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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.
Roosevelt and Lincoln
“I live, temporarily, in the same house and the same rooms once occupied by him. The very window from which he gazed in the dark days is the same.”
-Franklin D. Roosevelt, Remarks on Visiting the Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.
June 24, 1936
President Roosevelt was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. He often cited the revered nineteenth century president in speeches, evoked his image in campaign material, and collected or received over 100 pieces of Lincoln related ephemera.
These objects from the FDR Library’s Museum collection reflect the connection between President Roosevelt and President Lincoln.
Both FDR and his opponents referred to Lincoln in their campaign material. The poster on the left was used during Roosevelt’s 1932 campaign. The button on the right was used by Republicans in 1940 to criticize FDR’s attempt to seek a third term.
Henry Weber of Oakville, Indiana, made this desk piece from the wood of a 350 year old white oak tree that stood beside the trail leading from the Lincoln cabin to the grave of President Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln in Spencer County, Indiana. Mr. Weber’s son, Horace, was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the area and sent the stump of the tree to his father in 1933. The granite piece at the bottom was taken from Devil’s Den at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Webers sent the completed piece to FDR as a gift in 1937.
President Lincoln gave this pair of Colt pistols to Kıbrıslı Mehmed Emin Pacha, Governor of Adrianople, Turkey, in 1864. The gift was presented in acknowledgement of his services in securing the assassins of Reverend William Ward Merriam, an American missionary. Rev. Merriam was killed when his caravan was attacked during a return trip from Constantinople to his post at Phillipopolis. In March 1945, the pistols were presented to President Roosevelt by Baron Francis J. Solari of Izmir, Turkey, and Rome, Italy, through Myron C. Taylor, the Personal Representative of the President to Pope Pius XII. The firearms are Model 1862 .36-caliber Colt police pistols, with silver handles by Tiffany, serial numbers 25513 E and 25514 E.
Dr. John E. Washington, author of the book, They Knew Lincoln, a history of the President’s White House staff, gave this photograph of historic pieces to FDR in 1942. Fixed to the photo is a small “Lock of hair removed from Pres. Lincoln’s head by Wm. Slade his messenger while preparing the body for burial,” and a small “Piece of dress worn by Mrs. Lincoln the night of the assassination showing blood of Pres. Lincoln. Given by Mrs. Slade to her cousin Mrs. Brooks.”
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.
Aquamarine Stone (MO 1947.115.1)
Several weeks after winning his second presidential election, FDR boarded the cruiser USS Indianapolis for a month long “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America. On November 27, 1936, the President stopped at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he met with Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas.
During this visit, President and Mrs. Vargas presented FDR with a stunning gift for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt— a 1,298 carat aquamarine (seen above). This remarkable stone was from the Vargas’ private collection and was the largest cut stone of its kind at the time. It was presented in an art deco style box, custom made by jeweler Casa Oscar Machado.
The stone was found in a mine in the State of Minas Gerais, about 880 miles from Rio de Janeiro. The mine, known as Laranjeira (Orange), was later renamed Pedra Azul (Blue Stone) for its rich finds. The rough stone, weighing 1.3 kilograms, was brought to cutter Gustav Reitbauer of Amsterdam Limited, purveyor of precious gemstones. It yielded two cut stones—the one that was given to the First Lady and another, at 865 carats, that was sold to the Maharadja of Kaputala.
In 1947, the aquamarine caused a minor controversy for Mrs. Roosevelt when syndicated columnist and radio personality Drew Pearson accused her of trying to sell the piece after she made an attempt to discover its value. ER ultimately decided to donate the precious stone to the Roosevelt Library and wrote of the incident in her autobiography This I Remember: “I think it does interest people and perhaps does serve a good purpose by symbolizing the kindness and generosity of Brazilian feeling toward our country.”
FDR’s “Lucky” Campaign Hat (MO 1945.58.20)
This hat is one of several distinctive “lucky” felt hats Franklin D. Roosevelt wore during his four presidential campaigns. As you can see in the photos below, these trademark fedoras were a common sight on the campaign trail.
After the 1940 election, Roosevelt generously donated this hat to be auctioned at a fundraiser for the Motion Picture Relief Fund (MPRF). Well-known actors Edward G. Robinson and Melvyn Douglas—both strong FDR supporters—jointly purchased the hat for $3,200 (roughly $50,000 in today’s dollars). This act by the President was a surprise to some, including the First Lady. “The President is very superstitious about that hat, I never expected him to part with it,” she told Jean Hersholt, actor and President of the MPRF.
