a joint JD/MPP program, with a goal of working for the U.S. Department of State, Department of Justice or the White House in a legal advisory role.
Alicia Merganthaler ’15, of Winthrop House, will be spending two months in London interning with the Financial Times. As an economics concentrator and active writer, Alicia is interested in studying how the Times, as opposed to many US-based financial publications, presents economics news to inform the public in a nonpartisan manner. At the Times, she’ll have the unique opportunity to work alongside professional researchers to investigate meaningful economic phenomena worldwide, and learn how these economic stories can be disseminated in a way that is theoretically accurate, but also inclusive of individuals with limited economic background. After Commencement, Alicia plans on pursuing a career in economic journalism.
Amanda Hess, from the Harvard Extension School, will be traveling to Kisumu, Kenya where she’ll explore diverse approaches for using innovations and technologies to foster transformative and sustainable healthcare improvements in Africa. During her six-week intensive Harvard Summer School program, Amanda will learn an interdisciplinary approach to healthcare that emphasizes the importance of teamwork in the design, development, and testing of public heath initiatives, and how to integrate these improvements on the local level. This for-credit program also completes a number of her Extension requirements. After obtaining her degree, Amanda plans to work for an NGO in Africa or Asia.
This year the Foundation is also pleased to present an Award of Merit for an outstanding proposal it was unable to fund but found to be very much in the spirit of FDR’s belief that “the only way to have a friend is to be one.”
Zeenia Framooze ’16, of Adams House, will spend the summer in Bombay, India, where she plans to volunteer with the Acorn Foundation’s Dharavi Project. Inspired by Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Zeenia will be working towards the organization’s goal of empowering the waste collectors of the Dharavi slum. Using her passion for teaching, public speaking and photography, she hopes to highlight the complex issues involved in waste disposal in a culminating photo project titled “Recycling Lives.” Zeenia plans a career in broadcast journalism.
Remember, this scholarship program receives no financial support from Harvard College and is entirely funded by contributions from people like you. Please give generously. You can donate safely and securely online by clicking the button below.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We still have a 10 or so tickets left for the 6th Annual FDR Memorial Lecture, Saturday April 5th, 4 PM with historian Geoffrey Ward. His talk, the Roosevelts at Harvard will be followed by a cocktail reception in the conservatory, featuring our now famous Roosevelt Raw Bar. Tickets may be purchased below. If you are unable to attend, won’t you consider sponsoring a student or tutor? We run our educational programs as a service, not a profit center, and we can always use your support.
Looking around snow covered, frigid Boston you would never know it was March 5th, but it’s true! The Six Annual FDR Memorial Lecture is upon us!
This year we are dee-lighted to welcome historian and television writer Geoffrey Ward to Adams. Geoffrey C. Ward, former editor of American Heritage magazine, is the author of seventeen books, including three focused on FDR: Before the Trumpet: Young Franklin Roosevelt 1882-1905; A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of FDR (which won the Los Angeles Times Prize for Biography, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize); and Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley. He has also won seven Emmys and written twenty-seven historical documentaries for PBS, either on his own or in collaboration with others, including Ken Burns’ “The Civil War,” “Baseball,” “Jazz,” “Unforgivable Blackness,” “Prohibition” and “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” a seven-part, fourteen-hour series on Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt” that will run on PBS this September.
His topic will be “The Roosevelts at Harvard”
We are equally delighted to welcome back Dr. Cynthia Koch, Former Director of the FDR Presidential Library and now Professor of Public History at Bard College (and our 4th Memorial Lecture speaker) who will introduce Geoffrey.
This year is a reception year, as opposed to a banquet year, and comes with all the trimmings: The famous Roosevelt raw bar will return, to accompany cocktails and a book-signing after the reception. (The question before us is which of Geoff’s 17 books we’ll offer!)
This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet the man behind three of the most important FDR bios ever written, not the mention, thanks to his work on PBS, one of the most influential and far-reaching American historians of the last century.
Tickets may be purchased easily on line by clicking the button below. Seats are limited to 50, so they will go fast! If you are unable to attend, please consider donating a place to an Adams student or tutor using the ticket options window below.
