(3 of 18)
So Kovler used his contacts as a former congressional and Commerce Department aide to start organizing a Roosevelt centennial committee, which ended up including such luminaries as Senator Edward Kennedy, Diplomatic Troubleshooter Averell Harriman, Roosevelt Aide Benjamin Cohen, Poet Archibald MacLeish and the three surviving Roosevelt sons. Kovler even lobbied an appropriation of $200,000 through Congress to help promote a series of celebrations later this month. In addition to the joint session of Congress, the events will include these:
> There will be a wreath-laying ceremony at Roosevelt's birthplace in Hyde Park, and a birthday cake will be served where he died, in Warm Springs, Ga., the mineral-water health resort that he regularly visited for treatment of his physical afflictions.
>The Smithsonian Institution will stage six large exhibitions of Roosevelt memorabilia. The Library of Congress, the National Archives and the Corcoran Gallery will mount shows of their own. So will Harvard, the Universities of California, Texas, Illinois and at least a dozen more.
>The March of Dimes will honor its founder with a dinner in Washington. The Democratic National Committee will stage a fund raiser in New York. So will a gaggle of other organizations, ranging from the Indiana Democrats to the port of Oakland.
In contrast to past presidential centennials, however, the Roosevelt celebrations conspicuously lack one major participant: the incumbent President. Ronald Reagan, whose unemployed father got a job as a minor New Deal official, has scheduled a White House lunch for some of the Rooseveltians attending the joint session of Congress, but he did not accept any invitations to attend the various festivities. The Republican National Committee publication Source even disparaged the anniversary events by denouncing Roosevelt as "the great chiseler." Thus the controversy surrounding F.D.R. refuses to die.
"The snow of '29 wasn't real snow," said one of Scott Fitzgerald's sad young men. "If you didn't want it to be snow, you just paid some money."
The easy money of 1929 characterized the carefree spirit of the Jazz Age, and so did the stock market, which seemed to keep climbing forever upward, faster and faster. During the last 18 months of the great bull market, General Electric rose from 128 to 396, RCA from 94 to 505. Anyone who could not afford to pay could buy on margin for as little as 10% cash. The market suddenly stopped climbing on Sept. 3. Then came a month of hiccuping declines, then the wild, shouting, shoving anarchy of "Black Thursday." By the end of the month, $32 billion in paper values had simply disappeared.
"The fundamental business of the country is on a sound and prosperous basis," President Hoover said the day after Black Thursday. He was expressing the standard and perfectly correct view that Wall Street is quite different from the U.S. economy as a whole. But the U.S. economy suddenly seemed just as stricken as Wall Street. The index of manufacturing production sank from 127 in June 1929 to 97 a year later. Farm income dropped even more. In 1930, 26,355 business firms went bankrupt. Hoover kept saying it was a temporary problem.