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Jack Chance collection on Wendell Willkie and the 1940 presidential election

 Collection
Identifier: Mss 0023
The Jack Chance collection on Wendell Willkie and the 1940 presidential election consists of newsclippings scrapbooks on the 1940 presidential election and some supplementary materials related to Wendell Willkie. Five scrapbooks trace the 1940 presidential election through newsclippings regarding candidates and primaries from 1939-1940. The newsclippings are mostly likely from the New Jersey area, although most clippings do not include the newspaper title or date. In addition to the scrapbooks, there is also a copy of Willkie's work The True Liberalism as well as an excerpt regarding the 1940 election from the Spring/Summer 1975 issue of New Jersey History.

Dates

  • 1939-1940

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

All materials available in this collection (unless otherwise noted) are the property of the Monsignor William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center and Seton Hall University, which reserves the right to limit access to or reproduction of these materials. Reproduction of materials or content is subject to United States copyright restrictions and may be subject to federal or state privacy regulations. Permission to publish exact reproductions must be obtained from the Director of the Archives and Special Collections Center.

Extent

1.5 Linear Feet (7 items)

Overview

The 1940 United States presidential election took place on 5 November 1940; the two main candidates were Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, the incumbent running for his third term, and Republican Wendell Willkie, a businessman from Indiana. Important issues of the election revolved around the controversy of Roosevelt running for a third term, which no President had ever done, isolationism and the question of American involvement in World War II in Europe, and America's recovery from the Great Depression. The Jack Chance collection on Wendell Willkie and the 1940 presidential election consists of newsclippings scrapbooks on the 1940 presidential election and some supplementary materials related to Wendell Willkie.

Biographical / Historical

The 1940 United States presidential election took place on 5 November 1940; the two main candidates were Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, the incumbent running for his third term, and Republican Wendell Willkie, a businessman from Indiana. Important issues of the election revolved around the controversy of Roosevelt running for a third term, which no President had ever done, isolationism and the question of American involvement in World War II in Europe, and America's recovery from the Great Depression.

Wendell Willkie was born 18 February 1892 in Elmwood, IN. He received a BA in history from Indiana University and then attended Indiana University School of Law, graduating in 1916. He enlisted in the Army during World War I but did not arrive in Europe until fighting was over. He practiced corporate law, becoming a lawyer and then later the chief executive officer of the Commonwealth & Southern Corporation. He was active in the Democratic Party and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1932, supporting FDR. However, when Roosevelt's Tennessee Valley Authority began to directly compete with Willkie's corporation in the 1930s, he became an outspoken critic of some aspects of the New Deal. He declared that government agencies directly competing with private enterprise had an unfair advantage, and his appearances and criticisms began to attract attention on the national stage. Willkie was a surprise winner of the Republican Party ticket, never having held public office and running against Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan, District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey of New York, and former President Herbert Hoover of California. Willkie called for support for the British, under attack by Germany, urging support and aid short of declaring war, and criticized some of Roosevelt's social welfare programs he felt would be better managed by private industry. Considered a dark horse candidate, he won the party nomination at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Penn., in August of 1940.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born 30 January 1882 in Hyde Park, N.Y. He attended Harvard University, where he received an A.B. in history in 1903, and attended Columbia Law School but passed the bar exam and did not graduate, practicing corporate law for the Wall Street firm Carter Ledyard & Milburn. He entered politics, becoming a New York State Senator in 1911, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913, Governor of New York from 1929-1932, and successfully running for President of the United States in 1932. He defeated Herbert Hoover by running a campaign promising solutions to the Great Depression. During his first term, Roosevelt initiated a sweeping set of programs known as the New Deal in an effort to combat the effects of the Great Depression, including setting up Social Security, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, as well as passing legislation to reform industry, including the National Industrial Recovery Act and the National Labor Relations Act as well as the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Roosevelt also oversaw the repeal of Prohibition, and Congress passed the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment that prohibited alcohol, during his first term. The American economy recovered for a time before sliding into another recession in the late 1930s.

Before the election of 1940, an unwritten rule limited Presidents to two terms, after the example of George Washington, but running for a third term was not expressly prohibited. Leading up the Democratic Convention in Chicago in July 1940, Roosevelt refused to confirm or deny his intention to run for a third term. His ultimate decision to run for re-election, announced at the convention, was based largely on the threat of Nazi Germany sweeping across Europe, and his feeling that he was the only person with enough experience to face that threat. After his Presidency, Congress passed the 22nd Amendment limiting the Presidency to two terms.

Prior to the national conventions in July and August of 1940, the Republican candidates’ campaigns focused as much on distinguishing themselves from each other as from Roosevelt, while Democratic campaigns were hampered by uncertainty as to whether Roosevelt would seek a third term. Much of the debate focused on the economy and the looming threat of war. Once the two final candidates were announced, the final four months of the campaign also focused on the legitimacy of Roosevelt’s campaign. Willkie called into question the reasons for Roosevelt’s decision, arguing that one man’s indispensability went against democratic principles. Willkie also focused on how the New Deal programs were wasteful and could be improved, but he was also seen by many as a representative of the type of business interests that led to the economic collapse. Willkie also first accused Roosevelt of being unprepared for war and then of secretly intending to join it. Roosevelt, still very popular, campaigned on the strength of his experience and the need for strong leadership, while still promising explicitly not to become involved in any foreign wars.

Roosevelt won the election with 55% of the popular vote and 38 of the 48 states, giving him 86% of the electoral votes. This was a lower margin than his previous win, but was still a decisive victory. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Roosevelt urged America’s entrance in World War II, and went on to be re-elected for a fourth term before dying in office on 12 April 1945.

Wendell Willkie became a Roosevelt supporter again after the election, and was Roosevelt’s representative on trips abroad to Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union. He wrote a book called One World describing his travels and advocating for a world government, and was also an outspoken supporter of civil rights. Willkie entered the race for President in the 1944 election but was criticized for his too-liberal ideals and his support of Roosevelt; Thomas E. Dewey of New York was the Republican front-runner who went on to win the party nomination, and Willkie withdrew from the race after early primaries showed poor results. Wendell Willkie died 8 October, 1944 of a coronary thrombosis.

Jack Chance was a resident of Montclair, N.J., and Maplewood, N.J. He was one of the founders of the Montclair Historical Society and was involved with historic preservation in New Jersey throughout his adult life. He died 17 December 2011 at the age of 90.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection is the gift of Jack Chance to the Archives and Special Collections Center . [Accession number(s)] or Terms of accession unknown.

Processing Information

Collection was processed and finding aid created by Karl Grandpierre and Tracy M. Jackson as part of the Overhaul Project collection survey, 2013.
Title
Jack Chance collection on Wendell Willkie and the 1940 presidential election, 1939-1940
Author
Tracy M. Jackson
Date
2013
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the The Monsignor Field Archives & Special Collection Center Repository

Contact:
Archives, Walsh Library
400 South Orange Ave
South Orange NJ 07079 US
973-761-9476