During the summer of 1944, as Roosevelt campaigned for a fourth term as president, Robinson and Douglas returned the hat to the President. At the time, Robinson was entertaining troops overseas and Douglas was serving as a captain in the US Army. “I believe most men have a special affection for their old hats,” wrote Grace Tully, FDR’s secretary, in her response.
After winning the 1944 election, FDR gave this hat to the Roosevelt Library. The hat will be on display in the Library’s new permanent exhibit, opening June 30, 2013.
1936 Podium (M.O. 2007.125)
This aluminum and steel podium was specially designed for use by FDR during a 1936 presidential campaign stop at the new Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri—an immense structure built with funds from the New Deal’s Public Works Administration (PWA). A plaque inside the podium reads, “Presented by the citizens of Kansas City, Missouri/ to the honorable/ Franklin Delano Roosevelt/ President of the United States of America/ on the occasion of his dedication/ of the new Municipal Auditorium/ October 13, 1936/ H.F. McElroy, city manager.” Following the President’s speech the podium was shipped to the White House. It was later transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration.
With considerable physical effort, using specially designed podiums such as this one, FDR was able to deliver his speeches from a standing position while supporting himself with his arms. Wearing leg braces, the President would approach a podium like this one with the aid of a cane and the strong arm of a companion. They supported his weight while he pitched his body forward. He then placed his hands on the arm rails at the back of the podium and, using his arms to hold his weight, moved himself forward the last few steps.
Though it appears to be an ordinary podium from the front, this one has thigh-high extensions in the back, providing the necessary stability to support the President’s weight. The podium’s six feet could be bolted to the floor to add further support. With its raised panels and modern materials, this podium is particularly attractive and well-built, in keeping with its intended use at the dedication of a newly minted building. It includes two handsome presidential seals on the front. Other podiums FDR used were more utilitarian in design and materials (see photo below). But all served to allow the President to stand while delivering his speeches.
FDR’s stop at the new Kansas City auditorium was part of a ten-day campaign tour that began on Thursday, October 8, 1936 when he, Eleanor, and a delegation of family and close political associates left Hyde Park by train. During this tour the President visited eleven states. Traveling by train, he made speaking stops in Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, and New York before returning to Hyde Park on October 17.
The Kansas City stop on October 13 was the fifth of six train stops on that date. Roosevelt’s day began with a speech in Wichita, Kansas. Next he gave three “rear-platform remarks” from the back of his train in Florence, Emporia, and Olathe, Kansas. After his speech at the auditorium in Kansas City he returned to the campaign train and gave one last talk from back of the train in Carrollton, Missouri.
In Kansas City, FDR spoke to a packed house, including a large group of young people seated in the front rows. He directed his remarks toward this new generation, who were growing up during very difficult economic times:
“As we take stock, we recognize that the most priceless of our human assets are the young men and women of America–the raw material out of which the United States must shape its future.… And so, the highest duty of any Government is to order public affairs so that opportunities for youth shall be made ever broader and firmer.”
FDR touted his administration’s investment in institutions that served youth, especially schools. “The school,” he noted, “is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.” He also extolled New Deal initiatives like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the National Youth Administration (NYA) which were helping young people find direction, work, and education and giving them hope for the future.
Roosevelt Campaign Posters
Franklin Roosevelt is the only American president elected to four terms. The campaign posters seen above represent all four of his presidential campaigns—1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944. Before the era of television and the internet, campaign posters were one of the primary visual tools used by presidential candidates. These posters reflected key messages associated with the candidate. The Roosevelt Library’s collection of political campaign posters suggests some of the prominent themes employed by FDR’s campaign team during four very different political years.
During Roosevelt’s first campaign in 1932, his poster designs were simple with little color and an understated, straightforward message. This election took place at the lowest point of the Great Depression and FDR campaigned as a “Progressive Candidate” promising to be a “Man of Action” with policies to combat the economic crisis.
By 1936, the economy was improving and unemployment was down. Roosevelt entered his first re-election campaign stressing a message of continuity. The nation was encouraged to continue moving “Forward with Roosevelt.” Another poster with a photograph of FDR working at his desk— simply entitled “Re-elect ROOSEVELT”— aimed to resonate with Americans eager for the President to continue what he had started.
The threat of American entry into World War II was a key issue when Roosevelt ran for an unprecedented third term in 1940. Many of his 1940 campaign posters have an overtly patriotic design. Stars along with red and white and blue colors are more prominent. The campaign placed greater emphasis on voting “Straight Democratic” to “Protect America.”
Throughout his presidency, FDR supported policies that increased the ranks of organized labor. Labor’s growing importance to the Democratic Party is reflected in the union label’s presence on the President’s campaign posters. In 1940, for the first time, the label appeared on all of Roosevelt’s posters.
