Nixon Was Firmly in Control … Until Dark Clouds Began Forming

A signed Richard Nixon photograph sold for $657.25 in February 2006.

By Jim O’Neal

By the time 1972 rolled around, the presidential campaign was really a story about President Nixon’s growing invincibility. In the summer, every poll gave him about 60 percent of the vote and even his tremendous financial advantage – $60 million vs. $25 million for the Dems – had little to do with the probable outcome.

Nixon was elected four years earlier on a tide of protest against the Vietnam War, but ending it seemed to be taking an eternity. 17,000 more Americans had been killed while he was trying, but by the beginning of 1972, he had reduced U.S. troop levels from 550,000 to 139,000. Importantly, the Pentagon’s weekly casualty list of 300 had dropped to zero by Sept. 21, 1972.

The sum of Nixon’s skills was a united party, led by a nominee who was now identified as the candidate of peace and détente. He had two superfluous opponents for the GOP nomination and one, Paul “Pete” McClosky from California, became an arcane trivia answer by winning 1 delegate while Nixon swept up all the rest … 1,347.

The convention stagecraft was awesome and Nixon had eliminated all the suspense by announcing his intention to keep Spiro Agnew on the ticket as his VP. (Agnew won 1,345 votes vs. one for TV journalist David Brinkley; NBC staffers quickly started wearing “Brinkley for Vice President” buttons as a joke.)

This marked the fifth time Nixon had been on the ballot – in 1952 and 1956 for VP, and in 1960, 1968 and 1972 for president. This tied FDR, who had one VP (1920) and four straight as president (1932-1944). Ronald Reagan chaired the convention and Nelson Rockefeller put Nixon’s name in nomination. GOP speakers touted their unity and hammered at the disarray on the other side.

In 1972, campaign material included George Wallace license plates.

The Democrats were still absorbed in savage internecine feuds and the battle to head the party was a melee. George McGovern very adroitly managed to make himself a dark horse to keep the glaring national spotlight off his nascent campaign. In the Florida primary, facing 11 presidential candidates, George Wallace was the big winner as a surprise candidate. He loudly crowed, “We beat all the face cards in the Democratic deck!”

By the middle of May, Edmund Muskie was out of it and the marathon was narrowing to a three-way contest between Wallace, McGovern and Hubert Humphrey. Then in May 1972 while in Maryland, Wallace was hit by a brick in Frederick, eggs in Hagerstown and six bullets in Laurel. He won both Michigan and Maryland, but for him, wounded and paralyzed, it was all over.

Then Humphrey proceeded to destroy McGovern’s chances by pointing out his quixotic stands on Israel, defense spending, welfare, labor law, unemployment compensation, taxation and even Vietnam. In three bruising debates, Humphrey obliterated any chances of McGovern to mount even a mild challenge to Nixon. The election was a blowout, with Nixon winning 49 states and nearly 62 percent of the popular vote.

McGovern rationalized his defeat by saying, “I want every one of you to remember that if we pushed the day of peace just one day closer, then every minute and every hour and every bone-crushing effort in this campaign was worth the entire effort.” I suspect he died on Oct. 21, 2012, still believing these self-delusional words.

At about the same time, the seeds of Watergate had been planted. A small unobtrusive dark cloud was forming somewhere in the atmosphere, and it would end up unraveling the entire Nixon presidency and legacy. The arc of fate is long and never-ending.

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Pendulum Seems to Be Swinging Back to a Dangerous World

Many in the United States argued a sick President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the 1945 Yalta Conference conceded too much in return for assistance in the Pacific.

By Jim O’Neal

In the 21st century, the issue of nuclear threats primarily focuses on non-state actors, loosely defined as terrorist organizations. The prevailing theory is that too many loose nukes could result in a “suitcase bomb” detonated in New York, London or Paris. Nations would not risk the instant retaliation that would follow. This gradually evolved after WW2 and there was little doubt which nation would become America’s next adversary.

During the war, the United States and Soviet Union shared a mutual objective of defeating Germany and this blurred the stark differences in politics and culture. Among the most indelible images are photographs of American soldiers and their Russian counterparts meeting at the Elbe River, signaling the war’s triumphant end.

