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    "I hope the Historical Society will grow in strength and usefulness..."

    Franklin D. Roosevelt: Typed Letter Signed as Assistant Navy Secretary Regarding the Dutchess County Historical Society.
    -December 10, 1914. Washington, D.C. Two pages. 7" x 9.25", Assistant Secretary of the Navy foldover letterhead.
    -To: H. N. W. Magill, Esq. of Pleasant Valley, New York.
    -Very fine condition with two light mailing folds. Signature contrast a bit light.

    A significant letter considering FDR's love for and involvement with the local Historical Society. In this letter, he gives his valuable input as to the purposes and duties of just such a society. It reads, in full: "My dear Mr. Magill:/ I have delayed answering your letter in the hope of being able to go back to Dutchess County for the meeting. I fear, however, that I cannot be there because of my many duties here until the week between Christmas and New Year./ In case I am unable to attend the meeting I wish you would say for me that I sincerely hope the Historical Society will grow in strength and usefulness./ As I wrote you before, I believe that there is a field of great usefulness before it. It should not confine itself to or waste its money on banquets and other means of spending money without having anything to show for it. The work of a County Historical Society should be two-fold. First, to perpetuate the records of the past through publication in permanent form; and, secondly, to act as a repository for objects of historic interest. The second is, of course, difficult for any society to accomplish unless it has a home of its own, and the first is, without doubt, the more important of the two. I should like to see the funds of the Society used in the publication annually, or at as frequent periods as possible, of 'collections or records of historic material relative to the county.' The first and most obvious records which should be preserved are, I think, the inscriptions on tombstones. As you know, there are dotted all over the county both public graveyards attached or formerly attached to churches, [comma is written in FDR's own hand] and private burying grounds on individual farms. A great number of these are in a very bad state of repair; some have been almost obliterated, but there is still an opportunity to record the inscriptions. This historic material is of interest, not only to people now living in the county, but also to a great many thousands who have 'gone away' or who have lost or forgotten about their family records./ It would, for instance, be possible in ['for' is crossed out and replaced by 'in' in FDR's own hand] the first volume to choose one or two ancient graveyards now abandoned, to copy the inscriptions and probably to illustrate with a few photographs. Such a volume could be published without question for four or five hundred dollars, [comma is written in FDR's own hand] and probably much less, [comma is written in FDR's own hand] and could be distributed to the members of the Society free of charge. This would make an added incentive to belong to the Society and the payment of dues would soon cover the cost of publication./ In addition to the copying of such records it would be possible from time to time to publish a volume dealing with some particular historic subject, such as the history of a township./ These are only a few suggestions, but I think the Society could be made more attractive in every way by the giving of an annual publication to the members and at the same time the Society would be performing the most practical service possible./ Very sincerely yours..." The recipient, " Henry "Harry" Newton Warner Magill (1855-1931), was the librarian in Pleasant Valley, New York, as well as the founder of the library there, and an active preserver of Dutchess County, New York history. This letter must be considered a founding document for the creation of the Dutchess County Historical Society.

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    December, 2008
    2nd Tuesday
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