Roosevelt Campaign Posters
Franklin Roosevelt is the only American president elected to four terms. The campaign posters seen above represent all four of his presidential campaigns—1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944. Before the era of television and the internet, campaign posters were one of the primary visual tools used by presidential candidates. These posters reflected key messages associated with the candidate. The Roosevelt Library’s collection of political campaign posters suggests some of the prominent themes employed by FDR’s campaign team during four very different political years.
During Roosevelt’s first campaign in 1932, his poster designs were simple with little color and an understated, straightforward message. This election took place at the lowest point of the Great Depression and FDR campaigned as a “Progressive Candidate” promising to be a “Man of Action” with policies to combat the economic crisis.
By 1936, the economy was improving and unemployment was down. Roosevelt entered his first re-election campaign stressing a message of continuity. The nation was encouraged to continue moving “Forward with Roosevelt.” Another poster with a photograph of FDR working at his desk— simply entitled “Re-elect ROOSEVELT”— aimed to resonate with Americans eager for the President to continue what he had started.
The threat of American entry into World War II was a key issue when Roosevelt ran for an unprecedented third term in 1940. Many of his 1940 campaign posters have an overtly patriotic design. Stars along with red and white and blue colors are more prominent. The campaign placed greater emphasis on voting “Straight Democratic” to “Protect America.”
Throughout his presidency, FDR supported policies that increased the ranks of organized labor. Labor’s growing importance to the Democratic Party is reflected in the union label’s presence on the President’s campaign posters. In 1940, for the first time, the label appeared on all of Roosevelt’s posters.
With America at war, the 1944 campaign varied significantly from the previous three. War, victory, and peace became major poster themes. James Montgomery Flagg’s iconic Uncle Sam image was translated into a Roosevelt campaign symbol. A poster produced by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) touted FDR as “1A In Our Draft.” A “Vote Democratic” poster employed a large “V”—associated during the war with the popular slogan “V for Victory.”