However, once the glow of victory ebbed (and it faded fast), Russian soldiers brutally raped their way through a defeated Germany, and communications between the two sides devolved into intense suspicion. For Americans, the situation seemed clear. The Soviets were basically an evil nation, intent on spreading their godless theology … especially in crippled Europe, Turkey and the oil-rich land of Iran.

To the leaders in Moscow, the Americans were the new imperialists, eager to deny Russia the spoils of war that had extracted a significant price from the Russian people. They also suspected we were intent on preventing them from building a buffer defense zone against another invasion of their western border. Just as America had balked at Versailles, we would now prevent them from acquiring the war treasure they deserved.

American negotiators pleaded for democratic principles to reorganize the ravaged nations of Europe. But the Russians were adamant about holding those lands where the Russian army stood, plus gaining ground adjacent. Many in the United States blamed the negotiations at the 1945 Yalta Conference, where a sick President Franklin D. Roosevelt had conceded too much in return for assistance in the Pacific. In the end, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin simply solidified Russian control throughout Eastern Europe, beginning a pattern of deportations, intimidation and corruption. This led to the “People’s Democracies” (fiercely loyal to the Soviet Union) in Poland, Hungary, Romania, East Germany and Czechoslovakia.

As others obtained nuclear capability and the Cold War intensified, the world somehow managed to fight wars in China, Korea, Vietnam and dozens of other places despite 60 years of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). The “Doctor Strangelove” scenario never came to pass as nations were always acutely sensitive to the assurance of immediate annihilation.

Today, acts of terrorism have become routine and, surprisingly, another Cold War is heating up via rebuilding nuclear stockpiles, cyber threats and rogue nations like North Korea and Iran openly talking of death and destruction. It seems like the worst-case scenario is in full bloom. Who would have predicted a more dangerous world than the one we lived through in the 50 years preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall and the crumbling of the Evil Empire?

Sigh.

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

President Harding’s Funeral Train Transfixed the World

president-harding
President Harding was popular with Americans, but the Harding Scandals later tainted his legacy.

By Jim O’Neal

The news of President Warren G. Harding’s death astonished the American people. Telephone and telegraph lines stayed busy between San Francisco and Washington. A special railroad car, “The Superb,” was outfitted as a hearse. Twenty-four hours after the president died, the train left San Francisco, pulling the lighted car with its flag-draped coffin, honor guard and banks of flowers.

“The spectacle of the funeral train traversing the entire breadth of the United States,” observed The Washington Post, “is not to be forgotten.”

News of Harding’s death arrived at the White House by telephone. Irwin “Ike” Hoover, the White House Chief Usher, had been trying to keep a diary, but he never seemed to make a record of important things. “President dies” was all he recorded that day. In fact, his book was merely a series of blank pages for all the early days of August 1923. Hoover’s job was to run the White House, not record history. He quickly set to work hanging crepe over the mirrors of the East Room. Then the shades were drawn and the house was closed to the public.

Later, the book 42 Years in the White House chronicled Hoover’s service, which started in 1891 (when he installed the first electrical wiring in the White House) and continued through nine presidents, starting with Benjamin Harrison and ending with Herbert Hoover. He died in 1933 and President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered the White House for his funeral. Oh, the tales that probably didn’t get recorded.

Harding’s funeral train pulled into Union Station on Aug. 7. It had held the world transfixed during its five-day trip across the nation. An honor guard transported the coffin from the train with great ceremony and Harding’s body was placed in the East Room. The funeral was held in the Capitol with his Cabinet, Congress and a large group of invited dignitaries.

Florence Harding had a quiet dinner with Calvin Coolidge and his family, and would remain in the White House for five busy days. She had a fire built in the fireplace in the Treaty Room and then methodically started burning the presidential papers she determined should not survive. Then she had all the remaining papers packed into boxes and removed to a nearby friend’s house. Then she resumed the burning more slowly in small fires on the lawn.

