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#44 - Franklin D. Roosevelt Typed Poem Signed
Written from aboard his 'Larooco' houseboat, FDR sends a poem to a "Companionable Ornithologist"
Typed poem from Franklin D. Roosevelt on an off-white 5.5 x 11 sheet of ‘Larooco’ stationery, the name of the houseboat FDR co-owned with close friend John Sigsbee Lawrence, signed and inscribed in fountain pen in the upper and lower borders as president, “To M. S. Crosby, Companionable Ornithologist” and “For Helen, Oct. 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt.” The recipient, "Helen," is ostensibly the socialite Helen Huntington Hull, the former wife of his friend Vincent Astor. The remarkable eleven-verse poem reads:
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“Oh the Blue Laroo is missing you / For you taught her things no boat e'er knew / Of the martin purple and heron blue, / And the ways and wiles of the things that flew
So she slipped her cable one day and went / Down Biscayne Bay on a hunt intent, / Her engines were wheezy, her crank shaft bent / And what the captain was saying he meant!
She bumped a marker and grazed a shoal, / And tried to occupy nearly the whole / Of the big wide Bay. She tried to roll — / And the skipper yelled ‘I’ve lost control!’
Oh the Blue Laroo went down the Bay / Like a streak of light at the break of day. / The other boats gave her the right of way / And manned the rail and yelled ‘hurray.’
The engines just wouldn’t reverse at all — / And the speed grew greater in spite of the call / Of the owner and captain — they wouldn’t stall — / And the crew began to howl and bawl.
Her speed got up to 20 knots / Then 30, and 40 — and that’s a lot. / The scenery passed like blurs and blots. / Her progress was marked by dashes and dots.
They gave up every effort to steer / And clung to the rail as they saw her clear / The water. But they raised a cheer / As she rose in the air without check or fear.
Then off on the farthest horizon rim / They saw a shape in the ether dim — / A huge bird soaring with plumage trim / Dipping to meet each zephyr’s whim.
The Blue Laroo rose up to see / This new companion, and to be / It’s fellow in the heavens free — / A new bird species! — Hully gee!
You ask what was this species new, / And rare, and bright and gorgeous too? / Why, what would charm the Blue Laroo / Except the lovely Pink Bazoo?” In very good condition, with tears, fold splits, old tape stains, paper loss to the top edge, and overall wrinkling from being affixed to another sheet. Accompanied by a first edition of FDR on His Houseboat: The Larooco Log, 1924-1926, edited by Karen Chase. During the mid-1920s, Roosevelt spent several months each winter on his houseboat, the Larooco, which he co-owned with close friend John Sigsbee Lawrence, whose initials appear with Roosevelt's on the stationery. Helen Crosby was the daughter of Maunsell S. Crosby (1887-1931), Roosevelt's boyhood friend and knowledgeable fellow aficionado in ornithology.
As a young boy Franklin Roosevelt would explore the thousand acres of forest along the Hudson River that was his backyard. He loved to collect birds and he learned taxidermy so he could preserve his specimens using a form of arsenic soap. His work was so good in fact that the American Museum of Natural History accepted some of his better preserved birds. Ornithology was no passing hobby. FDR became a member of the American Ornithologists’ Union as a teenager and he kept detailed bird diaries of his sightings.
His passion for birds, and subsequently, conservation, seamlessly branched into his adulthood and into his roles as both governor and then as president. In 1931, Roosevelt supported the 1931 Hewitt Reforestation Amendment to the New York Constitution, which resulted in planting tree seedlings on thousands of acres of abandoned farmland with depleted soils and significant erosion. One month after Roosevelt became president, he signed the Emergency Conservation Work Act, creating the Civilian Conservation Corps, which employed three million men over nine years; during this period, the CCC planted three billion trees, built campgrounds and trails, improved and protected wildlife habitats. With sweeping legislation, Roosevelt was responsible for adding over one-quarter of the 423 areas in today's National Park Service system. A marvelous piece of original poetry from FDR, written while on vacation and merging his well known passions for birds, maritime, and the natural world.