This lesson is part of the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) program.
The house, situated in a landscaped clearing on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River, is a large, rambling structure faced with stucco and fieldstone. This is Springwood, birthplace and home of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is the only place in the United States where a President was born, maintained a lifelong connection, and lies buried. Franklin Roosevelt had a strong and abiding connection with Springwood throughout his life.
At the dedication of the home as a national historic site in 1946, Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Life here had always a healing quality for him...It is his life and his character and his personality which will live with us and which will endure and be imparted to those who come to see the surroundings in which he grew to maturity." Yet, as important as Springwood was to Franklin Roosevelt personally, it also speaks to people across time and space. Eleanor Roosevelt explained, "I think Franklin realized that the historic library, the house, and the peaceful resting place behind the high hedge with flowers blooming around it would perhaps mean something to the people of the United States. They would understand the rest and peace and strength which he had gained here and perhaps learn to come, and go away with some sense of healing and courage themselves."¹
¹Olin Dows, Franklin Roosevelt at Hyde Park (New York: American Artists Group, Inc., 1949), 180.
About This Lesson
This lesson is based on the National Register of Historic Places registration file for the "Home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Historic Site" (with photographs) and other source material. Springwood: Birthplace and Home to Franklin D. Roosevelt was written by Charlotte Ofca Scholl, Park Ranger at Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site. Contributions were made by the staff of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. The lesson was edited by Jean West, education consultant, and the Teaching with Historic Places staff. TwHP is sponsored, in part, by the Cultural Resources Training Initiative and Parks as Classrooms programs of the National Park Service. This lesson is one in a series that brings the important stories of historic places into the classrooms across the country.
Where it fits into the curriculum
Topics: This lesson could be used in U.S. history, social studies, and geography courses in units on FDR's presidency, the Great Depression, the New Deal, and World War II.
Time period: Early to mid 20th century
United States History Standards for Grades 5-12
Springwood: Birthplace and Home to Franklin D. Roosevelt relates to the following National Standards for History:
Standard 2A- The student understands the New Deal and the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Standard 2B- The student understands the impact of the New Deal on workers and the labor movement.
Standard 2C- The student understands opposition to the New Deal, the alternative programs of its detractors, and the legacy of the New Deal.
Standard 3A- The student understands the international background of World War II.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
National Council for the Social Studies
Springwood: Birthplace and Home to Franklin D. Roosevelt relates to the following Social Studies Standards:
Standard C - The student explains and gives examples of how language, literature, the arts, architecture, other artifacts, traditions, beliefs, values, and behaviors contribute to the development and transmission of culture.
Theme II: Time, Continuity and Change
Standard C - The student identifies and describes selected historical periods and patterns of change within and across cultures, such as the rise of civilizations, the development of transportation systems, the growth and breakdown of colonial systems, and others.
Standard D - The student identifies and uses processes important to reconstructing and reinterpreting the past, such as using a variety of sources, providing, validating, and weighing evidence for claims, checking credibility of sources, and searching for causality.
Theme IV: Individual Development and Identity
Standard C - The student describes the ways family, gender, ethnicity, nationality, and institutional affiliations contribute to personal identity.
Standard D - The student relates such factors as physical endowment and capabilities, learning, motivation, personality, perception, and behavior to individual development.
Standard F - The student identifies and describes the influence of perception, attitudes, values, and beliefs on personal identity.
Theme V: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
Standard A - The student demonstrates an understanding of concepts such as role, status, and social class in describing the interactions of individuals and social groups.
Standard G - The student applies knowledge of how groups and institutions work to meet individual needs and promote the common good.
Theme VI: Power, Authority, and Governance
Standard C - The student analyzes and explains ideas and governmental mechanisms to meet needs and wants of citizens, regulate territory, manage conflict, and establish order and security.
Standard D - The student describes the ways nations and organizations respond to forces of unity and diversity affecting order and security.
Standard G - The student describes and analyzes the role of technology in communications, transportation, information-processing, weapons development, or other areas as it contributes to or helps resolve conflicts.
Theme VII: Production, Distribution, and Consumption
Standard I - The student uses economic concepts to help explain historical and current developments and issues in local, national, or global contexts.
Standard J - The student uses economic reasoning to compare different proposals for dealing with a contemporary social issue such as unemployment, acid rain, or high quality education.
Theme IX: Global Connections
Standard A - The student describes instances in which language, art, music, belief systems, and other cultural elements can facilitate global understanding or cause misunderstanding.
Objectives for students
1) To explore the location and setting of Springwood and explain its importance to Franklin Roosevelt, the United States, and the world.