President Harding’s secretary, George Christian, stood by helplessly during this process, until he found some papers undisturbed in the Oval Office and hid them in the pantry on the first floor. They remained there, apparently forgotten, until after Mrs. Harding’s death. Then they were given to the Library of Congress. No other papers of President Harding are known to have survived the purge of his records.

Later, the “Harding Scandals” would offer one possible reason for this unusual situation.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Truman’s Time in Office Was Tumultuous, but He Still Ranks Among Best

harry-s-truman-inscribed-photo-signed
Virtually every prediction indicated that Harry S. Truman would be defeated by Thomas E. Dewey in the 1948 election. A copy of the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” photograph, inscribed by Truman, sold for $10,157.50 at an April 2013 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Harry S. Truman moved back into the newly rebuilt White House in March 1952 and he had already decided not to seek reelection.

Since Truman had only served one full term as an elected president (having filled a partial term after Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office), he was eligible to run for president a second time. This was the same dilemma that had confronted two of his predecessors: Teddy Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge, both of whom had decided not to run a second time. Truman was well aware of their personal deliberations; the first Roosevelt had lived to regret not running, while Coolidge had never looked back.

In 1951, after four years of debate, Congress ratified the 22nd Amendment of the Constitution, which limited an elected president to two terms. This was a reaction to FDR’s long tenure, and it specifically exempted Truman. But, he had made up his mind.

He addressed the Democratic Party’s historic Jefferson-Jackson dinner at the D.C. National Guard Armory. “I shall not be a candidate for reelection. I have served my country long and I think efficiently and honestly. I shall not accept a re-nomination.” He added in an ironic tone not typical of him, “I do not think that it is my duty to spend another four years in the White House.”

Although he was a tough-skinned politician, he resented the negative public opinion that had risen around him. His time in office, eight years less about two months, had been tumultuous, filled with achievements that had not been easy. His call for liberal change had been rooted philosophically in the New Deal, but in the wake of World War I and increased prosperity, his call fell on deaf ears.

The American public was turning elsewhere, particularly after he vetoed an ardent Republican crusade to turn coastal tidelands mineral rights over to the states, and it was viewed as a lame-duck president lashing out. It was actually one of the few vetoes that stuck (12 of his vetoes were overridden by Congress) and it created an energy that would result in a Republican victory in the upcoming election.

At about the same time, the Treasury Department announced that the federal deficit would be double than the previous year and in the last months of his presidency, his popularity and spirits were low. He was ready to go home.

History has been kind to Truman. Every year, his standing on the Best Presidents list seems to improve. He was a small man in stature who assumed a big job at a crucial time and did his very best. Who could expect more?

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

President Harding Entered Office on a High Note … then Came the Scandals

warren-g-harding-and-james-m-cox-absolutely-stunning-matched-pair-of-large-1920-rarities
This matched pair of Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox 1920 campaign buttons sold for $6,875 at a November 2013 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

The Republicans returned to power in the election of 1920 with the victory of Warren G. Harding of Ohio. Isolated even further in the confines of the White House, Woodrow Wilson and family waited out the year and the first two months of 1921. The outgoing president’s condition had stopped improving. He was feeble and mostly occupied with his books and papers, though he now lacked the mental acuity that was key to his greatness.

Late in his term, Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and his spirits rose. Remorse yielded to genuine gratification, an indulgence he rarely allowed himself even in the good times. However, Edith Wilson found little diversion from this almost oppressive situation. The world was slowly passing the Wilsons by without a second glance.

The 1920 campaign had been dull and lackluster, with Harding remaining in Ohio on his front porch, greeting thousands of well-wishers and speaking to them informally. The Democrats had tried to make the League of Nations a campaign issue, but Harding’s position was too obscure since he was really only interested in preserving the Senate’s constitutional rights regarding foreign treaties. When voters got to the polls, politicians discovered the campaigns had not mattered. The people were so tired of government restrictions and hardships imposed by the war that they sought a complete change in administrations and a return to “America First.”

Harding and running mate Calvin Coolidge drubbed James Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt in both the popular vote and electoral college (404 to 127).

