Washington, D.C. Associated Press, 25 October 1934. Photograph. This is an original press photo of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt taken during the first of the President’s eventual four terms in office, at a Washington D.C. Justice building dedication ceremony on 25 October 1934. This image, measuring 7 x 9 in (17.8 x 22.8 cm), is a silver gelatin print on matte photo paper. Condition is very good minus. The paper is crisp and clean with some cockling to the upper and lower edges of the sheet. The verso bears the copyright stamp of the Associated Press (illegible but so identified by the AP’s typed caption), a date stamp reading “Oct 31 1934”, an ink stamp of “The Cleveland News”, and a typed caption. The original caption reads “Postmaster General James Farley and President Franklin D. Roosevelt shown at the ceremoines [sic] in connection with the dedication of the new Department of Justice building in Washington D.C., Oct.25. Members of the Cabinet, Supreme Court and Diplomatic Corps were in attendance.”
The nation that Franklin Roosevelt was elected to serve when he first became President in 1933 was suffering the effects of the Great Depression. Nearly a quarter of the work force was unemployed, price and productivity had dropped to one-third of their 1929 levels, and farms across the country were suffering the consequences of decades of intensive farming and drought conditions turning the Great Plains into the Dust Bowl. Roosevelt won the election on the platform of his New Deal, “a crusade to return America to its own people.”
The man with whom he is here pictured, James Farley (1888-1976), played a key role in FDR’s election, acting as manager for FDR’s first and second campaigns and organizing the southern New Deal Coalition which was a critical component of FDR’s victory. Roosevelt appointed Farley Postmaster General as well as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Farley kept the USPS operational through the Depression; under his stewardship the once unprofitable Post Office began to turn a profit. Farley’s opposition to FDR’s third term led to the fracture of their relationship in 1940.
Such was the singular nature of both the man and his presidency that no mere biographical sketch of Franklin Delano Roosevelt seems to suffice. “Even those critical of his achievements recognize their magnitude” (ANB). America’s only crippled president and the only president ever elected to four terms in office was the indispensable leader of his country during its greatest economic crisis and its greatest foreign war. By any reasonable assessment, Roosevelt fundamentally reshaped social, political, and geopolitical expectations and realities not just of his nation, but of large parts of the world. FDR, as he became widely known, served as thirty-second president of the United States for twelve years, from 1933-1945, dying in office on 12 April 1945, only months after the beginning of his fourth term and less than a month before VE Day.
This is an original press photo from the International News Photo Inc. press agency. During the first half of the twentieth century, photojournalism grew as a practice, fundamentally changing the way the public interacted with current events. Newspapers assembled expansive archives, including physical copies of all photographs published or deemed useful for potential future use, their versos typically marked with ink stamps and notes providing provenance and captions. Photo departments would often take brush, paint, pencil, and marker to the surface of photographs themselves to edit them before publication. Today these photographs exist as repositories of historical memory, technological artifacts, and often striking pieces of vernacular art. Item #005495