This is all pretty amazing when you think that when we started 7 years ago we had nothing more than an empty room and a dream. Now today we’ve restored one of the most remarkable historical spaces at Harvard, we continue to expand our efforts to preserve and protect our historical collections, we maintain an active and effective scholarship program inspired by FDR, and we’re energetically working to create programming for students and alums that has real potential for making positive societal change.
But to continue all these great efforts, we REALLY need your help. Despite this amazing expansion of our mission, our circumstances remain the same. We’re still a tiny 501(c)3 charity that receives no funding from Harvard. And while it’s true we benefit mightily from our association with the University, sometimes that hurts us too, as people simply presume that because we’re located at Harvard, we’re somehow beneficiaries of Harvard largess and that we’re rolling in cash.
As the old country song goes: “That just ain’t so.” Everything we do, comes from people like you.
Maintaining all these activities is incredibly expensive, and once again our coffers are low.
So: would you consider helping us? One new method we’d like to encourage is a sustaining membership via credit card. Simply pick an amount, 20, 50 100 dollars and after you click the donation button, you’ll see an option to “make this recurring.” This type of sustaining support helps us manage our cash flow, allowing us to know what funds we can expend for our numerous programs. It’s really simple to do, and takes exactly one minute. Just click the button below and you’re off!
Of course, if you prefer to send a check, our mailing address is
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation
Adams House, Harvard College
26 Plympton Street, Box 471
Cambridge, MA 02138
I’ll be in touch soon with more details about our upcoming programming, as well as some wonderful historical tales I’ve been waiting to share. Thanks as always!
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!
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!
Well, we’ve finally got a new New Fireside Chat launched, with two more taped, to be edited and released in December and January. For the next two episodes, we’re on the road, off to the historic Hudson Valley, ancestral home of Franklin Roosevelt, to speak with noted FDR scholars about the man and his times.
NB: These programs are now all filmed in high-definition, so if your Internet speed is sufficiently high, you can watch them as they were meant to be viewed. By default, the player sets to the lowest (fastest) speed. Simply hit the play button, and to your right various picture controls appear; simply adjust the number followed by “p” in the menu bar upwards to increase picture quality. (The other controls increase the picture size, which you might also wish to experiment with. Again, if your connection is sufficiently speedy, full screen, perfectly clear pictures are possible.) If you’re the patient type, you can watch these programs in high definition even with a slower connection: simply press pause early on, and let the gray buffer bar move sufficiently forward in front of the play head to accommodate your connection speed.)
If all that sounds to complicated, just press play, sit back, and enjoy!
In the first segment of this three-part program, Dr. Cynthia Koch, past director of the FDR Presidential Museum and Library at Hyde Park – and also our speaker at last year’s FDR Memorial Lecture –discusses recent changes at the Presidential Museum, including the first ever major renovation of the exhibits, and what the visitor can expect to see in upcoming months. The conversation then shifts to Roosevelt’s upbringing in the Hudson Valley, and how spirit of the place shaped his personal and political thinking.
In part two of this three-part program, Dr. Cynthia Koch, past director of the FDR Presidential Museum and Library at Hyde Park, discusses how FDR used his Dutch heritage to for political ends; the discussion then turns to FDR as Educator in Chief, and how he used simple stories and historical examples to relate complex issues to the American people. Also revealed is FDR’s strained relationship with Hoover, and how Hoover redeemed his reputation under the Truman administration with his post WWII efforts in Europe.
The final portion of the discussion with Dr. Cynthia Koch, past director of the FDR Presidential Museum and Library at Hyde Park, concludes with the legacy of the FDR administration, and lessons for today’s political scene.
Thanks go out to Dr. Koch for hosting our filming set; Matthew Young ’12 our producer, and Joe Brancale ’13 our cameraman, and as always, to you our supporters, who make this all possible.
Some People Read History. Others Make It.
Come make a little history: support the FDR Suite Foundation!
This footage is part of a much longer documentary we are putting together on FDR’s Harvard and the Restoration of the Suite, which will be hopefully ready this fall.
