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Historic documents of freedom on view at the National Museum of American Jewish History
State of the Union Address, Washington, DC, 1941. Personal copy of Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, private secretary to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Courtesy of Seth Kaller, Inc. and Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The National Museum of American Jewish History, located on Historic Independence Mall, is pleased to announce three extraordinary artifacts newly on view for July. These documents include a signed copy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech on museum view for the first time, original poster printings of Norman Rockwell’s iconic Four Freedoms, and an 1819 illustrated print of the Declaration of Independence, produced by Philadelphia printer and newspaper publisher John Binns.

“I’m passionate about how these documents affected and informed the lives of real people. I’m thrilled – as always – to lend these incredible pieces of history to the National Museum of American Jewish History. Their unique lens onto American history and culture and their location on Historic Independence Mall create a poignant backdrop to the stories these objects tell,” says Seth Kaller, owner of Seth Kaller, Inc, a leading expert in acquiring, authenticating, appraising, and exhibiting American historic documents and artifacts.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s signed Four Freedoms Speech, his 1941 State of the Union Address, is on museum view for the first time. This copy belonged to Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, his private secretary. Two weeks before his inauguration for a historic third term, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt hoped to inspire a skeptical nation to support deeper involvement in preventing Nazi domination of Europe. He concluded this historic address with a vision for a just world sustained by four “essential human freedoms”: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Roosevelt’s speech is displayed with original posters of Norman Rockwell’s iconic Four Freedoms. President Roosevelt spoke the words, but Norman Rockwell made them personal. He created paintings in 1943 for the Saturday Evening Post, which put them on successive covers. The federal government organized a poster campaign and sixteen-city exhibition tour that raised $133 million in support of America’s war effort. According to a 1945 New Yorker article, these images were “received by the public with more enthusiasm, perhaps, than any other paintings in the history of American art.”

The Declaration of Independence was produced in 1819 by a Philadelphia printer and newspaper publisher. Until then, Americans could read the Declaration in books, but most had not seen the famous signatures. John Binns began taking subscriptions for his illustrated version in 1816, and in 1819 he produced this print decorated with the 13 state seals and portraits of George Washington (after Gilbert Stuart), Thomas Jefferson (after Bass Otis), and John Hancock (after John Copley).

FDR’s speech, and Rockwell’s posters and the Declaration of Independence are on display on the Museum’s first floor along with a visitor-centered interactive asking visitors to suggest what they believe should be a fifth freedom. “These documents and images vividly illustrate our nation’s essential values,” states Dr. Josh Perelman, Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Interpretation, “and remind us about our roles as ensuring they are extended to all, now and in the future.”

Explaining why Kaller arranged the first museum loan of the signed Four Freedoms document to NMAJH, Kaller said “President Roosevelt learned from history, as all great leaders have. The roots of his Four Freedoms speech can be found in other original documents already on exhibit at NMAJH, especially George Washington’s First Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation and “to bigotry no sanction” letter. To me, this isn’t just history. As FDR pointed out, our nation – and the whole world – would be safer and better off by embracing the ideals outlined in his speech.”

These loans are courtesy of Seth Kaller, Inc.

Also regularly on view on the Museum’s fourth floor are the two key documents signed by George Washington referenced by Kaller: Washington’s 1789 proclamation establishing November 26 as a national day of thanksgiving and prayer, in which he celebrates the “tranquility, union, and plenty” that had accompanied the Constitution’s ratification, highlighting “the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed.” These words foreshadow Washington’s historic 1790 letter to the Jewish community of Newport in which he bravely proclaimed that the nation’s new government would “give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,” and quoted the prophet Micah to assure “the Children of the Stock of Abraham” that all Americans “shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

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