The Victorians loved words with strange and exotic origins, and here’s one of my favorites:

SALMAGUNDI (slm-gnd n. pl. sal·ma·gun·dis)

1. A salad of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, and onions, often arranged in rows on lettuce and served with vinegar and oil.
2. Derived from the above, a mixture or assortment; a potpourri.

French salmigondis, probably from : Old French salemine, salted food (from Vulgar Latin *salamen; as in salami) + Old French condir, to season (from Latin condire; as in condiment)

Thus, our own salmagundi for your consideration:


rolltop 1

Through friend of the Restoration Joan Carter of Wiswall Antiques in New Hampshire, we found a wonderful old S-curve roll top that will become “FDR’s desk,” shown above, pre-purchase. These little beauties are very hard to find these days; roll tops fell from fashion with the advent of the typewriter, and remained that way through the age of the computer monitor, as such machinery didn’t fit into the desk when the cover closed. Thus many, especially the smaller, individual writing desks like this, were “detopped” and converted into flat desks.  As you can see, our particular desk, a single pedestal, is almost the twin of the one the next photo, pictured in the Chest of 1900 in the Harvard Archives, and will again look much like this when we are done:

26 russell 2

However, our old friend is in need of considerable surface restoration, as you can see in this photo from its original NH home:

roll top 2

Despite the nicks and bangs, the general structure is excellent, and most importantly, the interior is intact, and the roll cover, the trickiest part to restore, works like a charm, making this desk well worth preserving. The purchase price of the desk & a complete redo to return it to its 1900 appearance will run 2K. Do we have a generous donor out there that might be willing to contribute this amount? It would make a wonderful memorial or named contribution! The restoration is being undertaken by furniture expert Paul Riedl of Gallery XIV in Boston, and will be ready for an unveiling party February 3.


We’ve reached a third of our 6K goal for the room draperies! (For those of you who’d like to see the full drapery plans, click HERE.)  Here’s an in-progress shot of the drapes for the study as they come together in designer Michele Doiron’s studio.The panels are a rich gray-green velvet, and the picture shows the various trim options we’ll be selecting. My vote is for the red braid. What do you think? Again, we are attempting to complete this project in advance of a Harvard Alumni function featuring the Suite in February, so any financial aid you can give now would be MOST welcome. (Remember, last chance for those 2009 tax deductions!) Big thanks go out to Doug, Gil, Michael, Shawn and several others for contributing to our campaign already. You know who you are!


And finally, over the Harvard-Yale weekend, we had almost 300 alums visit us at Adams and tour the Suite. The response was overwhelming, literally – we had planned for about 100 in the LCR, and I had made a special Harvard punch in the Suite for what I expected would be several dozen interested guests. Try several hundred! Needless to say, only the lucky few early birds got to sample my punch, but it was a knockout! In the very real sense of the term! Holy smokes! Highly potent but equally potable it proved, and many of you asked for the recipe. So here it is: I found this in an old brew book from the 20s, but from the bit of research I’ve done, my guess is that the date of creation is closer to 1870 or so, when punches were at their height of popularity. (Hence the term “punching” – “invited to a punch” – for the final clubs.) For those interested, only Yale and Columbia seem to possess similarly eponymous punches. Yale’s dates from 1869 and is based around tea, of all things. Very lily-white if you ask me. Ours, as befits our superior University, is much more hearty, and would have pleased Harvard’s mascot John the Orangeman no end:

Harvard Punch:

  • 4 cups bourbon
  • 2 cups brandy
  • 2 750-ml. bottles champagne
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 sugar syrup to taste
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup Orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Triple Sec.
  • Orange and lemon slices

Mixing instructions:

Mix all ingredients, except champagne fruit slices, in a large container, cover and refrigerate several hours. When ready to serve, add a large cake of ice to an ample punch bowl and pour in champagne or club soda or ginger ale, stir gently, and garnish fresh orange and lemon slices, mixed into the punch. Makes about 24 servings.

