The Hundred Days

In its first days, the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration passed a series of acts aimed at bringing hope to millions of Depression-weary Americans.

Summary of Event

On November 8, 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president of the United States. Few people knew what to expect from Roosevelt, a consummate politician who once described himself only as “a Christian and a Democrat.” One thing, however, was clear: Immediate action of some kind was imperative to stop the nation from slipping further into economic chaos. Voters had been impressed by the confidence evident in Roosevelt’s inaugural address and his promises of immediate action. The problem facing the new administration was how to sustain this sense of movement and have confidence in a new order. On March 9, 1933, a special session of Congress met, and it sat until June 16. During that period, which became known as the Hundred Days, fifteen major resolutions became law, and the United States underwent a revolutionary change. The legislation was the product of no single person or particular group. In essence, the program was a series of emergency compromises, and Roosevelt was the mediator. [kw]Hundred Days, The (Mar. 9-June 16, 1933)
Hundred Days, the
New Deal;the Hundred Days[Hundred Days]
Great Depression;New Deal
[g]United States;Mar. 9-June 16, 1933: The Hundred Days[08310]
[c]Social issues and reform;Mar. 9-June 16, 1933: The Hundred Days[08310]
[c]Laws, acts, and legal history;Mar. 9-June 16, 1933: The Hundred Days[08310]
[c]Government and politics;Mar. 9-June 16, 1933: The Hundred Days[08310]
Roosevelt, Franklin D.
[p]Roosevelt, Franklin D.;New Deal
Hopkins, Harry
Wallace, Henry A.
Black, Hugo L.
Moley, Raymond
Tugwell, Rexford Guy

The immediate problem politicians faced involved the paralyzed banking system and the lack of confidence in American business. As a preliminary measure, Roosevelt issued an executive order that proclaimed March 6 the beginning of a national bank holiday. During the holiday, cash from the Federal Reserve replenished bank vaults. The closing of the banks convinced many people that the crisis had reached its bottom and things would begin to improve. On March 9, 1933, Roosevelt submitted to Congress the Emergency Banking Act (also known as the Emergency Banking Relief Act), Emergency Banking Act (1933) which was immediately passed. The act gave the president power over gold transactions, outlawed hoarding, and provided for the gradual reopening of the banks under the supervision of the secretary of the treasury. This had been preceded by the Economy Act (1932), Economy Act (1932) which initially caused some members of Congress to threaten revolt but ultimately drastically reduced federal expenditures by cutting government salaries and veterans’ payments. On March 12, Roosevelt gave the first of many radio addresses that came to be known as “fireside chats.” Fireside chats (Roosevelt) He emphasized that most of the banks were sound and would reopen in a few days. When the banks did reopen, people rushed to deposit money rather than to make withdrawals. The banking crisis subsided.

Next, Roosevelt attempted to eradicate some of the abuses in the nation’s banking and financial practices. The Securities Act of May 27, 1933, Securities Act (1933) called for close supervision by the Federal Trade Commission of the issue of new stock, and held those who sold stock liable if they provided false information. A complementary measure was the Banking Act of June 16, 1933, which differentiated between commercial and investment banking. An important corollary of this act was the creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which insured individual bank deposits up to five thousand dollars. The creation of insurance on deposits was a significant step in restoring public confidence and bringing currency back into the banks.

Another pressing problem was agriculture. In preparing his legislation, Roosevelt relied heavily on the advice of his secretary of agriculture, Henry A. Wallace. A former farm editor and horticulturist, Wallace advocated a domestic-allotment plan designed to combat overproduction and declining prices by restricting acreage and leasing to government land that had been left idle. The scale of payments was aimed at establishing parity between farm prices and the cost of manufactured goods based on figures for the years 1909 to 1914. Not all farming interests accepted this idea of production control, and many demanded cheap money as a remedy. When the Agricultural Adjustment Act Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933) (AAA) was finally signed into law on May 12, 1933, government leasing of idle land was not the only option provided for controlling production. Additional New Deal legislation provided for loans through the Farm Credit Administration, aid to very poor farmers through the Resettlement Administration, and a means for all rural areas to receive power through the Rural Electrification Administration.

One of the most successful programs of the Roosevelt administration was the enactment of the Tennessee Valley Authority Act Tennessee Valley Authority Act (1933) (TVA) on May 18, 1933. The act provided for a regional authority that would build dams designed to control disastrous flooding in the states of the Tennessee River basin, bring electricity to rural areas, and replant forests. Eventually, the TVA became the largest utility company in the United States. The unemployed and the middle class also received benefits under the new legislation, which later became known collectively as the New Deal. The unemployed were helped through the Civilian Conservation Corps Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which was created by the Reforestation Relief Act, Reforestation Relief Act (1933) one of Roosevelt’s most popular measures. The act, passed March 31, 1933, provided for a civilian army of young men to work in reforestation and conservation projects. In the CCC’s nine-year life span, a total of 250,000 jobless men from the ages of eighteen to twenty-five were given an opportunity to move forward in life.

