Are There Too Many New Deal Diaries?

A few years ago Bill Mauldin drew a cartoon to commemorate an unsung hero: a gardener at Hyde Park who had firmly resisted the temptation to write his memoirs of President Roosevelt. Undoubtedly Mauldin’s gardener was indeed a hero to a reading public wearied and bewildered by the apparently endless outpouring of memoirs and diaries about Roosevelt and the New Deal. In the ten years since Roosevelt’s death, the number that have appeared is so large that it bids fair to rival the quantity on Lincoln and his administration. Read more »

Compromise 4: Whittling Down The New Deal

Compromise upon compromise whittled FDR’s dreams down considerably but enabled him to pass his Social Security Act, perhaps the most sweeping social reform of the 20th century

Not long after Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in on March 4, 1933, he began work on his “big bill.” It embraced several of his highest aspirations: universal health care, old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, and more, including a provision to make the federal government the employer of last resort in what many economists considered a “mature” economy whose private-sector employment component was destined to be chronically deficient. Read more »

Modern America 1917 To 1941

Few periods in the history of this country can match the impact of the years between 1917 and 1941. In less than a generation America experienced the first large-scale dispatch of U.S.Read more »

The New Deal And The Guru

How Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture sent an eccentric Russian mystic on a sensitive mission to Asia and thereby created diplomatic havoc, personal humiliation, and embarrassment for the administration

Early in 1934 Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace appointed Nicholas Roerich, a renowned painter and a self-proclaimed guardian of world peace and culture, to lead a scientific expedition to North China and Manchuria, to search for drought-resistant grasses that might revive the Dust Bowl. By the time the project ended, in 1935, the eccentric artist had compromised America’s diplomatic position in Asia, embarrassed the Roosevelt administration, humiliated Wallace, and damaged the careers of several botanists.Read more »

Why We Were Right To Like Ike

Thirty years after judging Eisenhower to be among our worst Presidents, historians have now come around to the opinion most of their fellow Americans held right along.

Critics charged that Ike was spineless in his refusal to openly fight Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Early in 1952, Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower confided to a friendly Republican politician why he was reluctant to seek the Presidency: “I think I pretty well hit my peak in history when I accepted the German surrender.” Read more »

Painting The Southland

Most surveys of American painting begin in New England in the eighteenth century, move westward to the Rockies in the nineteenth, and return to New York in the twentieth. Now we’ll have to redraw the map .

TAKING STOCK of painting in the South in 1859, a critic for the New Orleans Daily Cresent concluded glumly, “Artist roam the country of the North, turning out pictures by the hundred yearly, but none come to glean the treasures with which grand and beautiful country of the South and its peculiar life abound.” The reason many artists stayed away was that throughout the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth, the region’s poor roads, widely scattered population, and almost entirely agricultural economy Read more »

FDR A Practical Magician

Fifty years ago this March, Roosevelt took the oath of office and inaugurated this century’s most profound national changes. One who was there recalls the President’s unique blend of ebullience and toughness.

THAT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT was, and preeminently so, the dominant political figure of this century—that he stood astride its first half like the Colossus itself—will not be in doubt. Nor are the reasons subject to serious dispute. It was his fate and fortune to face the two great tragedies of the time and to guide its greatest social achievement. The tragedies were, of course, the Second World War and the Great Depression, and few will quarrel as to the bearing of these two events on the Roosevelt transcendence.Read more »

History And The Imagination

As three recent films show—one on the atomic bomb, one on women defense workers during the Second World War, one on the government arts projects of the thirties —this history of our times offers film makers arresting opportunities. Footage shot on the spot supplies a measure of raw actuality, and survivors are still available for interview. The real problem is to give abundant but diffuse materials a shape and structure. This is not, however, a problem that automatically solves itself. Read more »

The Birth Of Social Security

Had Franklin D. Roosevelt not been so conservative, we might have had national health insurance forty years ago

Judged by its direct and profound I influence upon individual and collective lives, no social legislation in all American history is more important than the Social Security Act of August, 1935. And of no other New Deal measure is the legislative history more instructive for one who would understand the essential nature and central purpose of the Roosevelt administration, and the ways in which the mind, character, and temperament of Franklin D. Roosevelt had major shaping impact upon today’s America. Read more »

The TVA: It Ain't What It Used to Be

What has befallen “the greatest peacetime achievement of twentieth-century America”s since the New Deal

In recent years, as the energy crisis has developed, and bureaucracies in Washington have wrestled with little success to solve it, and Congress has moved slower than a West Virginia coal train even to agree on a battle strategy, some Americans have proposed that a public agency based in Knoxville, Tennessee, become the model for coping with the problem. Read more »