1914 — photo of Flag Days past, present, and yet to come

June 14, 2014

A guy speaking on Flag Day. Unremarkable, except, look at the year, look at the audience.

Caption from the Library of Congress:  Flag Day exercises, State, War, and Navy Building. Wilson speaking; Bryan, Daniels, [Breckinridge Long], William Phillips, F.D. Roosevelt, etc. present

Caption from the Library of Congress: Flag Day exercises, State, War, and Navy Building. Wilson speaking; Bryan, Daniels, [Breckinridge Long], William Phillips, F.D. Roosevelt, etc. present

Flag Day was marked in 1877 by a few hundred Americans, fresh from celebrating the nation’s centennial, on the centennial date of the resolution from the Second Continental Congress that designated the flag, with stars and stripes.  Pushed by history teachers who used the celebration as a teaching tool, unofficial ceremonies continued across the nation.

President Woodrow Wilson — himself a professor of history and politics — issued a proclamation for a national celebration to continue each year, in 1916.

This photo was taken two years before that proclamation, in the centennial year of the “Star-spangled Banner.”

Professional photographers Harris & Ewing captured Wilson in mid-speech, in declamation form without a public address system or any other amplification.  (I wonder:  Who was the first president to use a microphone and amplification?)

Reporters for newspapers, and maybe an official scribe, work to capture Wilson’s speech in text form; Wilson was probably speaking extemporaneously, without a prepared text.  Whatever Wilson said, his remarks were not captured officially in Presidential Papers, though they may be available in other venues (behind a paywall for me)Wilson’s speech, delivered at 4:00 p.m., was titled “The Meaning of the Flag.”  A few snippets from the speech suggest that it was mostly a diatribe that whipped up sentiment against German immigrants in America, ultimately ending in violence against many U.S. citizens and residents.

The platform was the steps of the State, War and Navy Building, now the West Executive Office Building next door to the White House.  Then the building housed three departments; today State has its own complex in Foggy Bottom, a few blocks away; War was renamed Defense after World War II, and moved across the Potomac to Virginia, to the Pentagon, where the Navy’s chief offices also reside.

On the platform with Wilson were his Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, former Congressman from Nebraska who ran for the presidency six times, most famously capturing the nomination of the Democratic Party in 1896 with this “Cross of Gold” speech; and immediately to the left of Wilson in the photo is his young Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who would go on to be crippled by polio, then elected Governor of New York and, in 1932, President of the U.S.

In the photo above, Bryan is almost wholly cut out, on the extreme left edge.

Others on the stand include William Phillips, sitting on Roosevelt’s right, though a chilly couple of feet away; Breckinridge Long, to Phillips’s right; and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, in a light colored suit, to Long’s right and Bryan’s left.

You won’t find William Phillips in most history books, but he played important roles in American state affairs for four decades.  Returning early from an assignment in London in 1912, he booked passage on the RMS Olympic, avoiding passage on the grander, RMS Titanic a week later.  An odd little history of the Olympic gives a great, brief description of Phillips’s career:

A career diplomat, he would shortly go on to work closely with Woodrow Wilson and to be involved in the latter’s 14-point peace plan following the Great European War.

Wilson made him an Assistant Secretary of State, and Phillips would later be Ambassador to Italy at the time of Mussolini. Later in the war he became London head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, forerunner of the CIA), and would come into contact with an operative named Walter Lord.

Breckinridge Long also held important posts over 40 years, but his legacy is much less happy.  As Assistant Secretary of State for Visas during World War II, Long set up obstacles to U.S. immigration by people who were threatened by Nazi governments in European nations, sometimes countermanding orders from President Franklin Roosevelt.

Josephus Daniels, son of a southern shipbuilder murdered for his Union sympathies during the Civil War, published newspapers in North Carolina most of his life.  President Wilson appointed him Secretary of the Navy, where he became close friends with his Assistant Secretary Franklin Roosevelt; FDR appointed Daniels Ambassador to Mexico.  Among Daniels’s newspaper holdings was the Raleigh News and Observer.  An opponent of the Ku Klux Klan, Daniels argues for white supremacy, and claimed that African Americans would block progressive reforms.

No, “cup of joe” is not a reference to Josephus Daniels and his order banning alcohol from Navy officers’ messes.

On that speaker’s stand, on Flag Day, 1914, were the president and a future president, experience dating back to the Civil War and future leadership through the end of World War II.  Interesting photo.