Sixth Annual FDR Memorial Lecture
Saturday April 5th at 4 PM
Adams House Lower Common Room
26 Plympton Street, Cambridge Massachusetts
I’ve always been particularly fond of the film “Holiday Inn” with Bing Crosby. You know the one, I’m sure: it introduced Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” to the world. The gist of the movie is that Bing gives up New York showbiz (and partner Fred Astaire) to retire quietly to Connecticut where he can lie around “doing time, being laaaaazy.” He converts a massive old house he bought into an inn, which will only open on holidays. That’s where the fun starts. Needless to say things don’t go as planned, and by Thanksgiving der Bingle is sitting alone, crooning the ironic “I’ve Got Plenty to be Thankful For,” with his girl in the arms of his old partner and the concept for the inn sold to a movie production company. This being 1941, each holiday is introduced by a little animation: the one for Thanksgiving pictures a turkey, obviously confused, running back and forth on a calendar from the last Thursday of the month to the second to last and back again. What’s going on here? It’s an inside joke, surely, but of what?
Well, the answer lies in what some took to derisively calling “Franksgiving.” In 1939 the general manager of the Retail Dry Goods Association wrote to Secretary of Commerce Harry Hopkins warning that the late calendar date of Thanksgiving that year (November 30) would adversely effect retail sales.
Remember this was still the day when it was considered bad form for retailers to display Christmas decorations or have “Christmas” sales before Thanksgiving. With the economy still in a slump, FDR issued a proclamation moving Thanksgiving up a week, to the 23rd.
The plan encountered immediate opposition, especially from Republicans, which was surprising given their pro-business stance. Alf Landon, Roosevelt’s challenger in the 1936 election, called this “another illustration of the confusion which [Roosevelt’s] impulsiveness has caused so frequently during his administration. If the change has any merit at all, more time should have been taken working it out… instead of springing it upon an unprepared country with the omnipotence of a Hitler.” Athletic associations weren’t pleased either: it wreaked havoc with their football lineups. Cities, towns, schools and universities had to alter schedules as well. Overall 62% of Americans opposed the change with 79% of Republicans in the no column. Some began to call it “Franksgiving.”
As FDR’s declaration was based on the “moral authority” of the president, it was up to the states to decide whether or not to implement it. Twenty-three states’ governments and the District of Columbia recognized the non-traditional date, twenty-two states preserved the traditional date on November 30, and the remaining three – Colorado, Mississippi, and Texas – celebrated both dates.
The proposal fared a little better in 1940 & 41, but Congress soon had enough of the confusion. By joint resolution, Congress fixed the date on the fourth Thursday, where it remains.
This little tale has been in preparation for a slight Thanksgiving shift of our own. Last year, as I sat beside my table groaning with goodies, it occurred to me that this would be a good time for the Foundation give back something to our students. About a tenth of the College doesn’t leave campus for Thanksgiving: most of our international students, for example; and those on the West Coast, as well as some who just can’t afford the travel. Suddenly, the College is a rather lonely place for those without somewhere to go. So this year, I decided that we (the Foundation via the new FDR Global Fellowship) were going to spread the Harvard hand of cheer and give an All American Thanksgiving Eve Supper in the Suite. We’ll be moving out the Morris chairs and day bed in a few hours, and 35 students from five continents, five Houses and the Yard, will be joining us for a state-themed menu served buffet style:
• Maryland Jumbo Lump Crabcakes with Chipotle Aioli
• Louisiana Style Mini Pulled Pork Sandwiches
• Hawaiian Coconut Crusted Shrimp with Sweet Chili Sauce
• Missouri Fried Cheese Ravioli with Marinara Sauce
California Big Sur Avocado Salad
• Maine Clam Chowder with Oyster Crackers
•Mini Alabama Pecan Pie
• Mini Florida Key Lime Pie
• New York State Apple Cider & Assorted Beverages
(Those wondering about the logistics of serving so much to so many in such a small space, fear not: we’ve actually expanded down the wide and capacious hallway outside the Suite, the site of our new FDR timeline. With luck this will all be wrapped up tonight around nine, with just enough time for me to run home and get my own preparations underway.) The moral here is simple: while we take the historic preservation aspect of our role very seriously, we’re not slaves to a particular partisan view of the past, and happy, as FDR was, to laugh at past mistakes. Franksgiving was a failure, but the spirit that informed and motivated it was not. “The only way to have a friend is to be one,” FDR once famously said, and hopefully we’ll have 35 new friends tomorrow.
(Oh, and by the way: this supper is financed entirely by the Foundation, meaning by folks like you. If any of you would like to extend the generosity of your table to ours, just click the button below.)
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
[For this this issue we’re delighted to have Pam Canfield Grossman, Lathrop Brown’s granddaughter, as guest author. – Eds.]
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.
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 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.
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 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]
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.
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:
“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.
Ah 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!