Hundreds of books have been written about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second president of the United States and the only person elected to the presidency four times. The Libraries has close to two hundred books on the subject of FDR with seemingly every facet of his presidency analyzed, criticized, and investigated. Others focus on his biography and two books held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library (AA/PG Library) focus on the two “bookends” of his life.
Before the Trumpet: Young Franklin Roosevelt 1882-1905 by Geoffrey C. Ward investigates the Roosevelt and Delano families and the life of FDR before his successful run for the New York state senate in 1910. Born on this day in 1882, Franklin Roosevelt was the son of James Roosevelt, a wealthy gentleman, and Sara Delano. Raised and educated in an affluent and secluded environment, Roosevelt eventually went to a boarding school in Massachusetts and then entered Harvard in 1900. While at Harvard he began courting his distant cousin (and Theodore Roosevelt’s niece) Eleanor Roosevelt. They married in 1905 and Roosevelt began practicing law in New York City until in 1910 when he ran for the state senate setting him on his political career. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Dying President: Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944-1945 by Robert H. Ferrell examines the other “bookend” of FDR’s life – his last year. The author examines records and other evidence to determine that during his last campaign for president in 1944 Roosevelt likely knew he was suffering from cardiovascular disease and would likely not live to complete his final term. The book also examines the measures taken to keep FDR’s illness hidden from the American public. When Roosevelt died of a massive stroke on April 12, 1945 on the cusp of the Allies’ victory in World War II, his death was so unexpected by the public that the nation was convulsed with overwhelming grief. Whether his failing health ultimately influenced the decisions made by the president in his final year as the author posits is debatable, but what is assured is that Roosevelt remains one of the most esteemed figures of the twentieth century.
The high regard for FDR is reflected by the completion of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial as part of the National Mall & Memorial Parks in Washington, DC in 1997. The memorial was designed by Lawrence Halprin and arranged in four “rooms” or as the designer called them “chapters,” meant to evoke the four terms of Roosevelt’s presidency. Art work by several different artists are inset or placed around the walls with water running through each of the areas. The process of designing and creating the memorial is detailed by Halprin in The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial held by the AA/PG Library. Most of the books on Franklin D. Roosevelt are held at the AA/PG Library or the National Museum of American History Library, but as a reflection of the wide range of interest in and influence of this president, works can be found in many other branches of the Smithsonian Libraries including the National Museum of American Indian Library and the National Postal Museum Library. All can be found in the online catalog.