2) To describe some early activities and circumstances of Franklin Roosevelt's life at Springwood and demonstrate how those activities may have influenced his policies and decisions in public life.
3) To identify some of the people who visited Springwood and discuss how their visits related to world events.
4) To locate sites or structures in their own community that were created by New Deal federal programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) or the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and analyze how their community benefited from them.
Materials for students
The materials listed below either can be used directly on the computer or can be printed out, photocopied, and distributed to students. The maps and images appear twice: in a smaller, low-resolution version with associated questions and alone in a larger version.
1) two maps of New York State and the surrounding area, and the Springwood estate today;
2) four readings about Franklin Roosevelt's life at Springwood, his political career, and some of the activities that took place at Springwood;
3) four photos of Springwood and related Roosevelt activities;
4) one illustration of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Roosevelt's Four Freedoms.
Visiting the site
The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, administered by the National Park Service, is located on U.S. Route 9, six miles north of Poughkeepsie, New York. For more information, contact the Superintendent, 4097 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, NY 12538-1997, or visit the park's Web site.
What do you think the people are trying to do here? When do you think this photo was taken?
Setting the Stage
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born to a family of wealth and social position on January 30, 1882, at Springwood, the family's estate in Hyde Park, New York. It was here that Franklin, an only child, learned from his father, James Roosevelt, the things that a young gentleman of his class should know. Mr. Roosevelt shared his own love of the land and place with his son, teaching him horsemanship, rowing, fishing, sailing, and ice boating on the Hudson River, the farm, and in the woodlands that comprised his estate. Franklin's mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, supervised his tutoring at home, his activities, and social contacts. After her husband died in 1900, during Franklin's first term at Harvard College, she became the owner and mistress of Springwood and lived there until her own death in 1941.
In 1905, the year of their marriage, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were invited to share Springwood with Sara Roosevelt. Over their years of public service they lived there at least part of the time, raising their five children at Franklin's lifelong home. During Roosevelt's career, Springwood became incorporated into his public life. From the time of his first political election and acceptance speech on the Springwood portico in 1910, thereafter the scene would be repeated for each election. Cabinet members, heads of state, royalty, congressmen, senators, and Secret Service stayed at the house during the years of his presidency.
In July 1944, the summer before his death, a war-weary President Roosevelt said, "All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River." He hoped to retire to Springwood and work on his papers and collection in the presidential library. However, following the 1944 election, Roosevelt's physical condition deteriorated, and he died of a cerebral hemorrhage at Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945. He was buried in the Rose Garden at Springwood on April 15, at his own request.
Locating the Site
Map 1: New York State and surrounding region.
(National Park Service)
Olin Dows, a Roosevelt family friend and neighbor described the Hyde Park area:
The actual country concerned is an oblong piece of flat, rolling and wooded farmland, lying on the east bank of the Hudson River. It starts at Fishkill, about fifty-five miles north of New York City, and extends forth miles along the river. It stretches inland twenty-five miles. The River is a leading character in this narrative.... Since the earliest days it has been an integral part of our life. The Hudson, and the Catskill Mountains in the background, makes our landscape distinctive.The families which live on the river estates are called locally "the River families." Many of them, including the Roosevelts and ourselves, are descendants of the Beekmans and the Livingstons. These two families were among the forty which, between 1685 and 1781, received a dozen patents from the British Crown for the land which is now Dutchess County.¹
¹Olin Dows, Franklin Roosevelt at Hyde Park (New York: American Artists Group, Inc., 1949), Introduction.
Questions for Map 1
1. Find the Home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Historic Site (Springwood) and describe its location.
2. What details about the geography of Hyde Park can you learn from Olin Dows' descriptive word picture? How does it add to the information you can learn from Map 1? What can you learn about the area's residents from Dows' description?
3. Springwood is located approximately halfway between what two cities? In what ways could the midway location have been an advantage to Franklin D. Roosevelt during his early political career? In what ways could it have been a disadvantage?
Locating the Site
Map 2: Springwood and its grounds today.
Questions for Map 2
1. Locate the Roosevelt Home on the map. What other buildings are on the grounds of the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site besides the house? How would these buildings have been used by the Roosevelt family at the time they were living at Springwood?
2. Find the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum on Map 2. What do you think is the importance of a presidential library to Americans? What do you think is the importance of a presidential library to non-Americans?
