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OFF BEAT: FDR's contribution to insurance industry honored


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt generally is remembered as one of the nation’s greatest presidents, having guided the United States through the Great Depression and World War II.

He is not, however, generally thought of as someone with much interest in business—and in fact was regarded by some of his contemporaries and later observers as being somewhat hostile toward business.

But a gift to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y., may change that perception just a bit. The gift—given by Zurich Financial Services Ltd.’s Zurich American Insurance Co. unit as part of its commemoration for operating 100 years in the United States—is a desk at which FDR sat when he served as vp of in the New York office and member of the board of directors of the Fidelity & Deposit Co. of Maryland, which is now a Zurich-owned company.

FDR worked for the insurer between 1921 and 1928. He was on hiatus from politics, having been the running mate of James Cox, the unsuccessful 1920 Democratic nominee for president and before FDR’s successful 1928 bid for New York governor, which was followed by his successful 1932 presidential campaign.

“The desk helps tell the story of one of the most critical periods in FDR's life, from 1920-1928, when he struggled to recover from polio and used his position with F&D to benefit the company as well as maintain his contacts with important leaders in business and politics,” said Lynn Bassanese, acting director of FDR Presidential Library and Museum, in a statement accepting the gift of the desk and documents related to FDR’s insurance career.

The desk will be exhibited at Zurich’s North American headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., until later this year. It will go on display at the FDR library and museum in 2013 after renovation of the facility.