Web Content Display Web Content Display

General Facts & Figures

When was FDR born?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, at the family home, "Springwood,"  in Hyde Park, New York.

How did the Roosevelt and Delano families make their money?
The Roosevelt family was New York based and involved in commerce, banking and insurance, shipbuilding and seafaring, urban real estate and landholding. Although a lawyer by training, James Roosevelt's interests were in  business where he was a respected figure in the field of finance, transportation (railroads), and philanthropy.

The Delanos were a New England seafaring and mercantile family. FDR's maternal grandfather, Warren Delano II, was in the China trade in which he made and lost several fortunes.

Was FDR an only child?
FDR was the only child of James Roosevelt and his second wife, Sara Delano. Franklin had an older half brother, James Roosevelt Roosevelt (1854-1927), born to his father and his first wife, Rebecca Howland, who died in 1876.

When did FDR's father die?
James Roosevelt was born in 1828 and died on December 8, 1900 in New York City at the age of 72. Franklin was eighteen and a freshman at Harvard College.

When did FDR's mother die?
Sara Delano Roosevelt was born in 1854 and died on September 7, 1941 at the family home "Springwood," in Hyde Park, New York at the age of 87. Franklin died less than four years later.

Where did FDR go to school?
In September 1896, at age fourteen, Franklin entered Groton School, a small boarding school in Massachusetts which prepared sons of wealthy and prominent families for college. Before entering Groton, Franklin had a series of governesses and tutors.

What was FDR's first job?
In the autumn of 1907 Franklin became an apprentice lawyer with the Wall Street firm of Carter, Ledyard and Milburn. It was a typical arrangement at the time-no salary the first year and then a small one to start.

What was FDR's first public office?
FDR was elected New York State Senator from Dutchess, Columbia and Putnam counties in 1910 and re-elected for a second term in 1912. He served only a few months of the second term before President Woodrow Wilson appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913.

Was FDR ever in the military?
No. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Franklin held the civilian post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He was eager to enlist, but President Wilson urged against it, citing his important service in the Navy Department.

During World War II, President Roosevelt served as Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces.

When did FDR run for the Vice-presidency?
In 1920 the Democratic Party nominated Ohio Governor James M. Cox for President and Franklin D. Roosevelt for Vice President. They were defeated by Republicans Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

When was FDR elected Governor of New YorkState?
FDR was elected Governor of New York State in 1928 and 1930 for two two-year terms.

Who was Lucy Mercer?
Lucy Page Mercer, daughter of a well-connected Washington family living in reduced financial circumstances, was hired as Eleanor Roosevelt's social secretary in 1914 to assist with the heavy social responsibilities of the wife of a sub-cabinet secretary.  In September 1918, Eleanor discovered love letters from Lucy to Franklin and Eleanor offered Franklin a divorce, which he declined for political reasons. In the end, Eleanor agreed to preserve the marriage and Franklin promised never to see Lucy again.  

In 1920, Lucy Mercer married Winthrop Rutherfurd, a wealthy widower. Despite his promise to Eleanor, Franklin and Lucy continued to maintain contact. Lucy was present at the Little White House, Warm Springs, Georgia, when President Roosevelt died in 1945.

When did FDR die and what was the cause of his death?
President Roosevelt died of cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945 at the Little White House, his cottage at Warm Springs, Georgia, the rehabilitation center for the treatment of polio that he founded.

What events and ceremonies occurred during FDR's funeral?
On the morning of April 13, 1945, the Presidents' casket was carried to the railroad station at Warm Springs, Georgia, accompanied by a procession of 2,000 soldiers from Fort Benning. Moving no faster than 35 miles per hour, the train passed through the Carolinas and Virginia, arriving in Washington, DC on April 14. All along the way sorrowful citizens turned out to pay their respects to the passing funeral train. President Truman, members of the immediate family, and high-ranking government officials met the funeral train at the Union Station.

Full military honors were rendered in the procession from the railroad station to the White House through the streets lined with units of the nation's armed forces and the grieving public. Behind the casket two flag bearers bore the American flag and the presidential standard. At the White House, the casket was placed in the East Room where the funeral services were conducted at 4:00 p.m. The Episcopal Funeral Service lasted twenty-three minutes.

That evening the casket was removed from the White House and taken in a small procession of soldiers and police to the Union Station for the trip to Hyde Park, New York. Again mournful citizens turned out to witness the passing train. The morning of April 15 the funeral train arrived at a siding on the Hudson River four miles from the Roosevelt home. The casket was transferred to a gun carriage and driven to the Roosevelt estate along a route lined with soldiers, sailors and marines. The caisson was preceded by a military band and a battalion of West Point cadets and followed by limousines containing President Truman and the Roosevelt family. Full Military honors were rendered from the train to the burial site.  Great numbers of ordinary Americans young and old traveled to Hyde Park to attend the funeral. 

Interment was in the Rose Garden at the estate in Hyde Park. The rector of St. James Episcopal Church read the burial services, three volleys were fired over the grave and taps were sounded as the casket was lowered into its final resting place.