I will add that initially I thought the combination extremely unappetizing, but I assure you, when it comes together, it is superb. Be careful though, it’s not for the faint of heart.
The FDR Suite Restoration Project at Adams House, Harvard College is funded entirely through your contributions to the FDR Suite Foundation Inc, a public 501(c)3 charity set up to create the only living memorial to FDR at Harvard, as well as a museum of 19th century Harvard student life. We do not receive funds from the University to support this endeavor, and we need your help!

How Harvard Invented Modern Football: Part 2

The Momentous Beginning - Harvard/McGill 1874

The Momentous Beginning - Harvard at McGill 1874

Part II of the excerpt by Morton (Henry) Prince, Class of 1875:

The Harvard season of 1874, which began in the spring, was destined to be historic for American football because in it occurred the Harvard-McGill game, the first game of intercollegiate Rugby played in this country and the contest which lead directly to the present intercollegiate game. This contest, therefore, and the circumstances attending its inception and the historic event itself deserve to be more fully recorded.

Harvard was surprised and pleased to receive from McGill University in Montreal a proposal for a series of matches. As McGill played under the Rugby rules (slightly modified) it was proposed, in order to overcome the difficulty, that two matches be played, one under the Rugby rules and one under the Harvard rules. Of course we eagerly fell in with the idea of the two matches…

We at once set to work studying the principles of the Rugby game, practicing plays, and working out what could be done under the rules and particularly what tactics under the Harvard rules could be adapted. This gave us, as it turned out, some advantage, for with Yankee shrewdness we discovered that certain of our own plays could be introduced which, though we had not suspected it, had not been thought of by McGill. When in the match we used these plays, the visitors were dumbfounded, and for the moment questioned their propriety, but at once recognized their legality when it was pointed out by the umpire.

In the Magenta [now the Crimson] for May 8, 1874, appeared this notice:

“The McGill University Foot-ball Club will meet the Harvard Club on Jarvis Field, Wednesday and Thursday, the 13th and 14th at 3 o’clock. Admission 50 cents.”

It’s worth noting that the fifty cents admission was charged for an entertainment fund. There was no athletic fund in those days. We had – noblesse oblige – to entertain our visitors and make their visit enjoyable and one to be remembered. How strange that must sound to modern ears. Think of entertaining Yale, or Princeton, or Cornell! Yet not a bad idea!…

At last the great day for football arrived.

In those days of early football the Harvard team was not outfitted with uniforms. No one in the memory of man had ever donned a uniform for football in any college. So we always wore our oldest clothes, which consisted of a pair of trousers and any old shirt. But on this occasion we did a bit better to present a respectable appearance and exhibit a semblance of a uniform. Each member of the eleven donned dark trousers, a white undershirt (which some thought had the advantage of ripping when seized) and a magenta handkerchief tied in a traditional fashion upon the head as was customary with the crews. And thus appareled, to our later mortification (we thought it fine at the moment) the Harvard eleven appeared on the field. In the first match under the Harvard rules, which was not a rough game, the clothing stood the wear and tear, but in the Rugby game it was soon reduced to shreds and patches. When the McGill eleven appeared on the field neatly uniformed after the English fashion, the contrast was remarked upon to our discomfiture.

A crowd of about 500 spectators, mostly students, lined the sides of Jarvis field. All were keyed with intense interest. It needed, however, but a few moments of play to relieve whatever anxiety there was and for it to become obvious that our easy going Canadian visitors had not taken the trouble to practice the game and were totally unfamiliar with it.  The match (three games) was speedily over. Harvard won all three.