3. Find the Gravesite in Map 2. Why might President Roosevelt have wanted to be buried on his family's property?
Determining the Facts
Reading 1: Early Years and Influences
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born at home on a cold January day in 1882 to Sara and James Roosevelt. Both he and his mother nearly died during his birth, although both recovered with good health. Mrs. Roosevelt was unable to have more children, and she always considered her son to be a precious gift. He was carefully protected by both his parents, given every advantage, and made to feel that all those living and working on the estate were there to serve his every want and need.
Although his parents indulged young Franklin, they did not want to spoil him. His mother taught him about manners, courtesy, and the proper way of behaving. His father, James, taught him the ways of a country gentleman, introducing him to political life and public affairs. James Roosevelt was a kindly, concerned gentleman who participated in many activities, both in Dutchess County and through business dealings in New York City. He was known locally as "Mr. James," a title of respect given to him by villagers for his involvement in Hyde Park's government and contribution to local affairs.
Following James Roosevelt's death in 1900, his wife Sara inherited Springwood. Inspired by stories of family history from his parents and relatives, Franklin Roosevelt became an amateur architect in his own right. However, Mrs. Roosevelt's usual reply to Franklin's suggestions for changes or improvements on the place was, "I think not Franklin. If it was good enough for your father, it is good enough for me." The major changes reflect Franklin's persistence as well as his abiding interest in architecture and the Springwood estate. In 1915, Franklin and his mother worked with an architectural firm from New York City to renovate and enlarge the house and to give it a new look. Springwood changed dramatically, transformed from a simple farmhouse with wooden clapboards in the popular mid-19th century Italian style to a grand stucco-and-fieldstone, early American style mansion. The changes included additional wings, updated electrical service, new plumbing, and space for Franklin and Eleanor's growing family.
In later years, Franklin's interest in architecture would contribute to the design of his presidential library, the only other major change on the estate during his mother's lifetime. In September of 1941, Sara Delano Roosevelt died at Springwood. Roosevelt allowed no changes to be made to the house or furnishings after his mother's death during his lifetime. Franklin died four years later. Roosevelt's architectural influence carried beyond Springwood. His preference for the Dutch colonial style with fieldstone construction extended to the Hyde Park public schools and post office, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt's nearby Val-Kill retreat.
The experiences of his early life at home as a protected, educated, and advantaged young man, in addition to his experiences in field, farm, and village shaped Franklin Roosevelt's experiences in public service later in his life. As Olin Dows, a family friend and neighbor explained:
From his relations with his neighbors he knew that a national, even a world problem, always came down to a personal problem. He tells us that when writing his fireside chat on the banking crisis he was trying to make these problems clear to his old friends and neighbors, to individuals in Dutchess County.¹
Questions for Reading 1
1. What kind of family did Franklin Roosevelt belong to?
2. How do you think the Roosevelt's life compared to that of a farm family or a Hyde Park village family? Do you think you would have enjoyed being a member of the Roosevelt family? Why or why not?
3. What did Franklin Roosevelt learn from his mother while he was growing up? What did his father teach him? How are they similar to lessons you have learned in your home life from parents, relatives, or other family members? How are they different?
4. Give some examples of how a person's home life can influence later life, in both a positive or negative way. How do you think the early years of life at Springwood and Hyde Park helped Franklin Roosevelt during his years of public service?
Reading 1 was compiled from Olin Dows, Franklin Roosevelt at Hyde Park (New York: American Artists Group, Inc., 1949).
1Olin Dows, Franklin Roosevelt at Hyde Park (New York: American Artists Group, Inc., 1949), Introduction.
Determining the Facts
Reading 2: Physical Challenge and the Road Ahead
Within three years of finishing law school in 1907, Franklin Roosevelt entered political life. This is his public office time line or chronology:
New York State Senator — 1910, 1912
Assistant Secretary of the Navy — 1913
Democratic vice-presidential candidacy — 1920 (defeated)
Governor of New York — 1928, 1930 (a term was two years at that time)
President of the United States — 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944
A time line is like a calendar of history. Although it provides dates and events, it does not reveal the life experience of those years or what really happened to the individual who lived it. Franklin Delano Roosevelt lived his remarkable life on many levels or layers of experience. He was a husband, a father, and a son. He was a lawyer, but he loved architecture and was an amateur historian. While politics was an important part of his life, Roosevelt's character, formed at Springwood in his youth, would be transformed by illness and physical challenges.
