The First Dog, Fala Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt, Fala, and MacKenzie King at Quebec, Canada for conference, 9/11/1944. (National Archives Identifier 196995)

Eleanor Roosevelt, Fala, and MacKenzie King at Quebec, Canada for conference, September 11, 1944. (National Archives Identifier 196995)

In celebration of National Dog Day, today’s post comes from Meagan Frenzer, graduate research intern for the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum maintains documents of critical participants within the FDR administration.

This list includes prominent figures such as Frances Perkins, Harry L. Hopkins, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and, surprisingly, President Roosevelt’s dog, Fala.

The Scottish terrier became a national figure as President Roosevelt’s loyal, four-legged companion.

When his distant cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley gave the terrier as a Christmas gift in 1940, President Roosevelt renamed the terrier Murray the Outlaw of Falahill after his famous Scottish ancestor.

Photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt and the late President Roosevelt's dog, Fala, at the dedication of the Franklin D. Roosevelt home at Hyde Park, New York, 4/12/1946. (National Archives Identifier 199362)

Photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt and the late President Roosevelt’s dog, Fala, at the dedication of the Franklin D. Roosevelt home at Hyde Park, New York, April 12, 1946. (National Archives Identifier 199362)

Shortened to “Fala,” the terrier accompanied the President on trips and attended key meetings, including the 1941 Atlantic Charter Conference.

Fala enjoyed entertaining international dignitaries and famous visitors with his tricks.

In his travels, Fala met British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the Queen of the Netherlands, and Mexican President Manuel Camacho.

During World War II, Fala served as an honorary Army private and became the national president of Barkers for Britain, which created chapters for dog lovers to help the war effort through membership donations.

Letter from a school child to Daisy Suckley  asking to explain how Fala can get mail from his K-9 mother and brothers. (FDR Library)

Letter from a school child to Daisy Suckley asking to explain how Fala can get mail from his K-9 mother and brothers. (FDR Library)

The Roosevelt Library holds thousands of letters sent to Fala by people and animals from across the country.

Daisy Suckley, who was also his trainer, acted as his appointed secretary and helped Fala answer his fan mail.

The library needed five document boxes to hold all of Fala’s correspondences.

In addition, the library holds the draft for the famous “Fala Speech.”

The “Fala Speech” was President Roosevelt’s response to the allegations by Republicans that the President ordered a destroyer to retrieve Fala when the terrier was left behind on an Aleutian island.

In a speech to the Teamsters Union, Roosevelt said:

These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family don’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I’d left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him—at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars—his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself . . . But I think I have a right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog.

After President Roosevelt’s death, Fala lived with Eleanor Roosevelt until his death in 1952.

Fala was buried on what would have been his 12th birthday in the Rose Garden at the Roosevelt Library alongside the President in Hyde Park.

Fala-related items are on permanent display at the Roosevelt Library and Museum.

For more information about Fala, visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum or read the article “Fala and the Barkers for Britain” from the Winter 2006 issue of Prologue Magazine. 

FDR at a picnic on "Sunset Hill" near Pine Plains, NY, August 8, 1940. Fala is 4 months old. (FDR Library)

FDR at a picnic on “Sunset Hill” near Pine Plains, NY, August 8, 1940. Fala is 4 months old. (FDR Library)

Fala's Grave  Fala, FDR's famous Scottish terrier died on April 5, 1952 and is buried in the Rose Garden at the Roosevelt estate in Hyde Park. (Courtesy of the FDR Library)

Fala’s Grave
Fala died on April 5, 1952, and is buried in the Rose Garden at the Roosevelt estate in Hyde Park, NY. (Courtesy of the FDR Library)

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One Response to The First Dog, Fala Roosevelt

  1. jim worsham says:

    FDR delivering the “Fala Speech” is something you should see on YouTube. Go to:

    Like

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