Over the course of the long history of the American presidency, few of those whom have led our nation have been viewed as true visionaries. Of all of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, celebrated as a great military leader in World War II, is rarely perceived as a creative or innovative thinker off the battlefield. While his leadership and presidency is undergoing something of a historical reappraisal today, Eisenhower still is not regarded as one who embraced a futuristic technological vision. Still, every man has his moments.
An August 26, 1965 letter from Eisenhower to the toy company mogul, David H. Marx suggests that even Eisenhower engaged in some ruminations about what the technological future might hold. In thanking Marx for the gift of a radio, Eisenhower was so impressed with the portable radio’s sophistication that he prophesied: “Soon, I suppose, they will have one that will respond to someone’s thought that they would like to hear music.”
Letter from former President Dwight D. Eisenhower to David H. Marx of the Marx Toy Company (Credit: History Direct)
David H. Marx co-founded the successful Marx Toy Company with his brother, Louis, during World War 1. According to a 1982 New York Times obituary of Louis Marx, the Company began in response to the restrictions on the importation of toys from Germany during the war. Both David and Louis were close friends and financial supporters of Eisenhower. The relationship between Louis Marx and the President stretched all the way back to the President’s West Point days. He had even named Eisenhower as the godfather to his son. Based on surviving letters and records in the Eisenhower Presidential Library, David Marx frequently provided gifts to Eisenhower both during his presidency and after.
A number of thank you letters from Eisenhower to Marx have appeared on the autograph market in recent years, including one on White House stationary dated December 12, 1957, where Eisenhower writes:
“My Christmas list is completed and as I look it over, I realize anew just how much I am indebted to you …. So – for radios, wallets, pens, toys – I say “thank you” to Mr. Santa Claus.” In another letter, Eisenhower thanks Mr. Marx for the yews that were planted at Eisenhower’s Gettysburg farm and in yet another, dated December 13, 1955 and on White House stationary, Eisenhower thanks Marx for his largesse and then observes: “Someday I am probably going to be embarrassed at your generosity but now I feel only an immense gratitude for your friendship and your constant thoughtfulness.” Of all of the letters in the Eisenhower/Marx correspondence, however, the example published here is particularly interesting.
The letter is being offered for sale by the Gallery of History (www.historyforsale.com) a Las Vegas-based autograph dealer who also offers items under the name, historydirect, on the popular internet auction site, eBay. The letter, currently priced at $1,620 features a few words of thanks for the gift of the R-1000 radio that Marx had sent to Eisenhower. This radio, manufactured by the Japanese company, Panasonic, in 1965, was revolutionary for its time. A user would depress a button on the radio and, as if guided by unseen forces, the dial would automatically turn to advance to the next station. Eisenhower seems to have marveled at the technology and queried whether we might experience a time when radios might anticipate the musical interests of a specific listener.