The second match on the next day was a different affair. We now had to meet our opponents at their own game. Instead of the round “rubber” fabric ball used in the Harvard game, the ball was the English oval, leather-covered ball, substantially the same as that used today in the present American game. The match was hard fought and evenly contested for it turned out to be a drawn battle, neither side scoring a goal or a touchdown in the three half-hours. The fact that we held the McGill team to a draw at their own game speaks well for the skill and general excellence of our men at football, considering that they had only a few weeks in which to study and practice the game.  With the matches over, we did not feel that our obligations had ended. There were those of hospitality and sportsmanship. During the two-days stay of our visitors, all the Harvard clubs opened their doors to them; we took them to ourselves and did all that we could to give them a good time and make them feel the spirit of good-fellowship. And, indeed, we found them a set of as good fellows and sportsmen as ever punted a football. We had taken in several hundred dollars in admissions to the matches – quite a tidy little sum in those days – and with this, not being responsible to any auditing committee, I as autocrat of the Treasury am thankful to remember, we blew them off a banquet at Parker’s in Boston, and saw to it that the champagne flowed as it will never do again.

Editors Note: Now that’s my kind of post-game party! Harvard meet McGill again the next season in Montreal, and was once more victorious. Harvard’s Canadian hosts, gracious throughout, outdid even the hospitality shown by the College the previous year in Cambridge, so much so that many of the team members elected to stay a few additional days in Montreal. The McGill-Harvard matches were a watershed, and had the result “of creating at Harvard an interest in and a positive liking for the Rugby game,” according to Prince. Based on this experience, Harvard shortly thereafter suggested to Yale that a compromise might be reached in both schools giving up their particular games for a modified set of Rugby rules, and thus the first Harvard-Yale contest was played in 1875, initiating the sport now called American football.

On a personal note: Thanks to all of our new friends, several hundred strong, who made it back to Adams today for the Harvard Yale celebration, and toured the Suite. We’re so grateful for your show of support! And, congrats to our victorious team, who made this happy day possible. Go Harvard Football!

The FDR Suite Restoration Project at Adams House, Harvard College is funded entirely through your contributions to the FDR Suite Foundation Inc, a public 501(c)3 charity set up to create the only living memorial to FDR at Harvard, as well as a museum of 19th century Harvard student life. We do not receive funds from the University to support this endeavor, and we need your help!

Why We Fight

why we fight

In 1942, in the first full, dark year of the War, famous Hollywood director Frank Capra had a problem. Commissioned by the Government to make a series of films to demonstrate why America should actively support the war effort, he had the daunting task of convincing a recently non-interventionist population of the need to become involved across the globe. Taking Germany’s own propaganda films, most notably Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will,  and twisting their message back on the source,  Capra managed to create what is today widely credited as one of the most effective documentary-style series of all time. Originally intended solely for the Armed Forces, it was immediately released by FDR to the general public. By 1945, 54 million people had seen Why We Fight.

So, you may be wondering, what does all this have to do with the Restoration? Well, let me tell you: yesterday I was chatting with one of our alums, and I realized it’s been a while since we outlined our progress to date, and what we hope to achieve through our efforts here. So briefly, our battle plan:

The Physical Restoration of the Suite is about 75% accomplished. To date we have raised (and already spent!) a bit over $100,000, and we have approximately another $25,000 to go. I say “approximately” here because the items remaining to be acquired – textiles, rugs, a bronze, period decorative items, framed art & ephemera – vary wildly in price, and some are quite costly: we’re searching for a set of period crew oars, for instance, which will probably set us back several thousand dollars, unless some kind soul donates them. (Hint hint!) But by and large we hope to finish renovation fundraising the summer of 2011 and complete this aspect of the project by that fall.

The next item on the agenda is to develop a Virtual Tour of the Suite, so that anyone around the world can visit  FDR’s student digs and understand what it was like to be at Harvard during the Gilded Age.  To get some idea of what we are talking about, here’s something similar: a tour of 10 Downing Street. Since this tour was completed a few years ago, the graphics are a bit old-fashioned and we hope to do something much more sophisticated, where you can move through the rooms, select individual items and request the background information for each. Though it sounds easy, a project like this is surprisingly complicated, requiring a complete photographic catalog of the room, and some heavy-duty graphics programming well beyond my limited ken. We’re estimating that to get the site up and running will cost $50,000, but once completed, it will provide global access to this remarkable Harvard historical resource.