The 1920 presidential campaign set Republican Warren G. Harding and his running mate, Calvin Coolidge, against Democrat James M. Cox and his vice presidential choice, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Cox and Roosevelt ran a hard race, but they were defeated by a seven million vote margin. Franklin Roosevelt remained optimistic. Roosevelt stayed active in Democratic politics and continued making public appearances. As president of the Greater New York Boy Scouts Council, he visited a Boy Scout camp at Bear Mountain State Park in New York on July 27, 1921. He then joined his wife, Eleanor, and their children at their vacation home on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada. On August 10, 1921 he became feverish and ill, and over the course of several days gradually lost the use of his legs. The infantile paralysis (polio) virus had struck down the promising young politician. It is now thought that Roosevelt may have caught the polio virus at the Boy Scout camp and then carried it with him to Campobello. Although he was spared complete paralysis, which would have forced him to live out his life in an iron lung, he never walked again without assistance.
The recovery of Roosevelt's health came slowly. He spent that winter in the family's New York City house on East 65th Street. His mother, Sara Roosevelt, wanted him to retire to Hyde Park, but his wife, his doctor, and his political advisor, Louis Howe, all agreed with Franklin that he should not retire. Realizing that they had to keep Franklin in touch with political life, Louis Howe coached Eleanor, launching her into public life in 1922. She became her husband's eyes, ears, and legs, keeping him informed on all aspects of American life and politics. Women had voted for the first time in 1920, and these new voters were a ready audience for Eleanor Roosevelt. Her public contact and observations for Franklin continued throughout his lifetime, although she was criticized by some for her participation on his behalf.
In the spring of 1922, Franklin Roosevelt moved from New York City to Hyde Park for the fresh air and sunshine that he needed to recuperate. While at Springwood, his strength slowly returned. Franklin took prescribed walks on the long graveled driveway from the house a quarter of a mile to the Albany Post Road (U. S. Route 9) and back again. He used crutches, 14 pounds of metal leg braces, and a lot of upper body strength to move his legs along. He progressed a little further each day until he finally reached the gateposts. In later years, he thought that this exercise probably injured his health rather than helped it.
Eleanor Roosevelt writes of that time, "All that summer at Hyde Park, my husband struggled to do a great number of things which would make it possible for him to be more active." For the next seven years he continued every effort at physical rehabilitation. This search kept him moving from New York City to Hyde Park to Florida and eventually to Warm Springs, Georgia, where he discovered a retreat for polio physical therapy.
The first break in this routine of intense therapy came when he briefly re-entered public life in 1924. Franklin delivered the famous "Happy Warrior" speech nominating Governor Al Smith of New York for President at the Democratic National Convention. Delegates and citizens received him with acclaim not only for the speech, but also for his physical courage. Frances Perkins, later appointed by Roosevelt as the first woman in U.S. history to serve in the presidential cabinet, wrote, "Franklin Roosevelt underwent a spiritual transformation during the years of his illness.... The man emerged completely warmhearted, with humility of spirit and with a deeper philosophy. Having been to the depths of trouble, he understood the problems of people in trouble."¹
Continuing his physical therapy was most important to Roosevelt, for he found improvement to his health and paralyzed legs during his treatments at Warm Springs, Georgia. With this in mind, he returned to his efforts soon after the 1924 convention and continued until 1927. At that time, Governor Smith was running for president against Herbert Hoover, and he needed Roosevelt's help. Smith felt that Roosevelt was a strong candidate to win the state election and take over as Governor of New York. This would hold the state to the Democratic Party and secure the 45 electoral votes that Smith needed to win the 1928 election.
At first, Roosevelt flatly refused because he wanted to spend more time strengthening his legs. He did everything he could to avoid speaking to Smith, who was very persuasive. Roosevelt was in Warm Springs at the time and was flooded with letters, telegrams, and calls from Smith trying to change his mind. The fact was that the Democrats needed his help, and if he refused he might not be able to count on party leaders to support him in the future. He was forced to choose between his ambition and his physical therapy. When he accepted a call from his wife on Smith's behalf, the choice had been made.
Questions for Reading 2
1. The advantages of wealth and social position could not protect Roosevelt from illness or physical disability. In what ways do you think Roosevelt's private life changed after his limited recovery from polio? In what ways do you think his public life changed? Why? Describe how you might feel if such a thing happened to you. In what ways might your daily life and routine change?
2. Continuing in politics and public life after his illness was Roosevelt's choice. Why might he have made that choice rather than retire from public view as was customary for disabled people at that time? How do you think Roosevelt's family, including his wife, mother, and children, felt about his choice?
3. During Franklin Roosevelt's recovery from polio, Eleanor Roosevelt became his agent in public life and, in fact, began her own public career. What important constitutional event happened in 1920 which both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were able to use to their political advantage? Research and find out, specifically, some of the activities Eleanor Roosevelt undertook to assist her husband. What was Roosevelt doing while his wife worked on his behalf?
