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    Description

    FDR approves funding for the prosecution of New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker.

    Franklin D. Roosevelt: Document Signed as New York Governor (President-Elect).
    -December 22, 1932. Albany, New York. One page. 8" x 10.5". Carbon copy of original typed document. Gold-embossed Executive Chamber Letterhead.
    -To: The Board of Estimate and Apportionment of the City of New York.
    -One flattened fold, extremely light paperclip traces, else fine.

    The "Walker Affair" of 1931-2 in New York could very well be, as they say, ripped from today's headlines. Jimmy Walker (popularly known as "Beau James") was the fun-loving, free-wheeling, loose-living mayor of New York City during the Jazz Age of the late 1920s who, under pressure by Roosevelt, resigned on September 1, 1932 and left the country to avoid possibility of criminal prosecution. With this document, FDR approved the financial outlay for the investigation of Mayor Walker by the Seabury Commission, in full, "State of New York/ Before the Governor./ In the Matter/ of/ Charges against Hon. James J. Walker,/ Mayor of the City of New York, brought/ by Samuel Seabury, Wm. Jay Schieffelin,/ and others./ To the Board of Estimate and/ Apportionment of the City of New York:/ Pursuant to the provisions of Subdivision 7 of Section 34 of the Public Officers Law, as added thereto by Chapter 15 of the Laws of 1928, I hereby make requisition upon you for the following sums of money, which you are to appropriate to meet the reasonable expenses of conducting before me the hearing of the said charges against Hon. James J. Walker, Mayor of the City of New York. That is to say:/ Compensation allowed and approved by me to Martin Conboy, Esq., as Counsel employed by me in the conduct of the proceedings on the hearing of such charges. . . . . . . . . . . $25,062.12./ Compensation allowed and approved by me to George A. Glendon, Jr., Esq., as Official Stenographer at the hearing of the said charges for 120 copies of the verbatim report taken at the said hearing. . . . . . . . . . . $16,776.45..." Roosevelt signed this original carbon in ink at the bottom as New York governor.

    It's an interesting story how these two Democratic New York politicians, formerly friends, came to be locked in such a political death-match. James John Walker (1881-1946) was the son of an Irish Catholic local Democratic official from Greenwich Village. Before entering politics, he worked as a writer of popular songs and trained to be a lawyer. He was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1909 and the New York State Senate in 1914. With the help of then-Governor Al Smith and the powerful Tammany Hall political machine, he was elected mayor of New York City in 1925, defeating the incumbent in the primary. His first four-year term was a time of great prosperity for the city. He created the Department of Sanitation, brought about unification of the city's public hospitals, and made considerable improvements in the playgrounds and park systems; and, under his guidance, the Board of Transportation approved contracts for the construction of an elaborate subway system. It was also a time of flappers and speakeasies; gangsters and gun molls; organized crime and its handmaiden: political corruption, and almost everybody and everything had a price. It was a great time to be a politician in power - if you knew how to play the game, and apparently he did. In the first two years of his administration, Walker indulged himself with several vacations overseas, spending 143 days out of office. His response to critics: "I refuse to live by the clock."

    The beginning of the end of Walker's reign as mayor occurred with the murder of Arnold Rothstein, the world-class gambler who reputedly fixed the 1919 World Series. Mortally wounded November 3, 1928, at the Park Central Hotel in Manhattan, Rothstein lived a day but refused to say who shot him, telling the police, "Me Mudder did it." The lack of a conviction in this notorious gangland murder called to public attention the weaknesses of the district attorney and the police department. Judge Samuel Seabury, and anti-Tammany Hall crusader, was appointed by the state legislature to head a commission, charged with investigating the reports of municipal corruption in New York City. He began with D.A. Thomas Crain, who had only a 4% conviction rate, and continued on. The Seabury Commission hearings uncovered a government rife with problems. Mayor Walker came under more and more scrutiny for his lack of attention to the city matters at hand and rumors of influence peddling and financial indiscretions. Public outcry was that Walker should also be investigated.

