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1936 Podium (M.O. 2007.125)

MO 2007.125 Podium Used by Franklin D. Roosevelt

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 speaks at a wooden podium, August 11, 1938.

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.

FDR at the podium, Municipal Auditorium October 13, 1936.

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.

The Municipal Auditorium was designed in the then popular
Art Moderne/ Decco style and was hailed at the time as an
architectural triumph. Today the beautifully preserved and
maintained building is a city landmark, hosting sports events,
musical acts and other cultural events.

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.

1932
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.

1936
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.

1940
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.

1944
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.”

The FDR Presidential Library and Museum and the Roosevelt Institute are pleased to announce “FDR’s 4 CAMPAIGNS,” a free public forum on October 21, 2012. The forum will consist of two afternoon panel discussions beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home. Both panels will feature leading scholars and authors discussing Franklin Roosevelt’s historic four presidential campaigns.

In addition to house seating, these programs will be webcast live (linked from the Library’s website) with online viewer participation. Registration is required. Call (845) 486-7745 for information. For a printable agenda visit the Roosevelt Library website’s events page at: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/publicprograms/calendar.html.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to the presidency four times in the midst of the two greatest crises of the 20th century. Each campaign was unique, reflecting Roosevelt’s evolving vision for the Nation and its place in the world.

The first panel discussion, beginning at 1:30 p.m., will focus on FDR’s first two elections. His First and Second campaigns took place during the Great Depression. In 1932, he campaigned to bring a New Deal to the American people. The 1936 election was a referendum on Roosevelt’s vision of a progressive government playing an active and positive role in the American economy. This first panel will be moderated by Mary E. Stuckey, Professor of Communication, Georgia State University and author of “Defining Americans: The Presidency and National Identity.” Panelists will include Donald A. Ritchie, Historian of the United States Senate and author of “Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932;” and Gregory E. Geddes, Professor of History, State University of New York – Orange and specialist in the history and literature of labor and the American left.

The second panel, beginning at 3:15 p.m. will discuss FDR’s last two elections. During FDR’s Third and Fourth campaigns, the world was at war. In 1940, the major issues were Roosevelt’s run for a Third Term and whether America would remain isolationist. The 1944 campaign was the first wartime election since the Civil War, and a weary FDR ran for a Fourth Term in order to win the war and ensure the peace. This panel will be moderated by Richard Aldous, Eugene Meyer Professor of British History and Literature, Bard College and author and editor of nine books, including “Reagan and Thatcher.” Panelists will include Charles Peters, founder and former Editor-in-Chief, “The Washington Monthly” and author of “Five Days in Philadelphia: The Amazing ‘We Want Willkie!’ Convention of 1940 and How It Freed FDR to Save the Western World;” and Stanley Weintraub, Professor Emeritus of Arts and Humanities, Pennsylvania State University and author of Final Victory: “FDR’s Extraordinary World War II Presidential Campaign.”

 

FDR and the Democratic National Convention

“I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

This now famous line was uttered by FDR during his acceptance speech at the 1932 Democratic National Convention. FDR was nominated as the Democrat’s presidential candidate four times – 1932, 1936, 1940 & 1944. He made history at the 1932 convention by flying to Chicago to accept the nomination in person – a practice which is still in place today. Aside from those four conventions, FDR also played a role in earlier conventions, and the convention of 1924 marked an important milestone for him and his political career.

1924 – FDR gains national attention

1924 Convention Address

On June 26, 1924 FDR re-entered the public arena at the Democratic National Convention in New York City. Three years before the convention FDR contracted polio, a disease which left him paralyzed from the waist down. Thanks to the work of Louis Howe and Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR was able to stay active in politics while he began his rehabilitation.

In 1924 FDR backed New York Governor Al Smith as the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party, and Smith asked FDR to give his nominating speech at the convention. When on stage, FDR moved to the podium assisted only by his two crutches – a huge feat for him to perform.

In his speech FDR declared Smith to be “The Happy Warrior.” Smith failed to get enough delegates to win the nomination. FDR went on to nominate Smith again at the 1928 convention in Houston. Smith won the Democratic nomination, but lost the presidential election to Herbert Hoover.

Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers nominating speech for Alfred E. Smith at the Democratic convention, Madison Square Garden, New York, New York. June 26, 1924.

1932 – First nomination for President

1932 Convention Address

The 1932 convention pitted FDR, now governor of New York, against Al Smith and many others. The convention that year was held in Chicago, and after four contentious votes FDR was named as the Democratic nominee for the presidency.

When it came time to accept the nomination, FDR broke with tradition and flew to Chicago to address the convention in person.  He acknowledged that fact in the beginning of his speech saying, “the appearance before a National Convention of its nominee for President, to be formally notified of his selection, is unprecedented and unusual, but these are unprecedented and unusual times.”

FDR went on to promise action and relief against the hardships caused by the Great Depression and pledged himself to a “new deal” for all Americans.

Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard airplane as it refuels in Cleveland, Ohio on his way to Chicago. July 2, 1932.

1936 – First re-election

1936 Convention Address

Philadelphia was the site for the 1936 convention – a convention which was much calmer than that of 1932. FDR and Vice President John Nance Garner were nominated without the need of a roll call, and on June 27th, FDR addressed the convention.

As he spoke, he talked of the need for freedom from tyranny, both political and economic, and of making government the “embodiment of human charity.” FDR went on to say that “there is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.”

FDR accepts the nomination for the Presidency in speech at Franklin Field, Philadelphia, PA. June 27, 1936.

1940 – An unprecedented third term

1940 Convention Address

1940 brought another convention first. After much speculation, FDR broke with presidential tradition and ran for a third term. While he was easily nominated on the first ballot, the convention was not without some controversy. This time it lay in the nomination of a vice-presidential candidate. The vote came down to two men, Henry Wallace and William Bankhead. FDR was adamant on Wallace being his running mate, but the convention was less convinced.

While FDR did not attend the convention, Eleanor was instead sent to deliver a speech in hopes of bringing together the party. In her address she called for unified action and support for the President. After her speech the convention voted, and Wallace was nominated. For more on Eleanor’s speech, please visit: https://fdrlibrary.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/found-in-the-archives-9/

Eleanor Roosevelt addresses Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois. July 18, 1940.

 

1944 – A fourth term & final convention

1944 Convention Address

The 1944 convention brought about the unprecedented nomination for a fourth term for FDR. Like the convention in 1940, FDR did not attend this convention. Instead, when the nomination was announced FDR was in California on his way to Hawaii to discuss military strategy for the ongoing war. Even with the easy nomination for FDR, this convention was not without controversy and contention.

Again, the controversy centered on the vice presidential nomination. By 1944 FDR’s health was steadily declining, and many delegates were opposed to Henry Wallace becoming FDR’s possible successor. Harry Truman was proposed as the vice presidential candidate, and though FDR knew little about Truman, he agreed to Truman’s nomination for the sake of party unity.

Franklin D. Roosevelt accepts nomination by DNC at Chicago from train at San Diego, California with Mr. & Mrs. James Roosevelt. July 20, 1944.

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