Between the election and inauguration, Harding chose his cabinet, carefully balancing the membership with close political friends and leaders in the Republican Party. It was a blue-chip group that included Charles Evans Hughes (former governor of New York, Supreme Court Justice and presidential candidate in 1916) as Secretary of State; Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover; and millionaire Pittsburg banker Andrew Mellon as Secretary of Treasury. But there were also a few friends, like Albert Fall (Interior) and Harry Daugherty (Attorney General), who would become infamous for corruption.

Friends of Harding and Daugherty flocked from Ohio to Washington for jobs. Headquarters for the “Ohio Gang” was the “Little Green House” on K Street, where government favors and appointments were bought and sold. Evidence of Harding’s knowledge is sketchy; his friends just assumed he would agree in order to please them. But late in 1922, Harding learned of irregularities at the Veterans’ Bureau, where huge amounts of surplus materials were sold far below market value and in turn new supplies were purchased far above fair value, all without competitive bidding.

The head of the agency, Charles R. Forbes – one of Harding’s poker buddies – was allowed to resign, but the attorney for the Bureau committed suicide. This was soon followed by the death of another close Harding friend, Jess Smith, who shared an apartment with Daugherty and was a member of the “Ohio Gang.” Sensing trouble, Harding had asked him to leave Washington, however Smith shot himself to death. But the biggest surprise surfaced after Harding died of a heart attack in San Francisco in August 1923.

Secretary of Interior Fall had allowed two large federal oil fields in Elk Hills, Calif., and Teapot Dome, Wyo., to be opened to private oil companies. He was convicted of bribery ($400,000) and sent to prison. Attorney General Daugherty was brought to trial in 1924 for conspiracy in much of this, but refused to testify to avoid “incriminating the dead president” and it hung the jury.

How much Harding actually knew about the corruption among his friends will never be known. After his death, Mrs. Harding burned all his papers and correspondence, diligently recovering and destroying even personal letters in the possession of other people. Since she had also refused to have Harding’s corpse autopsied in San Francisco, there have always been rumors he was actually poisoned.

Ah, Washington, D.C. – such a small city, but with so many untold mysteries.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Proponents Were Convinced Prohibition Would End Violence, Create Jobs

franklin-d-roosevelt-stangl-happy-days-are-here-again-prohibition-repeal-pitcher-and-mug-set
This “Happy Days Are Here Again” Prohibition repeal pitcher and mug set (Stangl Company, 1934), showing caricatures of Franklin D. Roosevelt and other prominent Democrats, sold for $1,015.75 in June 2008.

“There is as much chance of repealing the 18th Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.” – U.S. Sen. Morris Sheppard of Texas, known as “The Father of Prohibition”

By Jim O’Neal

The crowd that assembled at the First Congressional Church in Washington, D.C., shortly before midnight on Jan. 16, 1920 was filled with anticipation of a new era. Summoned by the imminent arrival of Prohibition, as sanctioned by the 18th Amendment in 1919, thousands had gathered to usher out the sinful past and greet the arrival of a new nation.

At the stroke of midnight, one by one, speakers made their way to the pulpit, decrying the awful demon rum which, with God’s help, had finally been put to rest. And as they did, the wide-eyed audience dreamed of the world that would now emerge, a place where prisons would be turned into factories and slums would be nothing more than a memory.

“Men will walk upright now,” preacher Billy Sunday declared before a similar congregation in Virginia. “Women will smile and children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent.” In the Washington audience was the beaming U.S. Sen. Morris Sheppard of Texas, author of the 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution establishing America as a “dry” country. Sheppard listened as Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels described their purpose as the greatest reform movement in the history of the world. The National Prohibition Act (aka the Volstead Act) was effective at midnight Jan. 17, 1920.

The first violation occurred 59 minutes later. In Chicago, six armed men stole $100,000 of medicinal whiskey by emptying two freight cars filled with booze.

And so it would continue throughout the 1920s. The advocates of alcohol prohibition thought they were making America a better place – an alcohol-free zone, a land without alcoholics or family violence, a land where ruined lives would be eliminated, a more stable society.

