Today's featured artifact is this little metal figurine of Fala, the beloved Scottie dog of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A recent acquisition, it was likely sold on one of the Hudson River Day Line steamboats as a souvenir of the Hudson Valley.
Fala was perhaps the most famous White House pet. Born in 1940, he was a constant companion of President Roosevelt, residing in the White House and often accompanying the president on his travels. By some accounts, Fala made the news more than FDR's family! He became a much-beloved mascot for the nation during a trying time in American history - World War II. It is this fame that likely resulted in the souvenir figurine that now resides in our collection.
During the Election of 1944, the Republic opposition started a rumor that Fala had been left on the Aleutian Islands after a recent visit by the president, and that he had sent a Naval destroyer to retrieve Fala at great cost to taxpayers. Launching his presidential campaign at a dinner with the International Teamsters Union, Roosevelt addressed the charges in a famous speech. You can watch the Fala-related portions of the speech below.
The humor with which the president addressed the charges (which were false) may have helped get him reelected to a third term.
Sadly, Fala outlived his master. President Roosevelt died in April of 1945. Fala went to live with Eleanor Roosevelt at Val-Kill. In her autobiography, Eleanor wrote of Fala's reaction to the president's death:
"It was Fala, my husband's little dog, who never really readjusted. Once, in 1945, when General Eisenhower came to lay a wreath on Franklin's grave, the gates of the regular driveway were opened and his automobile approached the house accompanied by the wailing of the sirens of a police escort. When Fala heard the sirens, his legs straightened out, his ears pricked up and I knew that he expected to see his master coming down the drive as he had come so many times. Later, when we were living in the cottage, Fala always lay near the dining-room door where he could watch both entrances just as he did when his master was there. Franklin would often decide suddenly to go somewhere and Fala had to watch both entrances in order to be ready to spring up and join the party on short notice. Fala accepted me after my husband's death, but I was just someone to put up with until the master should return."
Fala died in April of 1952, just shy of his twelfth birthday. He is buried near the Roosevelt grave at Springwood in Hyde Park. He is the only Presidential pet to be memorialized with his master, as pictured below at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.
To learn more about Fala, check out his official biography at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum.
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