Study Guide

First Fireside Chat Historical Context

By Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Historical Context

Need To Know 1: The 1920s

FDR's "First Fireside Chat" only happens because America was in the Great Depression…and the Great Depression only happens because of the 1920s.

Specifically, people in the 1920s. Thanks a lot you bimbos, dames, eggs, molls, and saps. (That string of words was brought to you courtesy of the Shmoop Campaign To Revive Hilarious 1920s Slang.)

The 20s are often called "the decade that roared," mainly do to all those gangsters, flappers, new-fangled automobiles, and the perversely liberating effect of prohibition.

But the best way to describe the 20s is with the phrase "what goes up must come down."

The good times were rolling in the 20s for a lot of people. There were new conveniences to buy, and a lot more people who could afford them. People bought tons of stuff on credit, showed off their shiny new cars and radios, and were generally living the ol' American Dream.

And then everything started falling apart. Beginning with the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the American economy did a tailspin into the Great Depression.

Need To Know 2: The Great Depression

One of the most asked questions in history is "what caused the Great Depression?" The answer is: it's complicated.

A lot of things caused the Great Depression, and we don't have a simple answer for you. (No one does.)

What we do know is that it was bad—really bad. Unemployment hit record high numbers, the middle class that emerged in the 1920s went poof, and much of America struggled for over a decade.

Franklin Roosevelt was the lucky man chosen to steer America out of this crisis, and he began with his "New Deal for the American People."

Need To Know 3: The New Deal

In his first hundred days as president, FDR made a whole bunch of changes. The year was 1933, and Roosevelt borrowed money, used it to create programs to put people to work, reorganized the banking system, and generally set up a plan to set the nation straight.

He created two of the so-called "New Deals," emphasizing the need to give relief to those struggling, reform (or change) the broken parts of the American economy, and recover with an eye to the future to make sure the Great Depression would never hit again. (These goals were cleverly called the Three R's.)

And that brings us to "First Fireside Chat." While not necessarily part of FDR's New Deal, it was central to communicating his relief, reform, and recovery plans to the public, focusing especially on the banking industry.

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