Enactment of the Federal Emergency Relief Act on May 12, 1933, Federal Emergency Relief Act (1933) and the subsequent creation of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) provided direct federal grants to states and fostered cooperation between federal and state agencies. FERA, headed by Harry Hopkins, promoted the idea of work relief instead of the “dole” (as welfare was often called at the time) and stipulated that no discrimination toward recipients would be tolerated. Many middle-class home owners faced mortgage foreclosures, and the Home Owners’ Loan Act, passed in June, 1933, Home Owners’ Loan Act (1933)[Home Owners Loan Act] provided for the exchange of defaulted mortgages for guaranteed government bonds, but it appeared to give more assistance to mortgage companies than to hard-pressed home owners. Home owners benefited later, when it became government policy to refinance loans where possible instead of taking possession of homes.

When organized labor demanded action to relieve unemployment, Senator Hugo L. Black of Alabama proposed a thirty-hour workweek, and his proposal received considerable support from labor interests. Roosevelt regarded the bill proposed by Black to be both unconstitutional and unworkable, but he had to meet the growing demand for relief by industry and industrial workers. He therefore ordered his advisers to prepare an omnibus labor and industry measure to attack the root causes of depression in those fields. A draft was prepared under the direction of Raymond Moley, economist and assistant secretary of state.

The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), National Industrial Recovery Act (1933) passed on June 16, 1933, provided for industrial self-government through the use of universal codes regulating production, wages, and hours, but negated enforcement of the antitrust laws. Although the program was short-lived, the wage and hour provisions of the codes benefited nearly four million women workers. The program did not, however, set up codes for agricultural or domestic laborers, three-fourths of whom were African Americans. The Roosevelt administration hoped that the act would eliminate inefficiency and raise prices.

The provision that all codes had to be submitted for government approval pleased advocates of government control, such as Rexford Guy Tugwell, a member of Roosevelt’s Brain Trust, a group of distinguished individuals who served as advisers to the president. Organized labor received legal guarantees that all codes would have to provide for collective bargaining before they could be recognized. Finally, the unemployed were assured of aid from a vast program of public works connected with the NIRA and financed from additional money through increased federal spending.


On June 16, 1933, Congress adjourned after its historic session. Never in the nation’s history had so much new legislation been enacted in so short a time. With support from both houses, bills originating from the president’s White House office were passed nearly every day in order to give the country help during the emergency of the Depression. The hasty legislation that was adopted during the Hundred Days helps to explain why so many measures subsequently had to be drastically amended or abandoned altogether. Hundred Days, the
New Deal;the Hundred Days[Hundred Days]
Great Depression;New Deal

Further Reading

  • Davis, Kenneth S. FDR: The New Deal Years, 1933-1937. 1986. Reprint. New York: Random House, 1995. A chronicle of the New Deal years combined with the interactions of people and events and their effect on strategy.
  • Freidel, Frank. Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny. Boston: Little, Brown, 1990. A complete biography of Roosevelt, detailing the Depression and the measures taken to bring recovery.
  • Leuchtenburg, William E. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940. New York: Harper & Row, 1963. A one-volume survey of the New Deal period. Excellent bibliography.
  • Morgan, Ted. FDR: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985. Emphasizes Roosevelt’s private life and how that influenced his political decisions.
  • Schlesinger, Arthur Meier. The Coming of the New Deal. Vol. 2 in The Age of Roosevelt. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1959. Re-creating the prevailing atmosphere, attempts to place the Hundred Days within the context of modern U.S. reform.
  • Sitkoff, Harvard, ed. Fifty Years Later: The New Deal Evaluated. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1985. Essays outlining the merits and pitfalls of the New Deal.
  • Watkins, T. H. The Hungry Years: A Narrative History of the Great Depression in America. New York: Henry Holt, 1999. Draws on oral histories as well as memoirs and other documents of the time to present a picture of the lives of Americans during the Depression. Includes index.

U.S. Stock Market Crashes

Great Depression

Reconstruction Finance Corporation Is Created

Franklin D. Roosevelt Is Elected U.S. President

U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps Is Established

Roosevelt Signs the National Industrial Recovery Act

Roosevelt Creates the Commodity Credit Corporation

Works Progress Administration Is Established

Black Monday