A very ordinary cover can be a source of an unusual story about a famous man who wore a special hat at an important WWII conference. The cover bearing a green 1d KGV head stamp cancelled by a partial VISIT/ SUNNY/ AUSTRALIA and a boxed SYDNEY/ N.S.W./ 6 PM/14 NOV/ 1935/ POSTED/ OVERSEAS BOX is addressed to Mr. C.A, Arcentales, P.O. Box T., GUAYAQUIL, ECUADOR, S.A. (Figure 1).
The arrival date on the reverse shows that it arrived in GUAYAQUIL/ DIC 31 1935 and the sender is shown as PACIFIC TRADING CO./ Importers & Exporters/ Clyne House/ 72 PITT ST. SYDNEY/ AUSTRALIA (Figure 2).
Whereas the name Arcentales is a common one in Spanish speaking countries, only one complete match for the initials and surname, as well as Ecuador was found after a thorough web search. I was surprised when that one site came up with absolutely minimal information about the addressee, but it did lead to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Repeating the text, and showing of the single photo are worthwhile. I quote: “FDR’s straw-colored, linen panama hat with black band was manufactured by C.A. Arcentales, Ecuador, and is in pristine condition , with “Franklin D. Roosevelt” embossed in gold letters on the interior sweatband of this hat worn by FDR at the historic 1943 Teheran Conference…….(There is) a wonderful letter of provenance attesting to the authenticity of FDR’s hat worn at the historic Teheran conference during WWII.” (Figure 3).
The description gives a lengthy and convincing testimonial as to how the item was acquired by Gary, the son of Lester and Marge Entrup, who were Eleanor Roosevelt’s Hyde Park, New York housekeepers, attesting to the hat’s authenticity and historic association.
The site continues with a description of the international conference that took place in Teheran, Iran, between November 28 and December 1, 1943. The conference was the first full face-to-face meeting between the United States President, the British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill and the Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. The chief discussion centered on the “second front” in wartime Europe. Stalin agreed to an eastern offensive to coincide with the forthcoming invasions of German-occupied France. The entire site (54 pages) can be highly recommended for Roosevelt buffs, and particularly pages 7-9 for history buffs in regards to this meeting.
A few facts concerning Ecuador and the city of Guayaquil (arrowed) are in order. The “Republic of the Equator” was one of the countries that emerged from the collapse of ‘Gran Colombia’ in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Venezuela). Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbours. A border war with Peru in 1995 was resolved in 1999. It lies between the Pacific Ocean and Colombia to the north and Peru to the south. Its estimated population in July 2004 was 13,212,742. Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador, as well as the nation’s principle sea port, whereas Quito is the capital city. The population of Guayaquil in 2003 was 2,196,800 people (Figure 4).