Franklin D. Roosevelt
|January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York
|April 12, 1945, in Warm Springs, Georgia
|States in Union
|John Nance Garner (1933-1941)
Henry A. Wallace (1941-1945)
Harry S Truman (1945)
|Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (Wife)
|Public Official, Lawyer
Roosevelt’s parents were James and Sara Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt married his fifth cousin Anna Eleanor Roosevelt in 1905. They had six children, including one son who died in infancy: Anna Eleanor, James, Elliott, Franklin Delano, and John Aspinwall.
The country continued to struggle in the midst of the Great Depression when Roosevelt ran for office. He promised despondent Americans a “New Deal” as he accepted the Democratic nomination. He further encouraged the people with his campaign slogan “Kick Out Depression with a Democratic Vote.” Roosevelt won the election by a landslide.
Roosevelt acted immediately to fulfill his promises. Upon taking office he proposed an innovative and extensive program of direct federal aid and reform, which he coined the New Deal. Congress approved the program. The New Deal provided employment to both skilled and unskilled workers through the Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration. The New Deal also provided direct aid to the poor through the newly created Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Roosevelt asserted, “It is the inherent duty of the Federal Government to keep its citizens from starvation.
By 1935 the economy showed signs of recovery, but businesses and banks became increasingly dissatisfied with many of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs and experiments, such as removing the U.S. from the gold standard and allowing deficit spending. However, Roosevelt forged ahead with a second wave of New Deal programs that included Social Security, higher taxes on the wealthy, and increased regulation of banks and public utilities.
Roosevelt won his second term by pledging to keep the U.S. out of World War II. He in fact signed the U.S. Neutrality Acts, a series of laws passed in response to the growing turmoil that led to World War II in an effort to prevent the U.S. from becoming involved. Later, after it became necessary to join the war, Roosevelt continued to be reelected because the people were unwilling to change leadership during wartime. Such circumstances and sentiment led Roosevelt to be the only president elected to serve four terms.
Though the U.S. remained officially neutral at the onset of World War II, Roosevelt did aid the Allies by sending ships and military equipment to Britain. Everything changed, however, on December 7, 1941, when Japanese airplanes bombed the U.S. naval base Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Roosevelt rallied the support of the country, declaring that the date would “live in infamy.” The next day the U.S. declared war on Japan and Germany, and Roosevelt subsequently directed all the national resources to the war efforts. Millions of Americans fought side by side with the British and the Russians until Germany and Japan were defeated in 1945.
Roosevelt understood that future world peace depended upon fostering relationships with many foreign countries, and so he helped to plan the United Nations as a forum for arbitrating future disputes. On April 12, 1945 Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage, barely two weeks before the deaths of Mussolini and Hitler and the final days of the war, but with the U.S. now a true global power.
As Roosevelt accepted the 1932 Democratic nomination for president, he proclaimed, “Throughout the nation men and women, forgotten in the political philosophy of the Government, look to us here for guidance and for more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth. . . . I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people. This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms.”
Regarding the responsibility of government, Roosevelt noted, “Last spring, when I went to Washington, there were many people who came forward with the thought, verbally expressed, that the Government should take over all the troubles of the country, that we could, well, as we used to say in the old days, ‘Let George do it,’ and I began to think sometimes that my first name was George.” (September 29, 1933)
When the nation’s banking system collapsed in 1933, Roosevelt encouraged the American people and promised to handle the crisis, proclaiming, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Regarding American’s National Parks, Roosevelt stated, “If many, and indeed most, of our American National Parks were to be set down anywhere on the continent of Europe, thousands of Americans would journey all the way across the ocean in order to see their beauties.”
Roosevelt noted in a speech to students at the University of North Carolina, “You undergraduates who see me for the first time have read in your newspapers and heard on the air that I am at the very best an ogre––a consorter with communists, a destroyer of the rich, a breaker of our ancient traditions. Some of you think of me, perhaps, as the inventor of the economic royalist, of the wicked utilities, of the money changers in the temple. You have heard for six years that I was about to plunge the nation into war; that you and your little brothers would be sent to the bloody fields in Europe; that I was driving the nation into bankruptcy; and that I breakfasted every morning on a dish of grilled millionaire. Actually, I am an exceedingly mild-mannered person––a practitioner of peace, both domestic and foreign, a believer in the capitalistic system, and for my breakfast a devotee of scrambled eggs.”
