Minimalists in History: FDR


“The new President was a strict Jeffersonian in his belief that a rural existence was the best of all possible worlds. In his view, nothing benefited soul, mind, and body more than a life lived close to nature.”

– National Park Service


Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often called FDR, saw the Depression as an opportunity to “restore” Jeffersonian simplicity across the United States.

He advocated living in accordance with spiritual values, simplicity and public responsibility, while criticizing materialism and selfishness.

“One historian noted that FDR ‘had a kinship with the more romantic agrarians,’ and Rexford Tugwell remembered ‘he always did, and always would, think people better off in the country and would regard the cities as rather hopeless.'”

– C.J. Maloney in Back to the Land

FDR tried to engineer a back-to-the-land movement. In fact, in his famous “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” first inaugural address, he said:

Our greatest primary task is to put people to work…We must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers, and by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land.

Because of FDR, many programs were instituted in an attempt to help farmers and others who lived in rural areas. These included the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Farm Security Administration, the Rural Electrification Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

FDR also created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which, over nine years, employed nearly three million men in natural resource conservation programs.

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself,” FDR said. “Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”

“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

A fan of the relatively simple Dutch Colonial style, FDR designed a cottage retreat for himself, Top Cottage, which is now part of the National Park Service. You may want to visit if you’re near Hyde Park, New York.


4 thoughts on “Minimalists in History: FDR

    • I’m sure he did. After all, it seems like throughout history, lots of people who have lots of stuff advocate other people having less stuff. I think this was just something he designed for his own enjoyment – perhaps the kind of place he’d live in all the time if he didn’t feel obligated by his position and status to have bigger home(s) – or maybe not.

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