Reading 2 was compiled from Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew (New York: The Viking Press, 1946).
¹Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew (New York: The Viking Press, 1946), 29.
Determining the Facts
Reading 3: A Political Life in an Era of Crisis
Franklin Roosevelt was elected governor of the state of New York in 1928, while Al Smith lost the presidency to Herbert Hoover. He was sworn in as governor on January 1, 1929 in Albany, New York. In October 1929, the New York Stock Exchange crashed and the nation entered the Great Depression. Between 1930 and 1932 the number of unemployed Americans rose from four million to 12 million. Foreign trade dropped to a third of its normal level, farm foreclosures accelerated, and many banks failed. President Hoover was confident that this was a temporary condition.
As governor, Roosevelt had to respond to the economic crisis in hard-hit New York. Speaking from Warm Springs, Georgia, in May 1932, Roosevelt said, "Clearly it is a duty of government in an emergency to prevent any man, woman, or child from starving."1 His progressive or liberal ideas became the framework for social and economic reforms for New York. He was the leader in supporting state unemployment insurance, improving workers' compensation laws, and promoting hydroelectric power so the state could electrify rural areas and supply affordable electricity to homes and factories.
The Democratic Party nominated Roosevelt as its presidential candidate for the 1932 election. In his acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, Roosevelt declared, "I pledge myself to a New Deal for the American People. This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms."2 Roosevelt's New Deal was a framework for national relief, much of it based on the reforms he had implemented in New York, targeted to help the "forgotten man."
On November 8, 1932, Roosevelt cast his vote in the little Town Hall of Hyde Park, New York, and chatted with some of the townspeople, as was his custom, before continuing on to the Democratic Headquarters in New York City to learn the outcome of the election. He had won the election, but now faced the daunting crisis of a still-deepening Great Depression. The new administration's first objective was to alleviate the suffering of the unemployed. Within the first hundred days after the inauguration, dozens of agencies were set up to dispense emergency and short-term governmental aid. These agencies became known as the "alphabet agencies." Once the banking problems were given attention, the other relief efforts were set in motion.
One of the most well known and long-lived plans was the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps. This agency gave work to the thousands of young unemployed men between the ages of 17 and 28. Their assigned tasks involved conservation work such as planting trees in national forests and parks and providing fire protection for those areas. Many states have benefited from other CCC work by having beaches improved, as well as recreational parks, wildlife areas, and campgrounds created.
Once the unemployed youth received support, the administration turned its attention to unemployment at large. The agency most responsible for this relief effort was the WPA, the Works Progress Administration.
Employees of the WPA built civil projects in communities from coast to coast including post offices, hospitals, roads, airports, and schools. They worked for school lunch programs and health clinics. Many cultural programs sponsored by the WPA enabled the nation to preserve and retain oral folk traditions in written transcripts. WPA projects gave unemployed artists, writers, and musicians employment as well. WPA artists painted murals on the walls of public buildings such as post offices, schools, and federal offices. Writers produced many informational books for the government including a highly regarded series of guides to every state and territory. Actors, singers, and musicians brought plays and concerts to communities who had never seen a concert or play until then. These cultural programs are the forerunners of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Once the work relief programs were underway, attention was given to FDR’s long awaited vision of electricity for every community in the nation. From that vision the TVA, the Tennessee Valley Authority, was created as a way to reclaim the poverty-stricken Tennessee Valley basin, which extends through seven southern states. In time, the TVA built a series of dams and hydroelectric projects to provide flood control and supply electric power to the valley’s farms, factories, and homes. There was a great deal of criticism of this plan, yet the people it served welcomed the TVA, which brought both electricity and an improved standard of living to one of the poorest regions of the country. The TVA became a model of national improvement for countries around the world.
President Roosevelt won a landslide victory in the 1936 presidential election. Although voters approved of the New Deal, adverse Supreme Court decisions, weakening congressional support, partisan conflict, labor unrest, and a sharp business recession in 1937 challenged Roosevelt and his vision for social and economic reform. The United States did not fully recover from the Depression until the labor demands of wartime industries and the armed services during World War II produced full employment.
By the end of Franklin Roosevelt's second term, international crisis began to dominate his attention. Chancellor Adolf Hitler, also elected to office in 1932, had rebuilt German military power and formed the Axis alliance to pursue a foreign policy of aggression and expansion. Roosevelt recognized America's need for national war readiness. With the invasion of Poland in 1939 and the fall of France the following summer, Great Britain stood alone against Hitler. Roosevelt realized the United States had to send military equipment to Britain if it were to survive. Yet, Roosevelt knew that the American people had become isolationist as a consequence of their experiences in World War I. Roosevelt's persuasiveness and American aid through Lend-Lease enabled Britain to withstand Germany and avoid defeat in the days before America actively entered the war.
