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80th Anniversary – Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 Presidential Inauguration
Eighty years ago, on March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated as President of the United States for the first time. As he approached the rostrum to take the oath of office at the Capitol, he braced himself on his son James’s arm. Breaking precedent, he recited the entire oath, instead of simply repeating “I do.” Then, as the crowd grew quiet, he opened his inaugural address.
The new President was addressing a nation that was struggling amidst the greatest economic depression in its history. Roosevelt offered his fellow Americans reassurance: “This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive, and will prosper.” Then, in bold words that reverberate in public memory, he proclaimed, “. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
This now-famous line got little reaction. The greatest applause came when Roosevelt declared that if Congress didn’t act, he would ask for “broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency. . . .” Americans were ready to grant FDR sweeping power. As he proclaimed, “This nation asks for action, and action now.”
Roosevelt took all four of his presidential oaths of office on this leather bound, Dutch language Bible. The Bible was made in 1686 and contains Roosevelt family records from the early 18th century.
The slideshow below shows images of President Roosevelt taken on March 4, 1933.
The Birthday Balls and the Fight Against Infantile Paralysis
FDR contracted polio in 1921 at the age of 39, and was paralyzed from the waist down. For the rest of his life, FDR was committed to finding a way to rehabilitate himself as well as others afflicted with infantile paralysis.
In 1924, FDR visited a rundown spa in Warm Springs, Georgia where it was said that the buoyant mineral waters had therapeutic powers. After six weeks, he was convinced that he had made more progress in his rehabilitation than at any time in the previous three years. He built a home for himself at Warm Springs.
In 1926 when the spa faced hardship, he purchased the facility for $200,000, creating a therapeutic center called the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation. It opened its doors to patients from all over the country, providing medical treatment and an opportunity to spend time with others suffering the effects of polio.
FDR returned to politics, serving as Governor of New York from 1929-1932, and elected President in 1933. Even with the burdens of office, he regularly visited Warm Springs for treatment and rest, becoming known to the patients as “Dr. Roosevelt.” But the growing demands on the facility, and the increasing number of patients being treated there, required more money than FDR alone or a small number of contributors could provide.
At the suggestion of a public relations consultant, business magnate and FDR political ally Henry L. Doherty launched the National Committee for Birthday Balls that sponsored a dance in every town across the nation, both to celebrate the President’s birthday but also to raise money for the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation.
The first Birthday Ball was held in 1934, with 4,376 communities joining in 600 separate celebrations that raised over one million dollars for Warm Springs. Future Birthday Balls continued to raise about a million dollars per year, with contributions split between Warm Springs and the local communities where the balls were held.
In 1938, FDR created the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, not only to help Warm Springs but also the victims of polio throughout the country. To increase awareness of the campaign, radio personality and philanthropist Eddie Cantor took to the air waves and urged Americans to send their loose change to President Roosevelt in “a march of dimes to reach all the way to the White House.”
Soon, millions of dimes flooded the White House. In 1945, the annual March of Dimes campaign raised 18.9 million dollars for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Ultimately, the March of Dimes (as the National Foundation became known) financially supported the research and development of a polio vaccine by Jonas Salk in 1955, eradicating the disease throughout most of the world by the 1960s.
Franklin Roosevelt’s dedication to finding a cure for polio benefited millions of children worldwide. But it was the participation of Americans across the nation in Birthday Balls that made the campaign a success. Their hard work and financial support supported the development of new methods of treatment to improve the lives of those stricken with polio and the creation of a vaccine to protect future generations from its devastation. Although the Birthday Balls ended in 1945 with the death of President Roosevelt, both of their legacies live on in the March of Dimes.
70th Anniversary of the Casablanca Conference – January 14-24, 1943
From 1942 to 1944 one subject dominated Allied strategic debate—the creation of a Second Front in Europe. This thorny issue caused friction between America, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. It topped the agenda of the January 1943 summit meeting between FDR and Winston Churchill at Casablanca, Morocco, held shortly after the Allied invasion of North Africa.
