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Posted at 12:53 PM ET, 07/28/2010

National Archives unveils FDR's letters

By Washington Post editors

The National Archives Wednesday unveiled a sample of a 5,000-document trove of letters, notes, and drafts related to the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt that experts said had never been seen by the general public or historians.

The documents included personal papers of the president, as well as papers belonging to two of his chief secretaries, Grace Tully and Marguerite "Missy" Lehand. The documents originally had been preserved by Tully when she left the White House following Roosevelt's death in 1945. They were essentially saved from the auction block by special federal legislation that cleared the way for their donation to the archives, officials said.

The items on display Wednesday included an early, cordial letter to FDR from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, a memo urging the promotion to general of then Army Col. George C. Marshall, and a letter to Tully from FDR's one-time mistress Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd arranging the famous visit the week the president died.

Historians said it is not yet clear how the new documents might shape Roosevelt's story. But Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said FDR didn't keep a diary, or live to write his memoirs, so the new material could have an important impact on the record of his life.

The Archives said it hopes to process the entire trove this fall, and make it available on line by January.

-- Michael E. Ruane

By Washington Post editors  | July 28, 2010; 12:53 PM ET
Categories:  DC  
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