A new finding aid has been posted for a small but fascinating collection on American politics: the Jack Chance collection on Wendell Willkie and the 1940 presidential election, 1939-1940, Mss 0023. This collection consists of 5 scrapbooks containing newsclippings from 1939 and 1940 on the presidential election of 1940, as well as some additional information on Wendell Willkie, the Republican candidate in that race.
The 1940 presidential election was unusual in several respects: it marked the first (and only) time in American history that a President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, officially ran for a third term; both candidates were selected at the party conventions and came as something of a surprise to their party; and the entire campaign was shadowed by World War 2 in Europe and Asia, with both candidates advocating non-intervention. In addition, Wendell Willkie was a former supporter of Roosevelt who, although defeated in the campaign, went on to work closely with Roosevelt afterwards. Willkie was a dark horse candidate who had never held or even run for political office before, and the lead-up to the Republican National Convention included strong runs from candidates including former President Herbert Hoover and Thomas E. Dewey, who would go on to become the Republican candidate in the 1944 election when Roosevelt ran for a fourth term. As a result of Roosevelt’s long turn as President, the United States congress passed the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1947 that limited a President to two terms or ten years in office.
The major issues of the campaign, faithfully documented in this rich set of scrapbooks, revolved around the economic recovery of the country from the Great Depression after the stock market crash of 1929, the possibility of American involvement in World War 2, and the legality or advisability of Roosevelt’s run for a third term. The scrapbooks include news articles describing events of the campaign and election as well as opinions, editorials, and political cartoons on candidates and issues. These materials have not yet been digitized and are very fragile, but they give a window into a political process quite different from today. Come to the Archives to see them, or contact us to find out more!