Though Soviet leader Stalin didn’t attend this meeting, his feelings were clear. For 18 months, the Soviets had single-handedly resisted a massive German invasion. Stalin demanded that his allies strike quickly at the heart of Hitler’s empire in northwest Europe, establishing a “second from” to draw off some German forces from the USSR.
FDR’s military advisers favored the earliest possible assault on northwest Europe. But Churchill argued that a large buildup of forces was necessary to ensure a successful invasion. Because this was unlikely in 1943, he pushed for a more limited, “peripheral” strategy of attack along the edges of the Axis empire, starting with an assault on Sicily. Meanwhile, a buildup of forces in Britain for an invasion of northwest Europe would begin. Roosevelt, eager to keep the American public focused on the fighting in Europe, agreed.
To ease Stalin’s disappointment, FDR offered a signal of Anglo-American resolve: he announced the Allies would only accept an “unconditional surrender” from the Axis Powers.
Below is a series of objects, photographs, and documents from the FDR Library’s collection related to the Casablanca Conference.
This flag of the President of the United States was handmade on board the U.S.S. Memphis by five sailors at FDR’s request and flown from that ship while at anchor in Bathurst, Gambia, West Africa, in January 1943. The Memphis had been ordered to anchor off Bathurst in order to provide safe quarters for FDR and his party en route to and from the Casablanca Conference. This was the first time the President’s flag had ever been flown from an American warship in an African Port. Upon seeing the flag for the first time, President Roosevelt stated that “No ship has ever made a President’s flag is such record time, and it is a darn good flag.”
These pages from the guestbook at the Casablanca Conference include the signatures of Sultan Mohammed V of Morocco, Churchill, Roosevelt, advisor to the President Harry Hopkins, Minister to French North Africa Robert D. Murphy, General George S. Patton, naval aide to the President Admiral John L. McCrea, Elliott Roosevelt, and co-President of the Free French Forces General Henri Giraud. From the Roosevelt Family, Business & Personal Papers.
FDR used this U.S. Army mess kit and canteen at a field luncheon during his visit to Rabat, Morocco, to review American troops on January 21, 1943.
Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill with their Chiefs of Staff, January 22, 1943. NPx 66-104(20)
On the evening of January 22, the Sultan of Morocco hosted Roosevelt and Churchill to dinner. During the dinner he presented these gifts to the President. The dagger is fitted with a gold hilt and sheath and is encased in a teakwood box inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The gold tiara encrusted with semi-precious stones from the Atlas Mountains and a pair of gold bracelets from the Sultan’s collection of family jewels were presented as gifts for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Pearl Harbor Prisoner Petition, December 8, 1941
The “unprovoked and dastardly attack” by Japan on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, brought an immediate unity of purpose to the nation. Thousands of letters flooded into the White House after the attack, and especially after FDR delivered his War Message to Congress (the “date which will live in infamy” speech) on December 8th. Citizens of all political persuasions and from all parts of the country pledged their support, volunteered their service, and offered to enlist in the military. One of the most interesting examples among the President’s papers is a petition that FDR received signed by prisoners at Folsom State Penitentiary in California. This is the first page of the bound petition that contains 39 pages and 1,746 signatures.
Thanksgiving during the War, 1943
During World War II, President Roosevelt made a number of trips to meet with foreign leaders to discuss the war effort and the postwar world. At the end of 1943, FDR traveled to Cairo, Egypt and Teheran, Iran to meet with Winston Churchill, Chiang Kai-shek and Joseph Stalin. The meeting of FDR, Churchill and Stalin in Teheran was the first for the “Big Three.”
On November 25, 1943, Thanksgiving Day, FDR was in Cairo with Winston Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek.
Below is a handwritten page from FDR’s diary of the Cairo and Teheran conferences. On this page from November 26th, FDR writes about hosting Thanksgiving dinner for American and British officials – including Churchill. FDR writes that he had the Chiangs to tea and then the British to dinner with two turkeys he had brought from home.
Get Out the Vote Statement
Below is a statement by FDR urging people to vote in the 1942 mid-term elections. In it he says “we are engaged in an all-out war to keep democracy alive. Democracy survives through the courage and fortitude and wisdom of many generations of fighting Americans. And that includes using not only bullets but also ballots.”
