FDR’s lifelong love of local history was expressed in many ways
Prompted by his father’s stories as a child, manifested early in a paper he wrote as a Sophomore at Harvard, FDR’s quest for original source material, its cataloguing and publication would persist through the most challenging times of his presidency until his death in 1945. Here we will examine the role of Franklin D. Roosevelt relative to DCHS founding and growth. From his articulated vision for the organization in 1914, to having published two books prior to his becoming Governor January 1, 1929, to remaining an active researcher and member until his death.
1901: Sophomore Year at Harvard
When confronted with a writing assignment, nineteen-year-old Franklin Roosevelt chose the topic of Dutch immigration in the Hudson Valley and his Dutch “roots.”
1914: February Testimony to Congressional Chair
The Chairman of a Congressional Subcommittee clearly did not share the enthusiasm for a $32,000 expenditure to preserve Revolutionary War records that was displayed by the Assistant Sec’y of the Navy. Suggesting it may all be better to leave to the Dutchess County Historical Society, the Chairman made a clear jab at Roosevelt.
Out-takes from testimony of then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, as he engages with the Chairman of the Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, Congressman John J Fitzgerald. Roosevelt was looking to upgrade the $32,000 allocated by congress for the preservation of Revolutionary War records with another $32,000. Full transcript here:
1914: December letter to DCHS President Magill on DCHS founding
On December 10, 1914, writing on the stationary used in his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in Washington, Roosevelt wrote a two-page summary to DCHS President Henry N. W. Magill giving his regrets for not being able to attend the upcoming DCHS annual meeting. He laid out his ideas for the future of the Society.
1925 & 1928: FDR and DCHS Publications
Two books were published by FDR in 1925 and 1928. “Minutes of the Council of Appointment of New York April 4, 1778 to May 3, 1779, From original manuscript in possession of Franklin D. Roosevelt” was printed privately. “Records of the Town of Hyde Park, Dutchess County, Edited by Franklin D Roosevelt “was published formally as “Vol III” from the Dutchess County Historical Society. In the forward Roosevelt states that his motivation for do this, in part, was to “encourage other towns in County of Dutchess to carry out similar tasks.” FDR’s signed, dedicated copy to the Society is shown below.
1927: FDR hosts DCHS annual “pilgrimage” at Hyde Park home
Full home video by founder Frank Mylod here:
1933: FDR uses Presidential “leverage” to obtain Revolutionary War Records for DCHS
No longer just the Assistant Secretary of the Navy begging for a $32,000 appropriation from a Congressional Chair, but now two years into his Presidency, FDR engaged, as this letter shows, the US Ambassador to Great Britain Robert Bingham, the former Naval aide-de-camp to King George V, Admiral Dickens and the British Secretary of War to obtain Revolutionary War British Naval information for the Dutchess County Historical Society.
FDR Letters to Helen Wilkinson Reynolds
GALLAGHER, KEVIN J., et al. “The President as Local Historian: The Letters of F.D.R. to Helen Wilkinson Reynolds.” New York History, vol. 64, no. 2, 1983, pp. 136–170.