FDR’s Wild Kingdom
FDR and ER received a lot of interesting and sometimes strange gifts. But these are the strangest we’ve come across so far. In 1934 and 1937, two brothers in the import/export business, Benjamin and Raymond Lepow, gave FDR live rare African animals! The first set of animals, a lynx kitten and a serval felis kitten, were presented to FDR in 1934. The inspiration for the gift? The fact that FDR’s cousin and predecessor as president, Theodore Roosevelt, had been unable to capture these species on his big game expeditions. The native Kenyans with whom the Lepows traded had guided TR on his safaris and wanted to bestow these gifts on FDR, “The New Chief”. The White House accepted the kittens and sent them to the National Zoo in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, the poor kitties came down with a case of rickets, so could not be exhibited right away. Three years later, Benjamin and Raymond again sent African animals to FDR–this time a pair of midget Tropical Porcupines. These prickly little guys also found a home in the National Zoo. The correspondence relating to these four-legged favors is in the President’s Personal File 9: Gifts, “L”. You just can’t make this stuff up!