Skip to main content

A Model President

June 2024
1min read

In 1940 eleven-year-old Fred Sayegh (on the left in both photographs) and his younger brother Vie lived in Brooklyn, New York, across the street from a factory that produced life preservers using balsa wood. Local kids made models out of the scraps, and when Fred and his brother found a piece about thirty inches lone, they used it to build the vessel they’re
holding here, a schooner they christened the SS President Roosevelt . “His was the only name I knew of in my whole young life attached to the Presidency,” Fred wrote us, “so you might say that I grew up with a strong bond to FDR—so strong that I likened him to one of my family.” Their parents suggested the boys send their model to the White House, but the post office wouldn’t accept the cardboard box they packed it in. Fortunately, their cousin Margaret, at the Brooklyn Democratic Committee, knew FDR would be making a campaign stop nearby, and she arranged for them to present it to the President following his speech. “We were placed on the running board of the convertible limousine where President Roosevelt and his son sat waiting to leave,” Mr. Sayegh remembered. “The President thanked us and invited us to the White House to see our ship. Although we never had a chance to visit the White House, we still could imagine our ship on display in the President’s own museum in Hyde Park.” Local newspapers printed the boys’ picture (the person on the far right is Roosevelt’s son John), and Fred told his story to several classes at school. “I had to be the one to talk,” Mr. Sayegh concluded, “because my brother was too shy to speak to people.”

Mail unusual and unpublished old photographs to Carla Davidson at American Heritage, t’orbes Building, 60 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011. Please send a copy of any irreplaceable materials and include return postage. We will pay one hundred dollars for each one that is run.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.