MS-157: The Donald Brett Collection of Eisenhower Memorabilia
MS – 157: The Donald Brett Collection of Eisenhower Memorabilia
(17 boxes, 9 cubic feet)
Inclusive Dates: 1915-1969
Bulk Dates: 1943-1960
Processed by: Katy Rettig '15
Donated by Donald C. Brett in a series of accessions between the years 2010 and 2014. Most items were purchased by Brett from a variety of locations and vendors.
Don Brett's interest in Dwight David Eisenhower began in May of 1944 when Brett was nine years old and his own father had just died of pneumonia. Brett's mother bought a war bond and that act brought General Eisenhower, who was featured in many bond advertisements, to her son's attention. Brett would go on to join the National Guard and enter the Secret Service. Throughout his career, he continued to have respect for this extraordinary man as a father figure who spent his life serving the world and this nation.
Brett’s calling as a collector began in high school. He wrote to various World War II generals asking for their autographs. He was impressed by how gracious the generals often were about sending stories in addition to their signatures. Eisenhower, who was then president of Columbia University, sent a letter. Eventually, Brett had a chance to meet his hero while new agent with the Secret Service. In July of 1961, he was assigned to the retired president’s detail in Little Egg Harbor, NJ. Ike was, of course, playing golf. While Brett was thrilled to meet his idol, Eisenhower, the former Commander in Chief and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces turned the conversation to Brett asking about his military career. For Eisenhower, it was a chance to talk with another soldier.
Brett’s career in the Secret Service had tremendous variety and poignancy. He was often assigned to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s detail and he even protected the Mona Lisa when the first lady arranged for the painting to be shown in the United States in January 1963. In October of 1963, he was sent for a six week course at Secret Service School in Washington, D.C. and was at his graduation luncheon on November 22nd when the news of President Kennedy’s assassination reached him and his fellow agents. He was on the detail that met the car and accompanied the body of the President. Brett went on to serve on Johnson’s and Nixon’s details. Brett traveled extensively throughout his career and is now retired and living in Sarasota, Florida.
For Brett, donating his collection to Gettysburg College meant that Eisenhower’s legacy will live on in those who learn about his extraordinary life. His favorite item in the collection is the 1915 West Point Howitzer.
Scope and Content Notes
The collection consists of items relevant to all aspects of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s life and career. Most prevalent are Ike’s years as president with numerous artifacts from his 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns as well as commemorative pieces. These artifacts include a significant collection of campaign buttons, jewelry, and postcards along with other miscellaneous campaign artifacts. There is also a series of photographs mostly relating to his Army career in World War II with others from his two terms as president. Of particular interest are the 1915 and 1945 Howitzers, the United States Military Academy at West Point’s yearbook and the tropical worsted wool summer uniform coat of Brigadier General Robert Ludwig Schulz, Eisenhower’s military aide who continued to work with the retired general and president until Ike’s death in 1969. Also included is a small box of Donald Brett’s personal papers that reflect his own research interests.
This collection is divided into nine series. Series I: Correspondence; Series II: Publications; Series III: Photographs; Series IV: Posters; Series V: Albums, Sub-Series A: Eisenhower and Son, Sub-Series B: Brigadier General Robert Schulz; Series VI: Audiovisual Material; Series VII: Artifacts, Sub-Series A: Campaign Memorabilia, Sub-Series B: Ephemera; Series VIII: Donald Brett’s Personal Papers; Series IX: Literary Material
Series I consists of printed replies from Eisenhower, a letter from Mamie to friends, and a large envelope from the Eisenhower’s. Series II consists of newspapers and magazines with articles either about or related to Eisenhower as President and General. Series III is a box of photographs from 1943 to 1969 mostly focusing on Eisenhower’s war years. Series IV are posters of Ike used for his presidential campaigns, 1952 and 1956. Series V, Sub-Series A has the 1915 and 1945 Howitzers, the 1935 West Pointe Alumni Annual Report. Series V, Sub-Series B contains a scrapbook about Brigadier General Robert Schulz and his military uniform. Series VI contains documentaries about Eisenhower’s life and recorded speeches. Series VII, Sub-Series A consists of campaign buttons, jewelry, tab badges, figurines, and other miscellaneous items related to the 1952 and 1956 campaigns. Series VII, Sub-Series B includes materials and items related to Eisenhower’s inaugural and presidential years such as pamphlets and programs as well as holds the commemorative pieces such as souvenirs, stamps, envelopes, and postcards featuring Eisenhower or places related to him. In addition there are some paper WWII items. Series VIII is an accretion of Donald Brett’s personal papers that relate to the acquisition of his collection and his interest in Eisenhower and so includes correspondence with Gettysburg College, materials from Eisenhower National Historic Site, and Brett’s own research. Series IX is a assortment of books covering Eisenhower’s life and legacy. Some of the books are autographed by the authors and others are signed by members of Ike’s family, including son John Eisenhower and granddaughter Susan Eisenhower.