Lot 19: Vast Archive of Franklin D. Roosevelt Letters & White House Correspondence to Helena Mahoney
26th April 2018
Exceptional archive from Franklin D. Roosevelt, including dozens of autograph and typed letters signed, all sent to Helena T. Mahoney, the physical therapist who famously helped design and implement the polio treatment facility at Warm Springs. Helena Mahoney had worked under polio expert Dr. Leroy Hubbard, and was recruited by Roosevelt, along with Dr. Hubbard, after Roosevelt contracted the disease. Warm Springs was built under her guiding influence and she is credited as the person most instrumental in helping FDR transition to life post-polio, both physically and mentally. In this collection of letters -- comprising four autograph letters signed and 26 typed letters signed, Roosevelt speaks candidly about Warm Springs, with his excitement in helping others overcome the disease evident. The large archive also includes over a dozen beautiful Christmas cards from the Roosevelts, mostly during FDR's presidency, including one signed by Eleanor, a typed letter signed by Eleanor as First Lady, several White House and New York Gubernatorial Inauguration invitations, and a Western Union telegram from FDR on 6 November 1928 as results were coming in for his election as New York Governor. Roosevelt's first letter to Mahoney is dated 26 May 1926, providing an outline for her new position as the chief physical therapist at Warm Springs. Letter reads in part, ''...I think that we really have a most interesting possibility down there of making the place do an immense amount of good...your salary is to be $200.00 a month...I hope you are on the look-out for an assistant because if we get twenty to thirty cases down there during the summer, you will need one person to help you give the exercises in the pool, and for that you will need some fairly husky young lady...First, you will have to see that the patients get measured up and properly charted on arrival. Dr. Hubbard is working on the form of charts to be presented. Secondly you will have to keep a motherly eye on their diet - for instance, one of the patients now there weighs over 200 lbs., a young man of about twenty, and he continues to eat candy, etc...Fourth, most of your morning will be spent at the pool itself - costume, the most abbreviated bathing suit possible - because I think you will want to be in and out of the water with the patients...'' FDR continues in great detail regarding what the residents will be doing with their days, ''...sun baths, walking with braces, walking between parallel bars on the lawn, etc. I think also that it would be well to organize games and other recreation for the patients in the afternoon as this will be better for their mental attitude. The richer ones will undoubtedly take the poorer ones out for automobile rides, etc...[signed] Franklin D Roosevelt''. Roosevelt's personal involvement in Warm Springs is evident again in his letter of 29 November 1926, ''...we must put at least two additional cottages into good shape for winter patients...We must have properly heated indoor conditions and also proper places outdoors to catch all the sunshine we can...I think you were right about not having the Cohen child immediately, but I think we ought to take her just as soon as we can...[signed] Franklin D Roosevelt''. By 1927, the clinic was growing, demonstrated by FDR's letter dated 8 July 1927, in part, ''...very glad...to hear that you and Dr. Hubbard are putting your foot down on patients dashing around the country in automobiles. Don't forget that it was inevitable that the big family spirit of 1926 when we only had a handful of people had to be superseded by far stricter rules and regulations as soon a we increased in size...[signed] FDR''. On 11 January 1928 Roosevelt writes, ''Dear Hony: I have had a thoroughly good laugh over your letter of January 8th for while the petting parties among the patients are, of course, serious and must be eliminated, yet your description of the three couples and the extra girl in the darkened parlor, and Mrs. Root walking in on them, is awfully funny...[signed] Franklin D Roosevelt''. Roosevelt continues to write in detail about the Institute, including which patients should occupy which cottages, hiring staff, buying supplies and building a winter pool. Beginning in the spring of 1928, his attention turned to politics, as he was not only campaigning for Governor, but also speaking for Democratic nominee Al Smith at the 1928 Democratic convention. In fact, he was working closely with Mahoney to be able to stand at the podium without crutches. He writes on 24 May 1928, ''I am expecting to see Governor Smith this evening to find out what my duties are for the next six months.'' He adds a P.S. and P.P.S. to this letter, as well as an autograph note reading, ''Write me about the shop''. Roosevelt did, in fact, successfully deliver the speech at the 1928 Democratic National Convention and seems to have given Mahoney a pearl necklace, very likely in gratitude for her help. He writes on 30 August 1928, ''Dear Hony: The eminent law firm of Roosevelt & O'Connor are fearful that burglars will break in to steal the million dollar pearl necklace now in their safe and they want to know what you want done with it...'' He writes again on 8 September, ''I will bring down the pearls to Warm Springs and then if you want to make a will you can dictate it to me...'' On 3 February 1929, FDR writes, ''...It has been nice to have your letters and to get all of the gossip of Warm Springs...I am enclosing a letter from Senator Couzens which I know will make you and the Doctor just as furious as it has made us. I wish something could be done with Dr. Kidner to prevent him from criticizing everything we do at Warm Springs without ever having been down or even having sent down a representative. Don't you love his expression 'rich patients' - who does he mean? Also I know you will be pleased to hear what the psychology of the treatment is!...[signed] FDR''. Much more content in the typed letters signed is present, including a rather bittersweet letter from Roosevelt, requiring Mahoney to take a six-month leave of absence due to her health. Lot also includes four undated autograph letters signed, all written during the mid to late 1920s. Dated only ''Tuesday'' from Hyde Park, Roosevelt writes, ''Dear Hony - You don't know what a comfort it is to me to know that the child is in your care & too[?], you were a bulwark of strength & help [in] those bad days last week - No wire from W.S. today except a good report from Goode - I think you'd better wire me to Poughkeepsie on Friday and Sunday - I will probably stay here till Monday then go to N.Y. & then off to Warm Springs as soon as I can get away - / Be sure to let me know if there is anything I can bring or send for any of you - By the way - you need not pay [Irvin] McDuffie till I get down - I would rather pay him twice a month - / I do so hope the nightmares have stopped - write me fully / as ever / F.D.R.'' A second autograph letter signed from ''[Executive] Mansion'' on 27 June reads, ''I am so glad that things seem to be working out so well & now we must pray for more patients so as to prove to the Doctors that we really have something! / I enclose your expense account cheque for $35 [?] and $65 travelling. / I can hardly wait to get down there July 14 - / Sincerely / Franklin D Roosevelt''. From Hyde Park, Roosevelt's third autograph letter signed reads in full, ''It is good to get your letter, the Christmas & New Years parties must have been a grand success - & I'm so glad that everyone was so happy - / This cold spell must have been very trying & I only hope it's back is broken now & that we shan't have another one this winter. The Doctor writes you will be back to over 20 patients before the end of the month & I suppose you will get Miss Lauer back shortly. Are you trying exercises or playing games in the [?] these cold or wet days? / Missy & her Aunt Nellie[?] leave the 16th for Warm Springs & James & I come down the 27th. I take it from Dr. Hubbard's letter that you are not going to Peabody College - / All well here - this is my last weekend at Hyde Park will be in N.Y. till I go - / Always sincerely / F.D.R.'' Roosevelt's last autograph letter signed is from Hyde Park on ''Sunday'', written on his Democratic National Committee stationery, ''Just a line of New Year's greetings - I wish much you could be in Albany on Tuesday - All goes well & the first rush is over - I'm so glad to hear from Dr. H.[ubbard] that all goes well & that so many stayed for Xmas. I love that billfold - [?] so many thanks - It is a triumph of good workmanship & a great credit to our [?] industry - As ever / FDR''. Archive continues with a Christmas card initialed by Eleanor Roosevelt, ''ER FDR'', and a typed letter signed by Eleanor as First Lady. Also included is a Western Union telegram from New York on 6 November 1928, election night, reading, ''Results in to New York still very close but I am aprarently [sic] holding my own Smith slightly behind me but still hoping to carry the state we will continue wire until midnight here stop wire me at the Music Room Biltmore upon receipt of this / Franklin D Roosevelt''. Collection of 13 Christmas cards include several featuring beautiful portrait photographs of the First Couple during their White House years, and additional smaller cards during both the Governorship and Presidency. Two undated cards are from FDR's time as Governor, and 11 cards are from the years 1933 and 1935-1944. The archive is completed by five pieces of White House entrance cards and invitations, and also an invitation to the Gubernatorial inauguration of FDR in 1929. Several White House letters signed by FDR's staff are also included, some envelopes to accompany the letters, and lastly a photograph of Helena Mahoney. The archive is in very good to near fine condition, well-preserved and generally only displaying folds and toning. An important archive demonstrating Franklin Roosevelt's deep connection and commitment to Warm Springs, and his relationship with the physical therapist who helped him triumph over his polio diagnosis.
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