The New (And Truly Great) Deal

We never miss a chance to learn more about The New Deal, and the program May 11 at Roosevelt House, the Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, was everything a history buff would relish. For one thing, it featured one of the reigning experts on FDR, William Leuchtenburg, going strong at 94, with some two dozen books to his credit including his 1958 classic, “The Perils of Prosperity.” (We were privileged to be instructed by Prof. Leuchtenburg at Columbia Journalism School in 1963-4, when he was a mere stripling of 40, and we were even merer.) Here he is at his last academic redoubt, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he is now the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of History. http://video.unctv.org/video/2183781430/

The occasion was the unveiling of Roosevelt House’s latest exhibit, “The New Deal in New York City” which will be up until Aug. 19. Displayed are posters, murals, photos and books, all telling the story of how FDR’s program to pull America out of the Great Depression played out in the nation’s greatest city. Much of the New Deal planning, in fact, went on here at Roosevelt House, 47-49 East 65th Street, where Franklin and Eleanor lived from 1905-34. http://www.roosevelthouse.hunter.cuny.edu/house-history/

Perhaps the best part of the exhibit is the colorful map highlighting dozens of the hundreds of public works and art projects, particularly murals, that The New Deal brought to NYC between 1933 and 1942.


We were especially delighted to see we made the list with our Baruch College Administration Center (P) at 135 East 22d Street.

(Little side story here: In 2015 we discovered that the building had been converted from a Family Court built in 1940 — and still contained a holding cell with barred windows used today as a student tutoring center! We wrote that up for The New York Times. )


The May 11 program at Roosevelt House, curated by Deborah Gardner and hosted by its director, Harold Holzer, the prodigious Lincoln scholar, featured a panel discussion with Roosevelt experts. Besides Prof. Leuchtenburg, they were: Owen Gutfreund, Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning, Hunter College; Richard Walker, Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley; Marta Gutman, Professor of Architectural and Urban History, City College; and Ira Katznelson, President of the Social Science Research Council and Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University.

Prof. Leuchtenburg told of having been invited to Moscow for a symposium on The New Deal, which the Russians found a worthy role model. Upon arrival, he was notified that the keynote speaker was unavailable — he would be the keynote speaker. With no notes or prepared talk, he panicked. He saved the day, he recalled, by taking his audience on an improvised tour of America via the great legacies of The New Deal — from LaGuardia Airport, Triborough Bridge, FDR Drive and Lincoln Tunnel, to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the great Western dams and California coastal highway.

The Works Progress  Administration is credited with building at least 5,900 schools; 9,300 auditoriums, gyms, and recreational buildings; 1,000 libraries; 7,000  dormitories; 900 armories; 2,302 stadiums, grandstands, and bleachers; 52 fairgrounds and rodeo grounds; 1,686 parks covering 75,152 acres; 3,185 playgrounds; 3,026 athletic fields; 805 swimming pools; 1,817 handball courts; 10,070 tennis courts; 2,261 horseshoe pits; 1,101 ice-skating rinks; 138 outdoor theaters; 254 golf courses; and 65 ski jumps — at a cost, in today’s dollars, of some $186 billion.

You can find all The New Deal projects here: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/archives/resources/newdealprojects.html#

Turns out that the Roosevelt House program was just the kickoff for a whole panoply of celebrations of The Living New Deal in New York. Next up is a forum at the Museum of the City of New York on May 18. http://njfac.org/index.php/living-new-deal-new-york-city/



Gulick Makes History

As Keepers of the Luther Gulick Flame, we’re always happy when students and scholars visit the Archives to tap the riches of the IPA Collection and Gulick Papers. (Once we finish our digitization project, much of the material will be available on line.) So we were delighted recently to host Prof. Vincent Di Girolamo’s history class on the Great Depression. We presented a Prezi précis on Gulick’s work with FDR, particularly the President’s Committee on Administrative Management that remade the executive branch into the powerful modern presidency, better able to restore economic functioning and mobilize for World War II.

Here’s Ralph speaking to the class:

And here’s the nice note we got back:

(How’d he know we love typewriters?)

Thanks to Prof. DiGirolamo and his responsive students for their interest in a pivotal figure in American political science.


