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A farley file is a set of records kept by politicians on people they have met previously.
The term is named for James Aloysius Farley, who was Franklin Delano Roosevelt's campaign manager. Farley, who went on to become Postmaster General and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, kept a file on everyone he ever met, and who ever met Roosevelt. Whenever people were scheduled to meet again with Roosevelt, Farley would review their files, allowing Roosevelt to meet them again knowing their spouse, their children's names and ages — anything which had come out of earlier meetings, and any other intelligence Farley added to the file. The effect was powerful and intimate.
Such "Farley files" are now commonly kept by other politicians and businesspeople.
The concept figures prominently in Robert A. Heinlein's novel Double Star, in which an actor impersonates a major political figure. He is able to extend the impersonation into personal encounters by use of the politician's Farley file.
The Farley file may be compared with the ancient Roman nomenclator, 'a slave who attended his master during canvassing and on similar occasions, for the purpose of telling him the names of those he met in the street'.
- Lewis & Short, A Latin Dictionary, s.v. nomenclator. Cicero, Ad Atticum 4,1,5 and Pro Murena XXXVI 77.
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