With America at war, the 1944 campaign varied significantly from the previous three. War, victory, and peace became major poster themes. James Montgomery Flagg’s iconic Uncle Sam image was translated into a Roosevelt campaign symbol. A poster produced by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) touted FDR as “1A In Our Draft.” A “Vote Democratic” poster employed a large “V”—associated during the war with the popular slogan “V for Victory.”
Hispanic Heritage Month: September 15, 2012 – October 15, 2012
“Holy Family” Carving (MO 1956.328)
This pine carving, titled “Holy Family,” was created by artist Patrocinio “Pat” Barela in 1936 while he was employed by the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA).
President Roosevelt created the WPA by executive order in 1935 to provide government-funded jobs for millions of unemployed Americans during the Great Depression. The WPA included a Federal Arts Program (FAP) that employed thousands of artists like Barela on projects around the nation.
Pat Barela was born in Arizona in 1900. His family moved to the Taos, New Mexico area during his youth. Barela left home at the age of 11 to become a migrant worker, but returned to Taos in the early 1930s. He began carving during this period. Using local wood, he fashioned each of his distinctive sculptures out of a single piece of wood, using its natural shape and imperfections to dictate the form of the piece. In 1935, Barela was working as a WPA teamster and carving in his spare time when a local WPA official recognized the quality of his work and arranged for his acceptance into the Federal Arts Program (FAP). Barela’s work soon drew the attention of Russell Vernon Hunter, director of the New Mexico FAP. With Hunter’s support, his art became recognized around the country.
This sculpture was among several Barela pieces that were featured in a 1936 exhibition at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Time magazine reviewed the exhibit and called Barela “the discovery of the year.” Barela’s work was later featured at the New York World’s Fair, the M. H. de Young Museum, and the Portland Art Museum.
One of the prominent visitors at the 1936 MOMA exhibit was WPA director Harry Hopkins. Hopkins admired the “Holy Family” carving and expressed an interest in having it installed in his office. Eventually, the piece came into the possession of the President who gave it to the Roosevelt Library.
Model of Independence Hall in Philadelphia (MO 1941.12.38)
“Philadelphia is a good city in which to write American history. This is fitting ground on which to reaffirm the faith of our fathers; to pledge ourselves to restore to the people a wider freedom; to give to 1936 as the founders gave to 1776—an American way of life.”
-Franklin D. Roosevelt, Acceptance Speech for the Renomination for the Presidency, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 27, 1936
This 1/16” scale painted plaster model of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is one of 2600 historical models created in 1937 by the Pennsylvania Museum Extension Project (MEP), a branch of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA). Constructed in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Historical Commission, the model includes a plan drawing of the building’s first floor, illustrating the “Declaration Chamber” and “Supreme Court Chamber,” as well as the center hall, tower, and east and west wings.
Models like this one were created by the MEP for distribution to schools and historical societies throughout Pennsylvania to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1937. This model was presented to President Roosevelt by Pennsylvania Governor George W. Earle as a gift. The President displayed it for a time in the Oval Office.
Unlike the best-known WPA work programs which employed laborers on highly visible public building projects, the MEP sponsored projects that were less visible, but also important and productive. FDR recognized that white collar workers, artists, and other professionals felt the impact of the Great Depression as much as blue collar workers. The MEP employed a diverse workforce, including educators, artists, architects, and skilled craftspeople. They also provided training to unskilled assembly workers.
Twenty-four states established branches of the MEP. Pennsylvania had one of the most active branches. According to its catalog, its mission was to “offer to the educational world authentic and comparatively graphic presentations of the human race’s evolutionary efforts to house and clothe itself.” During the 1930s, many schools—especially those in rural areas—lacked visual learning materials. Such materials were increasingly being recognized by educators as important tools to foster learning. In addition to educational models, the Pennsylvania MEP created costume illustrations, national flags, illustrations, puzzles, maps, geologic and industrial models, handcraft designs, food models, and other material aimed at “enabling all young minds more readily to get a realistic grasp of vital subjects they may be studying.”
The MEP shop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was commissioned to produce the Independence Hall model. The model and floor plan based on extensive physical documentation of the building. The MEP also created a short play about the Constitutional Convention to accompany the model.
The MEP and the Pennsylvania Historical Commission later collaborated on a History of the Home series, creating numerous architectural models illustrating vernacular architecture from Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa as well as historical buildings from Pennsylvania and other states. The Broward Library‘s Bienes Museum of the Modern Book in Fort Lauderdale, Florida has an excellent collection of these models. You can view the models on the Broward Library’s digital catalog at http://digilab.browardlibrary.org/wpa/.