And finally, The FDR Scholarship Programs. We are seeking to fund two scholarship opportunities. The first provides undergraduates the chance to intern at Hyde Park for the summer, learning historic preservation, museum curatorial skills, participating in public affairs and educational programs, as well as permitting students to work with primary source documents relating to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his life and presidency. Here we would tap into an existing program at the FDR Library and Presidential Museum, essentially funding an extra slot. The cost is $5000 per student per summer. The students work, learn, and receive a small stipend to cover expenses.

The second scholarship program is more ambitious, and is motivated by something FDR’s Harvard roommate and life-long friend  Lathrop Brown said in an interview with filmmaker Pare Lorenz. Remarking on why FDR later became such an effective leader, Brown stated: FDR had traveled much more than most boys of his own age… He had an inquiring mind, and unlike other boys brought up like a litter of puppies in a kennel, who spent their time cuffing each other, he had plenty of time to spend on individualistic pursuits. Because of this, he was more mature in many respects than his contemporaries. His eyes opened earlier.” The key here is travel: by age 15, FDR had spent nearly half of his life abroad, spoke fluent French and German, and had seen much of Western Europe: the very land he would be charged to save 40 years later. It occurred to me, as a former language concentrator, and as someone who came to Harvard on full scholarship – and who returned home each summer to Milwaukee to earn money for the next school year – that while the College has done a magnificent job of equalizing the social and academic experience during the term, the summer break is entirely another matter. So to level the playing field a bit and provide less affluent students with study opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have, we’re proposing an FDR Traveling Scholar Program, which would each year award a stipend of up to $8,000 to pay for an accredited academic program abroad, and then, once successfully completed, provide the student with a $3500 stipend to make up for lost summer wages. This program would only be available to Harvard students below a certain economic threshold, and would be awarded to those wishing to pursue clearly delineated goals that foster cultural communication and global understanding in the international 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.'”

The cost of these two programs would be  $16,000 per annum. At the beginning, these grants will be awarded as funds become available, but over the course of the next five years, we hope to build up a $500,000 endowment to fund these programs annually from investment earnings, as well as to finance expansion of the Suite’s educational mission. This last is critical, as while the College maintains the physical shell of Westmorly Hall, once through the door of B-17, it’s all up to us: the preservation of the interiors and the maintenance of the entire FDR Suite collection is the sole fiscal responsibility of the Foundation. We receive no funds from the College.

So this, ladies and gentlemen, is WHY WE FIGHT.

Care to join the battle?  We welcome, and need, your support.

The FDR Suite Restoration Project at Adams House, Harvard College is funded entirely through your contributions to the FDR Suite Foundation Inc, a public 501(c)3 charity set up to create the only living memorial to FDR at Harvard, as well as a museum of 19th century Harvard student life. We do not receive funds from the University to support this endeavor, and we need your help!

Bird’s-Eye View of Harvard

birdseye view of harvard1

A while back, I acquired this wonderful 1895 bird’s-eye view of Harvard for the Suite, and I thought you might enjoy seeing it.

(The original is 11 x 17;  click on the image above to expand; in most browsers, you may then click again to supersize; or, use your browser’s scaling feature (the same one that increases type size) to increase image size.)

This is the College much as FDR would have known it. You’ll see many lost buildings: the old Appleton Chapel, torn down to make way for Memorial Church;  Gore Hall, the library building replaced by Widener; even the original hexagonal gymnasium, which stood where the Fire Station is now, across from the GSD. It’s also interesting to note how open the Yard was; notice the lack of gates and iron fences (these were just being started in 1900) as well as all the missing Yard dorms  – Straus, Lionel, Mower and Wigglesworth. These last were built, beginning in the 20’s, with the distinct idea of enclosing the Yard against increasing urban encroachment. Another difference is in the Memorial Hall tower: in 1898 it gained four clock faces, and FDR would have told the hour by their sonorous strike. No Union either, you’ll note. That arrived in 1901. Nor anything, really, east of Sever: the current Fogg is four decades away. Oh, and where Lehman Hall now stands, diagonally fronting the Square? In FDR’s time, the Greek Revival edifice you see tucked next to Matthews was the Bursar’s office; before that,  it was the first home of the Law School. In this picture, the new Austin Hall embodies the whole place. How things have changed!  O tempora, o mores!