Your flag is already flying for Flag Day, right?

Absent in most photos of the dignitaries at Wilson's speech:  The U.S. flag.  This photo, from farther back, shows the U.S. Marine Band, which played for the occasion, and the U.S. flag on the main pole in front of the State, War and Navy Building.  Photo from the Lincoln Highway National Archives and Museum.

Absent in most photos of the dignitaries at Wilson’s speech: The U.S. flag. This photo, from farther back, shows the U.S. Marine Band, which played for the occasion, and the U.S. flag on the main pole in front of the State, War and Navy Building. William Jennings Bryan is more clearly shown, also, on the left of the row of seats behind Wilson. Photo from the Lincoln Highway National Archives and Museum.

Celebrate Social Security “birthday,” August 14, 2012 at FDR Library

August 1, 2012

Press release from the FDR Presidential Library and Home; some informational links added here:
For press inquiries: Cliff Laube (845) 486-7745

FDR Presidential Library and Museum to host


August 14, 2012 at 11:00 a.m.
Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home

Reservations are required as seating is limited. For reservations call co-chair Stefan Lonce at (914) 629-4580.

HYDE PARK, NY — The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum will host a 2012 National Birthday Party for Social Security at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, August 14, 2012. Event co-chair Dr. Christopher Breiseth, Francis Perkins Center board member and former President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, will lead the festivities. The program will celebrate the 77th Anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act by President Franklin D. Roosevelt with readings of the 1935 and 1983 social security signing statements, “A Promise to All Generations: Stories and Essays about Social Security and Frances Perkins” (co-edited by Dr. Breiseth), and “Driving with FDR: A Calendrical Biography.” The forthcoming book “Driving with FDR” is written by event co-chair Stefan Lonce, editor of The Montauk Sun newspaper.

Attendees will celebrate the occasion with refreshments — including two special birthday cakes — and free admission to the Roosevelt Library’s current special exhibition, “The Roosevelts: Public Figures, Private Lives,” the largest photography exhibit ever assembled on the lives and public careers of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. This program will be held in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home.

Reservations are required as seating is limited. For reservations call co-chair Stefan Lonce at (914) 629-4580.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is dedicated to preserving historical material and providing innovative educational programs, community events, and public outreach. It is one of thirteen presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. For information about the FDR Presidential Library call (800) 337-8474 or visit www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu.

Historic Hyde Park is a group of government and private non-profit organizations based in Hyde Park, New York. Each has a unique mission, but all are united in their dedication to extending the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt to new generations. HHP includes the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, and Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site. For more information about HHP visit www.HistoricHydePark.org.

# # #

Composite photo of people at FDR's signing of Social Security Act -- SSA image

From Social Security Administration: There were many photographs taken of the Social Security Act signing ceremony. The posing was different in many of the photographs and in no single photograph are all the participants visible. This composite photograph shows all of the participants in a single image. (See identification below)

People listed in the photograph, according to the Social Security Administration, “Who is who, and why they were there”:

1. Rep. Jere Cooper (D-TN). Cooper was a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and would go on in subsequent years to become something of an expert on Social Security topics and he was a major force in Social Security legislative developments during the 1940s to the mid-1950s. Mr. Cooper also rose to the position of Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee during the Eighty-fourth and Eighty-fifth Congresses.

2. Rep. Claude Fuller (D-AR). Fuller was a member of the Ways & Means Committee and was generally opposed to the Administration’s bill. During Committee consideration he made motions seeking to strike key provisions of the legislation. But when his efforts failed, he compromised with the Administration and joined in voting for passage of the bill.

3 . Rep. Robert Doughton (D-NC) was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. As such he was the principal official sponsor of the legislation in the House.

4. Rep. Frank Buck (D-CA) was a second-generation industrialist and fruit grower from California. He was a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, which had jurisdiction of the bill in the House. He graduated from Harvard Law School and served five terms in Congress, from 1933 until his death in 1942. (Representative Buck has often been misidentified in photos of the signing as being Edwin Witte. Witte, in fact, was not in the signing photographs.)

5. Rep. John Boehne, Jr.(D-IN) succeeded his father as a representative from Indiana. He was first swept into office in the 1932 elections with President Roosevelt and strongly supported FDR’s programs. At first, he was against the Social Security bill and wanted to exempt industrial employers with their own pension systems.