Secondly, I would like to appeal to all of you to help us put our financial house in order. As you know, several months back we launched a $50,00 capital campaign. So far, we have raised only $5000. Part of our problem is that we’ve always accepted donations on a rolling basis, rather than asking for your continuing generosity annually, which means that while some of you have given quite recently, many of you have given generously a year, or two or three back.
We’d now like to press a giant reset button, and love for you to become annual members, contributing whatever amount you’re comfortable with, $100, $250, $500, $1000, or more, on an annual basis each September. The details of the various membership levels are available HERE, where you can also donate securely online. These annual memberships would help tremendously in evening out our finances, and allow us to plan our educational outreach programs more cohesively. Already this fall we’re leading HAA walking tours, organizing student trips to Brimfield, and planning for two to three new Fireside Chats, as well as another issue of the GoldCoaster, on top of the already promised documentary.
All these activities take funds, and we could really use your help. As always, your contributions to the Foundation are deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Thanks as always for your continuing generosity.
Some People Read History. Others Make It.
Come make a little history: support the FDR Suite Foundation!
Everyone at Adams House and the FDR Suite Foundation is truly proud to announce the inaugural edition of The New Fireside Chats.
My guest for the premier episode is John Gunther Dean, Adams House ’47.
To summarize Mr Dean’s life in a paragraph is to conjure a passage from some James Bond novel. Born in the last days of the Weimar Republic to a wealthy Jewish family, Dean fled to the US from Germany after Kristalnacht. Growing up in Kansas City, he entered Harvard, became involved with a top secret intelligence operation during WWII, returned, took his diploma (plus several more, including a law degree from the Sorbonne) and then entered the US foreign service. His 30-year career including journeying into far Togo to establish the first US Mission there; brokering the peace in Laos (and preventing a coup); getting shot down in Vietnam; carrying out the flag at the fall of Phnom Penh (left, from the cover of Newsweek); surviving two assassination attempts as Ambassador to Lebanon; rescuing the Chum Museum ( a world heritage site) and speaking his mind about Israeli involvement in Pakistan, which ultimately cost him his career in the US Diplomatic Corps.
We caught up with Mr. Dean a few weeks ago, when he visited Harvard for his 65th reunion. In all honestly, I was prepared to meet an elderly man, retired and retiring, dotting on memories. There was very little of that. Mostly there was a remarkably vital, often feisty, always entertaining old soul who has known (and who has a distinct opinion of) most of the major players on the world stage since the 50s. Our interview, originally scheduled for a half-hour, stretched to an hour and a half. It’s been edited here for cohesion into three largely chronological 20-minute segments. The first covers Dean’s youth and arrival in the US, including his Harvard years and War II experience. The second picks up the first years of his diplomatic career and posting to Southeast Asia; the third discusses the later (and often far too eventful) parts of Mr. Dean’s career, as well as his reflections on the world political stage, and the value, even after 65 years, of his Harvard education.
A word or two on this first episode. The most remarkable thing about my last four years at the FDR Suite has been the fascinating host of new people, places and technologies I’ve been exposed to. The Chats project is no exception. Creating this series included moving from in front of the camera (never easy) to in front and in back of the camera (remarkably frustrating, and full of hidden shoals, not to mention a post-production staff of…. one. Where’s my latte!Get it yourself, fool!) This first episode bears witness to my newness at this game, and has shown the way for many future improvements, including some annoying sound issues here and there. Still, I think that considering this was our first time out, we pulled off a remarkably professional interview. The “we” here, by the way, is cameraman Joe Brancale, ’13; our own Adams Drama Tutor Aubry Threlkeld (whom we gratefully drafted as cameraman when our film students had all departed for summer); Annie Douglas, ’12, who pitched in to help with logistics; and our inimitable Tim Smith, ’08, recently Timothy John Smith, Esq., (congrats) who will be hanging out with us one more year (thank god for that!). Plus, our ever patient Masters, Judy and Sean Palfrey, who appeared in loco clientis during our first video trial runs, and who believed enough in this project to shepherd it through. Bravo to all.
Thus, may I present to you, from the (almost) restored FDR Suite, The New Fireside Chats, Episode 1: (Note: If you’re having trouble clearly viewing the video on the FDR site, you may also watch the Chats directly on the vimeo site, here. You will need a fast internet connection, and updated computer, in either case.)