ROOSEVELT, Franklin D. Autograph letter signed ("F.D.R.") as President, to Harry Hopkins (1890-1946), the Secretary of Commerce, Washington, 21 March 1939. 1 page, small 4to (8 7/8 x 7 in.), White House stationery, minor evidence of mounting on verso of integral blank, otherwise in fine condition. [With:] 2 one dollar bills sent with the letter.
"TEACHER SAYS YOU HAVE GAINED 2 POUNDS; 2LBS=2 $": A CHARMING ROOSEVELT LETTER TO AN ILL HARRY HOPKINS
An enchanting and humorous letter displaying the rich relationship between Roosevelt and Harry Hopkins. Hopkins began his close association with Governor Roosevelt in 1931 when he was appointed to head the New York Temporary Relief Agency. His committment made an impression upon Roosevelt and, when he entered the White House in 1933, he took Hopkins with him to organize public relief at the national level. Hopkins pursued his task vigorously, heading several important agencies including FERA and the WPA, earning the unbending trust of the grateful President. The working relationship between the two men transformed into a close friendship. In 1938, Raymond Clapper described the phenomenon: "[Hopkins] knows instinctively when to ask, when to keep still, when to press, when to hold back; when to approach Roosevelt direct, when to go at him roundabout...Quick, alert, shrewd, bold, and carrying it off with a bright Hell's bells air, Hopkins is in all respects the inevitable Roosevelt favorite" (Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, p. 2). Roosevelt particularly found solace in his friendship with Hopkins after the death of his friend Louis Howe in 1936: "There were few others at this stage of his life that the president enjoyed as much as Hopkins" (Goodwin, No Ordinary Time, p. 37).
Harry Hopkins suffered from persistent ill-health due to radical surgery which had left his stomach unable to absorb proteins and fats. In 1938, Roosevelt named him Secretary of Commerce, but Hopkins found it difficult to fulfill his responsibilities as he was forced to make lengthy stays in the hospital. Here, in an obvious effort to brighten Hopkins' spirits, Roosevelt sends his hospitalized friend two dollars: "Good Boy! Teacher says you have gained 2 pounds. 2 Lbs = 2 $ Keep on gaining & put the reward into your little Savings Bank. But you must not gain more than 50 lbs because Poppey has not got more than 50$."
The relationship between the two men strengthened as the nation found itself going to war. Roosevelt trusted Hopkins' counsels above all others and relied on him as a direct contact with both Churchill and Stalin. Hopkins played a key role at the Cairo, Teheran and Casablanca Conferences. When Roosevelt died in 1945, Hopkins was deeply saddened, but continued his work with a new resolve to complete the task begun by his friend. After Hopkins' death in 1946, this cherished letter from his friend was found in his papers with the two dollar bills still attached.
Published and illustrated in Robert Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, pp. 6-7. (3)