6 . Sen. Robert Wagner (D-NY) was born in Germany, immigrated to New York City, attended law school and was elected to the Senate in 1926. He served four terms. He was a close associate of Frances Perkins and helped draft several early New Deal measures. Wagner introduced the bill into the Senate. His son, Robert F. Wagner, was mayor of New York City for 16 years.

7 . Sen. Alben Barkley (D-KY) was a seven-term Congressman before being elected to the Senate in 1926. By 1937, he was Senate Majority Leader and a decade later, Vice President of the United States. He was an ardent New Dealer and helped shepherd the Social Security Act through the Senate. He argued for “a universal and uniform program in general.” He didn’t want to exempt certain private groups merely because they already had pension systems, as was proposed by some conservatives in the Congress.

8 . This individual is presently unknown.

9 . Sen. Robert LaFollette, Jr., (PROG-WI) was the eldest son of Robert LaFollette, a progressive Senator from Wisconsin and one-time presidential candidate. When his father died in 1925, Robert Jr., then only 30 years old, was appointed to succeed him. Initially elected as a Republican, LaFollette changed his party affiliation to the Progressive Party in 1934. LaFollette served on the House-Senate conference committee that drafted the final version of the Social Security bill. He served in the Senate until 1946, when he was defeated by Joseph McCarthy. In 1953, LaFollette committed suicide in Washington, D.C.

10 . Rep. John Dingell, Sr. (D-MI). Rep. Dingell was a member of the House Ways & Means Committee. He was a prominent leader in Congress in sponsoring social insurance legislation and teamed with Senator Wagner he authored a couple of important precursor bills to the Social Security Act. (Several authors have identified Dingell as “unidentified man” in some versions of the signing photo.)

11. Sen. Augustine Lonergan (D-CT) was a native of Connecticut and a graduate of Yale University. Although he was a four-term Congressman, he served only one term in the Senate. During the discussions on the Social Security bill, Lonergan gave information about various private insurance annuities to show how they compared to the social insurance program that was being proposed.

12 . Frances Perkins was appointed Secretary of Labor in 1933, making her the first woman to hold a cabinet-level position. Like FDR, she was a child of privilege, but became a strong advocate for the poor and working class. She began her career in New York City as a social worker and held several responsible State government jobs. She served as head of Roosevelt’s Committee on Economic Security, set up in 1934. The Social Security legislation sprang from this committee.

13. Rep. Frank Crowther (R-NY) was a Republican member of the House Ways & Means Committee;

14. Sen. William H. King (D-UT). King was a conservative Democrat and member of the Senate Finance Committee. King expressed persistent opposition to many features of the bill as it was being considered, and his support of the legislation was in doubt until the last possible minute. In the end, he voted for passage of the Social Security Act. (Senators King and Harrison have often been confused in the signing photos, including,we are embarrassed to admit, in SSA’s own OASIS magazine. Clue: King has a bowtie, Harrison has a regular long tie.)

15. Rep. David J. Lewis (D-MD) was a member of the House Ways & Means Committee and was probably the leading expert on social insurance legislation on the Committee. It was Lewis, a former coal miner and self-taught lawyer, who introduced the Social Security bill into the House on January 17, 1935. However, Chairman Doughton, exercising what he took to be the Chairman’s privileges, made a copy of Lewis’ bill and submitted it himself. Then he persuaded the House clerk to give him a lower number than Lewis’ copy. Newspapers then began calling the bill “The Wagner-Doughton bill.” When Lewis found out, he sputtered and swore, then went to work to understand every sentence and master the arguments in favor of the bill. And when David Lewis walked down the aisle of the House to debate on the bill’s behalf, he received a standing ovation–a subtle rebuke to Chairman Doughton’s high-handed treatment.

16 . Sen. Byron Patton “Pat” Harrison (D-MS) was a Congressman for 8 years before being elected to the Senate in 1918. In his book “The Development of the Social Security Act,” Edwin Witte gives Harrison credit for his “adroit” handling of the Social Security bill in the Senate Finance Committee. According to Witte, Title II would not have been approved by the Committee without Sen. Harrison’s help. Harrison went on to serve in the Senate for the rest of his life and was elected President pro tempore 6 months before his death in June 1941. (In other versions of the signing photo, Sen. Harrison can be more clearly seen wearing a white suit and tie and holding his trademark cigar.)

