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Late 1930s: Rail Impact on the
Nation's Political Campaigns  

The 1930's.png

This trunk represents a 22-year old woman who leaves her life among New York’s creative, intellectual society or travel by train to the Democratic and Republican national conventions in Chicago, Illinois, in 1932. On her journey, she is exposed for the first time to the crippling impact of the Great Depression gripping the country. With her journal and camera, she chronicles the deprivation and suffering she sees. She is fascinated by the political giants of the time and knows that the person elected to the presidency will have the difficult task of leading the country out of this economic disaster. As she travels, she develops a lifelong passion for political activism in the area of social justice. 


Background: The Whistlestop Campaign

In 1836, William Henry Harrison became the first presidential candidate to step aboard a train to take his political message to the people. For more than a century, presidential candidates have taken to the railroads to reach communities across the nation.


The term "Whistle Stop Tour" refers to a style of political campaigning in which politicians make brief appearances in numerous towns along a railroad route. Generally, speeches are given from the platform of a private railroad car.


The greater mobility that railroads afforded both politicians and the citizenry impacted the nation's political process, enabling more voters to meet candidates firsthand. In many cases, large crowds gathered at train stations to catch a glimpse of the candidate.  One best-known tour was that our Harry S. Truman. During his 1948 campaign, he made a 30,000-mile whistlestop train tour around the United States.



In 1932, both political parties held their conventions in Chicago. The Republicans met from June 14th to June 16th, re-nominating President Herbert Hoover and Vice President Charles Curtis.  After the convention, Hoover campaigned by railroad.


Hoover had promised prosperity for Americans with his slogan "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." However, the Depression took its toll on his popularity. At some stops his train and motorcades were pelted with eggs.


Democrats met from June 27th to July 2nd, eventually nominating Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York for President and John N. Garner, Speaker of the House from Texas, for Vice President. In a break with tradition, Roosevelt came to the convention floor and spoke to delegates, formally accepting the nomination. His speech offered a "new deal for the American people."


Roosevelt and his advisers selected "Happy Days Are Here Again" as his campaign theme song. Soon, Roosevelt was traveling by railroad across the country delivering his "New Deal" message. Roosevelt won with 57 percent of the popular vote.


Happy days are here again, The skies above are clear again, Let us sing a song of cheer again,

Happy Days are here again. 

Altogether shout it now, There’s no one who can doubt it now, So let’s tell the world about it now, Happy Days are here again. 

Your cares are troubles are gone, There’re be no more from now on, Happy Days are here again,

The skies about are clear again.

Let us sing a song of cheer again, Happy Days are here again.


Happy Days are Here Again, By Annette Hanshaw

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