ROOSEVELT, Franklin D. (1882-1945). President. Autograph and typed document signed ("Franklin D. Roosevelt"), his last will and testament, Hyde Park, 10 February 1923, with autograph notes and revisions, [Hyde Park, ca. 1924]. Together 13½ pages, comprising: 3½ pages typescript, folio (13 x 8 in.), bound with red silk ribbon at head; 10 pages autograph manuscript on 9 leaves, 4to and 8vo (4 leaves on Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland stationery, 5 leaves on ruled note paper, neatly punched at head), with envelope.
RECENTLY STRICKEN WITH POLIO, ROOSEVELT DRAFTS HIS WILL
A most unusual record of a future President's provisions for his estate. Roosevelt's typed will contains only six clauses, principally establishing a trust of which his wife Anna Eleanor Roosevelt is to be beneficiary. Roosevelt appoints the Bank of New York and John M. Hackett his executors. A trustee is required to "invest the said personal property in good securities and keep it so invested and collect the interest income therefrom and pay to my wife Anna Eleanor Roosevelt the said income from said trust fund, in quarterly payments, during her life." Roosevelt's hand-written memo remarks that the first four clauses "are all right" (these clauses relate to the distribution of funds to the Roosevelt children and grandchildren in the event of Eleanor Roosevelt's death). The fifth clause originally granted "all the rest, residue and remainder of my property and estate, real and personal, and of every name and kind" to "my wife Anna Eleanor Roosevelt absolutely and forever." In his notes, headed "Memo for John Hackett," Roosevelt virtually rewrites this clause on 5½ pages, equitably dividing the Hyde Park real estate among his children. He adds further clauses relating to real estate holdings: clause 6 bequeaths his property in New York City, Georgia and Campobello to Eleanor Roosevelt. Clause 7 reworks original clause 5, bequething "all the rest residue and remainder of my property" to Eleanor. Clause 8 relates to Roosevelt's vast Naval collection: "I request my wife either to sell my collection of manuscript material, books and prints relating to the Navy of the United States or to grant them as a whole at some future to one of our children." Clause 9 requests "that my public and personal correspondence be preserved but not [published] under any circumstances until 20 years after my death." Clause 10 requests that after the 20-year period his wife and children are to donate his correspondence to the New-York Historical Society if they no longer wish to keep it.
On the Roosevelt side, FDR's fortune came from his great-great grandfather Isaac, whose bequest of $100,000 provided $5,000 annually. FDR's maternal grandfather, Warren Delano, left a considerable legacy of Pennsylvania property and mines valued at $700,000. Roosevelt began his career clerking in the law firm of Carter, Ledyard & Milburn and several years later was elected a New York state senator. For a family of seven living amidst Washington's high society, the modest salaries provided Roosevelt in these positions were insufficient, and in 1919 his mother provided funds to rescue him from financial difficulties. He returned to the private sector in 1920 as vice-president of the Fidelity & Deposit Company of Maryland.
Shortly after this career change, Roosevelt was stricken with polio. His recuperation at Warm Springs, Georgia induced him to establish a foundation for other polio victims. Ill-fated investments abounded at this time: oil refineries, dirigible airships, Argentine herb teas, tidal-power generation, luxury resort chains. Three years after he drafted this will, he was forced to borrow to develop the Warm Springs Foundation, and on 26 April 1926 signed a demand note for just over $200,000, a debt equal to nearly two-thirds of his net worth. Roosevelt's revisions were incorporated into a new will which he signed on 23 February 1924. This will too was superceded and after his death in April 1945 at Warm Springs, his estate was settled under the provisions of his will of 12 November 1941.
Provenance: Anonymous owner (sold Sotheby's New York, 16 June 1992, lot 270).