Roosevelt privately pondered whether to run for a third term, defying the political tradition begun by George Washington, limiting a president to two terms. " 'I do not want to run,' he told Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., 'unless...things get very, very, much worse in Europe.' "5 Developments in Europe did, indeed, get much worse with the German invasion and occupation of France. By June 1940, Roosevelt decided to run again and was re-elected by a five million-vote margin over his opponent, Wendell L. Wilkie.
In 1944 in the middle of the global crisis of World War II, Franklin Roosevelt ran for an unheard of fourth term, against the advice of his doctors, family, and friends. His health was failing, but his goal was to see the United States to the end of the war and shape the post-war peace. "If the people command me to continue in this office and in this war," he said, "I have as little right to withdraw as the soldier has to leave his post in the line."6 Roosevelt won his fourth presidential election by more than 3 ½ million votes over his opponent, Thomas E. Dewey.
Questions for Reading 3
1. Franklin Roosevelt was Governor of New York during the beginning of the Depression. Describe some of the state programs that his administration developed, which later became the foundation of the federal relief programs during his presidency. What evidence can you provide that shows a connection between his early life in Hyde Park and the later development of relief programs during the Depression?
2. After becoming president, Franklin Roosevelt stated that the primary task at hand was to put unemployed people to work. Name some of the Depression-era federal agencies, which were created to achieve that goal. How did these programs assist people?
3. By the end of President Roosevelt's second term, the crisis of the Depression was replaced by the crisis of Axis aggression in Europe and Asia. What country did Roosevelt believe most needed the help of the U. S. at that time, and why? Look up and explain the Lend-Lease Program. Find out what events were leading the world into war in the 1930s.
4. To how many terms as president was Franklin Roosevelt elected? What events helped to convince him to run again, breaking the two-term tradition? Do you agree or disagree with his choice, and why? When was the constitutional amendment passed which limited presidents to two terms?
Reading 3 was compiled from Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew (New York: The Viking Press, 1946); Sadybeth and Anson Lowitz, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Man of Action (New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc., 1933); and Russell Freedman, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (New York: Clarion Books, 1990).
1Sadybeth and Anson Lowitz, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Man of Action (New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc., 1933), 204.
4Russell Freedman, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (New York: Clarion Books, 1990), 95, 100-101.
Determining the Facts
Reading 4: The International Scene at Hyde Park
Franklin Roosevelt was the first modern president to use the media in a systematic manner in order to promote his ideas and to reach the public. Since the earliest years of his public career, Franklin Roosevelt had invited national political figures to lunch, tea, or dinner at his mother's home. Reporters were usually present at these very open events, much to Sara Roosevelt's dismay. She was a reluctant participant who disliked living in the public eye. Nonetheless, the Roosevelts continued to offer hospitality to members of the press, both at Springwood and also at Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt's country retreat. The newspaper and radio reports about the President, his family, and the guests at their Hyde Park home were of great interest to the American people.
By 1939, Roosevelt and the nation's attention began moving from the crisis of Depression to a new crisis: global conflict. As the international situation became tense and war loomed, activities at Springwood assumed new significance to the world at large. Springwood soon became the staging area for a series of well-publicized international visits. These events began with the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain in June of 1939. The royal couple was visiting the Province of Canada and the visit to Hyde Park was made to appear as casual as possible, as if they were just friends "dropping by" to visit.
In fact, the visit was designed to reshape American public opinion about the British royal family, making King George VI and Queen Elizabeth seem like a normal, likable couple. Britain was close to war with Germany and President Roosevelt knew he had to move a neutral, isolationist American public towards a pro-British stance. Roosevelt's strategy was a huge success. Major newspapers reported the royal visit in glowing terms and filled their pages with features and photos from cover to cover for an entire week and more.
When President Roosevelt delivered the annual address to Congress on January 6, 1941, he introduced his Lend-Lease plan and his idea for a better world to live in. This idea was presented as the Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear. Congress subsequently passed the Lend-Lease Act.
From then on, Franklin Roosevelt's formula for entertaining government officials and personalities from around the world in Hyde Park included a great deal of informality, casual get-togethers, sight-seeing, and plenty of publicity.
