Day 69: FDR Rides a Dirigible, 1918
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first sitting president to ride in an airplane, an occasion marked by a very long overseas flight to attend the 1943 Casablanca conference. FDR’s distant cousin, Theodore, was the first president ever to fly, a trip that took place back in 1910 shortly after he had left the presidency.
FDR may have set an additional aviation first – we think he may have been the first president to fly on-board a dirigible airship (also known as a blimp or zeppelin)!
During World War I, serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR traveled to Europe to inspect US Navy facilities. Several weeks into his trip, on August 17th, 1918 he visited a base in Paimboeuf, Western France where he was offered a ride aboard a French-built airship.
Considered too vulnerable for use on the front, airships were primarily used for scouting missions and mine clearance throughout Western Europe during the war. The use of airships later declined as airplane technology advanced and after several high profile accidents. FDR was serving his second term as president when the infamous Hindenburg crashed in New Jersey in 1937.
FDR writes about the flying experience in his log of the trip saying:
I tried my hand at running the lateral stearing[sic] gear and also the elevating and depressing gear. The sensation is distinctly curious, less noise than an areo.[sic] and far more feeling of drifting at the mercy of the wind.
Day 77 - FDR visits the Panama Canal
Throughout his travels FDR made many trips through the Panama Canal, including a visit to the nearly completed Canal in 1912. The work on the Canal started under President Theodore Roosevelt and was finished in 1914. FDR traveled to Panama with his brother-in-law Hall Roosevelt and his friend and Republican Senate colleague J. Mayhew Wainright. The trio was given their own personal observation car to use through the nine-mile Culebra Cut. FDR wrote home to his mother Sara saying:
I can’t begin to describe it and have become so enthusiastic that if I didn’t stop I would write all night. The two things that impress me most are the Culebra Cut, because of the colossal hole made in the ground, and the locks because of the engineering problems and size. Imagine an intricate concrete structure nearly a mile long and three or four hundred feet wide, with double gates of steel weighing 700 tons apiece!
Our museum collection includes this watercolor painting of the U.S.S. Houston at the Panama Canal by Ian Marshall. This painting depicts the scene of the Houston passing through the Panama Canal on July 11, 1934 with President Roosevelt on board. This was the first passage through the completed Canal by a U.S. President while in office.
Day 56: FDR’s Cruise to Hawaii
On July 1, 1934, FDR boarded the USS Houston to begin his three week journey to the Territory of Hawaii. During the cruise FDR and his party made stops in the Bahamas, Haiti, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Colombia, Panama, Cocos Island and Clipperton Island. These stops included visits with foreign leaders and dignitaries, sightseeing through various countries and lots of fishing. FDR landed in Hawaii on July 24th to begin his historic visit.
FDR and the GI Bill of Rights
June 22 marks the 70th anniversary of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more popularly known as the GI Bill of Rights. Although World War II was far from over, FDR was determined to plan ahead for a smooth transition to peace, both abroad and at home. The President proposed to Congress a way to level the economic impact of the war’s end and to integrate returning veterans back into American society.
The result was the GI Bill. Now widely credited with creating the post-war middle class, the GI Bill of Rights provided returning veterans with educational benefits, work training, hiring preferences, and subsidized loans for buying homes, businesses and farms. It continues today to be one of the lasting legacies of the Roosevelt administration.
“With the signing of this bill a well-rounded program of special veterans’ benefits is nearly completed. It gives emphatic notice to the men and women in our armed forces that the American people do not intend to let them down.”
President Franklin Roosevelt’s Statement on Signing the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, June 22, 1944
Seventy years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act into law on June 22, 1944, just days after the D-day invasion of Normandy.
Also known as the GI Bill of Rights, it offered World War II veterans grants and loans for college and vocational education, unemployment insurance, and low interest loans for housing. The bill had unanimously passed both chambers of Congress in the spring of 1944.
The act put higher education, job training, and home ownership within the reach of millions of World War II veterans. By 1951, nearly 8 million veterans had received educational and training benefits, and 2.4 million had received $13 billion in Federal loans for homes, farms, and businesses.
The GI Bill is on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building from June 6 through July 14.
“AN ACT To establish a National Archives of the United States Government…
Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there is hereby created the Office of Archivist of the United States, the Archivist to be appointed by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.”
Act of June 19, 1934 (“National Archives Act”), Public Law 73-432, 48 STAT 1122, “to create a National Archives of the United States Government and for other purposes.”, 06/19/1934
From the series: Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789 - 2011
Eighty years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed this act on June 19, 1934, establishing the National Archives to centralize federal record keeping, with the Archivist of the United States (aotus) as its chief administrator. It was the culmination of a 25-year campaign by the historical community to create a National Archives building to house the national government’s records.
Day 20: Visit of the British Royals
“I think it would be an excellent thing for Anglo-American relations if you could visit the United States.”
-Franklin Roosevelt to King George VI, September 17, 1938
With war looming, FDR searched for ways to bolster ties with democratic nations opposing Hitler. When he invited England’s King George VI for a state visit in June 1939, the message was clear. No reigning British monarch had ever visited America. The invitation signaled a new era in Anglo-American cooperation.