What lifelong hobby did FDR pursue?
Stamp collecting was one of FDR's lifelong hobbies. His interest began when he was eight years old and his mother passed her collection on to him. He enjoyed stamps, he said, because of their link with geography and history, not for their intrinsic value. While recovering from polio, he spent many bedridden hours arranging and annotating thousands of specimens. As President, there was scarcely a day when he did not spend some time with his collection.

At his death, his personal stamp collection numbered over 1,200,000 stamps, 80% of which was of little value-"scrap"" as the President called it. The collection was sold at public auction in accordance with his wishes and realized $228,000.00. The stamps he received officially from foreign governments were not sold, but are a part of the holdings of the Roosevelt Library.

What were FDR's "vital statistics"?

Born: January 30, 1882 at 9 pm, weighing 10 lbs
Height: 6'2"
Weight: Approximately 182 lbs.
Complexion: Fair to ruddy
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Grey-blue
Voice: Tenor
Shirt Size: 16 3/4 neck, 35 sleeve
Hat Size: 7 and 3/8
Shoes: Size 12

What were FDR's favorite things?

Authors: He enjoyed Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens and Mark Twain
Bible Passage: St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, 13th Chapter
Cake: Fruit cake
Color: Blue
Dish: Scramble eggs and fish chowder (Fairhaven recipe)
Fishing Rod: Regulation salt water rod with long butt
Flowers: Mountain laurel, and also roses, dogwood, magnolia, and all wild blossoms
Fruit: Orange
Historical Hero: John Paul Jones
Hymns: "The Hymn of the Navy," "Eternal Father Strong to Save," "Art Thou Weary, Art Thou Languid," and others
Hobbies: Stamps, Maritime Collection and growing trees
Horse: "Bobby"
Poem: Kipling's "If"
Sandwiches: Hot dogs and toasted cheese
Songs: "Anchors Aweigh," "Medelon," "Home on the Range," "Wild Irish Rose," "Yellow Rose of Texas," etc.
Sports: Swimming, sailing, fishing
Sermon: Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Christmas Sermon"
Tree: Tulip poplar

What dogs did FDR have?
Reared on a country estate, FDR grew up with a succession of dogs. They included a white spitz, a red setter, a Saint Bernard, and a Newfoundland.

On their honeymoon, Franklin and Eleanor bought the first of their Scottish terriers, Duffy. The Roosevelts brought an Irish setter and an aging Scottie named Meggie to the Governor's Mansion in Albany, New York, and then Meggie and a German shepherd to the White House. Before the first year was over, the German shepherd broke his foot and Meggie bit a Senator. The President and Mrs. Roosevelt decided that they did not have the time to enjoy their pets in the White House.

Seven years later the President received a black Scottish terrier puppy as a gift and named him Murray, the Outlaw of Fala Hill. Fala became his constant companion for the rest of his life.

Who was Fala?
Although FDR had many dogs during his lifetime, Fala was the most famous. He was a Scottish terrier born on April 7, 1940, and given to FDR by Mrs. Augustus Kellogg of Westport, Connecticut through FDR's cousin, Margaret Suckley. Fala's full name was "Murray the Outlaw of Fala Hill," and after going to live at the White House on November 10, 1940, he became the President's constant companion.

What boats did FDR own?
FDR was always interested in ships and sailing. "I love to be on the water," he said. Although his love of the sea came from his Delano ancestors who were seafarers, it was his father who taught him how to handle the Half-Moon, the family sailboat, on trips up the Hudson River and in the Bay of Fundy near their Campobello Island summer home. At the age of sixteen, he had his own twenty-one foot knockabout, the New Moon .

Ice-boating was a very popular pastime on the Hudson River during the second half of the nineteenth century. FDR owned a twenty-eight foot ice-boat, the Hawk, which he frequently sailed on the Hudson as a young man.

FDR also enjoyed canoeing. One of the canoes that he used at Campobello was a birch bark canoe made by Tomah Joseph, the last chief of the Passamaquoddy Indians, the tribe living in Eastport, Maine, across the bay from Campobello Island. The canoe is on loan from the Presidential Library and Museum to the Franklin D. Roosevelt International Park Commission, New Brunswick, Canada.

FDR bought Vireo, a small sailboat, after the Half-Moon II, a sixty-foot auxiliary schooner his father bought in 1900, was sold to the United States government in 1917 for naval use. August 10, 1921, the day that FDR took his family for a sail on the Vireo, was the day FDR contracted poliomyelitis. The sailboat is owned and exhibited by the Marine Historical Association at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut.

For several winters after the attack of polio, FDR cruised the warm Florida waters on the houseboat Larooco. The sun and swimming seemed to help, but he made no lasting improvements. The Larooco was destroyed in a hurricane in 1926.

What sports did FDR engage in?
At Groton School, Franklin D. Roosevelt played football and served as manager of the baseball team and at Harvard College he participated in crew.

During his lifetime, he enjoyed sailing, fishing, riding, playing golf and tennis, going off on hunting trips and cruises with friends, and playing poker. He was a "birder" all his life and even his disability and the burdens of the presidency did not prevent active pursuit of this hobby.