    New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, a patrician from Hyde Park on the Hudson Highlands, was in an uncomfortable position. He was a crusader with a distinguished lineage, but he still had to prove that his talents could match his Presidential ambitions. Influential columnist Walter Lippmann had said of him, "Franklin D. Roosevelt is no crusader. He is no tribune of the people. He is no enemy of entrenched privilege. He is a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be President." If FDR did nothing, he would be seen as a lightweight, not qualified for the presidency. If he prosecuted Walker, he risked losing the support of the powerful New York Democratic political machine. On the eve of the Democratic National Convention in 1932, Roosevelt convened an informal trial of the Mayor of New York, with Walker as the star witness. When he ordered the proceedings to begin, Franklin Roosevelt became a political heavyweight, a man of personal and political substance, and a man ready for the awesome responsibilities and challenges of assuming the U.S. presidency. This present lot is an historic item in which FDR, as President-Elect, approves the funding for the actions taken against Mayor Jimmy Walker of New York City. Suitable for the finest of collections.


    More Information:

    The extended description below was supplied by the consignor. We are making it available to our web bidders who are interested in more in-depth research and broader historical perspective. Please note that presentation (i.e. framing), lot divisions, and interpretations of condition and content may occasionally differ from our descriptions. Assertions of fact and subjective observations contained in this description represent the opinion of the consignor. These remarks have not been checked for accuracy by Heritage Auctions, and we assume no responsibility for their accuracy; they are offered purely to allow the bidder insight into the way the consignor has viewed the item(s) in question. No right of return or claim of lack of authenticity or provenance based upon this extended description will be granted.

     

