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    Franklin D. Roosevelt: Signed Appointment as Acting Secretary of the Navy.
    -April 15, 1919. Washington, D.C. 14" x 19". Matted and framed to 23.5" x 28.25".
    -To: William W. Elder.
    -Minor foxing, staining and wear, slight paper loss near top edge, ink slightly faded to brown, else near fine.

    This official U.S. Navy document featuring the USN seal and signed by FDR at bottom left appoints "William W. Elder [as] Chaplain in the Navy with the rank of Lieutenant, junior grade". This commission is also signed by Registrar F. J. Schuyler, but not by President Woodrow Wilson. During this period, such documents were customarily signed by the President in addition to the Secretary (or, in this case, Acting Secretary) of the Navy; but, from March 14 to June 18, 1919, Woodrow Wilson was in France attending the Paris Peace Conference.

    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.


    A large, wonderful, and very rare United States Navy commissioning document signed by FDR as Acting Secretary of the Navy, April 15, 1919. FDR was Acting Secretary because his chief, Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels, accompanied President Woodrow Wilson back to Paris for the talks ending the Great War. As such, President Wilson does not sign this commissioning document, nor does Secretary of the Navy Daniels, an extreme rarity of the times, since documents such as this were signed by the Secretary of the Navy or the Secretary of War as well as the President of the United States. FDR alone authorizes the commissioning of Chaplain William W. Elder in the United States Navy. Chaplain Elder's 1919 Naval Orders signed by FDR are also part of this FDR Collection. The chaplain's commission is one page, April 15, 1919, Washington, D.C., 14 ¾ x 19," very fine, with the blue official seal of the United States Navy attached. The commissioning document reads: "President of the United States of America/ To all who shall see these presents, Greeting:/ Know ye, that reposing special Trust and Confidence in the Patriotism, Valour, Fidelity and Abilities of William W. Elder, I do appoint him a Chaplain in the Navy with the rank of Lieutenant junior grade, from the twenty second day of March, 1919 in the service of the United States. He is therefore carefully and diligently to discharge the Duties of Chaplain, by doing and performing all Manner of Things thereto belonging./ And I do strictly charge and require all Officers, Seamen and Marines under his Command to be obedient to his Orders as a Chaplain, And he is to observe and follow such Orders and Directions from time to time as he shall receive from me; or the future President of the United States of America, or his Superior Officer set over him: according to the Rules and Discipline of The Navy./ This Commission to continue in force during the pleasure of the President of the United States for the time being, and until the end of the next session of the Senate of the United States./ Given under my Hand at Washington, this 15th day of April in the year of our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Nineteen and in the one hundred and forty third year of the Independence of the United States./ By the President/ Franklin D. Roosevelt/ Acting Secretary of the Navy/ Registered No./ F. J. Schuyler/ Registrar." FDR's signature is quite bold on this Commission document, approximately 3 ½" in length. Interestingly, President Woodrow Wilson did not sign this Commission. During this period in American history, such Commission documents were customarily signed by the President in addition to the Secretary (or in this case Acting) of the Navy. March 14 to June 18, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson was in Paris, France to attend the Paris Peace Conference. President Wilson departed the United States on March 5. The President's standing had been weakened by the election of a Republican Congress the preceding year after Wilson had asked for a vote of confidence. Wilson had ignored the Senate and leaders of the Republican Party in choosing peace commissioners. But in Europe he was hailed as the savior of mankind and the hope of the future. The Paris Peace Conference opened at Paris on January 18, 1919, and President and Mrs. Wilson traveled back to America on the George Washington in mid-February, with FDR and ER also on board the George Washington heading back to America, as FDR had journeyed to Paris to engage in important government business involving several of the principals of the Peace Conference. The Peace Conference continued until the Versailles Treaty with Germany was signed on June 28, 1919. Wilson was back in Paris in mid-March, 1919, therefore the President was indisposed to sign this Navy Commission document. Kenneth S. Davis writes in his FDR: The Beckoning of Destiny, 1882-1928 (p. 574): "From mid-March until mid-May, 1919, [Secretary of the Navy Josephus] Daniels was in Europe on official Navy business. Roosevelt was Acting Secretary for a more extended period than ever before. He gloried in it, boasting to friends of the vast difference in efficiency between his administrative operation and Daniels'. He was, he said, ‘running things with a high hand and getting things done that were never done before.'" Therefore, this Navy Commission document was signed by FDR as Acting Secretary of the Navy during a period of grand world drama, when the President and Secretary of the Navy were in Europe concluding peace negotiations for the ending of the Great War, and therefore, without a Presidential signature, FDR commissioned Lieutenant, Junior Grade William W. Elder as a Chaplain in the United States Navy on March 20, 1919. This Commission document therefore represents a rarity in that FDR signs and officiates the Commission in the absence of President Wilson's signature. A truly fabulous item.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    7th Saturday
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