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FDR’s Brain Trust and the Beginning of the New Deal

November 06, 2009 - March 26, 2010

In his search for a new national message during the 1932 presidential primary, FDR gathered around him a number of political, economic and legal scholars. The core of this group were Columbia University professors, who knew and trusted each other, and were willing to take risks and work long unpaid hours to promote a candidate that they believed could turn around a nation in crisis.

Irving Browning Buy My Apples, 1929 Gelatin Silver Print New-York Historical Society, Gift of Irving Browning.

Although at first a casual circle, the group became tightly organized after FDR's nomination. After the election, they were publicly christened the "Brain Trust," and became the central component of the New Deal. This exhibition will focus on the three key members of the Brain Trust—Raymond Moley, Rexford Tugwell, and Adolph Berle—and two of the New Deal cabinet members with whom they worked to bring about FDR's radical changes—Frances Perkins and Harry Hopkins. Using contemporary photographs, cartoons, broadsides, articles and newsreels, this exhibition will be supplemented by audio reminisces from the collection of the Columbia University Oral History Research Office.


Creative: Tronvig Group