17. Sen. Joseph Guffey (D-PA) was 65 years old at the time the Social Security Act was passed, although he was only a first-term Senator. From Pennsylvania, he served two terms before being defeated in 1946. His vote on the Social Security bill was in doubt until the final roll call.

18. Senator Edward Costigan (D-CO), a member of the Finance Committee.

19. Rep. Samuel B. Hill (D-WA) was a member of the House Ways & Means Committee.

20. Rep. Fred Vinson (D-KY) was a member of the House Ways & Means Committee. He would go on to serve as Secretary of the Treasury and as a Justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

21 . President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

NOTE: For more biographical information on any of the members of Congress see the U. S. Senate Biographical Directory of the United States Congress on the Senate website

Astonishing to me that one person in the photograph remains unidentified.  Can you help identify the man?


Eleanor Roosevelt’s hands

June 22, 2012

America’s monuments tell us something about the people who view the monuments, as well as informing us about the people or events the monuments commemorate.

With statues of brass, for example, if people touch the statute in the same place, repeatedly, the brass is brighter at that spot.  At Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, Illinois, the bust by Gutzon Borglum has a shiny nose, where thousands — or millions — have touched his nose.

At the relatively new monument to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the entirety of which I got to view for the first time last night, there is a statue of his wife, Eleanor.

Look at her hands, showing the bright brass history of people reaching out to touch her.

Eleanor Roosevelt's hands, photo by Ed Darrell (FDR Memorial) 06-22-2012 DC Capitol, monuments 229

Eleanor Roosevelt’s statute at the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C., where thousands of people touched her hands.

Touring and sight-seeing (and site-seeing) continue today on our Teaching American History grant studies tour of Washington.  Blogging will be light, apologies.  Much, much to talk about.

Stimulus spending: Texans remember how the CCC helped save the nation

January 20, 2012

New video history piece from the Texas Parks & Wildlife people:


Uploaded by on Jan 17, 2012

The Civilian Conservation Corps provided jobs for over 3 million young men during the Great Depression and helped establish the foundation of our nation’s park system. 70 years after the creation of the CCC, Conservation Corps veterans reunite in one of the parks they helped build, sharing stories and rekindling old memories.

A pictorial map showing Texas State Parks with significant work performed by the CCC:

Map of Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy Parks in Texas - TPWD image

Map of Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy Parks in Texas - TPWD image - Click on map for original, larger version

Beginning, beginning of the end, end of the beginning, end

January 30, 2011

January 30 is a momentous date, according to the AP list of events that occurred on this day.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, National Portrait Gallery

Franklin D. Roosevelt, National Portrait Gallery

Beginning: Franklin Roosevelt, the only president of the U.S. to break the tradition of getting elected to two terms only, was born on January 30, 1882,  in Hyde Park, New York.  (Both Ulysses Grant and his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, had tried to break the two-term tradition  before.)  Roosevelt served at the 32nd president, winning election in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944.  During his first term the date of presidential inaugurations was moved from March 21 to January 21, partly in appreciation for the period of time the nation drifted seemingly deeper into depression between Roosevelt’s election in November 1932 and his inauguration in March 1933.  Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921, won election as New York’s governor in 1928, and then won the 1932 presidential race.  His death on April 12, 1945, pushed Harry Truman into the presidency for three years before he had to face the electorate.

End of the beginning: On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler took office as chancellor of Germany.  A World War I veteran, Hitler had spent time in prison for trying to overthrow the government. Hitler was seven years younger than FDR, but their careers occasionally coincided on key years.  Hitler’s assuming power in January gave him a two-month jump on FDR; at the time, few people, if anyone noticed the coincidental rise, nor could see the significance of the events of the year.  According to The History Place:

Germany was a nation that in its history had little experience or interest in democracy. In January 1933, Adolf Hitler took the reins of a 14-year-old German democratic republic which in the minds of many had long outlived its usefulness. By this time, the economic pressures of the Great Depression combined with the indecisive, self-serving nature of its elected politicians had brought government in Germany to a complete standstill. The people were without jobs, without food, quite afraid and desperate for relief.

Now, the man who had spent his entire political career denouncing and attempting to destroy the Republic, was its leader. Around noon on January 30th, Hitler was sworn in.