    One of the most historic documents related to the life and times of Franklin D. Roosevelt before he became the thirty-second President of the United States of America, on State of New York Executive Chamber Albany stationery, a typewritten DS "Franklin D. Roosevelt" as Governor of New York and President-Elect of the United States, 1p, 8 x10 ½" dated December 22, 1932. FDR approves the funding for the prosecution of the infamous New York City Mayor James J. "Jimmy" Walker in what became known as the "Walker Affair!" FDR writes: "State of New York/ Before the Governor./ In the Matter/ of/ Charges against Hon. James J. Walker,/ Mayor of the City of New York, brought/ by Samuel Seabury, Wm. Jay Schieffelin,/ and others./ To the Board of Estimate and/ Apportionment of the City of New York:/ Pursuant to the provisions of Subdivision 7 of Section 34 of the Public Officers Law, as added thereto by Chapter 15 of the Laws of 1928, I hereby make requisition upon you for the following sums of money, which you are to appropriate to meet the reasonable expenses of conducting before me the hearing of the said charges against Hon. James J. Walker, Mayor of the City of New York. That is to say:/ Compensation allowed and approved by me to Martin Conboy, Esq., as Counsel employed by me in the conduct of the proceedings on the hearing of such charges. . . . . . . . . . . $25,062.12./ Compensation allowed and approved by me to George A. Glendon, Jr., Esq., as Official Stenographer at the hearing of the said charges for 120 copies of the verbatim report taken at the said hearing. . . . . . . . . . . $16,776.45./ Dated Albany, New York/ December 22, 1932/ Franklin D. Roosevelt/ Governor of the State of New York." Wow! Chronicled in every major biography of FDR and the landmark book Once upon a Time in New York: Jimmy Walker, Franklin Roosevelt and the Last Great Battle of the Jazz Age by journalist Herbert Mitgang, the "Walker Affair" was the headlining event of the legendary era of the Jazz Age in New York City, America's liveliest town. Flappers and speakeasies; gangsters and gun molls; organized crime and its handmaiden: political corruption, and almost everybody and everything had a price. It was a great time to be a politician in power – if you knew how to play the game. It was also a time of larger-than-life personalities. Two men, once friends, were locked in a political death-match that would affect New York and indeed the fate of the Nation. Jimmy Walker was the nightclubbing Night Mayor of New York. The elegant Beau James had more mob ties than suits, and he had lots of them, too. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a patrician from Hyde Park on the Hudson Highlands, was Governor of New York. He was a crusader with a distinguished lineage, but he still had to prove that his talents could match his Presidential ambitions. The bellringer between the Mayor and the Governor began with a very real murder. Arnold (Big Arnie) Rothstein, a world-class gambler who reputedly fixed the 1919 World Series, was found shot in the gut near one of his Broadway haunts. He survived for a few days but would not reveal the killer's identity. With his death came a crackdown against the underworld and its crooked officials. Judge Samuel Seabury, an incorruptible outsider, was picked by FDR to head what was – and still is – the largest investigation of municipal corruption in American history, as this budget for the investigation approved by FDR, at the currency rate of the times in 1932, shows full well. In the witness box before Seabury sat an endless parade of officials, all of whom seemed to be unusually adept at saving money – the press called them the "tin box brigade" for the tin boxes in which their private fortunes mysteriously blossomed. Each exposed official drew Seabury inexorably closer to City Hall and the popular rogue, Mayor Jimmy Walker. Taking advantage of the rarely exercised Gubernatorial right to sit as judge for the investigation of major officials, FDR brought things to a head when he personally prosecuted Walker in the summer of 1932, on the heels of the Democratic Convention, with the entire nation watching what many political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans, thought would undo FDR's chances at the Presidency, despite the deepening Great Depression engulfing the United States under Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt indeed had much to lose. Behind Walker lurked Tammany Hall, the powerful Democratic political machine that ruled New York City. Prosecuting Walker was the final showdown in a war for control of the greatest city in the country's most populous state. FDR once again proved his mettle, and turned what many in New York and nationally perceived as his greatest political vulnerability during his Presidential election campaign into an undisputed personal and political triumph. Unable to explain the large sums of money that had been paid into his bank account, Walker was forced by FDR to resign from office in September, 1932. Facing fifteen charges of corruption, Walker fled to Europe and did not return until he was convinced he would not be prosecuted for his financial offenses. In 1940 Fiorello La Guardia, the Mayor of New York City, appointed him as arbiter in garment industry disputes. Jimmy Walker was also president of the Majestic Records Company until his death on November 18, 1946. Jimmy Walker was indeed the epitome of the flamboyant Mayor of New York City (1925–1932), a frequenter of Broadway theater and the upper-class speakeasies, such as the Central Park Casino. The son of Irish Catholic immigrants who lived in New York's Greenwich Village, Walker attended Saint Francis Xavier College and graduated from New York Law School in 1904. After graduation, however, he began frequenting Broadway's theaters and vaudeville, writing popular songs and eventually marrying (in 1912) a musical comedy singer. In that same year he was admitted to the New York State bar. Already gravitating toward politics, he became a district captain and a member of the Assembly (1909) and, under the tutelage of Alfred E. Smith, was elected to the State Senate (1914). With the backing of the Tammany organization and Governor Smith, Walker was nominated in 1925 as the Democratic mayoralty candidate in the primary elections. He served as Mayor of New York City for two terms. During his first term he created the Department of Sanitation, brought about unification of the city's public hospitals, and made considerable improvements in the playgrounds and park systems; and, under his guidance, the Board of Transportation approved contracts for the construction of an elaborate subway system.  Reelected to office in 1929, he came under critical fire from several sources. In the first two years of his Administration, Walker indulged himself with several vacations overseas, spending 143 days out of office, and was fond of saying, "I refuse to live by the clock." Despite rumors of widespread corruption, New Yorkers largely overlooked Walker's transgressions, electing him handily to a second term over Fiorello LaGuardia. But with the outbreak of the Great Depression, Walker's neglect of essential city services became more readily apparent. In 1931 the New York legislature formed a committee to investigate the affairs of New York City, which was ultimately paid for by this signed document by FDR. As detailed above, as a result of this investigation presided over by FDR, extensive corruption was revealed and fifteen charges were leveled against Walker. Accused, among other things, of being actuated by improper and illegal considerations and of being unable to explain satisfactorily the large sums of money deposited in his bank account, he resigned on September 1, 1932. He then went to Europe with his showgirl-mistress and did not return to the United States until 1935. He was named Chairman of the National Cloak and Suit Industry in 1940, and Walker later became the president of the Majestic Records Company. This epic political battle between FDR and Walker is a real-life fable, the story of two towering men in an irrepressible time. It is at once the story of FDR's first great test; the turning point of machine control in New York; and the battle that marked the end of the Jazz Age way of political life. It is an unforgettable portrait of FDR's courage, with a cast of gamblers and gun molls, murderers and mistresses. More outrageous than today's headlines and as lively as the era it describes, the Walker Affair showed the world that FDR had come of age politically, and was ready for the awesome responsibilities and challenges of assuming the Presidency of the United States of America. A truly historic and one of a kind item in which FDR, as President-Elect, approves the funding for the actions taken against Mayor Jimmy Walker of New York City.





    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    7th Saturday
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