And as a reminder, this is just one more item that is up for adoption, ladies and gentlemen! It’s going in FDR’s bedroom. The piece needs some conservation, and framing: $200 will give it a new home! Anyone interested, please email me at the following: mweishan at fas dot harvard dot edu, or leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

The FDR Suite Restoration Project at Adams House, Harvard College is funded entirely through your contributions to the FDR Suite Foundation Inc, a public 501(c)3 charity set up to create the only living memorial to FDR at Harvard, as well as a museum of 19th century Harvard student life. We do not receive funds from the University to support this endeavor, and we need your help!

Lathrop’s Desk


“The rooms look as if struck by sheet lightning, the sitting-room having the chairs and tables but no curtains or carpets. The bed is in place in my room and it looks inhabitable.” FDR to Sara, 9/25/1900

“Also tell me if you have your two big rugs, blue and red and the small rugs I ordered. I have a bill from Paine for only the large red room rug, and Lathrop’s spring (without the mattress or covering). I enclose a card showing a desk which might suit Lathrop if he has not bought his.” She then goes on to correct his grammar: “*One does not say “inhabitable.” Sara to FDR 9/30/1900

For over a year, we’ve been looking for two desks: a small roll-top for FDR, and a gentleman’s desk for Lathrop. The latter, I’m delighted to say, is finally in hand. I found this wonderful piece half-forgotten in a barn in New Hampshire, and was able, by a margin of a quarter inch, to fit it into my car and get it home. Desks like these are extremely rare these days, as the demands of modern electronics generally mandate far larger surfaces. (As I write this, I sit at a desk 9.5′ long, which is almost buried under phones, monitors, scanners, printers and other paraphernalia of the electronic office.) But this little gem harks back to a gentler age. Dating to about 1895, it measures just 40″ across and is made of solid black walnut, with a black leather top. Stylistically the piece is quite interesting, sitting exactly on the cusp of two ages: the bat-wing handles on the drawers are very much Victorian, but the turned spindles of the legs, and the overall simplicity of the work  suggest the beginnings of a new design aesthetic, one that would ultimately be known as Colonial Revival. And what a location beside these glorious windows! Who wouldn’t want to pen a line or two here? On top the desk, another prize: a 12-piece solid brass desk set I found recently (also very rare, as it’s complete) along with a green-shaded Alladin desk lamp. Add a nice leather blotter, a calendar, a black walnut chair and some gentleman’s calling cards, and the desk of Mr. Lathrop Brown will soon be ready for occupancy.

FDR’s desk, however, still remains at large…

And of course, it goes without saying that these items (ahem, ahem!) are all up for adoption: the desk at $500, the lamp at $100, and the desk set at $300. More homeless antiques can be found HERE.

Also, if any of you have period volumes you might be willing to donate to help fill our book cases, we would be most grateful to accept them. FDR was quite the bibliophile, and avidly collected rare volumes. Leather or cloth bound fiction or non fiction, with decorative covers & published before 1904, would be most welcome!

As always, we thank you for your interest and support.

Of Arms and a Man, and a Foundation

The family crest of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; FDR modified the design from TR's, changing the rose bush of the former to three cut roses.

The family crest of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; the three ostrich feathers are very similiar to those born by the English heir-apparent.