FDR and ER planned every detail to ensure the King won sympathy and support. Their efforts paid off. The public heartily welcomed the King and Queen in Washington. The royals visited Mount Vernon, where the King laid a wreath at George Washington’s grave. Later, they accompanied the Roosevelts to Hyde Park, where they enjoyed simple American pleasures, including a hot dog picnic. FDR and King George developed a real rapport. More important, press coverage of the royal visit fostered public sympathy with Britain.
During the British Royal visit of June 1939, King George VI president FDR with this House of Windsor gold inkwell, made by Garrard & Co. Ltd. of London.
You can read more about the 1939 Royal Visit here on our website.
Day 19: Visits by Winston Churchill
“It is fun to be in the same decade with you.”
-Franklin Roosevelt to Winston Churchill, January 1942
The friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill formed the core of the Anglo-American alliance during World War II.
On September 11, 1939—ten days after Germany invaded Poland— FDR wrote a confidential letter to Churchill, who had just entered the British cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty. Roosevelt wanted to open a direct line of communication with him. He encouraged Churchill to “keep me in touch personally with anything you want me to know about.”
FDR’s note was the start of an extraordinary six-year correspondence between the two men that totaled almost 2000 messages.
Between 1941 and 1945, they would also spend 113 days together, beginning with an August 1941 meeting in the North Atlantic and ending at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Churchill made visits to the United States in 1941, 1942, 1943 & 1944, including a trip to Washington, D.C. shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
FDR and Winston Churchill - the original #BFF’s?
FDR officially opens the Golden Gate Bridge to vehicular traffic via remote telegraph button on May 28, 1937:
"Press Button — Opening Golden Gate Bridge"
The Golden Gate Bridge opened on this day, May 27, 1937.
On the first day only pedestrian traffic was allowed to cross. On the second day, May 28th, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ceremonially opened the bridge to vehicular traffic.
FDR pushed a golden telegraph button from the Oval Office of the White House that was transmitted across the coast to the festivities in San Francisco.
Here is the White House Stenographer’s Diary entry for May 28th, 1937, recording FDR’s Golden Gate telegraph appointment. FDR telegraphed at three o’clock Eastern Standard Time so the California procession could begin promptly at noon.
-from the FDR Library
FDR’s First Fireside Chat
Today in history, March 12, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his first Fireside Chat. Using the radio to speak directly to the nation, FDR laid out his plan to address the banking crisis of the Great Depression.
-from the FDR Library
March 4, 1933: First Inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt
On this day in 1933, the first inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt was held in Washington, D.C. The longest-serving president in U.S. history, and leader through the Great Depression and World War II — two of the nation’s worst crises — Franklin Delano Roosevelt is considered by many to be our greatest president.
Photo: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Joseph Robinson in Washington, Washington, D.C., March 4, 1933 (National Archives).
(Nice use of the Content Source link, pbsthisdayinhistory!)
Issued by President Franklin Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, this order authorized the evacuation of all persons deemed a threat to national security from the West Coast to relocation centers further inland. In the next 6 months, over 100,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry were moved to assembly centers. They were then evacuated to and confined in isolated, fenced, and guarded relocation centers, known as internment camps.
The U.S. Government would eventually be compelled to compensate surviving internees for their treatment in 1988.
Executive Order 9066 dated February 19, 1942, in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt Authorizes the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas, 02/19/1942
Read more at Our Documents
Shirley Temple Black (April 23, 1928 - February 10, 2014)
Today we remember Shirley Temple. During her early years as an actress, Shirley visited with the Roosevelts at the White House and in Hollywood. In her March 19, 1938 “My Day” column, Eleanor Roosevelt had this to say about Shirley:
Our first visit was to Shirley Temple, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting before and who is, without exception, one of the most charming children I know. She is simple and unaffected and accepts the inevitable photographers and her as naturally as if this was the way every little girl lived her life
While visiting the White House in June 1938, Shirley presented FDR with a “Shirley Temple Police” Badge. She signed her letter from “Chief Shirley Temple.”
In July of 1938, Shirley and her parents visited Hyde Park for a picnic. Mrs. Roosevelt wrote all about the day in her July 11, 1938 “My Day” column.
Fred Shipman, Monuments Man
Dr. Fred W. Shipman, first Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, was asked to join the Roberts Commission (the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Europe) in January 1944.
In a letter to President Roosevelt, Shipman described his new position, saying, “It would be my job to survey the problem relative to records and archives in this theater and to organize plans to preserve, salvage and make available important records for use in the continued administration and future reconstruction of the area and to preserve cultural materials.”
Roosevelt granted Shipman leave from the Library and the Director soon began his tenure as Temporary Archives Advisor to the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Subcommission of the Allied Control Commission. Members of this Commission are now famously referred to as “Monuments Men.”
Shipman left Washington, D. C. on March 17, 1944. He flew to Naples, Italy where he spent the next month meeting military personnel and getting his orders. From April 18 to May 4, Shipman traveled through Occupied Italy visiting archival repositories. The purpose of his mission was to help protect and preserve Italian archives and records. These materials included both the current administrative records of government and private organizations, as well as the older archives of historical and cultural value.
Read more about Shipman and his time as a Monuments Man.