Franklin D. Roosevelt decides a legal question allowing fish to be distributed in refrigerated meat trucks. "there appears to be nothing which would hinder the fishing industry from utilizing the refrigerator cars belonging to others” Roosevelt writes to U. S. Marshall John J. Murphy (Boston, MA) agreeing to allow the fish companies to transport fish in refrigerated cars belonging to meat packing companies. Murphy sent a 5 1/2 page typed memorandum, included, explaining in great detail the transportation problem faced by the fish industry. Roosevelt agrees to intervene to facilitate this practical solution. Roosevelt begins with a review of the problem Murphy described. "You state that that industry [fish industry] has a limited market because refrigerator cars used for transporting meat to the East are returned empty. You attribute the existence of this situation to the so-called 'Consent Decree' and propose that steps be taken to remove the restrictions in order that the facilities which are now employed for the distribution of meats may be made available to the fishing, fruit and vegetable industries...." Roosevelt reviews the "Consent Decree" explaining that is "was the climax of a suit brought by the Government under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act...against five of the leading packers in 1920," preventing them from using their "facilities in the handling of a large variety of non-meat food products, including fish...." The Government believed that the packers planned to extend their monopolistic practices to other food products. "It was on this account that packers were required to discontinue any dealing in many non-meat lines...." Roosevelt reviews Supreme Court decisions which twice upheld the restriction noting the Court, "refused to permit a modification of the decree...." FDR then reasons that the Decree affects the designated large companies, "there appears to be nothing which would hinder the fishing industry from utilizing the refrigerator cars belonging to others who ship perishable commodities to the East. It is my understanding that there is a heavy movement of empty refrigerator cars westward and these include both those which are owned by carriers and whose which are privately owned. If the 'Consent Decree' were modified...." to allow packers to transport fish, a question would then arise about cost. He advised Murphy to "look into these particular phases of the problem...." Roosevelt concludes with a statement about the importance of transporting food across the country offering to arrange a conference among the various governmental entities involved. He notes the divergent roles played by the Department of Justice and the Interstate Commerce Commission in light of the Supreme Court restrictions against the meat packing industry. Signed in full, "Franklin D. Roosevelt." Very slight chipping at margin folds, some soiling at margins.
The USS Houston, from which FDR wrote our detailed letter, was a Northampton-class cruiser of the U.S. Navy, first launched in 1929, but sunk in the Battle of Sunda Strait on March 1, 1942. President Roosevelt cruised aboard the USS Houston a number of times during his tenure as President . At least four journeys are recorded, including this one corresponding with our Oct. 14 letter, from October 2-23, 1935 [see fdr library at Marist College, Day by Day events]. .” On October 14, FDR’s “Day by Day” listing notes, “anchored to the eastward of Pedro Gonzales Island” and also notes that he was going fishing with Governor Schley of the Panama Canal. He later traveled with Schley to and through the Gatum locks. The Wikipedia entry for the USS Houston shows a photo of the ship off San Diego in October 1935 “with President Franklin D. Roosevelt on board. She is flying an admiral four-star flag at her foremast peak, and the Presidential flag at her mainmast peak. Roosevelt appointed his correspondent, John J. Murphy, to the position of the U.S. Marshal for the District of Massachusetts in 1935. He served until 1939. Previous to that posting, Murphy was the first Democratic Mayor of Somerville, Mass. (1930-1934) and President of the Boston-based Franklin D. Roosevelt League. Murphy, being from the Boston area, would no doubt have been involved in or certainly aware of the fishing industry in Gloucester during the early 1930s. An article on July 15, 2010 citing pieces in the New York Times from April through June of 1933 about the fishing industry indicated there had been a series of interactions between the President and the depressed fishing community in Gloucester during 1933. There was a shortage of cod and a surplus of mackerel. Fisherman were known to be dumping their catch to protest the low prices being paid for the fish. They wanted subsidies similar to the aid FDR had given farmer. The President met with the fishermen, seemed to be in support of them, but on his next visit to Gloucester, was asked where that aid he promised was. Nothing had been done to alleviate the problems of the fishing industry. FDR’s decision to facilitate transportation of fish, as reflected in our letter, was made against this problematic background.