The holiday season brings about the list maker in all of us, well, at least in those of us who give gifts—or make lists. The President certainly took a hands on approach to the Christmas season. We have folders of official gift lists accounting for hundreds of people.
We’ve highlighted the gifts he bestowed in bulk to staff and political associates online here: https://fdr.blogs.archives.gov/2012/12/21/from-the-museum-46/
The President also involved himself directly in the selection of gifts for his family and closest friends and advisers. The Library holds his handwritten lists which are dutifully checked off when the gift was acquired or presented. The lists are insightful and sometimes humorous and certainly give us a fascinating perspective on FDR as a family man, colleague, and friend.
The President’s devoted assistant Missy LeHand [https://fdr.blogs.archives.gov/2016/10/04/marguerite-missy-lehand-fdrs-right-hand-woman/ ] saved his 1936 list in a scrapbook. One hopes it is in no order of merit or significance!
Topping the record is Vice President Garner, who scored cuff links. It is doubtful that the crusty Texan knew how much he was appreciated! First on the list… my, my. But then, FDR needed Southern conservatives.
Mrs. Roosevelt comes in nine rows later. And no, the President wasn’t giving her a clipper ship model, but Wedgwood china featuring clipper ships. Immediately above her is daughter Anna’s ex-husband Curtis Dall. He’s getting that classic when nothing else comes to mind—a tie.
Perhaps one of the more curious gifts is to his eldest grandchildren, Sistie and Buzzie, still but tikes, who were to receive pewter cocktail glasses! Though the President enjoyed cocktail hour, surely the list got a bit confused as he continued page after page.
Presents range from the mundane to the unique. Included were books, cigars, dressing gowns, a pint of chartreuse liqueur, a pair of Tiffany candlesticks, a roulette wheel, and a pillow among many others. The White House in the holiday season must have seemed like a high end pawn shop!
His 1940 list featured the same eclectic mix. The widow of his late half-brother, Mrs. James Roosevelt Roosevelt, garnered a knit scarf, and FDR’s eldest son James was slated for two cases of scotch. Other gifts included perfume, shirts, a model, and books.
Indeed, the holiday season brought out the President’s generous nature. These lists highlight his care in selecting gifts and the relish he clearly took in the giving them. He genuinely seemed to enjoy it all. That must have made for many happy Christmases.
By William A. Harris, Deputy Director