Roosevelt graduated from Harvard College in 1903 with an A.B. in history. After graduation, he went on to Columbia Law School and passed the bar in 1907. Shortly after this, he began practicing corporate law with a Wall Street law firm. 

In 1910, Roosevelt ran as a Democrat in the New York State Senate race. While in office, Roosevelt began to introduce many progressive ideas and fought back against party bosses. He was also very vocal about his support for President Wilson, which landed him a job as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. In 1914, he decided to run for U.S. Senate, but lost because he did not have the backing of a party boss. 

At the Democratic National Convention of 1920, Roosevelt was nominated as the running mate for James M. Cox, but the pair was defeated by Harding and Coolidge in the election. He decided to run for governor in 1928, and won reelection in 1930. In 1932, he received the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention and on November 8, 1932, Roosevelt won the election with 57% of the popular vote and 472 electoral votes.

Happy Days Are Here Again - 1932 Campaign Slogan
PicturePresident Roosevelt Signing the Social Security Act
While campaigning for his first term, Roosevelt formulated a plan to pull the country out of the Great Depression in three steps: relief, recovery, and finally, reform. He began by restoring faith in the banking system, which people had all but stopped using as they were afraid any money they deposited would disappear. He then expanded and improved many of the programs initiated by Hoover. 

The job market was in shambles, with an unemployment rate of 24.1% when Roosevelt was inaugurated. He knew the country needed jobs to get back to spending and stimulate the economy, so he created the Civilian Conservation Corps, or the CCC. The CCC was a program that hired local men to work on construction projects in their area. The workers did everything from build parks to plant trees. 

In April of 1933, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102, which required Americans to sell any gold they had to the US Treasury in an effort to combat the inflation that was controlling the economy. As his first term continued, Roosevelt established the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a program similar to the CCC. The WPA also had a branch for musicians, writers and artists. By the early 1940s, the United States was pulling out of the depression and heading into World War II.

Picture31st U.S. President Roosevelt at Warm Springs
In 1921, the Roosevelt family was vacationing in Canada when Roosevelt contracted polio. The disease left him permanently disabled from the waist down. He considered halting his political career at this time, but with some persuasion from Eleanor he changed his mind. From this point on, it was a constant struggle to hide the extent of his illness from the American people. 

Roosevelt was concerned that if the public knew how paralyzed he was, they would fear for his health and he would lose elections. From there on out, public appearances were carefully planned so that the president would never have to walk or stand upright without someone there to support him, usually one of his sons. Roosevelt ordered custom braces for his legs and hips and taught himself how to stand again. Over time he also learned to walk short distances with a cane. While he was unable to hide his illness, he was able to convince the people that he was getting better. 

Privately, he used a wheelchair, though he was careful never to be seen in it. Only two photos from the time show Roosevelt in his chair. Over the course of his four terms, his health slowly declined, though this was kept from the people. In April of 1945, Roosevelt died, and the country was left grieving and in shock. 

PictureFirst Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in Wedding Dress
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884 in New York, New York. Her early years were spent with her parents and brothers, Elliot and Gracie. Her mother passed away in 1892 and Eleanor was sent to live with her grandmother. The family arranged for Eleanor to have private tutors until she was 15, when she was sent to Allenswood Academy for finishing school. 

In 1902, her grandmother brought her back to New York. One day while riding the train back to her grandmother’s home, she ran into Franklin D. Roosevelt. The two had met previously, as they were distantly related cousins. A romance developed and by November 1903, the pair was engaged. They were married on March 17, 1905.

When Roosevelt was elected president, Eleanor transformed the role of first lady. Prior to Franklin’s election, the role of first lady was essentially to support the president and serve guests of the White House. Rather than fade into the shadows of her husband, she used his office to her advantage, fighting for issues about which she was passionate. She gave countless speeches and public appearance during his time in office.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat from New York, was President from 1933 to 1945. Roosevelt believed that the government should get involved and help people when the situation called for it, and he implemented several progressive policies to help end the Great Depression.

PictureSarah, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt
Roosevelt was the only U.S. President to serve more than two terms. When he was elected in 1933, the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression, and the public was thirsty for change. He enacted several programs and many Americans felt the grip of poverty loosen over the next several years. As they became happier, public approval for the president soared, and with World War II on the horizon, Roosevelt opted to continue running for as long as the people would elect him. After his death, Congress passed the 22nd Amendment in 1947, which legally limited all presidents to serving only two terms.

Lena Tomaszek, 
Museum Intern, University of Minnesota Undergrad

This panel is part of our 2014 exhibit on U.S. Presidents Between the World Wars. For educational purposes, we have made the document available as a pdf. -->