When America Fed (and Led) the World…

There was a time, believe it or not, when America’s leaders and the rest of the free world cared about the hungry and homeless. It was called World War II. While engaged in a life and death struggle against intractable enemies on two fronts on opposite sides of the globe, the U.S. still mobilized a colossal rescue effort to feed, clothe and shelter some half a billion people from Spain to North Africa to China. In history’s darkest time, it was truly humanity’s finest hour. Today, with 11 million people displaced in Syria alone and more than 50 million other refugees fleeing war, terrorism and natural disasters  in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and other ravaged lands, a far more prosperous world seems paralyzed with inaction.

Can history teach us anything?

We find inspiration in the epic relief effort chronicled in the Baruch College Newman Library Archives IPA Collection and Luther Gulick Papers. Gulick, who wore no end of hats for the government going back to the Woodrow Wilson Administration, was working on defense production for FDR’s wartime White House when he was tapped for a vital new role under former New York Governor Herbert H. Lehman.

On Nov. 21, 1942, less than a year after Pearl Harbor, with Allied prospects looking exceedingly grim in the face of the Axis onslaught, Roosevelt created the Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations (OFRRO). He put it under the State Department with Lehman in charge. Lehman, of the investment banking family, had been Roosevelt’s Lieutenant Governor before succeeding him in the state house and winning re-election three times.

The origins of the relief effort went back more than a year to September, 1941 –before the Japanese attack plunged America into the two-year-old war — when the State Department’s Special Research Division began studying the need for a worldwide relief program. On July 23, 1942, Secretary of State Cordell Hull  — confidently looking ahead to peace in the darkest days of the war  — broadcast the program’s aims worldwide:

With victory achieved our first concern must be for those whose sufferings have been almost beyond human endurance. When the armies of our enemies are beaten the people of many countries will be starved and without means of procuring food; homeless and without means of building shelter; their fields scorched; their cattle slaughtered; their tools gone; their factories and mines destroyed; their roads and transport wrecked. Unknown millions will be far from their homes — prisoners of war, inmates of concentration camps, forced laborers in alien lands; refugees from battle, from cruelty, from starvation. Disease and danger from disease will lurk everywhere. In some countries confusion and chaos will follow the cessation of hostilities. Victory must be followed by swift and effective action to meet these pressing human needs.

Edward Eyre Hunt, a former war correspondent, economist, government adviser, defense planner and relief official, put it more bluntly in a memo of Nov. 11, 1942:


The crisis was indeed horrific, as a 1942 Red Cross report on the French internment camps revealed. Inmates, many of them Jews, were classified as starving, pre-starving and endangered.

OFRRO’s objectives were to prevent unrest and epidemics among liberated civilians; create conditions in the liberated areas for “effective psychological warfare” against the enemy; demonstrate the humanitarian purpose and values of the people of the United States [emphasis added]; and restore local production of food and other necessities to end the drain on American resources. There was an acknowledged selfish commercial motive as well: speeding “the recovery of our best peacetime customers.” American planners were also coldly realistic, aiming simply to keep people from dying.  “OFRRO is not concerned with raising the living standards of liberated people back to their pre-war levels or with reforming the social system or habits and standards of any land.” [Emphasis in the original].

Gulick, who had known both Roosevelt and Lehman from their Albany days and had been instrumental in reorganizing the executive branch in the New Deal, was chosen to head OFRRO’s  Division of Program and Requirements. Characteristically, he had quickly gotten to work, trying to figure out what kind of agency theirs would be in the alphabet soup of Washington wartime bureaucracy.

To complicate things, the American efforts needed to be coordinated with British counterparts through a range of combined committees. Gulick, with his penchant for charts, tried to diagram it:

As director of a critical arm of the relief effort, his job was to study the needs in food, clothing, shelter, medicine, engineering, transport and community services and figure out ways of supplying them. The list included canvas for sails for Greek fishermen, newsprint for the Sicilian press, women’s sanitary supplies, sewing machines, farm tools, seeds, safety matches, motorcycle parts, lighting, cigarette paper and a myriad of other necessities.

In early January 1943 (although he misdated his letter as 1942, a common new-year error), he reached out to an old ally, President Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia University where Gulick had begun his public administration training. He was looking to recruit “a small group of top American administrators who will be assigned to the foreign theaters of operation” and he was hoping to poach some from his post-graduate alma mater, in case Butler needed to plan his faculty needs around that.

