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Mamie Doud Eisenhower

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From the Estate of Llewellyn E. Thompson,

United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union

Mrs. Victor . . . the famed hat designer . . . has been especially kind to me during the years we have been at The White House

Mamie Geneva Doud Eisenhower, 1896–1979.  First Lady of the United States, 1953–1961.  Typed Letter Signed, Mamie Doud Eisenhower, one page, with integral leaf attached, 4⅞" x 7⅞", on stationery of The White House, Washington, [Augusta, Georgia], April 16, 1959.  With original envelope.

The First Lady, writing while she vacations in Georgia, asks Jane Thompson, the wife of Ambassador Llewellyn E. Thompson, to extend courtesies to Sally Victor, the worldʼs leading ladiesʼ hat designer, during her trip to Moscow.  She writes, in full:  “This note is to let you know that my friend, Mrs. Sally Victor, will be at the [Hotel] Nationale in Moscow from May eighth to thirteenth.  Mrs. Victor, as you know, is the famed hat designer.  She has been especially kind to me during the years we have been at The White House and I would like very much to have you meet her and perhaps introduce her to any friends you know in the fashion field.  She will communicate with you and I would appreciate any courtesy you may wish to extend to her.  /  The President and I are down in August for some vacation and enjoying perfectly wonderful weather.  Unfortunately, we must think of returning to Washington in a few days!  Incidentally, I am sure you will be glad to know that Mother is feeling better, although not able to return East.  You were so sweet to her when we were in Rome and she often mentions your name.  we join in sending you and your lovely family our best wishes.  /  With warm personal regard . . . .”

Sally Victor (1905–1977) was the premier ladiesʼ hat designer of the 1950s.  She was a “trend setter,” according to Time, and to The New Yorker she was “a magnificent sculptress of straws and felts."  She was the only milliner to win the Coty award, the fashion world's Oscar.  By 1959, when Mrs. Eisenhower wrote this letter, Victor's fashion business grossed some $500,000 per year—more than $4 million today.  In addition to Mrs. Eisenhower, she designed hats for First Ladies Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Lady Bird Johnson and for Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1951, Victor designed a tricorne “Freedom Hat" to capture the attention—and the money—of women in support of the second Crusade For Freedom campaign to raise money for Radio Free Europe.  The campaign also helped to camouflage Radio Free Europe's CIA funding and to generate support for American Cold War policies.  Then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower inaugurated the first Crusade For Freedom campaign in 1950.  Asked to design the “Freedom Hat" in 1951, Victor said, It's about time we did something to make people talk. And there's nothing that makes a woman much more talkative than a new hat."

Mrs. Eisenhower has signed this letter with a bold, 4⅜" black fountain pen signature.  The letter has one horizontal mailing fold and is in very fine condition.  The accompanying envelope is torn open on back flap, but the gold embossed presidential seal is not affected.  It has some soiling and a pencil notation, “11:30,” in another hand at the top.  The envelope was not posted and therefore likely was sent via diplomatic pouch.  It is in very good condition.

Provenance:  This letter comes directly from the Thompson estate.  It has never been offered on the autograph market before.


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