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Burgundy Hermès briefcase given to former Vice President Henry A. Wallace by female French partisans

Object | Accession Number: 2017.362.2

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    Burgundy Hermès briefcase given to former Vice President Henry A. Wallace by female French partisans


    Brief Narrative
    Hermès briefcase presented to former Vice President Henry A. Wallace by female French partisans when he visited the country in 1947. The briefcase was made by the French brand Hermès, a high end luxury goods manufacturer. The case was given to Wallace as a gift by the Union des femmes françaises (UFF) when he gave a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris, calling for international cooperation at a time of rising Cold War tensions. The UFF was a World War II resistance movement that was officially organized by a congress in December 1944 at the initiative of the French Communist Party and worked with the Front National, a major resistance organization. The UFF distributed newsletters, journals, newspapers, mounted demonstrations against restrictions, and assisted families affected by the war. Henry A. Wallace was an American agricultural business owner and politician. While in college, he invented a new strain of disease resistant corn that produced better yields. He started a business manufacturing and distributing the corn and was very successful. In 1932, he supported Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential bid and following his victory, was appointed as Roosevelt’s secretary of agriculture for eight years. He also served as vice president for Roosevelt’s third term, and later, secretary of commerce for Roosevelt and then Truman.
    received:  1947
    received: Sorbonne; Paris (France)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ann Cornell
    inside, center, stamped, gold ink : HERMÈS-PARIS
    Subject: Henry A. Wallace
    Subject: Union des femmes françaises
    Previous owner: Union des femmes françaises
    Designer: Hermès
    Henry A. Wallace (1888-1965) was born in Orient, Iowa, to Henry Cantwell Wallace and May Brodhead Wallace. Henry C. served as secretary of agriculture under Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. During college, Henry A. created a strain of corn that had better disease resistance and produced better yields. He started a company manufacturing and selling his corn and became very wealthy. In 1932, he supported Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential election. After Roosevelt’s win, he was appointed as secretary of agriculture and oversaw the development and creation of food stamps and school lunch programs. In 1940, Roosevelt chose Henry as his vice presidential running mate and easily won reelection. As Vice President, Henry chaired the Economic Defense Board, the Supply Priorities and Allocations Board, and the Board of Economic Warfare. He also traveled on several official international foreign relations trips serving as the president’s personal ambassador. For the 1944 election, Wallace was not chosen as Roosevelt’s running mate, but was appointed as secretary of commerce. After the war, Wallace held pacifist views and favored a conciliatory policy toward the Soviet Union. In 1948, Wallace ran as a third party presidential candidate for the Progressive Party, and after his defeat, he retired from politics. Wallace died on November 18, 1965, in Danbury, Connecticut.
    The Union des femmes françaises (UFF, now known as Femmes solidaires) was created by former members of the Union des jeunes filles de France and Comité mondial des femmes contre la guerre et le fascisme after both groups were dissolved in 1939. Actions during World War II include organizing demonstrations and publishing underground newsletters. The UFF was officially organized by a congress in December 1944 at the initiative of the French Communist Party by Eugénie Cotton (1881-1967), Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier (1912-1996, survivor of Auschwitz and Ravensbrück), and Yvonne Dumont (1911-2002), with the participation of women’s committees active in the Resistance. Their first Congress, in June 1945, paid homage to Danielle Casanova (born Vincentelli Perini, 1909-1943), a Resistance member who was deported to Auschwitz in 1943 and died of typhus, and to Berty Albrecht (1893-1943), a member of the Resistance who died by hanging in the Fresnes prison following her arrest by the German military.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Briefcases (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Small red, rectangular locking briefcase with a wooden frame and fiberboard body wrapped in red cloth with an approximately one inch wide strip of red leather stitched around the sides with tan thread for reinforcement. On the front base is a tan stitched red leather handle in the center flanked by two silver metal clasp locks on the outside. The handle is attached by two square metal rings attached on each side. The lid has corresponding lock hasps on the front. On the top of the lid is a yellowed paper stamp adhered to the lower left corner. The base and top are attached at the back with a full length leather hinge. The interior is lined with red cloth and has a raised rim wrapped in red leather. On the interior of the base, centered on the back edge, is a small, gold, manufacturer's stamp. The left lock is slightly bent and does not close correctly. On the top of the lid is a small scuff on the lower left corner and a dark rectangular adhesive stain on the lower center of the lid.
    overall: Height: 2.375 inches (6.033 cm) | Width: 14.750 inches (37.465 cm) | Depth: 12.375 inches (31.433 cm)
    overall : leather, metal, cloth, thread, paper, ink, adhesive
    top, printed on paper stamp, black ink : 306994Y 306994Y
    top, printed on paper stamp, gold ink : UNITED STATES / CUSTOMS [obscured] VICE / DATE / INSPECTOR
    front, handwritten on paper stamp, red ink : 4/11/47 / [illegible]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name

    Administrative Notes

    The briefcase was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2017 by Ann Cornell, the granddaughter of Henry A. Wallace.
    Record last modified:
    2023-07-05 08:31:38
    This page:

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