October 2015 | Rebecca Rego Barry

The Big Three: FDR, Churchill, and ... Longfellow?

In a letter dated January 20, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt waxed poetic with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, scribbling some verses from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Sail on, O Ship of State!" FDR preceded the patriotic lines, originally written in 1849, with these words, "I think this verse applies to you people as it does to us." America had not yet entered the World War II, but his letter was meant to provide support and encouragement. According to the Library of Congress, Churchill was so moved he had the letter framed and displayed at his home.

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 10.04.14 PM.pngOff to auction next week is a significant piece of historical ephemera that brings this fascinating story to the surface: a keepsake broadside of "Sail on, O Ship of State," signed by both Roosevelt and Churchill during the secret Atlantic Conference held aboard two warships anchored off Newfoundland from August 9-12, 1941. At this meeting, the two leaders plotted strategy as the U.S. inched closer to war with Germany.   
According to Dallas Auction Gallery, "This document was printed at the direction of British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill for presentation to United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his top aides ... Both Churchill and Roosevelt kept copies and very few additional copies were signed for senior advisors present aboard Augusta." This one, formerly in the Forbes collection of American historical documents and most recently in the collection of Dallas collector Sam Wyly, goes to auction on November 4, with an estimate of $10,000-15,000.

The sale also offers a first edition of Churchill's The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898), a typed signed letter of FDR's from 1918, and several other historical documents, letters, and art.

Image Courtesy of Dallas Auction Gallery.