We are delighted to announce that the Foundation has received the first major donation towards its Scholarship Endowment Fund from C. Stephen Heard Jr. (’58) and his wife Susan Renfrew Heard. The fund, initiated this year and separate from day-to-day accounts, seeks to raise sufficient capital to permanently finance the operations of the FDR Suite Foundation, its collections and preservation programs, as well as its educational initiatives, including the new Franklin Delano Roosevelt Global Fellowship Program.
While the Foundation hopes to finance future scholarship outlays from income derived from investment, given the Heards’ enthusiastic donation, the decision was taken this year by the Foundation directors in conjunction with Adams House Masters Judy and Sean Palfrey to launch the initial year of the FDR Global Fellowship Program through direct contribution.
For the summer of 2013 the Foundation will offer a new grant to support summer undergraduate field-research, experience or study in the areas of international relations, international trade, economic affairs and development, global governance and affairs, international languages, humanities, sciences or global medicine, to be guided by the spirit of FDR’s Fourth Inaugural Address: “Today, in this year of war, 1945, we have learned lessons—at a fearful cost—and we shall profit by them. We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other Nations, far away… We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community. We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that, ‘The only way to have a friend is to be one.’”
Participants will be known as Franklin Delano Roosevelt Fellows.
The Foundation will award one grant this year. The size of the grant will vary depending on the country of destination, length of stay, and type of program in which the recipient will be participating, as well as on the applicant’s individual budget and financial need.
Current Harvard College freshmen, sophomores & juniors are eligible to apply, with special consideration given to students from FDR’s own Adams House. The FDR Global Fellowships are restricted to students who 1) can demonstrate family income below 50K per year and 2) who would otherwise have to work during the summer to meet term-time expenses. The Foundation will grant up to $6000 for summer expenses, as well as an additional stipend of up to $4000 upon successful completion of the summer program to make up for lost summer wages, the amount being determined by the student’s previous summer earnings.
Susan & Steve Heard at Harvard Yale 2012
Emphasizing the non-partisan nature of the Scholarship Endowment Fund, it’s fitting that the initial gift was received from an avowed South Carolina Republican from Leverett House. Heard, a successful attorney who worked his way through Stanford Law, put it this way: “Over the years, I have come to realize that Harvard gave me a road map that changed the way I look at everything. But that was just the beginning. My journey was equally enriched by an incredible three years in Spain – in a prospering, peaceful Europe, a Europe due in no small part to a certain Franklin Roosevelt and his internationalist vision of a post-war world. So when I learned that a scholarship was being organized in FDR’s memory to provide a period abroad for some deserving young man or woman, Susan and I knew we wanted to participate. May each recipient find their own new and exciting road map through this opportunity.”
The Scholarship Endowment Fund actively seeks your support. For more information, contact Michael Weishan ’86, Volunteer President, FDR Suite Foundation Inc.
Some people read history, others make it. Support the FDR Suite Foundation!
I was at the Suite yesterday, the day after Thanksgiving, beginning what’s going to be a three-month intensive effort to catalog the objects in the collection for inclusion in our new Internet museum. I was working away contentedly at Lathrops’ desk for an hour or so, when just before twilight, I realized that for the last few minutes I had been idly eyeing the room. Perhaps it was Thanksgiving-dinner-post-partum, or else simply the distraction of the hour; whichever, I noticed that the late afternoon light was casting lovely patterns of sun and shadow about the room, and so decided my time might be better spent with a camera.
It’s been a while since we’ve taken still photos for the blog, and I think you’ll agree this was indeed the golden hour.
Above: craftsman Lary Shaffer’s latest and second-to-last last creation for the Suite, the new daybed, takes pride of place in the study. (Double click on any image to expand; these are but thumbnails.) Lary and I reverse-engineered this piece from a tiny, grainy photo over a period of six months, and I’ll be doing a future post on how this magnificent creation came together. In the meantime, it’s easy to appreciate how the rich walnut and plush fabrics add to the Victorian elegance (not mention comfort!) of the room – especially when you compare these views to those taken in April 2010.
Above: On the smoking table, young Frank at Groton, 1899, next to “Uncle Ned’s dog tobacco jar” and our collection of pipes.
The Atlantic of 1903, record-holder extraordinaire, looking ready to sail at a moment’s notice.
Our exceedingly rare John the Orangeman mug caught in a golden beam on the mantle. Immediately behind is a recently acquired etching of Harvard Yard in the 1840s.
