Description

    Franklin D. Roosevelt Superb Autograph Letter Signed: From his houseboat off the Florida coast, FDR writes an old friend that his "legs are greatly improved. I get around now with no brace on right knee & hope to get rid of the other this summer."

    Signed: "Franklin D. Roosevelt", one page, 8.5" x 11". On his Hyde Park stationery but written on his houseboat, the Larooco, Off Florida Coast, March 19, 1926. To Albert V. DeRoode. In full: "Dear Albert, I never heard of your lady friend in my life! Don't send her any more $50 bills! I am down here on a small boat & the legs are greatly improved. I get around now with no brace on right knee & hope to get rid of the other this summer - When I get back about May 1 do come in & see me at 55 Liberty St. As ever yours."

    Albert V. DeRoode (1880-1949) was a classmate of FDR's at Harvard, becoming a lawyer specializing in civil service cases. For a short time, DeRoode was a junior partner in Marvin, Hooker & Roosevelt, FDR's first law firm (1911). He later served as secretary of the Civil Service Reform Association. DeRoode died on April 12, 1949, four years to the day after FDR died.

    In 1913, newly appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt told a reporter that while he was at Harvard in 1900, he had asked the school's venerable president, Charles W. Eliot, whom he was supporting in the presidential election, a subject Eliot had refused to discuss with anyone. On October 29, 1900, the Harvard Crimson scooped the nation by reporting Eliot's reply to FDR that he intended to vote for McKinley. It wasn't until 1931 that Roosevelt revealed to author Michael E. Hennessy who was writing "Four Decades of Massachusetts Politics, 1890-1935," that "the real man who got that scoop was Albert DeRoode, now a lawyer in New York City, and he should have the credit and not I." It is not known if DeRoode knew about the 1913 interview but if he did, he did not contradict his friend most probably because he felt that it would hurt FDR's political career. Roosevelt is rather emphatic in this letter when he says he "never heard of your lady friend in my life (exclamation point)" and that he should not "send her any more $50 bills (exclamation point)". Had she claimed an intimate friendship with FDR and demanded money from his friend on a regular basis to keep quiet? We do know that Roosevelt was having affairs with his wife's personal secretary, Lucy Mercer, and his own secretary, Marguerite (Missy) LeHand.

    In August, 1921, Franklin D. Roosevelt was stricken with infantile paralysis while at his summer home at Campobello, New Brunswick, Canada. In October, 1924, FDR first visited Warm Springs, Georgia's naturally heated mineral springs, as treatment for his polio related paralysis. He believed that his six weeks in the waters of Warm Springs did more to improve his condition than any treatment he had received in the previous three years. Roosevelt spent several months a year at Warm Springs and felt that he would eventually walk without his braces. In this letter to his old friend he writes "I get around now with no brace on right knee & hope to get rid of the other this summer." FDR never got rid of his braces. In 1943, he began delivering speeches from the sitting position because of his polio-weakened legs, not needing his braces. A year later, when he tried to stand so he could speak at a podium, he found his braces gave him little or no support.

    This letter was written aboard FDR's houseboat, the Larooco which he had purchased in 1924. In Elliott Roosevelt's 1973 book, An Untold Story: The Roosevelts of Hyde Park, he writes of seeing 27-year-old Marguerite (Missy) LeHand, his secretary since 1920, aboard the Larooco. In part, "I remember being only mildly stirred to see him with Missy on his lap as he sat in the main stateroom holding her in his sun-browned arms." Elliott says that everyone within the family, including Eleanor, knew of their affair, and accepted Missy's intimacy with the President. On February 2, 1926, Eleanor and Franklin went out on the houseboat, but stayed less than two weeks before returning to New York. He told her he had decided to purchase the facilities at Warm Springs which would cost about two-thirds of his personal fortune. She was concerned that if the investment failed, they would not have enough money to put their four boys, then aged 10-18, through college. The day before Eleanor left, FDR's Hyde Park neighbor Maunsell Cosby and Missy LeHand came aboard at Key Largo. On February 24, 1926, William Hart of Columbus, Georgia, owner of the cottage in which Roosevelt lived in his last stay at Warm Springs, and Charles S. Peabody representing financier George Foster Peabody, owner of the facilities at Warm Springs, arrived and, according to the Larooco log entry, "we began talking over the...purchase of Georgia Warm Springs." This last cruise on the Larooco ended on March 27th, eight days after this letter. The log's entry: "Completed all final arrangements and said farewell to the good old boat. Elliott and I left on the evening train for Warm Springs." In September, 1926, FDR added a postscript to the log, telling of a "violent hurricane" which "swept the East Coast of Florida." The Larooco, moored on the Fort Lauderdale River, was swept inland and destroyed. Two photographs of the Larooco are included with this letter.

    Back at Warm Springs for his fourth visit in 17 months, on April 29, 1926, for $200,000, FDR purchased the springs themselves, the hotel and cottages used by previous guests, and approximately 1200 acres of surrounding countryside. Roosevelt concludes this letter by inviting DeRoode to visit him after he gets back"about May 1...at 55 Liberty St." He was Vice President of a bonding company, Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland, which had its offices in Manhattan at 55 Liberty Street. FDR left Warm Springs for New York on May 5th. In all, Roosevelt visited Warm Springs 42 times from 1924 until his death there on April 12, 1945.

    Handwritten letters of FDR have always been scarce. Those mentioning his paralysis are exceedingly rare and virtually unobtainable. Few Americans were ever aware of Roosevelt's disability. From the time he reentered the political stage after contracting polio, he insisted that reporters not write about his affliction and photograph him from the waist up. Members of the press acceded to his request. In fact, only two photographs are known, published after his death, picturing FDR in his wheelchair. This letter is in extra fine condition and would make an outstanding addition to a presidential collection and the cornerstone of an FDR collection. From the Gary Grossman Collection.


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