Party at the White House! The Time the Roosevelts Threw a Toga Party

The National Archives
The National Archives / The National Archives

Becoming President of the United States of America comes with a certain set of expectations regarding decorum and diplomacy. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that the 44 men who’ve held the position knew how to party—and how to handle their haters.

Despite his public health struggles, Franklin D. Roosevelt was no exception on either count. While in office, the Democrat regularly entertained guests over cocktails, smoked, and threw an annual birthday bash to reunite with his campaign staff and close advisors, known affectionately as the “Cuff Links Gang.”

In 1934—only a year into his presidency—Roosevelt was under scrutiny from conservatives who called him a “dictator.” The president and first lady, Eleanor, responded by turning FDR’s 52nd birthday party into a “Caesarian” themed bash (what a non-head of state might call a toga party).

That year, on January 30, the White House hosted past and present staff, as well as friends, who all dressed to the nines in accordance with the cheeky theme. FDR played Caesar, Eleanor was the Delphic Oracle, and Louis Howe, longtime adviser, dressed as a Praetorian Guard. Marion Dickerman, a suffragette and friend of Eleanor’s, wore a muslin toga garment that is now at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

It looked like quite the affair.

Tacoma Public Library

Tacoma Public Library