The stamp collecting President
Franklin D. Roosevelt, was elected the 32nd President of The United States in 1932. In peacetime, he tackled the economic stagnation and mass unemployment associated with the Great Depression.
On 7 December, 1941 Japan attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, bringing America into World War II and thrusting President Roosevelt into the role of wartime leader of the nation, and eventually that of leader of the Allied coalition against Japan and Nazi Germany.
He had severe medical problems, starting with an episode in 1921 which was diagnosed at the time as polio and which left his legs paralysed. By the early 1940s there were cardiac complications. Roosevelt, who kept his poor state of health secret, was under immense strain in fulfilling his responsibilities of leadership.
For relaxation, he fell back on his childhood hobby of stamp collecting.
The president himself said, “I owe my life to my hobbies – especially stamp collecting.”
His son James also witnessed the relaxing effect his father’s absorption in his stamp collection; “I have vivid memories of Father sitting at his desk when he had a half hour or hour with no appointments . . . with his stamp books and an expression of complete relaxation and enjoyment on his face.”
The philatelist King
Britain’s King George VI was an another person of influence who was a stamp collector.
Although a constitutional monarch, with limited powers, George V realised that the monarchy had to adapt to the conditions of the 20th century. Highly conservative in his attitudes, he nevertheless recognised that in a democracy he needed to pay attention to the attitudes and opinions of all classes and made a real effort to be a king for all the people.
He was conscientious in doing his duty, as he saw it but looked forward to the times he could unwind with his stamp collection.
In 1904, George V was Prince of Wales. One day a courtier told him that he had read in The Times that ‘some damn fool’ had paid £1,450 for a rare stamp from Mauritius. £1,450 was an enormous sum for a stamp at that time.
“That damn fool was me!”, the Prince announced.
Through his position of influence he was able to acquire many more philatelic gems, making the royal collection one of the World’s most important.
Stamp collecting; an antidote to stress?
President Roosevelt was one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century and a key figure in the leadership of the Allies in defeating the German-Japanese Axis. It would seem that, for him, stamp collecting was not an eccentric preoccupation best overlooked but was a relaxing diversion from his burdensome responsibilities,which helped him recharge his batteries.
King George V also benefitted from time spent with his stamp collection. It helped him unwind after he had completed the day’s tasks
For both these men stamp collecting was an effective antidote to the stresses of their important positions on the world stage. This being the case, others with lesser responsibilities may be tempted to seek refuge in the hobby.