What did FDR consider his greatest accomplishment?
FDR piloted the country successfully through two major events - the Great Depression and World War II. In his message to Congress in June 1934, FDR stated that among his administration's objectives, he placed "the security of the men, women and children of the Nation first." The "security of the home, the security of livelihood, and the security of social insurance," he stated, "constitute a right that belongs to every individual." The achievement of these goals, in part through creation of the Social Security system, was among his greatest accomplishments.

When and where did FDR get polio?
On August 10, 1921, FDR developed acute symptoms of poliomyelitis while visiting his summer home on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada. He was thirty-nine years old. Based on the incubation period of the polio virus, it is believed that FDR most likely was infected while visiting a large Boy Scout encampment at Bear Mountain, New York on July 28, 1921.

Was FDR totally paralyzed from his polio?
The attack of poliomyelitis resulted in motor paralysis from the waist down. Franklin never again walked without leg braces, crutches or canes and the support of his son or an aide. According to two historians who also suffered from poliomyelitis, Geoffrey Ward and Hugh Gallagher, the lower body paralysis was not complete.

Where did FDR go to be treated for polio?
For several years after his attack of polio, FDR searched for ways to regain the use of his legs. For several winters he cruised the warm Florida waters where the sun and swimming seemed to help. He spent two summers with a doctor in Massachusetts who had devised a new set of exercises for polio patients. He made no lasting improvements from either approach.

At the suggestion of a friend, FDR went to a run-down resort in Warm Springs, Georgia, to bathe in the mineral rich waters. He was delighted to find the water was so buoyant that he could walk around in it without braces. In 1927, he purchased the resort and converted it to a water therapy treatment center for polio patients. It became the Warm Springs Foundation and, over the years, treated thousands of polio victims who went to Warm Springs, Georgia for treatment. It was believed that the naturally warm waters had recuperative powers for polio victims.  The Warm Springs Foundation became the March of Dimes and ultimately funded the research that led to the polio vaccine. 

Was FDR's paralysis hidden from the public?
Yes. FDR concealed his paralysis as much as possible for political reasons: society at the time did not recognize the ability of disabled persons to perform the demanding responsibilities of elective office.

How many photographs show FDR in a wheelchair?
There was a gentlemen's understanding with the press that photographs displaying FDR's disability were not published. Consequently, only candid photos of FDR in his wheelchairs have survived. The Roosevelt Library owns four of them.

What was perhaps FDR's most famous phrase?
In his first inaugural address, March 4, 1933, FDR said. "...the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." During the Great Depression, fear gripped the nation-fear of the present and fear of the future. He is also remembered for his famous "Day of Infamy" speech, an address to Congress after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Who is buried in the Rose Garden at the FDR Estate?
The Rose Garden is the burial site of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Two family dogs, Fala and a German shepherd named Chief that belonged to their daughter Anna, are buried near the sundial in the Rose Garden.

What was FDR's favorite tree?
FDR always referred to himself as a tree farmer. The Tulip Poplar was FDR's favorite tree. There is a stand of tulip poplars just south of the Library.

What was FDR's favorite popular song?
FDR's favorite song was Home on the Range.

What was FDR's favorite hymn?
FDR's favorite hymn was "Eternal Father Strong to Save." Written by William Whiting, 1860, the hymn was used by the United States Navy.

What was FDR's religion and where did he attend church services? FDR was an Episcopalian. He was baptized in the chapel of St. James Episcopal Church in Hyde Park, New York. Like his father and half brother, he served as junior vestryman, vestryman and senior warden. He rarely attended services in Washington, DC. "I can do almost anything in the "Goldfish Bowl" of the President's life," he said, "but I'll be hanged if I can say my prayers in it...."

What was FDR's favorite food?
According to Henrietta Nesbitt, the White House housekeeper, FDR had very simple American tastes in foods; he liked foods "he could dig into." Among his favorite dishes were scrambled eggs, fish chowder, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, and fruitcake.

Did FDR belong to any fraternal organizations?
FDR was a 32nd degree Mason, a member of Holland Lodge No. 8, New York City. FDR's Masonic regalia are not presently on display. In addition, he was inducted into numerous fraternal organizations while Governor and President.

What was FDR's contribution to conservation?
Franklin Roosevelt acquired a keen interest in the environment, conservation, and forestry when he was a boy on his estate in Hyde Park, New York, and throughout his life he considered himself a "tree farmer." Conservation was a major issue for Roosevelt when he campaigned for Vice President in 1920 and during his two terms as Governor of New York (1929-1933). He believed in the superior virtue of rural living, and as Governor he tried (without much success) to place unemployed workers on subsistence farms and to develop the St. Lawrence River as a public power producer. He also put the jobless to work on forest improvement through the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration.

As President, Roosevelt continued his conservation policies, and he saw the unemployment brought on by the Great Depression as a way to emphasize environmental planning and projects. The Civilian Conservation Corps, the Farm Security Administration, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and other agencies employed thousands of people planting trees, preventing soil erosion, and building dams for flood control and generating public power. He also added millions of acres to America's national forests, national parks, and wildlife refuges. Through all of these projects, he adhered to one overall philosophy: that the nation must be responsible and preserve the world we live in for future generations.