At This Time
1933: The 20th Amendment is ratified, setting January 20 as the official date for presidential inaugurations • The 21st Amendment is also ratified, which repeals the 18th Amendment––the prohibition of alcohol • The first U.S. aircraft carrier (“Ranger”) is launched • Frances Perkins becomes the first female cabinet member as Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor; she leads the efforts to create the Social Security System and to pass the fair Labor Standards Act • American banks are closed March 6 through March 9 by order of the president • The Nazis construct the first concentration camps in Germany; by 1945 8 to 10 million prisoners have been interned and at least half are killed • The Tennessee Valley Authority is created • Strong winds and drought throughout the Midwest devastate farms, creating the Dust Bowl, which persists throughout the 1930s. • The Chicago World’s Fair opens • The U.S. recognizes the U.S.S.R. and resumes trade • All books by non-Nazi and Jewish authors are burned in Germany • The first baseball all-star game is played • 1934: The U.S. Gold Reserve Act authorizes the president to revalue the dollar • The Civil Works Emergency Relief Act is passed • The U.S.S.R. is admitted to the League of Nations • Albert Einstein publishes My Philosophy. 1935: Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act • Alfred Hitchcock’s film The 39 Steps premieres • Jazz music becomes “Swing” • Radar equipment to detect aircraft is built by Robert Watson Watt • Oil pipelines open between Iraq, Haifa, and Tripolis • Alcoholics Anonymous is founded in New York City • 1936: Britain, France, and the U.S. sign the London Naval Convention • Dale Carnegie publishes How to Win Friends and Influence People • Margaret Mitchell writes her Pulitzer-Prize winning novel Gone With the Wind • The Hoover Dam is built on the Colorado River in Nevada and Arizona, which creates Lake Mead––the largest reservoir in the world • Dr. Alexis Carrel develops the artificial heart • World population continues to swell with China booming at 422 million, India at 360 million, the U.S.S.R. at 173 million, and the U.S. at 127 million • 1937: Roosevelt signs the U.S. Neutrality Act • The Wall Street stock market declines, signifying a serious economic recession in the U.S • John Steinbeck writes Of Mice and Men. Picasso exhibits Guernica at the Paris World Exhibition • Disney produces the animated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs • Popular songs include “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Whistle While You Work,” and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” • Wallace H. Carothers patents nylon for du Pont • The first jet engine is built by Frank Whittle • Amelia Earhart disappears during a Pacific flight • 1938 Japan continues to conquer Chinese lands • Jews are massacred in Germany • The Texas Democrat Martin Dies becomes chairman of the newly created House Un-American Activities Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives • The Social Security Act is passed • Roosevelt appeals to Hitler and Mussolini to settle the European conflicts peacefully • Orson Welle’s radio production of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds causes major panic • The U.S. establishes a 40-hour work week • 20,000 TV sets are being used in New York City • 1939: Roosevelt asks Congress for $552 million for defense and demands assurances from Hitler and Mussolini that they will not attack 31 specific states • World War II begins: Nazi Germany invades Poland and annexes Danzig September 1 • Britain and France declare war on Germany September 3 • Roosevelt declares the U.S. neutral • The Germans overrun western Poland, and the U.S.S.R. invades Poland from the east and then Finland • The U.S. economy recovers from its recession and in fact booms as European countries order arms and war equipment • The movie The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland premieres • 1940: World War II continues • Congress passes the Selective Service Act to mobilize the military • European composers such as Hindemith, Schonberg, Bartok, and Stolz, move to the U.S. • The U.S. gross national product increases 10% from 1939 to 100.6 • Average life expectancy in the U.S. goes up to 64 from age 49 in 1900 • 1941: World War II – The Germans continue to raid London by air • Stalin becomes the undisputed head of the Soviet government • The Germans invade Russia. Roosevelt and Churchill meet and sign the Atlantic Charter • The U.S. ambassador to Japan warns Roosevelt that Japan may attack • The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor December 7 • The U.S. and Britain declare war on Japan December 8 • The Japanese invade the Philippines • Germany and Italy declare war on the U.S • The U.S. declares war on Germany and Italy • Hong Kong surrenders to the Japanese • The National Gallery of Art opens in Washington, D.C. • Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane premieres. The “Manhattan