But they were wrong. Prohibition did little to reduce the demand and simply replaced legal brewers, distillers, vintners and liquor stores with moonshiners, bootleggers and smugglers willing to risk prison. People still wanted bars and restaurants that served alcohol and such places continued to operate as speakeasies by paying off police, prosecutors and judges. The alcohol industry became the province of gangsters, and law enforcement was overwhelmed by illegal, wide-scale alcohol distribution. A new morality was easier to declare than maintain as Sen. Sheppard discovered when a moonshine still – churning out 130 gallons a day – was discovered on his Austin, Texas, ranch.

The “Nobel Experiment” finally ended in 1933 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act and declared, “I think this would be a good time to have a beer.”

Cheers!

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

When Nation Faces Uncertainty, Good Leaders do What They do Best

MERRITT MAUZEY (1897-1973)
Merritt Mauzey’s Depression-era oil on masonite, Uncle Fud and Aunt Boo, realized $77,675 at a December 2007 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

In January 1931, a 46-year-old tenant farmer drew the nation’s attention to a small event in rural Arkansas. Homer C. Coney harvested corn and cotton on land he rented for $8 an acre. But a tremendous drought the previous summer meant that most farmers had no crop, no money and no way to survive the winter.

Coney tried to sell his truck for $25 … no takers. So he and his family – trapped in a one-room shack – tried to exist on a Red Cross relief ration of $12/month. Coney, his wife and five sons lived on beans mixed with lard (to “give it flavor”).

A young neighbor mother visited the family frantically seeking help because her children had not eaten for two days. Coney said, “Lady you wait here. I am a-going to get some food over at Bells – the Red Cross man that never give out nothing.” In England, Ark., Coney discovered a big crowd of people, hungry since the Red Cross office there was out of food vouchers. Soon, there was a crowd of 500 people who confronted the mayor and chief of police. “We’re not beggars and will work for 50 cents a day, but we will not let our families starve.”

All over the country, people read about the brave souls who gathered to demand food. “500 Farmers Storm Arkansas Town Demanding Food for Their Children,” read the front page of The New York Times. “You let this country get hungry and they are going to eat, no matter what happens to budgets, income taxes or Wall Street values,” wrote populist Will Rogers in his newspaper column. “Washington mustn’t forget who rules when it comes to a showdown.”

The Great Southern Drought of 1930 was a catastrophe, to be sure. But this act of desperation was only a small part of the bigger issue in the new decade. In 1930, 26,000 businesses collapsed. In 1931, 28,000 more, and by the beginning of 1932, 3,500 banks, holding billions in uninsured savings, went under. 12 million people (25 percent of the workforce) were unemployed and real earnings fell by one-third. In some cities, it was worse; 50 percent of Chicago was out of work, 80 percent of Toledo.

Soup lines stretched as far as the eye could see. America the land of possibility was the land of despair. In 1931, the people of Cameroon in West Africa sent a check to the people of New York for $3.77 to aid the “starving.” About 20,000 veterans of WWI arrived at the U.S. Capitol to demand early payment of their pensions. On July 28, 1932, General Douglas MacArthur – side by side with Major Dwight Eisenhower with a parade of infantry, cavalry and tanks – routed the squatters as ordered.

Today, it is hard to imagine the level of expectation that greeted President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he took the reins from the much-maligned Herbert Hoover. However, the Democratic platform in 1932 was much the same as Hoover’s: a balanced budget and a curb on spending. Even the term “New Deal” was a fluke line from a nomination acceptance, until it surprised everyone and became popular.

But Roosevelt had a supreme confidence, enormous energy, and a determination equal to that of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. He quickly cribbed a line from Henry David Thoreau (“Nothing is so much to be feared as fear”), began fireside chats with the American people from a room with no fireplace, and started leading.

That’s what good leaders do.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Roosevelt Eagerly Tackled the Great Depression with His New Deal

Franklin D. Roosevelt One of the Most Desirable and Colorful Posters for this Four-Time Presidential Candidate
A 1940 re-election Poster touting the benefits of Roosevelt’s New Deal sold for $4,182 at a February 2007 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

After the November 1932 election, Franklin D. Roosevelt had to wait four long months – until March 4, 1933 – before actually assuming the presidency … and he was eager to get started. This hiatus of power was eventually deemed too long for the modern world and the inauguration date would be moved to Jan. 20 before the next election.

