From the Museum

FDR Sphinx Sculpture (MO 1941.12.40)


This 8-foot-tall papier-mâché sculpture of President Roosevelt as the Egyptian Sphinx was made as a witty commentary on FDR’s prolonged refusal to say whether or not he would run for an unprecedented third term in 1940. The sculpture was the centerpiece for a satiric review at the annual winter dinner of the Gridiron Club (the organization of White House press correspondents) held on December 9, 1939. FDR attended the dinner as an honored guest.

The caricature was designed and executed by James D. Preston, Assistant Administrative Secretary of the National Archives and former Superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery. Mr. Preston used newspapers containing stories about the President’s potential third term run to construct the Sphinx. The sculpture was based partially on caricatures done for Mr. Preston by two of his cartoonist friends, Peter Brandt of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and James T. Berryman of the Washington Star.

The Sphinx sculpture was once a popular object on exhibit here at the FDR Presidential Library. It will once again be on display in the Museum’s new permanent exhibit, slated to open in Spring 2013.