A peculiar piece of Presidential history that show President Franklin and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt invited a palm reader into the White House in 1937 may sell for as much as $20,000 at auction Dec. 2. A trove of signed handprints and documents of the two in addition to members of their political inner circle and the First Family cross the block in Heritage Auctions
' Americana & Political Auction.
The visit was supposed to be a secret.
It was Eleanor herself who invited renowned palm reader and author, Nellie Simmons Meier, to the White House. According to documents in the archive, the Meier was surprised to obtain an audience with the President himself. The meeting resulted in full and detailed character sketches of FDR and the first family. The collection also includes a series of letters between Meier and Eleanor, which centered on a good faith agreement regarding publishing rights. Although Eleanor approved of the reading, she believed the nature of the study was far too intimate to be published during her husband's presidency. In a 1937 letter, Eleanor urges "that nothing would appear until after [FDR} had left the White House and not until after he had edited and approved what you were writing."
Her concerns with the level of intimacy were not unfounded. The character sketches for both the First Lady and the President are both wonderfully thorough and thoroughly fascinating. In the documents, Meier systematically documents every nuance of her subject's hands, vividly describes the significance of each feature and tells what it reveals about the subjects character.
Meier's appraisal of the President's character addresses both his triumphs and shortcomings and asserts that he is not a typical subject. "Rarely have I looked at hands in which the markings showed such a wide range of ideas, such great vitality and such ease of accomplishment along so many avenues of physical and mental activity," she wrote, adding that if "
he uses those characteristics with which he is so richly endowed, his record of achievement for the betterment of his country and his people will place him among the great patriots and statesmen of our land."
The view the President's character laid bare in this way is an absolute privilege, and its significance was not at all lost on Meier. The opportunity to perform the President's sketch was in fact not at all planned; initially Nellie Simmons Meier only expected and intended to perform a sketch on Eleanor Roosevelt. Her meeting with the president was entirely serendipitous. "In her own words, Meier marveled at the opportunity to have such intimate access to the Roosevelt family," Tom Slater, director of Americana for Heritage Auctions. "In fact she was quoted as saying: 'I deemed myself fortunate in having obtained this much of [Eleanor Roosevelt's] time out of her crowded life.'"
The complete contents of this extraordinary collection on offer includes the original signed handprints of the Roosevelts and other members of the First Family, Vice President John Nance Garner and other members of the Roosevelt Administration (Alben Barkley, who later became Harry Truman's Vice President and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes).