Found in the Archives

Found in  the Archives: Victory Gardens and Shared Sacrifice

As we go about our daily business at the FDR Library, we often come across documents that really hit home and have an unexpected emotional impact. Take this one, for example.

Last week we were visited by a group of state nutritionists. As we were identifying some documents on the subject of food that might interest them, we found this item in the President’s Official File on Victory Gardens. It is a draft of a statement that was released by the White House on January 22, 1945, just two days after FDR’s fourth inauguration and the same day that the President left Washington for the Yalta Conference. It was drafted by the Office of Price Administration and the War Food Administration in preparation for 1945’s food information programs. This simple document recalls just how unified the American people were during the war, and how everyone shared in the sacrifices that would lead to victory just a few months later.

The residents of the White House were not immune from shared sacrifice. Mrs. Nesbitt, the White House cook and housekeeper, used ration stamps to buy food for the Roosevelts and their guests. In 1942, the White House lawn was found to be unsuitable for vegetables, and a Victory Garden could not be planted that year. Mrs. Roosevelt stated at a press conference that “It will grow nothing but grass. The Agriculture Department experts who checked on the plot reported the subsoil full of rubble. Any dirt farmer will know what that means.” But the White House flower beds proved more fruitful, and in 1943 a small Victory Garden was planted.

One last point about this document: note the little scribbling at the bottom of the second page. That is FDR’s famous method of approving documents, a simple “OK FDR”. But this one is poignant in that it is small, shaky and cramped–a reflection of the great burden he had carried for 12 years. He would make the ultimate sacrifice just three months later, dying at Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.