It was almost a moot point since Roosevelt would win the next three elections.

Although FDR appeared to be patiently waiting, behind the scenes his team was busy working on a comprehensive legislative agenda. It contained the basic outline of a “New Deal” and was scheduled to be revealed right after the inauguration. FDR was excited and ready to get going.

After the new year started, with numerous banks closing, FDR continued to exude the same unflappable, confident demeanor. But he was growing increasingly impatient. By March, the bank crisis was at a fever pitch.

The Roosevelts entertained the outgoing Hoovers at the White House on the day before the inauguration. While alone, Herbert Hoover and Roosevelt had a heated argument over the latest wave of bad news. FDR flatly refused Hoover’s proposal to simply discourage more bank closings. FDR said, “If you don’t have the guts to take direct action, I’ll just wait until I am president.” (Which was the next day.)

That night, the governors in New York and Illinois closed all banks in both states. On Inauguration Day, all the nation’s banks were either closed or in the process of closing. Hoover was furious and refused to talk to Roosevelt as they rode from the White House to the Capitol.

In his inauguration speech, FDR included the famous phrase, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The very next morning, he signed the documents calling Congress into session and proclaiming a four-day national bank holiday.

This broke the fever and the panicky run on the banks to withdraw money was halted.

The New Deal was finally off and running.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Seventy-one Years Later, U.N. Still Ironing Out the Kinks

A United Nations flag flown aboard Apollo 11, from the personal collection of Buzz Aldrin, sold for $10,157.50 at an April 2013 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

After years of conflict, devastation and privation, there was a shared determination to avoid another World War. Gradually, this determination evolved into action. The seeds had been sown in August 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter, a statement that listed their postwar goals for international security.

These goals appeared again in January 1942 when the 26 Allied nations signed the United Nations Declaration, which bound them to a common purpose of victory over the Axis powers. It also resolved to protect liberty and human rights and to respect the self-determination of all people.

In April 1945, with the end of the war in sight, representatives of 50 nations met in San Francisco to write a charter for the new organization. The charter established the mission of the United Nations: to prevent war; to affirm fundamental human rights; to facilitate international peace and security; to promote improved living standards; and to support social progress and economic advancements.

Disagreements based on national interests plagued the discussions at the April conference, but they did not prevent the formation of the United Nations. On June 25, the delegates unanimously adopted the charter and the next day they all signed the document. The United Nations was officially established on Oct. 24, 1945.

The world had entered a new period of international collaboration … “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war … to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights.”

Seventy-one years later, they are still trying to get some of the kinks worked out.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Our White House Friends Have Proved Fascinating for Decades

This Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt photo, signed by both, realized $2,868 at a June 2008 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

In 1913, Franklin D. Roosevelt was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Eleanor hired a pretty, bright young lady, Lucy Page Mercer, to be her personal social secretary … a highly desirable position. However, in 1918, Eleanor discovered a batch of love letters between Lucy and her husband. She issued an ultimatum to Franklin that required an abrupt end to this close relationship.

At some point later, the relationship was resumed and continued for an extended period of time. Lucy Mercer was actually with FDR in Warm Springs, Ga., when he died in 1945. Eleanor was not, a fact that did not go unnoticed.

By then, rumors had been circulating about a “close relationship” between Eleanor and Associated Press reporter Lorena “Hick” Hickok. It was not a common practice for the press to dig too deeply into First Family personal affairs and most simply viewed it as innuendo and looked the other way.

That changed in 1978.

Lorena Hickok died in 1968 and had carefully kept her personal correspondence under a 10-year seal of confidentiality. However, curiously, she had also willed all her personal papers to the Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y.

There were 18 sealed boxes under close supervision. When they were finally opened, there was a stunning collection of over 3,500 letters between Hick and Eleanor that removed any vestiges of doubt about the true nature of their relationship.

What’s good for the gander is good for the goose? (The original quote was, “What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”)

So it goes for our friends who occupy that big White House and continue to provide us with interesting reading.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].