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‘Deja vu all over again ...’

January 31, 2009

That famous line first uttered by Yogi Berra fits nicely with this week's story. Lady Luck looked favorably on us and helped us discover a copy of the Syracuse American published on Sunday, Dec. 27, 1936. The paper was filled with news about President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was about to start his second term in office. So we get a glimpse of what a different ceremony was planned for the inauguration (Jan. 20, 1937) 72 years ago, compared to what we all witnessed last week with the inauguration of President Obama.

Roosevelt wins in landslide

Before we quote excerpts from that old newspaper (10 cents a copy with a slogan that read, "A Paper for People Who Think" now I think that is expecting a little too much) the Internet gave us this information. Roosevelt had beaten his Republican opponent, Alf Landon, with 60 percent of the vote. He carried 46 states and won the electoral vote 523 to 8. His vice president was John N. Garner and the population of the United States was 128,053,180. Roosevelt was 54 and Garner was 68. Garner was a tough old Texas lawyer nicknamed Cactus Jack and lived longer than any other U.S. vice president. He died 15 days short of his 99th birthday. Roosevelt died in office in 1945 at 63.

Article Photos

Chief Justice Hughes administers oath of office to President Roosevelt in 1933.
(Image from the Syracuse American)

The inauguration plans

"The Nation is preparing to inaugurate President Roosevelt for the second time with the greatest demonstration of mass affection since Lindbergh was welcomed back from France after conquering the Atlantic.

"An expected 300,000 jubilant visitors will cram the capital on Jan. 20 to see the President take his oath of office, and start his second four years as chief executive."

First inauguration on Jan. 20

"This inauguration will have peculiar significance, for it will be the first held on Jan. 20. From the earliest days of the republic, inaugurations have been held on March 4.

"All rooms in the city have been sold out for weeks. Railroad companies will park hundreds of Pullman cars in the railroad yards as temporary residences, tourist camps within a radius of 100 miles will be filled and Washington women were urged to open their homes to the public during the fete days.

"Because the latter part of January in Washington is usually attended by the blackest weather of the year, President Roosevelt has given strict orders that the parade last no more than two hours. The President, fearful that the lives of many would be endangered by exposure, also ordered all the reviewing stands, grandstands and the seats in front of the capitol covered.

"Only a small percentage of those organizations which have sought a place in the parade were successful in winning that place. Each state will be allowed representation in the parade. If all the applicants were accepted, it would be the largest parade the world has ever seen, lasting between 40 and 50 hours, officials said."

The House is invited

"Seats will be provided for 20,000 on Capitol Hill. The whole Senate and House of Representa-tives will get seats this time. At the last inauguration, only the senators were seated. The Washington of Jan. 20, 1937, is a far different city than the Washington of March 4, 1933. New government buildings of shining white marble, costing more than $200,000,000, have been constructed in that period.

"The city's population has increased 120,000, almost entirely due to the geared-up business of government, the new agencies and bureaus founded by the New Deal."

An address to Congress

I am very grateful to have this historic copy of the Syracuse American, which I will donate to the Saranac Lake Free Library, but how I wish I had the copy following the inauguration and his address to Congress. Here are some quotes from what was apparently a draft of the speech that Roosevelt was to give to Congress Jan. 20.

"Chief interest (in the speech) centers on whether the President will seek a constitutional amendment or will try some expedient of restoring federal control over industry and agricultural with constitutional change.

"It is considered unlikely that the President will make any reference to the Supreme Court in his message or recommend any measures to curb the court's powers.

"For the first time since he became chief executive, the president, according to reliable sources, has succeeded in drawing up a balanced budget for the next fiscal year. Heavy increases in tax receipts, a sign of business recovery, have played an important part in offsetting government expenditures."



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