By April, 1943, OFRRO had a staff of 120 toward its goal of 200. But on top of the daunting mission, Gulick and other planners struggled with logistical problems at home. Just finding housing in wartime Washington was an ordeal, as a letter to Gulick from Carl Shoup shows. Shoup, an illustrious  Columbia University economist had paired with an eminent colleague, Roy Blough, to produce a six-volume landmark study of American taxes and potential reforms, and Shoup would later design a new tax system for occupied Japan under General MacArthur. But in April 1943, Shoup was just another expert looking for quarters in the nation’s capital, beseeching Gulick for word “of anyone who is giving up a small apartment or who would want to share an apartment…”

Despite his workload, Gulick found time to address the Quakers’s annual meeting in Philadelphia in March 1943 and excerpt his remarks in a lengthy article for the group’s  magazine, Friends Intelligencer, laying out his challenges and methodology. The relief task, he wrote, “will be done well or ill precisely in proportion to the freedom from institutional ambition with which the work is inspired from beginning to end.” In other words: egotists need not apply. He divided his subject into three parts — what to expect abroad, what to expect at home, and what the government was doing.

“What shall we find when our allied armies grind forward and liberate Europe, China, the Philippines, and the Dutch Indies?” he wrote. “On this we do not have to guess.” The enemy, he said, was determined to loot, pillage and destroy. “The great passion everywhere will be for food.” At home, the challenge would  be to gather the relief supplies and find ways, amid the military priorities, to transport them abroad. Amid the fighting, a civilian army had to be raised to deliver and distribute the supplies. And then there was politics. The American people were generous but would hardly tolerate blunders in the diversion of scarce resources to help far-away victims. As for the government’s commitment, it was steadfast and sacred, Gulick assured his readers — “the most profound spiritual cause to which mankind has ever dedicated itself.”

The vast scope of the effort emerges in files of the Gulick papers. OFRRO was barely organized in November 1942, when the Interdepartmental Committee on Food Relief proposed assembling a reserve of six million tons of food to supply a subsistence diet of 2,000 calories a day to 30 million people, at a cost of $1.2 billion — about $18 billion today. The budget for the needs of liberated people for the program’s first year was put at $2.35 billion — about $33 billion today.

By 1943, Gulick’s division had put together a “HUNGER MAP OF EUROPE.” It showed that except for Britain and Sweden and possibly Switzerland, “no people in Europe are now receiving an adequate diet.” Germans were believed to be the best fed, at 1850 calories per person per day. But Greeks were subsisting at less than a quarter of that, 450 calories a day. Polish Jews, if they were alive at all, were suffering with even less.

The needs were staggering. In Europe alone by April of 1943, almost 332 million people were under the Nazi and Fascist yoke; in the Far East another 184 million were under Japanese occupation.

In September 1943, with the tide of battle turning in favor of the Allies and the liberated regions with their millions of war victims spreading, Roosevelt invoked his executive authority to fold OFRRO, along with Lend Lease Administration and the Office of Economic Warfare into a new agency, the Foreign Economic Administration under the White House Office for Emergency Management.

But two months later, the foreign relief task had become so overwhelming it was handed off, still under Herbert Lehman, to a new international entity, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Gulick too was retained (at a salary of $8,000, about $113,000 in today’s dollars) as secretary of Committee IV, Relief and Rehabilitation Policies, under a chairman from China and vice chairman from Uruguay. UNRRA held its first session at Atlantic City in November 1943, declaring, “America alone cannot feed all the victims of war from its own resources, neither can Britain nor Russia not China nor any of the American Republics.”

But the world, it turned out, could, and can.  It requires will and compassion and know-how — the expertise of people like Luther Gulick who didn’t sneer at government but devoted his career to studying how it worked and how it could be used to benefit humanity.


Doll Diplomacy

Hi, I’m Blossom. Or should I say, konnichiwa? That’s Japanese for hello. I’m a friendship doll. In 1927, I was one of 12,739 American dolls sent to Japanese children as a good-will gesture. Talk about timing! In return, Japanese children sent 58 elaborately costumed Japanese dolls to America.