FDR’s desk glowing in the sunlight. When this inventory project is finished, you’ll be able to click on any of the above objects to learn their individual history, and how that particular piece relates to other pieces in the collections, as well as to the history of the Suite as a whole. For instance, that large volume sitting on top the revolving bookcase? That’s not just any book, it’s the 1900-01 bound edition of the Harvard Crimson, where FDR’s soon to become a reporter. And that young lady next to Eleanor, why that Alice Sohier and of course you know how that affair went… Ah, and then there’s the elegant Half Moon II… How fortunate to have your own yacht in the harbor… Given that there are currently well over one thousand objects to classify and digitalize, this isn’t going to be the quickest project in the world, and we will require substantial help – in fact, thanks to a recent pledge of support, we’ve already hired two student researchers half-time during Harvard’s new Winter Session. But given how far we’ve come, I have no doubt we’ll get there, especially with help from viewers like you!
Come Make A Little History. Support the FDR Suite Foundation!
Just when I thought there was no more Harvard Class of 1904 memorabilia to be found anywhere, one of our supporters discovered this remarkable tankard on E-Bay and donated it to the Foundation, where it will join our fireplace collection. The original owner was one E.C.Kerans, a classmate of FDR. The tankard however is a bit of a mystery. The top of pewter cup carries a large copper DELTA with an almost illegible inscription DIKAI ****THEKE – which doesn’t exactly ring a bell… It’s obviously a club or organization motto; we’ll just have to track it down.
But while we ponder this little mystery, I want to remind you that the FIFTH Annual FDR Memorial Lecture and Dinner is this coming Saturday. There are only 10 dinner tickets left, and we would love to sell them out, so please consider joining us for a fun and informative evening. If you’re unable to attend, we would happily accept your donation of the ticket price to help us cover the event cost by sponsoring one of the twenty-five free student places we’ve set aside. Both can be done online, HERE.
Well I don’t need to tell you how warm it’s been in Cambridge, because chances are you’ve been as warm or warmer. Still, despite the heat and the bang-bang-booms coming from the Quincy House renovations next door, we’ve been quietly (or perhaps, more precisely, less-noisily) pursuing our own projects in the Suite:
For one, we’re under construction again in the bathroom, this time to retro-fit some very inconspicuous museum-style recessed lighting into ceiling. Those who have stayed in the Suite overnight have commented that it’s darker than Hades with only one 30-watt Edison bulb as your companion, and it’s true – which is precisely why gentlemen in FDR’s time shaved & dressed in their rooms, where there was better natural light. This concession to modern living – which can be turned on, or not, according to whim – will also allow us to showcase a small collection of patent medicine bottles and other personal products of dubious efficacy from the turn of the century that we’ve been assembling. It’s amazing the wild variety of nonsense that was marketed for health and beauty in FDR’s youth, and this collection, once proudly installed on the bathroom wall shelf, will elucidate this thankfully-passed aspect of late-Victorian life.
In the study, two complex projects are underway. Master craftsman Lary Shaffer and I are in the process of reverse engineering a period daybed we discovered (or rather, several, in photographs), to make a version for the Suite. Ours has to have several novel features: it needs the look and feel of an authentic period piece, yet it has to disassemble for easy movement when we film the New Fireside Chats – not to mention be both durable and comfortable for visitor use. At left, the very, very beginning of our efforts, as we start to think about how to construct the spindle back that will link the two rear lyre-shaped legs. As usual, this has turned into quite an adventure, one that I’ll be detailing in future posts. We’re hopeful that we’ll have the piece designed, assembled and outfitted for the study by the fall.
Also, thanks to major funding from the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust (and of course, viewers like you), we’ve been able to engage the services of the prestigious Pewabic Pottery in Michigan to produce a period-accurate set of tiles for the fireplace surround. Somewhere in time, no one is quite sure when or why, the tiles were ripped out from all but one of the fireplace surrounds in Westmorly, most likely as part of a general rebuilding of the fireboxes or flues. Fortunately, we still have the intact fireplace in the old porter’s lodge at the base of B-entry, which we’ll be using for a model. This, too, I’ll be documenting as the project unfolds.
Finally, we hoping to complete renovations to the hall outside the Suite to install a small FDR timeline-museum, which will help visitors place the Suite in the context of FDR’s life and presidency. With the assistance of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, we’ve selected the images for the timeline, and will be mounting them on the wall outside the Suite, along with improved lighting and seating.
See, we have been busy!
Finally, we’ve some new acquisitions to show you. Obviously as the physical restoration of the Suite winds down and we switch over to our educational and philanthropic activities (for more on that important mission, see here) the new items we acquire become fewer and fewer. Still, we’re on the active hunt for rare pieces that either have a direct Harvard/FDR connection, or that help elucidate life at FDR’s Harvard – and how very different that life is from today’s. Here are four great items we’ve recently discovered:
OK, any guess as to what this is?
