[Ads-l] FDR "Fear" Quote

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sat Aug 15 07:28:34 EDT 2020

I received a fascinating email yesterday from a 91-year-old woman who said that Franklin Roosevelt's speechwriter Raymond Moley had told her in 1963 that the famous FDR quotation "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" came from a newspaper ad from the S. Klein department store on 14th street in Manhattan.  I did some searching in Newspapers.com, ProQuest, and Fulton Search but was unable to find the advertisement in question.

However, I did discover a clear "antedating" of the quote in ProQuest.  In an article in the Christian Science Monitor, June 15, 1931, page 2, Thomas A. Mullen, director of publicity for the city of Boston, was quoted as follows:

"Mr. Mullen said that a year ago Mayor Curley pointed to the single thing which will turn the tide of the much advertised economic depression, and that was the abolition of the element of fear.  'I believe the only thing we need to fear is fear itself,' Mr. Mullen said."

In the Yale Book of Quotations, I pointed out pre-FDR similar formulations by Francis Bacon, Montaigne, the Duke of Wellington, and Thoreau, but the Mullen quote is virtually
identical to Roosevelt's line (the only difference was that Mullen used the word "need" instead of "have").

Fred Shapiro

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list