Like Mie.

The doll exchange was a prize project of the Gulick family, specifically Luther’s father, Sidney Lewis Gulick, who was a missionary in Japan — Luther was actually born there in 1892 — and never lost his love for Nippon, even after Pearl Harbor (which put him under an F.B.I. cloud, as you might imagine). During the war, American dolls in Japan had to be elaborately hidden — discovery could subject their owners to death!

Today, the story is being preserved by Sidney’s grandson, Denny — his father was Sidney’s last son (and Luther’s brother) Sidney Jr., which makes Denny a nephew of Luther’s. We met Denny and his wife, Frances, math professors at the University of Maryland, at a talk we gave on Luther Gulick last October at the George Washington University. https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/ipaprocessing/2016/10/spreading-the-word-the-word-is-gulick/

Since then Denny, and Luther’s grandaughters Lisa and Leslie, have augmented our Gulick collection with donations of  important family letters and other memorabilia, including records of the Dolls of Friendship.

Here’s Sidney L. Gulick and his wife, Cara Fisher Gulick, with the Japanese Ambassador and his wife at a presentation of Japan dolls in 1927:

Dr. Gulick took it seriously enough to equip each doll traveling to Japan with a letter of greeting to her new Japanese family: http://wgordon.web.wesleyan.edu/dolls/exch1927/recjapan/gulickletter.htm

Here’s a good synopsis of the story: http://www.bill-gordon.net/dolls/exch1927/gulick/index.htm

Look Japan wrote up the story in 1995: http://wgordon.web.wesleyan.edu/dolls/media/magazine/lookjapan.htm

Valparaiso University in Indiana mounted a museum exhibit on the dolls as recently as 2015: http://www.valpotorch.com/arts_and_entertainment/article_aaadd7d8-58cb-11e5-9890-e3d039049e7b.html

President John F. Kennedy was a proud recipient of Japanese friendship dolls, and his daughter, Caroline, President Obama’s Ambassador to Japan, played with them as a child. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/18/national/politics-diplomacy/caroline-kennedy-bids-fond-farewell-to-japan/


The Gulicks never lost their warm feelings for Japan and its dolls. Today, Denny’s daughter Sharon keeps the flame of friendship burning. http://wgordon.web.wesleyan.edu/dolls/otherprog/gulick/sharon/index.htm


The World According to Luther Gulick


We all know who this is, right?

Of course — Arnold J. Toynbee, the prolific British historian (1889-1975) renowned for his majestic opus, “A Study of History” that traced the rise and fall of 26 civilizations in 12 volumes. He graced the cover of Time the week of March 17, 1947. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_J._Toynbee

Why are we telling you this?

Because Luther Gulick (who knew everyone) consulted Toynbee during World War II for his thoughts on the global cataclysm. How long was the world likely to be in turmoil? Gulick asked the most famous living historian in 1941. (Gulick himself guessed three or four generations. ) So he was taken aback when Toynbee answered 300 to 400 years.

Both were wildly off, we now know. Within four years, the Allies had vanquished the Axis and set the world on the path to peace and unprecedented prosperity, through many zigs and zags.

But it looked mighty gloomy to Gulick as he sat down at the end of 1948 to compose his annual Christmas letter to his sons Clarence and Halsey (Luther Jr.) and their families. The hot war was over but the cold war was just beginning. Jan Masaryk, the Czech patriot who had worked closely with Gulick to write a constitution for his homeland in the years after World War I, was dead, fallen — or thrown –from a window. https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/ipaprocessing/2014/11/and-thanks-for-the-binoculars/

Soviet-encircled Berlin had narrowly escaped strangulation, saved only by an American airlift. Chiang Kai Shek had fled Mao’s China for Taiwan.


The Generalissimo and Madame

Everywhere Gulick looked, “the revolution was on” as a scary new world struggled to be born.

In an insight that looks extraordinarily perceptive nearly seven decades later, Gulick saw America as the victim of its success, amid “the spread of materialism and technology without a corresponding advance of ethical and moral standards and sanctions.”

Here we were, with more than half the productive power of a war-savaged world, “so over-important and yet so underexposed to the real problems” that we were being dragged along into an dangerous and uncertain future.