While working on Lend-Lease, Roosevelt formed a close partnership with Winston Churchill, and they met repeatedly at Springwood during the war years. The private, relaxed setting was conducive to productive meetings. During his visits, Churchill enjoyed Springwood's comforts and scenic view, rides through the wooded acres, and swimming parties at Val-Kill. Yet the two heads of state also accomplished a great deal, developing wartime military strategies, agenda topics for conferences with other Allies, and a practical vision of the post-war era.
Less than a year after the "Four Freedoms" speech, President Roosevelt grimly returned to Congress to announce the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, declaring it a "date which will live in infamy." Congress immediately declared war on Japan, Germany, and all nations in the Axis alliance.
Through the years of the Second World War, the Roosevelts continued to host royal families in exile and other international personalities at Springwood. Roosevelt enjoyed offering our democratic style of hospitality to his world visitors while demonstrating to the American people the hardship endured by many of the world's citizens.
When President Roosevelt finished meeting with Allied leaders at the Cairo and Teheran conferences in December 1943, he returned to Hyde Park. From his study in the Presidential Library next to his home, he presented a Christmas Eve report to the American people in the form of one of his familiar fireside chats. In doing so, he connected Springwood not only to himself but the nation at large:
But everywhere throughout the world--through this war that covers the world--there is a special spirit that has warmed our hearts since our earliest childhood--a spirit that brings us close to our homes, our families, our friends and neighbors--the Christmas spirit of "peace on earth, goodwill toward men." It is an unquenchable spirit.¹
Questions for Reading 4
1. How did Franklin Delano Roosevelt use entertaining at Springwood to advance his goals? Give some examples of his success with this approach.
2. In what ways did Springwood serve as an extension of the White House? Why did so many foreign leaders visit with Franklin Roosevelt at Hyde Park?
3. Publicity was essential in shaping public opinion. How did people learn about current events prior to the use of electricity? What types of media were available to Franklin Roosevelt? Which medium was Franklin Roosevelt the first president to use that allowed him to "visit" and speak directly to people in their homes?
Reading 4 was compiled from Russell Freedman, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (New York: Clarion Books, 1990); Buhite and Levy, eds., The Fireside Chats of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1992); and Olin Dows, Franklin Roosevelt at Hyde Park (New York: American Artists Group, Inc., 1949).
¹Buhite and Levy, eds., The Fireside Chats of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1992), 274.
Photo 1: Aerial view of Springwood.
Questions for Photo 1
1. Try to match some of the structures shown in Photo 1 to those shown on Map 2.
2. What features are missing in Photo 1 that are present in Map 2?
3. If you had no knowledge of the Roosevelt family, what would you learn about them by looking at their home and property in Photo 1?
Photo 2: Springwood.
(National Park Service)
Questions for Photo 2
1. What words would you use to describe this house?
2. The original farmhouse that James Roosevelt purchased in 1867 is concealed by impressive renovations dating from 1915. Why do you think Sara Roosevelt and her son, Franklin, choose this style of architecture rather than leaving the building as a farmhouse?
3. Besides the need to modernize plumbing and introduce electricity to the house, what other events in Franklin Roosevelt's life might have prompted this 1915 renovation?
4. What challenges did Springwood present to the partially paralyzed Franklin Roosevelt?
5. Knowing that Franklin Roosevelt and his family lived in this house and its surroundings, explain how you think he could possibly have understood the problems of a third of his nation, Depression-era American families who were out of work, out of hope, ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-fed?
Photo 3: WPA flood project in Louisville, Kentucky, 1937.
(Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library)
Questions for Photo 3
1. Look at the photograph for a moment, and then cover it. Describe your first impression of this photograph.
2. Study the photograph for several minutes. What people, objects, and actions are captured in this image? How does the close study effect your first impression?
3. What was the WPA? When did it exist and what did it do? List some of the work opportunities provided by the WPA.
4. Do you think the WPA was successful in helping people? Give reasons for your opinion.
Photo 4: The Roosevelts with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, 1940.
Questions for Photo 4
1. Study each of the five people in the photograph carefully and thoroughly. Do you think this is a posed photograph? Why or why not?
2. Photo 4 was taken during the June 1940 visit to Springwood by King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth. How would photographs like this help to humanize the British royal family? What world events made support of the U.S. public critical to Great Britain's future? Was the visit as spontaneous as the photo suggests?
Illustration 1: Four Freedoms by Norman Rockwell.
(National Archives and Records Administration)
Norman Rockwell, more than any other contemporary American artist, expressed the life and common experiences of middle America at home. His works were most often seen on the cover of the magazine, The Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell worked with Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms concept during World War II to promote public knowledge of the war effort. Powerful images representing Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear became much published posters and prints.