Hint: it’s glass, exactly the size of a cigar, and missing a small cork on the left end…
If you guessed cigar flask – which I’m sure you didn’t! – you’d be correct. This type of small novelty flask was very common in the late Victorian era. Drinking hard liquor in mixed company was frowned upon, but at the same time, such alcohol was de rigueur at most social events, so what to do? Why, carry this tiny little flask in your vest pocket, that’s what, which to all the world looks like a cigar; then when the ladies aren’t looking, bottoms up!
Here’s a wonderful piece that came to us as a gift from Dr. Cynthia Koch, Past Director the FDR Presidential Library, and her husband Eliot. Though many people think of Stetsons as big floppy western hats, that was only one – albeit the most famous – of their products. Founded in 1865, the John B. Stetson Company began when its eponymous founder headed west and created the original hat of the frontier, the “Boss of the Plains.” Stetson eventually became the world’s largest hat maker, producing more than 3.3 million hats a year in a factory spread over 9 acres in Philadelphia. This particular hat, in its absolutely brilliant red box, is known as a boater, and was common apparel for young men in the warmer months from the FDR’s Harvard days well into the 20s. As it turns out, “our” hat was simply predestined to be in the Suite: I first saw this Stetson in an antiques store in Hudson, New York, and was immediately interested. The seller however named a price I thought unreasonable, and refused to haggle, which is just not “the way” in these kinds of deals – I was put off, and left. Almost a year later, Dr. Koch spied this same hat, still on the shelf in the same store, and thought it would be perfect for us. She immediately called me, and began to describe the “wonderful hat I found, in a well-preserved red period box…” I interrupted, completely amazed: “Don’t tell me you’re at such and such antique store in Hudson!!?” And the rest, as they say is history. Dr. Koch however, proved no better bargainer than I, for the seller again refused to budge and she was forced to pay full price. I take some rather perverse satisfaction in the fact both stubborn seller and store are now gone, but not before we got our hat. Thanks again, Cynthia and Eliot!
Considering the large number of objects in the Suite – heading towards two thousand, if you can believe it – one of the things we’re strangely lacking is period books. The reason is twofold: the first is, simply, the cost of good volumes. FDR, as you probably know by now, was an avid bibliophile who began collecting books while at Harvard. He was on the library committee for the Harvard Union, and also served as the librarian for the Fly Club. (Club libraries, though diminishing in importance by FDR’s time, were still much valued as a source of more popular, less serious reading material than was found in Harvard’s library.) Given a rather refined taste, and a hefty budget supplied by Sara, FDR proved a discriminating buyer, and we find ourselves hard-pressed financially to duplicate his acquisitions. Secondly, we’re constrained to pre-1904 volumes that reflect FDR & Lathrop’s taste and interests – not something that pops up too often at the local used-book seller. But here’s a slim little volume that meets both criteria: Two Addresses by Col H. L. Higginson (1902). Higginson was one of Harvard’s most enthusiastic benefactors, giving both the money for Soldiers Field, as well as the funds for the Harvard Union. This book contains the text of Higginson’s two dedication addresses, and is particularly appropriate for the Suite as FDR was in the audience for the Union dedication in October, 1901. This is a volume he certainly knew of, most likely owned, and most certainly helped acquire for the new Union Library, which would function as Harvard’s main undergraduate library until the opening of Lamont in 1947.
What a stunner! This is a very rare piece, both because of size (it’s 11″ tall by 6″ wide) and function: a heavy ceramic water pitcher. It came out of an estate in California, and is exactly of the period. How do we know that? Well in this case the pitcher is labelled on the bottom: “Royal China Pottery, England,” which sets parameters for the date. But even if it weren’t, the style and typography of the Harvard pennant would give it away. After 1910 or so, the flag font and shape changes, (and continues an every-decade-or-so metamorphosis right until the present day), giving the practiced eye a pretty precise measurement of age.
(It’s amazing the strange talents you acquire when putting together a project like this!)
Well, that’s all for now. I’ll be back in touch as the weather cools down with news on our fall events, including the FDR Memorial Lecture, and our plans for the Big Game.
Until then, please remember that none of this gets done without your continuing help.
Some People Read History. Others Make It.
Come make a little history: support the FDR Suite Foundation!
FDR's desk, with its new companion, a rotating oak bookcase. The volume sitting on top by the way, is a leather bound copy of the 1900-1901 Crimson, also recently acquired.
Well spring has certainly sprung in Cambridge, and while our weather wildly swings between days in the 80’s and nights in the teens, I thought I would take a moment to bring you up to date on a few items.