For over a year now, we been searching for some sort of logo for the Foundation. We’ve thought of many different options, only to discard them one by one: too impractical, too difficult to reproduce, to expensive to commission… etc. etc. Then, the other day, I came across a mention of  a Roosevelt family crest, which I  hadn’t even known existed. It seems my ignorance of Rooseveltian heraldry was not for lack of trying on FDR’s part: our 32nd President was hugely proud of his family heritage, and it turns out he took every opportunity of plastering the Roosevelt arms everywhere he could: escutcheons over the fireplaces in the library at Hyde Park, on personal bookplates, on the White House china, on official presents to visitors (including the Queen of England) even on the very first gift he ever gave to Eleanor: a ring, with family crest, when they were engaged. I became intrigued. What did this mysterious crest look like? A bit of research pulled it up, thanks to the American Heraldry Society. You see it here on the left in all its gaudy glory.

These rather regal arms are descended from a much simpler set, those of FDR’s presumed Dutch burgher descendants, the Van Rosevelts, of Oud-Vossemeer, Netherlands, which originally featured three heraldic roses in a field of green, over a rampant lion in brilliant crimson. (There is some on-going debate as to whether or not this particular coat of arms rightly belonged to the American branch of the Roosevelt clan. See the next link, below.)

The original Van Rosevelt crest

The original Van Rosevelt crest, which may, or may not, have actually belonged to FDR's line. It was in any case adopted by the Roosevelts in New Amsterdam.

In any event, once arrived in the colony of New Amsterdam, the Roosevelts proudly assumed heraldic arms, and somewhere along the line, this symbology was modified: the lion disappeared, and the three roses became a rose bush in a greensward. In addition, the Latin motto, “He who has planted will preserve” was adopted. (The translation is a little awkward, but makes sense in the original. The word curare has a general meaning of “to save for the future” in Latin, and combines elements of both our English “cure” (as in sausage or paint) “cure” (as in heal the patient) and preserve (as in protect.) The crest is what’s known is a canting, or visual pun: the name van Rosevelt means “from the rose field” in Dutch. This crest with the rose bush is the one Theodore Roosevelt and his family used, and FDR could have done the same. Unlike the English, who insist the second and subsequent sons of the family make small changes to their personal crests to acknowledge primacy of the eldest’s line, the Dutch allow male lineal descendants to adopt the same crest without alteration.  But no: always interested in setting himself apart, FDR modified his family arms to show three cut roses instead of the pattern TR had used.

(You can see both crests side-by-side, as well as the complete article on the Roosevelt family arms, by clicking HERE.)

This fascinating foray into heraldry got me to thinking. As our famous president-resident was so fond of his arms, perhaps, I thought, something similar might be appropriate for the Foundation…

Foundation crest version 6Hmmm. A bit of playing around with various designs, and two days of holiday time and about 40 iterations later, may I introduce to you the new FDR Suite Foundation crest!

The  design (which eliminates the more, shall we say, ostentatious elements of Roosevelt’s arms  – I thought we might get laughed off the block if I tried to include those royal feathers) takes its divisions from the original van Rosevelt family crest, and combines the three red roses from FDR’s arms (flowers here have symbolic thorns to replace stems), along with the famous acorn and oak leaf of Adams House (itself derived from John Adams’ seal ring.) The gold recalls our Gold Coast history, and the Crimson, Harvard’s. The brown chevron is another canting, reminding us of the other half of the FDR Suite equation: Lathrop Brown, FDR’s roommate at Groton and Harvard & lifelong friend.  In heraldic language, the description reads: (if I got this right) –  party per fess or and gules a chevron brunatre between three roses proper barbed of the field above an acorn and oak leaf of the first, which hopefully means “a blazon divided into upper and low halves, gold on top, crimson on bottom, separated  with three roses in their natural color (proper) separated by a brown chevron above, and a golden oak leaf and acorn below.” Whew!

Finally (and here as a classics major I am on much more solid ground) the Latin motto has been changed slightly to reflect our mission. It now reads: He who has restored, preserves.

There are still a few tweaks & refinements to be made to the design, but I’m thinking this is going to work out just fine: a fascinating blend of Roosevelt and Harvard history, crafted and reshaped to benefit the future of both.