Project” of intensive atomic research begins • 1942: The 26 Allies pledge not to make separate peace treaties with the enemies • The Japanese continue to invade eastern territories • Many battles ensue around the globe • The U.S. government transfers more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans from the West Coast to internment camps • Millions of Jews begin to be executed in the Nazi gas chambers • Disney’s Bambi is shown in theatres • Enrico Fermi splits the atom • The first electronic brain (automatic computer) is developed in the U.S. • Sugar, coffee, and gasoline are rationed • 1943: German air attacks continue on London • Hitler orders his “scorched earth” policy, which instructs his retreating forces to destroy everything that may be of use to the advancing Soviets • Eisenhower takes command of the Allied forces in North Africa • Eisenhower announces Italy’s unconditional surrender September 8 • Italy declares war on Germany • The Allies begin bombing Germany 24 hours a day • The U.S. Supreme Court rules that children are not required to salute the flag while in school if it is against their religion • William Schuman’s song “Secular Cantata No. 2, A Free Song” wins the Pulitzer Prize, the first prize ever awarded for music • Penicillin is used successfully to treat chronic diseases • The U.S. rations shoes, meat, cheese, fats, and all canned foods • Race riots break out in several major U.S. cities whose labor population has been bolstered by an influx of southern African Americans • 1944: 800 Flying Fortresses drop 2,000 tons of bombs on Berlin • The U.S. and Allied troops land on the French coast of Normandy on D-Day, June 6; over 700 ships and 4,000 landing craft are involved in this historic assault • The cost of living increases by 30% in the U.S. • 1945: Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt meet at Yalta • Roosevelt is the only president to be elected to serve four consecutive terms • He is also the first president to be inaugurated in January • After his presidency, the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951, which limited the presidency to two terms
Did You Know?
Roosevelt was the first president whose mother was eligible to vote for him, following the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
When Roosevelt was just 39 years old, he was stricken with polio and became paralyzed. He worked hard to regain his health and strength. Many believe his personal tragedy helped give him the empathy and strength needed to help the American people overcome the Great Depression and succeed in World War II.
To gain the support and trust of all Americans, Roosevelt instituted direct talks to the people over the radio. These reassuring “fireside chats” helped solicit support for his New Deal programs and also created an unprecedented direct relationship with the public.
Detailed biography, educational resources, and information about the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York.
Information about Roosevelt’s home Springwood in Hyde Park, New York.
Biographical information, essays, and access to Roosevelt’s presidential speeches sponsored by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.
Field Trips for Franklin Delano Roosevelt
FDR’s Little White House Historic Site
Warm Springs, Georgia
The waters at Warm Springs provided relief to President Roosevelt’s health conditions, and he later died here in 1945 after suffering a fatal stroke. In addition to the house, which has been preserved as FDR left it, visitors can also see the Memorial Fountain, the Walk of the States, a new FDR Memorial Museum, a new film narrated by Walter Cronkite, two of Roosevelt’s classic cars, and the original bump gate that opened with an automobile bumper. The Historic Therapy Pools and Springs Complex are also open to visitors.
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Hyde Park, New York
The first presidential library to be administered by the federal government was conceived and built under President Roosevelt’s direction on the original family estate. The museum contains extensive displays on the lives and public service careers of both Franklin and Eleanor.
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site
Hyde Park, New York
Springwood, the Roosevelt family’s estate, was donated to the American people by President Roosevelt. On the same grounds are the presidential library and Eleanor’s cottage, Val-Kill.
Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site
Hyde Park, New York
Dedicated to the First Lady, Val-Kill is truly Eleanor Roosevelt’s own. Built on the grounds of the Roosevelt estate, Eleanor spent weekends here during her husband’s presidency and returned to the cottage after his death.
Roosevelt Campobello International Park
Welshpool, New Brunswick, Canada
Campobello was the family retreat of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. The park features many natural resources and opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and sightseeing.