The first is a hearty welcome to our new rotating bookcase, a seemingly minor item that turned into quite the affair. We’ve been in the market for a one of these clever little space-saving gems since the beginning of the restoration; although once common (and hugely practical) unfortunately they are now rarer than hens’ teeth. After several years of searching for a case that fit our space, I finally decided to ask Lary Shaffer, the woodworker extraordinaire that built our Morris chairs, to construct one for us. Lary, always game for a new challenge, took on the project with gusto. Together he and I reverse-engineered various examples we discovered online, and then re-engineered our design to match FDR’s rolltop desk in size, material and scale. All in all we are very pleased; the case really completes FDR’s corner – which always seemed a bit bare compared to Lathrop’s rather opulent flattop (helped by the fact that Lathrop also gets an extra window). The bookcase also improves the Suite’s narrative, reflecting the fact that FDR was an avid bibliophile and book collector while at Harvard. Now all we need to do is fill it with appropriate volumes, and wait as the now golden oak fades and darkens to match FDR’s desk. (I was tempted to hurry the process along with stain but Lary insisted that wasn’t the thing to do, so patience, never my sterling trait, will have to be the byword.)
The bookcase, by the way, represents something of a milestone: we’re homing in on the end of the physical restoration. We have some small electrical work to finish, a daybed to build to better match our chairs in style and period (another project for Lary & I – we are already working on designs), and finally, the re-tiling of the fireplace surround, which for reasons never fully understood was de-tiled sometime during its history, along with all but one of the B-entry fireplaces. This is another custom job: we have a model in the sole surviving fireplace in the old porter’s lodge, but the tile is no longer made and will have to be custom fabricated for us. But that’s a story for another day. However, when these last projects are completed, the Suite will actually be finished (Deo volente) and we’ll be ready to move on to focus solely on our educational and scholarship programs.
And speaking of which: we have two more New Fireside Chats coming up, which are just waiting for me to edit: the first with Curtis Roosevelt was taped last November; the second with Father John Jay Hughes ’48, last October. Unfortunately I am way behind with getting these out; I was diverted first into finishing our video tour, Tales of a Suite, and then, to what became a ridiculously monumental project for the HAA, called Six Buildings that Shaped Harvard History. This is one of those things that you innocently agree to do, that just grow and grow and grow until it seems that it will never be finished (like the Suite!), but I am homing in on end of this one as well. I had originally agreed simply to host a video version of the popular walking tour I give each year; then I was asked to expand the project into more of television-like presentation for the 375th, then finally, to write, direct, and produce what has now become a 30 minute, PBS quality documentary. Why precisely I said I would do this I’m not sure, other than the fact that my contacts at the HAA are totally charming and hard to refuse. In any event, Six Buildings (done in a few weeks and to be announced here) will bring the Suite much added publicity, as the story involves the Gold Coast and the rise of the House system – and as part of the deal, the HAA will now be publicizing and promoting our Chats, at least when I get them finished, that is!
And finally: we’ve decided to push the Annual FDR Memorial Lecture into the fall. This was the result of several events, not the least of which was my being totally overwhelmed with other projects. The real stumbling block however has been finding a speaker of suitable note. We’ve asked filmmaker Ken Burns, who declined for this year but promised a future talk closer to the launch of his new Roosevelt documentary; David McCullough who didn’t get back to us (naughty naughty) and several other prominent persons in the political world, who for various reasons were unable to commit. Given these difficulties, and since this is our fifth anniversary and a banquet year to boot, we’ve decided to work on the event over the summer for a fall launch. If any of you have suggestions for a speaker of appropriate stature and note (and/or connections to proffer the invitation), we’d love to hear from you!
That’s all for now… stay tuned.
Some People Read History. Others Make It.
Come make a little history: support the FDR Suite Foundation!
Several of you have written to me in the last few weeks wondering why things have been so quiet lately. The fault, I’m afraid, is all mine. On the professional front, we’ve had a one of the strangest, snowless winters ever, with bright sunny days and temperatures routinely in the 40s, which means, for a fellow in the landscape design business like me, a real windfall, with our projects continuing right into January. Mainly however, the reason for the gap in transmissions has been the magnum opus you see below: Tales of A Suite: Rediscovering FDR at Harvard. Since August a few of our students and I have been laboring to put together a PBS quality documentary on the Suite, one that would set its historical background, explain its creation, and (hopefully) motivate people to become involved in our future. This last is particularly important as we move into the final stages of this project, endeavoring to launch our scholarship programs and fund a permanent $750,000 endowment to maintain the Suite and its programs. To that end, I thought we needed a clear, engaging mission statement, and here it is:
This full length film will now be shown to all guests visiting the Suite, and the HAA has expressed interest in releasing it worldwide to our alums. We’ll also be producing a short 5-7 minute version for corporate fundraising purposes. (Given the international nature of our planned programs, I’ve several candidates in mind for that: stay tuned. I’d also welcome any suggestions you may have in that regard as well.)
Finally, we’ve launched a very high profile invitation for this year’s FDR Memorial Lecture, and are waiting to hear back. I’ll be in touch as soon as we have an answer.
In the meantime, enjoy the film everyone, and Happy Presidents’ Day!