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    Description

    Franklin D. Roosevelt: Typed Letter Signed as Acting Secretary of the Navy.
    -April 9, 1918. Washington, D.C. One page. 8" x 10.5". Navy Department letterhead.
    -To: James D. Law of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    -Paper slightly toned with light soiling on the bottom third of the recto, with the usual fold creases, else very good.

    FDR writes (in part): "I have looked into your idea at length and cannot see that the device you propose of projecting pictures taken from an aeroplane as motion pictures on a screen to be of sufficient value to the Navy to warrant development." FDR makes a decision that does not stand the test of time, turning down the use of aerial motion photography by the United States Navy! Letter bears a nice large seal of the United States watermark.


    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 fabulous and historic item, with a full bold signature of Franklin D. Roosevelt as Acting Secretary of the Navy during the Great War, April 9, 1918, with original transmittal envelope, on Navy Department, Washington letterhead. FDR makes a decision that does not stand the test of time, turning down the use of aerial motion photography by the United States Navy! FDR writes to  Mr. James D. Law, Clovernook, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: "My Dear Mr. Law:/ I have looked into your idea at length and cannot see that the device you propose of projecting pictures taken from an aeroplane as motion pictures on a screen to be of sufficient value to the Navy to warrant development. Positions are changed so rapidly and there is rarely a base line for reference thus records obtained are of little value./ Excellent photographs are now taken from aeroplanes, hours and minutes being recorded./ Thanking you for your desire to be of service,/ I am,/ Sincerely yours,/ Franklin D. Roosevelt/ Acting Secretary of the Navy." On the verso of the original transmittal envelope a handwritten poem in pencil, perhaps an unknown or early draft of a poem from Mr. Law himself? James D. Law was a noted Scottish poet and inventor, he wrote the famous "Dreams O' Home" and other Scottish poems. Mr. Law held several invention patents, including one as the inventor of the "Universal Clock" which employed one dial to display the correct time continuously and synchronously in any part of the world. He also became involved in motion pictures. He organized the Colonial Motion Picture Corporation and served as its President. Another of Law's patents involved a special movie camera and other filming equipment which served as the origin of his idea to combine the newly emerging invention of the aeroplane with motion pictures, so that he could show actual troop formations and movements to be shown to the logistical war planners during the Great War, instead of relying on still photography photographs which were being used as the only form of air based intelligence at the time. This letter by Acting Secretary Roosevelt was not his finest hour in judging the merits of a far-reaching proposal with significant military implications! FDR is in essence turning down the use of motion photography for military intelligence gathering, in the middle of World War I! A truly interesting letter, and a rare indication that on this particular issue FDR was not ahead of his time on an issue of national significance, in contrast to the vast majority of his positions and program planning in his later political life that showed that he really was in most respects a man ahead of his time. There is an exception to every rule, and this letter by FDR as Acting Secretary of the Navy in 1918 is one rare example of this exception.



    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    7th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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