President Franklin Roosevelt signed the ambitious but controversial Tennessee Valley Authority Act 80 years ago on May 18, 1933, to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly affected by the Great Depression.
FDR at The First Presidential Library Dedication
The first Presidential Library and Museum was conceived and built under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s direction from 1939 to 1940 in Hyde Park, NY. The official FDR Library dedication was a small, quiet affair, with close friends and family attending the ceremony.
-History of the FDR Library
The Death of FDR
On April 12, 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 63, President of the United States serving his fourth term, died of a cerebral hemorrhage in his cottage at the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation.
Vice President Harry S. Truman took the oath of office as President at 7:09 P.M., in the Cabinet Room in the White House. Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone of the Supreme Court administered the oath.
Shown here is the White House Stenographer’s Diary on the day of FDR’s death.
-from the FDR Library
Be sure to see Truman’s reaction in his post-script on a letter to his sister-in-law written the same day.
An enduring legacy of the New Deal, FDR established the Civilian Conservation Corps with an executive order signed April 5, 1933.
In the midst of the Great Depression, the program put thousands of unemployed young men to work, planting trees, building roads, improving State and National Parks, even combating forest fires and other natural disasters.
Never a permanent agency, the scale of the CCC was reduced as the economy improved, and it was disbanded in 1942 as the country geared up for World War II.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt threw out the first pitch at a game between the Washington Senators and the Boston Red Sox at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., on April 24, 1934.
Discover more baseball stories in our new, free eBook, Baseball: The National Pastime in the National Archives. Download it for free on our eBooks page or on iTunes.
You can also learn more about the history of Presidents and baseball on the Prologue blog and at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
The Beer-Wine Revenue Act - March 22, 1933
80 years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Beer–Wine Revenue Act into law on March 22, 1933. This law amended the Volstead Act and permitted the sale of beer and wine with an alcohol content of less than 3.2% by volume. The act represented the first relaxation of the prohibition laws since 1918 and was followed up at the end of the year with the passage of the 21st Amendment repealing prohibition. Repeal of prohibition laws was a key plank in the Democratic platform during the 1932 Presidential election as reflected in Clifford Berryman’s cartoon.
Franklin Roosevelt established the Jackson Hole National Monument in Wyoming 70 years ago today on March 15, 1943. It would later be combined with the Grand Teton National Park in 1950.
Presidential Proclamation 2578 of March 15, 1943, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishing Jackson Hole National Monument.: 03/15/1943
March 12, 1933, FDR’s First Fireside Chat on the Banking Crisis
As one of his first acts to confront the worsening impact of the Great Depression, newly elected President Roosevelt declared a nation-wide bank holiday starting on March 6, 1933 effectively shutting down the American banking system following a month long run on their reserves. Roosevelt went on the radio in his first “fireside chat” to dispel rumors and explain his actions. When banks reopened on March 13th, the public lined up to redeposit their cash. The bank holiday, along with the Emergency Banking Act passed on March 9th, is credited with restoring public confidence in the banking sector.
Frances Perkins: First Woman Cabinet member
80 years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt notified the U.S. Senate on March 4, 1933, that he had nominated Frances Perkins of New York to be Secretary of Labor. A lifelong labor reformer, she rose to prominence following the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. She was confirmed as Secretary of Labor and became the first woman appointed to a Cabinet position. She was the longest serving Labor secretary, serving for 12 years between 1933 and 1945. She was also the first woman to enter the Presidential Line of Succession.
Keep reading at Prologue: A Factory Fire and Frances Perkins
The Yalta Conference Cloak
The photos of the Big Three at the Yalta Conference are well-known, but have you ever looked closely at what FDR was wearing?
In contrast to the double-breasted coats worn by Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt wore a distinctive wool and velvet cloak during his trip to the Crimea, Ukraine, in February 1945.
The garment is a U.S. Navy regulation officer’s boatcloak. President Roosevelt’s was made at the Naval Clothing Depot at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City in August 1942. It is a standard officer’s boatcloak, ordered and unaltered for FDR’s use.
The cloak is designed to be worn during movement by a boat to protect the wearer from the cold and his clothing from the effects of spray. It opens at the front and is fitted with two frogs (knotted lengths of braided cord), which engage to secure the cloak closed. The relative ease with which such a cloak could be put on and taken off made wearing it an attractive alternative to a more conventional garment—especially for someone whose ease of movement was hampered by the effects of polio.
Roosevelt wore similar boatcloaks during other trips he made during his Presidency. The image of FDR in these cloaks is one of the most enduring of the war years.
-from the FDR Library
FDR’s Birthday Celebrations and the Fight Against Polio
Today is the anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthday. During FDR’s Presidency, his birthday became synonymous with celebrations to raise money to fight polio.
“The National Committee for Birthday Balls” sponsored a dance in every town across the nation, both to celebrate FDR’s birthday but also to raise money for the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, later re-named the March of Dimes. Read More
Franklin D. Roosevelt
January 30, 1882 - April 12, 1945
Did you know that Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first President to be inaugurated on January 20th?
FDR was the last POTUS to take the oath of office on March 4, 1933. After the passage of the 20th Amendment, FDR became the first President to be sworn in on the new day of January 20 for his second inauguration in 1937.Th 20th amendment was passed in order to shorten the transition time between administrations.
President Roosevelt watching the Inaugural Parade from a replica of Andrew Jackson’s “Hermitage” in front of the White House. January 20, 1937.-from the FDR Library
January 3, 1938 - The March of Dimes is established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt
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 1938, FDR created the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. 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.
Pictured: FDR’s 1936 Ford Phaeton featured hand controls that enabled him to drive without the use of his legs.
The 1941 Christmas Tree: A Bright Light in Dark Times
After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, there was some doubt that the White House Christmas Tree lighting ceremony would take place at all.
The Roosevelts had planned for a “more homey” lighting of the National Christmas tree on December 24 in 1941, and so FDR had directed that the tree be moved from the Ellipse to the White House grounds, just next to the South Lawn Fountain.
But with firm backing from the President, the tree-lighting went forward, and thousands came to the White House to share a bright moment of hope during dark and uncertain times.
President Roosevelt reminded the audience, “Our strongest weapon against this war is the conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies—more than any other day or any other symbol.” He continued, “Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practise them, we set our faith in human love and in God’s care for us and all men everywhere.”
Read the whole story at Prologue: The 1941 Christmas Tree: A Bright Light in Dark Times
Image: President Roosevelt, with Churchill to his right, addresses the crowd at the 1941 lighting of the White House Christmas tree. From the FDR Presidential Library.