IN JULY OF 1932 at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Governor of New York, accepted the party's nomination for president and vowed a crusade against the Great Depression declaring, "I pledge you, I pledge myself, a new deal for the American people." After winning a landslide victory against Republican incumbent Herbert Hoover, Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933 and in the next hundred days would astound the nation and regain its confidence by enacting myriad economic and social programs aimed at lifting the country out of the Great Depression. But while he was greeted with open arms by a demoralized people and a willing Congress in 1933, many of Roosevelt's programs would eventually come under fire from the public, the legislature and the Supreme Court. After a failed attempt to reorganize the Court (in order to make it more sympathetic to his programs) and an economic downturn in 1937, the New Deal came to an end in 1939.

There are many aspects of the New Deal that are open for debate: Was it radical or conservative in nature? Did it succeed in ending the Depression?

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Was the federal government overly involved in business and industry? Was Roosevelt on target with some efforts and misguided on others? What programs should or should not have come to fruition? These questions and many more have been discussed at length by historians, politicians and scholars, all with the benefit of present knowledge and hindsight. What is often overlooked is the contemporary evaluation of the legislation and the individuals that gave rise to it.

The New Deal is more than just legislative history because it was more than just a series of laws and court decisions. As much as it was an initiative for social and economic change, the New Deal was, at its most basic, a public relations campaign designed to restore the confidence of and motivate action from an American people who felt, along with a sense of hopelessness, that it had been abandoned by its government, particularly its previous president.





FDR campaign song
Happy Days are
Here Again
It is on the presentation and reception of the New Deal programs that this site focuses. A battle was being waged between 1933 and 1937, not only against the Depression, but to define government, Washington and the presidency in a new way. More than the success or failure of the New Deal, its perception by the public and the media would impact the future of government and the extent of its involvement in numerous areas of American life. The battle was fought on several fronts; with speeches and fireside chats FDR took the New Deal directly to the American people; the print media, on editorial pages and with political cartoons, influenced public opinion; in the public sphere individuals and corporations saw first hand the New Deal programs and their successes and failures; and within the government, through debates and legislation, the New Deal was supported and attacked. This site includes examples from each arena and can be viewed in two ways:

Explore the Chronology
Use the timeline to examine the events and individuals, reviewing primary sources along the way. Some events and acts can be viewed in depth, with background and a sample of media. The chronology is divided into five parts: the prologue, the first one hundred days, the banking crisis, the National Industrial Recovery Act, and the Judicial Reorganization Plan of 1937. The reader also has access to a brief summary of other events featured on the timeline.

Tour the Galleries
Follow the New Deal through one medium--speeches, cartoons or editorials. This allows you to see how public opinion changed over time and how the New Deal, as a whole, was approached by different media.

As one of the first presidents to interact freely with and rely heavily upon the media, particluarly radio, as a means to persuade and calm the public, FDR provided an abundance of material to be reviewed. While the scope of this project is limited, it offers a glimpse into the people and events of the New Deal and providew access to valuable primary materials that allow the audience to form an understanding of the New Deal based on its original arguments. It is not the goal of this site to evaluate the New Deal or its sponsors, rather, using examples from the Roosevelt Administration, to engage in an active discussion regarding two of the most important political questions of the twentieth century:How do we define the role of government?andWho defines it?