The concept of the Four Freedoms was presented to the American people on January 6, 1941. The occasion was President Roosevelt's annual message to Congress:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms:The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want--which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.¹
Questions for Illlustration 1
1. Norman Rockwell shared the gift with Franklin Roosevelt of being able to bring great ideas down to a personal level. What are the people doing in each of the scenes of the poster? How do their activities reflect each of the Four Freedoms?
2. What kind of impact do you think these images had at the time they were printed?
3. Do you think these images are still powerful today? Why or why not? How might a contemporary artist or photographer update these images?
¹Thomas S. Bruchner, The Norman Rockwell Treasury (New York: Galahad Books, 1979) 77-78.
Putting It All Together
That Springwood was the keystone in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's public as well as private life is apparent. In fact, some very dramatic events in American history transpired at Springwood. The following activities are designed to help students understand these assertions.
Activity 1: Lifestyles
Divide the class into teams. Explain that the teams will be researching an aspect of life in the late 19th century, with 1882, the year of Franklin Roosevelt's birth, as the target date. Let the teams choose from a list of broad categories such as: Transportation, Clothing, Food, Home Life, Public Health, Communications, Politics, Industrial Labor, Religion, etc. Ask each team to conduct research in books, magazines, newspapers, photographs, and/or any other sources they can find. Students may use local sites, libraries, historical societies, and the Internet to locate materials applicable to their topic. Direct each group to report on its chosen topic, comparing and contrasting it with contemporary life. Students may present their comparisons through drawings or photographs, written reports, skits involving objects or costumes, charts, computer slide-shows, or other means.
After their presentations, ask the class as a whole to discuss the changes in lifestyle that must have occurred during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's lifetime, between 1882 and 1945.
Activity 2: Remembering When
Students may choose either option in completing this activity.
A. Have students team up in pairs to be an interviewer and a cameraperson. Each pair should arrange to conduct an oral history interview with a willing senior citizen who remembers life during the Depression. All students participating in this activity should meet as a group and develop a common list of questions to ask during interviews. Videotaped interviews will have the greatest impact, but snapshots and a written interview in a newspaper article format or an audiotape also provide valuable learning experiences. Ask the teams to share their interviews with the class and to explain what they learned from an eyewitness that they could not learn from a textbook. If there is student and administrative support, consider establishing a school-based repository for oral histories of the Depression.
B. Ask students to look for WPA-funded projects still existing in their community. Possibilities include post offices, schools, bridges, parks, stadiums, bandshells, etc. Students may turn to local historical societies, old newspapers, and published guides to WPA projects for help in locating a project. Once the students have identified a project, they should research how and why the project was undertaken in their community. They should describe in words and/or artwork or photography the project as it originally was constructed and as it exists today. They should also assess the impact, if any, that the project had on the community in the past and now. Students should report to the class what they have learned about the WPA in their community.
Springwood: Birthplace and Home to Franklin D. Roosevelt--
By looking at Springwood: Birthplace and Home to Franklin D. Roosevelt, students will learn about one of our greatest presidents and life during the Depression and World War II. Those interested in learning more will find that the Internet offers a variety of interesting materials.
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site (Springwood)
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site is a unit of the National Park System. Visit the park's Web pages for more information regarding this site, including an audio of a portion of Roosevelt's most famous speech and his personal history.
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Digital Archives
The website of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Digital Archives is rich in documents and images from Roosevelt's presidential administrations. Diplomatic archives along with photographs of family, the Depression, and World War II make this an excellent resource for researchers.
Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site (Val-Kill)
Val-Kill is a unit of the National Park System. Visit the park's web pages for a detailed history of Mrs. Roosevelt and her role in the public as the "eyes, ears and legs" for her husband.
Franklin D. Roosevelt's Little White House
Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites' web page preserves and manages the "Little White House" in Warm Springs, Georgia where Franklin Roosevelt convalesced from polio and died. Included are views of and information about the house and the polio treatment pools fed by the warm springs for which the community is named.
American Presidents, Life Portraits
In this series, C-SPAN explores the life stories of the men who have been president by traveling to presidential homes, museums, libraries, and grave sites and speaking with presidential scholars. Included on the website is information about the American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The National Archives
The National Archives online exhibit hall features Depression era art and World War II posters and sound files, among its thousands of documents.
Library of Congress: American Memory Collection
Search the American Memory Collection Web page for a variety of historical resources on Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Depression, and World War II. Included on the site are documents, photographs, and other materials on the life of this extraordinary man. Also search on Springwood for architectural documentation of the site by Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record.
Last updated: August 5, 2021