"FDR's Brain Trust" on view now

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NEW YORK, NY – With unemployment soaring and many of the nation’s banks in uncertain straits, a newly elected President adopts the activist agenda of “wooly-headed professors” and soon is being bitterly accused of seeking dictatorial power.

This scenario, which has its uncanny echoes in today’s political scene, was played out beginning in 1932 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the circle of Columbia University scholars who became his close advisors. The story of this epoch-making alliance between the White House and academia is told in the New-York Historical Society exhibition FDR’s Brain Trust, on view now through March 1, 2010.

"No President in the past century took office in such difficult circumstances as did Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and no President moved ahead more quickly and forcefully," said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. "This new exhibition explores how Roosevelt, while still a candidate for President, did something that was unprecedented at the time and sought counsel from academics. We see how this decision led directly to the daring innovations that became known as the New Deal, and that remain with us to this day.”

Curated by Jean W. Ashton, Executive Vice President and Director of Library division, the exhibition is designed to evoke both the desperation of the Great Depression and the hope and energy of a nation rebuilding itself. FDR’s Brain Trust presents rarely seen photographs, cartoons, documents, artifacts, and newsreels drawn from the New-York Historical Society collection and the archives of Columbia University. These materials bring to life the personalities, convictions and circumstances of FDR and the people who were at first known jokingly as his “Privy Council”—Columbia University professors Raymond Moley, Adolf Berle and Rexford G. Tugwell. Dubbed “The Brains Trust” in July 1932 by a New York Times reporter—the “s” was eventually dropped—these men were eventually joined in the new Roosevelt administration by Harry Hopkins, founder of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and Frances Perkins, who as Secretary of Labor became the first female cabinet member.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

· an etching by Martin Borne titled Hooverville on Hudson (1934), showing a camp of the unemployed and homeless that would have been visible from the Columbia University campus
· a map from the Real Estate Record and Guide (March 25, 1933) showing the spread of foreclosed properties across Manhattan
· broadsides depicting street demonstrations
· an executive order requiring that all gold be deposited in a Federal Reserve Bank
· editorial cartoons from the Chicago Tribune and Des Moines Register depicting FDR and his advisors as Soviet-style socialists

Despite the vehemence that the Brain Trust aroused, the speed and scope of the New Deal they advocated were unprecedented. Less than four months after Roosevelt took office, his administration stabilized the banks and the economy, saved homes and farms from foreclosure, and began to institute a vast range of programs (including Workmen’s Compensation, a federal minimum wage, child labor laws and Social Security) to address the dire needs of Americans.

About the New-York Historical Society

Established in 1804, the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) comprises New York's oldest museum and a nationally renowned research library. N-YHS collects, preserves and interprets American history and art; its mission is to make these collections accessible to the broadest public and increase understanding of American history through exhibitions, public programs, and research that reveal the dynamism of history and its impact on the world today. N-YHS holdings cover four centuries of American history and comprise one of the world's greatest collections of historical artifacts, American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States as seen through the prism of New York City and State.

N-YHS Library
The Society's library is a principal source of primary materials for the study of New York history, and one of the foremost American history research institutions in the world. The library collections total 4 million items, including manuscripts; books and pamphlets; prints and photographs; maps; atlases; newspaper titles; sheet music; and more. Among these are items from the Colonial, Revolutionary War, and Civil War periods, including letters, diaries, battle reports, and sketches documenting the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant's handwritten terms of surrender for Robert E. Lee, and much more.

N-YHS Museum
The Society's museum contains some 60,000 items that include: paintings, sculpture, furniture, clothing, toys, tools, textiles, ceramics, glass, and assorted artifacts ranging from George Washington's camp bed to items from Ground Zero after the September 11 World Trade Center attacks. Other important Museum holdings include landscapes of the Hudson River School by Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand and others; genre paintings and portraiture by Gilbert Stuart, Benjamin West and Charles Willson Peale; one of the world's largest collections of Tiffany lamps; and John James Audubon's preparatory watercolors for The Birds of America.


Laura Washington
Vice President Communications
New-York Historical Society
phone# 212-873-3400 ext. 263
email: LWashington@nyhistory.org

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
phone# 212-873-3400

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