From the Archives: Happy Holidays from…the Roosevelts?

Happy holidays from the Sherman Room! At this point, many holiday cards have been sent and received to friends and family members across the United States, but we wanted to share one more from the Sherman Room archives with you.


Previous Sherman Room blog posts have discussed the career of Mansfield’s Henry Brunner, a local Democratic politician who was the mayor of Mansfield from 1917 to 1923.

Among a collection of items from Brunner’s personal papers that were donated to the Sherman Room this year, we discovered this holiday card. So now it’s time for a US history question: the card reads is “From The Governor and Mrs. Roosevelt;” but how were this couple better known?

US history buffs will likely remember that one Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected governor of New York in 1929 and served in that role until he was elected United States president in 1932, a post to which he was re-elected three times and in which he served until he died in 1945 and was succeeded by Harry Truman. So this holiday card was sent to Henry Brunner by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, sometime between 1929 and 1932. The original envelope is missing, so it is not possible to say exactly which year it was sent.

The building pictured is not the New York governor’s mansion, in fact, but a different estate known as Springwood, and it was Roosevelt’s family home. He was born at Springwood in 1882 and spent his youth there, rebuilding the family home into the impressive building it remains today in 1915 with his mother. As evidenced by this card, was proud of his family home throughout his political career and life. After he died in 1945 in his fourth term as president, his body was brought back to the rose garden at Springwood to be buried as he had requested.

The Mansfield Connection

So how did it happen that “Governor and Mrs. Roosevelt” sent a Christmas card to a politician from Mansfield? As it turns out, Henry Brunner was a rather prolific politician despite never holding a higher publicly-elected office than mayor. Rather, he used his skills and knowledge behind the scenes to support the Democratic party in Ohio and the nation, and gained many notable political connection in the process. In 1923 after he was no longer mayor, he was still chairman of the Richland County Democratic party. By 1925, Brunner was a member of a special committee for the Ohio Democratic party’s executive committee, and in 1927 he became the chairman for the Ohio Democrats. He held this position until 1933. Upon his resignation, one person commented that his successor “has the handicap of going in as chairman of the Democratic party in Ohio in that he succeeds Henry Brunner who has been a great chairman. He is one of the beste [sic] leaders the party has ever had” (Findlay Morning Republican, 14 September 14 1933, page 5). Given Brunner’s position as the state chair for a state known for being important, sometimes pivotal, in presidential elections, it is perhaps not surprising that a Democratic governor of New York with presidential ambitions would send him a card at the holidays.

Sources

  1. National Park Service, Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/presidents/fdr_home.html
  2. Athens Messenger Newspaper Archives April 7, 1927 Page 27 (became chairman)
  3. Findlay Morning Republican Newspaper Archives September 14, 1933 Page 5 (resigned chairman)

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