Vice Presidential Spotlight: Harry S. Truman
A former farmer and haberdasher, World War I veteran, and successful local Missouri politician, Harry Truman won a United States Senate seat in 1934. He enthusiastically supported the New Deal and was seen as a Roosevelt loyalist. After winning reelection in 1940, Truman distinguished himself by chairing a respected Senate committee investigating the defense industry. Although Truman never sought the vice presidency, Democratic Party leaders opposed Henry Wallace remaining on the 1944 ticket, and Truman was named to replace him. When FDR died on April 12, 1945, Truman succeeded to the presidency without knowing about the atomic bomb project or what had been agreed to at Yalta.
It was Eleanor Roosevelt that informed Truman of FDR’s death. Late in 1945, Truman appointed ER to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, where she remained throughout Truman’s presidency. Despite her official position, ER did not hesitate to criticize Truman for his weakness on domestic issues, and a foreign policy she believed weakened the United Nations and was too confrontational towards the Soviet Union. She reluctantly supported Truman in the 1948 election, and they maintained a complex relationship that lasted until her death in 1962.
For more information on Harry Truman, please visit the Truman Library Website: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/
Vice Presidential Spotlight: Henry A. Wallace
As editor of Wallaces’ Farmer, a leading farm journal of the time, Henry A. Wallace was an influential voice for farm relief and tariff reform. In 1933, FDR chose Wallace as his Secretary of Agriculture. Possessing strong administrative and scientific skills, Wallace implemented a host of revolutionary farm programs, including the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Soil Conservation Service, the Farm Credit Administration, federal crop insurance, and food stamp and school lunch programs.
In 1940, Roosevelt selected Wallace to be his running mate. One of America’s most effective Vice Presidents, Wallace helped lead the nation’s war mobilization effort and played a key role in planning for the post-war peace. But he was unpopular with many Democratic leaders, who argued he was too idealistic. The 1944 vice presidential nomination went to Harry S Truman. After FDR’s death, Wallace became a leading advocate for post-war cooperation with the Soviet Union and a prominent critic of the Cold War. He ran an unsuccessful third-party campaign for the presidency in 1948. Wallace retired to his beloved farm in upstate New York, where he devoted himself to his first love– scientific farming. He died on November 18, 1965.
1932 Presidential Campaign
Franklin Roosevelt’s nomination for President by the Democratic Convention in Chicago in July 1932 led to one of the momentous campaigns in American political history.
Saddled with responsibility for the Depression, President Hoover would have been vulnerable to almost any opponent in 1932. FDR’s advisors were unanimous in urging him to play it safe and wage a front porch campaign; his running mate, John Nance Garner of Texas, told him, “All you have got to do is stay alive until election day.”
But from his first political venture in upstate New York, FDR had personally exulted in active campaigning, and in 1932 he felt the times and the mood of the country required no less.
Accordingly he campaigned the length and breadth of the land, carrying his message into forty-one states and making a score of major addresses as well as hundreds of whistle-stop appearances. It was the most active presidential campaign to that time.
Some of the positions FDR advocated for during the campaign, such as a commitment to lower taxes, balance the budget, and cut the Federal bureaucracy by 25%, came back to haunt him later. But his energy and personal charm nevertheless carried him to a sweeping victory on November 8, winning forty-two of the forty-eight states, an electoral vote margin of 472 to 59, and a popular vote of 22.8 million to Hoover’s 15.7 million.
Vice Presidential Spotlight: John Nance Garner
John Nance Garner was a politician from Uvalde County, Texas. After serving in the Texas Legislature, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1902. He ran for president in 1932, competing with Governor of New York Franklin D. Roosevelt for the party nomination. When it became clear at the Democratic National Convention that FDR had the support of the majority of the delegates, Garner’s campaign cut a deal with Roosevelt’s to exchange the support of the Texas delegation for the Vice-Presidential nomination. Soon after, Roosevelt was nominated as the Democratic candidate for president and Garner was nominated as his running mate, and the pair easily defeated the Republican ticket that November.
Like many southern Democrats, Garner was philosophically opposed to the New Deal, but did not often publically break ranks with the administration. In 1940, Henry A. Wallace was nominated for Vice President, and Garner returned to private life in Texas.