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80th Anniversary – Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 Presidential Inauguration

Admission ticket to the 1933 Presidential Inauguration.

Admission ticket to the 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.”

MO 1942-99-3

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.

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75th Anniversary of FDR’s Second Inaugural and a New Inauguration Day

January 20, 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of Franklin Roosevelt’s Second Inaugural Address. It also marks the first time that a president was sworn in on January 20th, the date having been moved by the 20th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Previously, American presidents were sworn in on March 4, the date established by the language of the 12th Amendment. This made sense to the Framers when newly elected presidents and members of Congress had to travel great distances by horse and carriage.

But as American society grew more complex and the nation became more industrialized, the four months between election day and inauguration day were increasingly anachronistic. Outgoing incumbent presidents were powerless lame ducks, and presidents-elect had no authority to influence events. The so-called “Interregnum” between FDR’s election and first inauguration – when the nation remained paralyzed as the Depression deepened and the banking system collapsed – was a perfect example of the crisis this delay could cause.

The Twentieth Amendment was proposed by Congress on March 2, 1932 and was speedily ratified by the necessary three-fourths of the states. But by the amendment’s terms, it did not take effect until October 15, 1933. As a result, FDR became both the last president to take the oath of office on March 4th (1933), and the first president to be inaugurated on the new date of January 20th (1937).

On that cold January day 75 years ago as he stood in the driving rain delivering his Second Inaugural Address, FDR saw “one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished” and declared that “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

This past Friday was March 4th, the 78th anniversary of FDR’s First Inauguration in 1933.  FDR was the last president sworn in on March 4th because the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified on January 23, 1933, changed inauguration date from March 4 to January 20.  But the amendment did not take effect until October 1933.  So when FDR was re-elected in 1936 and inaugurated in 1937, he also became the first president sworn into office on January 20th!

March 4, 1933: FDR is inaugurated as the 32nd President of the United States.


Did you know…..

  • On March 5, 1934, FDR outlined a program to create one million new jobs. He told a Washington audience of business and industrial leaders that the new jobs could be created if a general ten percent increase in wages was coupled with a ten percent decrease in hours.
  • On March 2, 1945, FDR appointed his fourth secretary of commerce Henry A. Wallace. This was the last of his 25 cabinet appointments.

January 20, 1941: FDR’s third presidential inauguration.

FDR’s Third Inauguration.
January 20, 1941
FDR Library Photo Collection. NPx. 48-22:3868(561).

March 4, 1933: FDR is inaugurated as the 32nd President of the United States.

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