From the Museum

NRA Buttons

A key element of FDR’s economic revival plan during his First 100 Days in office was the National Industrial Recovery Administration (NRA).

The NRA sought to end cut-throat competition that was reducing wages and prices to disastrous levels. It encouraged businesses in hundreds of industries to create codes of “fair competition.” The codes set maximum hours and minimum wages, guaranteed union rights, and prohibited child labor. Companies adopting the codes were exempt from anti-trust laws.

Participating businesses proudly displayed the NRA’s blue eagle symbol—with the slogan “We Do Our Part”—on their products. At some companies employees and even customers wore NRA buttons, like the fifteen displayed above, to proclaim their participation in the program and show their support.

The NRA was also promoted in parades and rallies that became community events. These activities gave Americans a psychological lift, but the NRA proved ineffective. Its codes were unwieldy and, sometimes, ludicrous—including regulations for industries like shoulder pads, dog food, and burlesque theaters. Many codes favored larger businesses and encouraged monopolistic practices that hindered economic recovery. Few mourned when the NRA was declared unconstitutional in 1935.

2 thoughts on “From the Museum

  1. At least FDR was willing to try every possible policy to make things better for the American people – ALL the American people, not just the wealthy, as most earlier presidents had.

    During his first presidential campaign FDR promised, above all, “bold, persistent experimentation.” He said, “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

    One-quarter to one-third of Americans were unemployed. Homes and farms were being foreclosed on, and the people thrown out on the streets; some of them ended up living in city parks. Banks all over America were closed or closing. Democracy was collapsing. In Europe, the desperate people turned to dictators, hoping they might restore their economies — they ended up with fascism and communism. Luckily for us Americans, we had FDR to dig us out of the Great Depression; he simply saved America and saved capitalism for America

    Most of the policies and programs FDR originated succeeded gloriously – to the great relief of suffering Americans.

    Some programs faltered, but democracy is not easy; it is a rough and tumble form of government. Dictatorships can be much more “efficient,” if that is the only criterion by which to judge a governmental program. For instance, Benito Mussolini was widely praised for getting the trains to run on time!

    There had never been anything in all of American history to match the wreckage and suffering of the Great Depression. But, as I noted above, at least FDR never stopped trying to find ways to help ease the plight of the suffering American people.

    This crippled man lifted up a crippled nation and gave the American people hope and a better life!

    There has never been any president who faced the challenges FDR had to deal with: the Great Depression and World War II — yet he successfully met those challenges with optimism, creativity, unmatched political skill, enormous energy, great courage and his ever-present ebullience.

  2. In a Fireside Chat on April 14, 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt reminded the American people that:

    “Democracy has disappeared in several other great nations, not because the people of those nations disliked democracy, but because they had grown tired of unemployment and insecurity, of seeing their children hungry while they sat helpless in the face of government confusion and government weakness through lack of leadership in government. Finally, in desperation, they chose to sacrifice liberty in the hope of getting something to eat….

    “The people of America are in agreement in defending their liberties at any cost, and the first line of the defense lies in the protection of economic security.”

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