“I will employ my strength for the welfare of the German people, protect the Constitution and laws of the German people, conscientiously discharge the duties imposed on me, and conduct my affairs of office impartially and with justice to everyone,” swore Adolf Hitler.

Democratic-based government in Germany was doomed for the foreseeable future.  Few foresaw that.

Beginning of the end: On January 30, 1968, during the Vietnamese new year celebration known as Tet, Vietcong and North Vietnamese army regulars kicked off the Tet Offensive, striking targets all over Vietnam simultaneously.  Caught nearly completely by surprise, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces lost control of Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital for a time.  While the U.S. and South Vietnamese eventually won these many battles and pushed out the invading forces,  the simple fact that the thought-to-be-decimated forces of Ho Chi Minh could pull of the offensive at all sent the chilling message that victory in this guerrilla did not yet belong to South Vietnam and the U.S., nor had a tide been turned.   After tumultuous elections in the U.S., Richard Nixon’s presidency could not turn the tide, either.  A “peace” was negotiated, mostly between North Vietnam and the U.S., in 1973, but it did not hold.  In 1975 relations between North Vietnam and South Vietnam hit crisis again, and the U.S. pulled out the last forces left in South Vietnam in April.  Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces defeated the rapidly dissipating military of the South, and the country was united under communist, North Vietnam rule.

Mahatma Gandhi addresses Indians

Mahatma Gandhi addresses Indians

An end: Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse shot and killed Mohandas K. Gandhi in India, on January 30, 1948.  Gandhi was known as “Mahatma,” which means “Great Soul.”  Gandhi campaigned for India’s independence and end of British colonial rule for most of the 1920s, including a period of time in prison for subversive activities.  Gandhi’s great contribution to political change is the massive use of non-violent, non-cooperation.  Non-violent tactics tend to highlight the moral positions of groups in conflict, and make the non-violent side appear to have the stronger case.  Such tactics expose hypocrisy and despotic government rules.  Though he resigned from his political party in 1934, Gandhi remained a key icon of the drive for India’s independence.  When violence broke out over the Mountbatten plan to grant independence in 1947, creating two nations of Pakistan and India divided along religious, Gandhi again appealed for peace, but became the most famous victim of the religious violence that still roils the region today.  Committed to peace and non-violence, Gandhi himself did not ever win the Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps because his life was cut short.  His work inspired other Nobel Peace laureates, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964), the Dalai Lama (1989), Aung San Suu Kyi (1991), Nelson Mandela (with Frederik Willem deKlerk, 1993), and U.S. President Barack Obama (2009).

On January 30, 2011, much of the world holds its breath, watching events in North Africa, including especially Tunisia and Egypt.  Which of these traditions will today follow, to peace, or toward war?

FDR’s First 100 Days – tailored for the classroom

April 4, 2009

The FDR Library in Hyde Park has an exhibit on FDR’s legendary First 100 Days.  Accompanying the exhibit is a flyer, available on-line in .pdf, that is tailor made for a quick PowerPoint on the events.

Cover of the .pdf flyer on the FDR Librarays exhibit on the First 100 Days

Cover of the .pdf flyer on the FDR Libraray's exhibit on the First 100 Days

A 24-page guide to the exhibit is also available, with even more details — though a lot of the images would be more difficult to put into a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.

For government classes, these guides might offer a project on comparing Roosevelt’s first three or four months to Obama’s first months in office.

I’m wondering about printing at least a class set of the guide . . .


FDR takes over

March 31, 2009

Leisure Guy, in his leisure no doubt, has some time to look seriously at political criticism and its accuracy.  For example, recently he wondered about the claim that FDR didn’t do anything to help the U.S. out of the depression, and perhaps helped prolong it.  [I have corrected a minor error; he had FDR being inaugurated in January of 1933.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the last president to be inaugurated in March; the term was changed to start in January during his presidency.]

This graph is from an interesting post by Paul Krugman, but I was fascinated to see that you can tell when FDR took office. He was elected, as you know, at the end of 1932, and he took office in late January [March] of 1933. Can you find that spot on the graph?


But of course, Right Wingers will tell you that FDR made the Depression worse. Some will even say that FDR started the Great Depression.

Leisure Guy didn’t include a link to Krugman’s post, drat it.  It doesn’t appear to be this one, though it covers some of the same territory.  Update: Oh, here it is:  “Partying like it’s 1931.”

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