FDR's New Deal Timeline
How It All Went Down
FDR Pledges New Deal
Franklin D. Roosevelt wins the Democratic Party's nomination for the presidency, prevailing on the fourth ballot at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. In a break with precedent, Roosevelt travels to Chicago to accept the nomination in person. "I pledge you, I pledge myself," Roosevelt declares, "to a new deal for the American people."
He didn't know he probably should have trademarked the term. Money for days.
Franklin D. Roosevelt defeats Herbert Hoover in a landslide to win the presidency (source). Hoover wins only six states as FDR steamrolls to victory with more than 57% of the popular vote and 89% of the electoral vote. If they were luchadores, FDR would have unmasked Hoover.
“Only Thing to Fear is Fear Itself”
Franklin D. Roosevelt is inaugurated as President of the United States. In his inaugural address, Roosevelt famously declares that "the only thing to fear is fear itself." He later added, "and also spiders," but that usually gets left out.
Franklin D. Roosevelt calls Congress into special session, sending up as his first piece of proposed legislation a bill to stabilize the country's failing banking system. Congress passes the bill that very day. We mention this only to point out that Congress can, in theory, do things.
Congress passes Franklin D. Roosevelt's economy bill, slashing government spending by cutting $500 million in scheduled payments to veterans and federal employees. Kind of a jerk move there, Roosevelt.
First Fireside Chat
Franklin D. Roosevelt conducts his first "Fireside Chat," going on the radio to communicate directly with the American people. Roosevelt reassures the country that its banks are now safe for business.
Confidence in Banks Restored
Franklin D. Roosevelt lifts the nationwide bank holiday he imposed one week earlier. Customers, buoyed by FDR's confidence in the banking system, deposit more money than they withdraw, ending the country's banking crisis.
At Franklin D. Roosevelt's request, Congress ends Prohibition, legalizing the sale of beer with an alcohol content of up to 3.2%. While a few old-line "dry" Senators attempt to filibuster the bill, House members invade the Senate chamber, chanting "Vote! Vote! We want beer!" Most historians agree that Journey's "Any Way You Want It" should have been playing.
Civilian Conservation Corps
Congress creates the Civilian Conservation Corps, which will put 250,000 young unemployed men to work in reforestation and development of the National Parks and Forests.
Gold Standard Ends
The United States goes off the gold standard, allowing inflationary forces to begin to lift the economy. Before this, all currency was backed with gold, having the unintended side effect of turning us all into old-timey prospectors.
Federal Emergency Relief Act
Congress passes the Federal Emergency Relief Act, distributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the states for dispersal to the one-fourth of the national workforce unable to obtain jobs.
Agricultural Adjustment Act
Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which seeks to help out farmers by reducing farm output and raising prices.
Tennessee Valley Authority
Congress creates the Tennessee Valley Authority to build dams and provide cheap public power, irrigation, and fertilizer while promoting economic development in the impoverished Tennessee River Valley.
Federal Securities Act
Congress passes the Federal Securities Act, for the first time committing the federal government to the regulation of Wall Street.
National Industrial Recovery Act
Congress passes the National Industrial Recovery Act, the signature piece of legislation of the First New Deal, which Roosevelt hopes will lift the industrial economy out of Depression. The Act itself was pretty nervous about it too.
Banking Act of 1933
Congress passes the Banking Act of 1933, which establishes the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which virtually ends bank failures in America. You know, for the moment.
Hundred Days Congress Adjourns
The Hundred Days Congress adjourns from its special session, having passed all fifteen bills requested by President Roosevelt. They probably did that relieved control room clapping scene you see in disaster movies.
The Twenty-First Amendment takes full effect, ending Prohibition not only on beer and wine—legalized in March—but also on hard liquor. This means that one Amendment of the Constitution (the Eighteenth) was now completely repealed by another.
National Labor Relations Board Created
Federal Housing Administration Created
Congress creates the Federal Housing Administration to insure loans for construction and repairs of homes.
Emergency Relief Appropriations Act
Congress passes the Emergency Relief Appropriations Act, which allocates $5 billion for work relief projects administered through the new Works Progress Administration, which will ultimately employ more than eight million Americans. That's $5 billion in 1935 dollars, which today has to be like...20...500...okay, a lot of money.
Rural Electrification Administration Established
Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the Rural Electrification Administration to extend power to the vast majority of American farms that still lack electricity. Strange that they waited until now.
National Industrial Recovery Act Ruled Unconstitutional
In Schechter v. United States, the Supreme Court rules that the National Industrial Recovery Act—the centerpiece of the First New Deal—is unconstitutional. Roosevelt curses, presumably the Supreme Court "and their little dog too."
Collective Bargaining Established
Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Wagner National Labor Relations Act, which re-establishes the right to collective bargaining that had been thrown out by the Supreme Court along with the rest of the NRA in the Shechter decision. If at first you don't succeed...
Social Security Act
Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, the signature piece of legislation of the entire New Deal era, which permanently changes the relationship between the American people, their government, and the free market. You might have heard of this one.
Congress passes Franklin D. Roosevelt's "wealth tax," a largely symbolic measure that raises the top tax rate to 79%. Still, more than 95% of American families pay no income tax at all. This was alternatively known as the "Eat It, Rockefeller Act."
Agricultural Act Ruled Unconstitutional
Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected to a second term as president, winning in a landslide over Republican Alf Landon. Roosevelt wins every state but Maine and Vermont. Landon returns to his home planet.
Roosevelt Inaugurated to Second Term
Franklin D. Roosevelt is inaugurated into his second term in the White House, promising further reform to improve conditions for "one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished."
Frustrated with the Supreme Court's rejection of much of his program, Franklin D. Roosevelt proposes new legislation allowing him to expand the court to fifteen members, which would allow him to install as many as six friendly justices to overrule the existing conservative majority. It did not go well.
West Coast Hotel v. Parrish
In West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, the Supreme Court upholds a Washington state minimum-wage law. Conservative justice Owen Roberts, who previously sided with the anti-New Deal bloc on the court, votes with the majority, creating a new pro-New Deal majority and ensuring that government interventions into the economy will no longer be overturned as unconstitutional. This was known as the "switch in time that saved nine."
Supreme Court Upholds National Labor Relations Act
The Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the National Labor Relations Act.
Supreme Court Upholds Social Security Act
The Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the Social Security Act.