On August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act.
Later that day, the Washington Post proclaimed that the Social Security Act was the “New Deal’s Most Important Act…Its importance cannot be exaggerated …because this legislation eventually will affect the lives of every man, woman, and child in the country.”
This poster was distributed from November 1936- July 1937 during the initial issuance of Social Security numbers through U.S. post offices and with the help of labor unions.
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 76: FDR Visits Alaska
On August 3, 1944 FDR arrived in Alaska for a six day inspection and fishing trip. While in Alaska FDR made stops at Adak, Kodiak, and Auke Bay. This flag of the President of the United States was used during FDR's trip to the Hawaiian Islands and Alaska in July-August 1944. It was made by the Signal Force of the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Baltimore.
This trip made news during the presidential campaign of 1944, when it was alleged that Fala was left behind in the Aleutian Islands and FDR sent a Navy destroyer back to retrieve him. In a speech to the Teamsters Union on September 23, 1944 FDR responded to the claims saying:
These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family doesn’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him— at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars- his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself—such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog.
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.
July 28, 1927: FDR incorporates the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, a rehabilitation home for polio patients
On this day in 1927, Franklin Roosevelt, who had contracted polio at age 39, created the nonprofit Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, the only hospital in the world to deal solely with the treatment of polio victims. Roosevelt’s visits to Warm Springs began a few years prior, during which he experienced marked improvements in his health after swimming in the mineral water resort pools.
The organization later became the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and was instrumental in developing a cure for polio.
Photo: Franklin Delano Roosevelt at his Georgia Warm Springs Foundation for polio patients, c.1930. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.
Day 61: FDR’s Childhood Trips to Germany
FDR made a number of trips to Europe with his parents during his childhood, including numerous trips to Germany. The Roosevelts often traveled to Germany to visit several ancient springs in hope that they would help Mr. James’ health.
Roosevelt historian Geoff Ward recounts a story of one of these German trips in his book Before the Trumpet. During a trip in 1896 FDR and his tutor Mr. Dumper “found themselves under arrest four times in one busy day of bicycling – for picking cherries along the roadside, for wheeling their bicycles into a railroad depot, for riding into Strasbourg after dusk…and finally, for inadvertent slaughter of a panicky goose that had thrust its long neck between the spokes of Mr. Dumper’s front wheel.” FDR managed to get them out of the first three violations without a fine, but in the end they did have to pay five marks to the owner of the goose. “Franklin always maintained the bird had really ‘committed suicide.’”
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, Columbia, 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.
July 17, 1940: Eleanor Roosevelt Addresses the Democratic National Convention on Behalf of FDR
On this day in 1940, Eleanor Roosevelt addressed delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on behalf of her husband, making her the first candidate’s spouse ever to do so. After her husband gained the nomination for an unprecedented third term, he asked Eleanor to ease the delegates’ concerns over his choice of controversial vice presidential candidate, Henry Wallace. In her speech, she called for unified action during a time of war.
Eleanor remained a Democratic Party figure after her husband’s death and was the first former First Lady to address national political conventions (1948, 1956 and 1960).
Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Day 54: Quebec Conferences
FDR and Winston Churchill held two wartime conferences in Quebec. The first conference took place on August 17-24, 1943. The two discussed topics concerning the future operations in the Mediterranean and Operation Overlord. Conversations on atomic energy were also on the agenda, with FDR and Churchill agreeing that neither would communicate any information about atomic development to third parties, namely the Soviet Union, without each others consent.
The second Quebec Conference was held on September 11-16, 1944. The central topics of this conference were postwar policy towards Germany and postwar economic assistance to Britain.
Two silver models of a Whale and a Phoenix were presented to President Roosevelt by Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Second Quebec Conference in September 1944. These are small scale models representing installations devised and built as part of the artificial harbor constructed off the beaches of Normandy in June 1944.
A Whale was an 80 foot long pontoon bridge causeway, which connected the Lobnitz pier to the shore.
A Phoenix was a hollow concrete caisson 200 feet long by 60 feet wide by 60 feet high. Laid end to end they formed a breakwater near the beach for landing craft to unload their cargo.
Barkers for Britain Tag
Before America entered World War II, Fala served as president of Barkers for Britain, a nationwide effort by American dog lovers to support nonmilitary aid to Britain. Membership in the club helped support Bundles for Britain, an organization that collected cash contributions and donations of clothing, blankets, and other basic necessities for the British people. The organization presented membership tags like this one to dog owners who contributed to British war relief.
As president of Barkers for Britain, Fala received letters from around the nation, including this note (with photograph) from “Cire Noir Butler,” head of the group’s Austin, Texas, branch.
-from the Roosevelt Library