Rare Footage: Home Movie of FDR’s 1941 Inauguration

The vin­tage video above is an excerpt from a 16 mm home movie show­ing Pres­i­dent Franklin Delano Roo­sevelt on Jan­u­ary 20, 1941, the day of his Third Inau­gu­ra­tion. This silent col­or movie was shot by FDR’s son-in-law (Clarence) John Boet­tiger, who was then work­ing for the Motion Pic­ture Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­ca, and the qual­i­ty of this rare footage is quite out­stand­ing. Watch the full 14-minute ver­sion here.

FDR can first be seen at 2:45, heav­i­ly sup­port­ed by his old­est son James. This is one of the rare moments on film where Roo­sevelt can actu­al­ly be seen walk­ing, and it’s obvi­ous how dif­fi­cult it was for him to walk after polio left him par­a­lyzed from the hips down in 1921. Next, FDR is seen on the pres­i­den­tial plat­form with his wife Eleanor and Chief Jus­tice Charles Evans Hugh­es, tak­ing the Oath of Office and giv­ing his Inau­gur­al Address. The full text of the address can be read cour­tesy of Yale Law School, and a high-res­o­lu­tion scan of the Inau­gu­ra­tion Cer­e­monies Pro­gram has been uploaded by The Library of Con­gress.

FDR was the first Amer­i­can pres­i­dent to suc­cess­ful­ly run for a third term due to the pre­car­i­ous inter­na­tion­al sit­u­a­tion in 1941. (Get the audio file of FDR’s State of the Union from Jan­u­ary 6, 1941 here). After George Wash­ing­ton declined to run for a third term in 1796, it had become an unwrit­ten rule to fol­low his lead. But it was not until the 22nd Amend­ment from 1947/1951 (“No per­son shall be elect­ed to the office of the Pres­i­dent more than twice.”) that this restric­tion was enshrined into law. FDR was, of course, elect­ed for a fourth term in 1945, but died of a mas­sive stroke on April 12, 1945.

By pro­fes­sion, Matthias Rasch­er teach­es Eng­lish and His­to­ry at a High School in north­ern Bavaria, Ger­many. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twit­ter.

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