Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, was born on this day in Hyde Park, New York in 1882, so today we are celebrating his 130th birthday. Roosevelt himself seems to be a big fan of Birthdays. Members of his “Cuff Link Gang”, a group of close associates, usually gathered for themed meetings around FDR’s birthday. And later on, he established the National Committee for Birthday Balls that sponsored charity parties across the nation. Even though the Birthday Balls ended in 1945 with the death of President Roosevelt, both of their legacies live on in the March of Dimes, which helped to eradicate polio and continues raising funds for medical research and works to improve the health of mothers and babies.
President Roosevelt happened to be an avid collector – from stuffed birds and stamps to prints and books. During his 12 years in the office, many presidential gifts and other memorabilia joined his personal collections. When FDR donated his personal and presidential papers to the government in 1939, it formally started the Presidential Library System. At the same time, Roosevelt pledged part of his estate at Hyde Park, New York to the United States, and his friends formed a non-profit corporation to raise funds for the construction of the library and museum building. The National Archives took custody of his papers and other historical materials and to began administering his library.
Because the President needed a wheelchair for daily mobility, the library’s archival shelving had to be spacious enough to accommodate it. Roosevelt personally designed the document storage boxes initially used to house his papers. These Clamshell Boxes allowed his own lap-top style reading while in the storage areas and acted as a sort of paper tray. For preservation purposes, these boxes have since been replaced with newer, acid-free archival containers, but FDR’s original shelving remains in place in many parts of the Library storage areas.
FDR amassed an enormous number of political and personal artifacts, including ephemera and souvenirs from his multiple election campaigns. The Center for New Deal Studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago holds nearly 1,500 artifacts from the Remembering FDR memorabilia collection, on loan from Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Most of it comes from Joseph M. Jacobs, a Chicago labor lawyer, who managed to accumulate the largest private compilation of FDR’s paraphernalia.