New Dealish: The Presidential Yacht Potomac

 
Courtesy, Wikipedia.

Launched in 1934, the Coast Guard cutter Electra was built for speed. FDR acquired the 165-foot submarine chaser in 1936, renamed her the Potomac and placed her under the command of the U.S. Navy. The “floating White House” provided a getaway for the president, who enjoyed fishing off the fantail and often invited advisors, politicians, statesmen and royalty aboard. Their signatures appear in the guest log, including those of New Dealers Harry Hopkins, who headed New Deal relief efforts, and Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. The Prince of Wales signed his name in the log as simply “Edward.”

After FDR died in 1945, the Potomac changed hands many times. In 1964 Elvis purchased the yacht and to great fanfare, donated it to entertainer Danny Thomas’s St. Jude Research Hospital. After another sale, in 1980 the Potomac sank after it was seized in a drug raid. The Port of Oakland salvaged it, and in a cooperative effort with organized labor, maritime corporations and volunteers began a 12-year, multi-million-dollar renovation. Restored to its 1930s glory, the Potomac, one of only two presidential yachts still in existence, is designated a National Historic Landmark.

Berthed at Jack London Square on the Oakland Estuary, the 88-year-old Potomac, is available for weddings, parties and tours on San Francisco Bay through the USS Potomac Association. A science education program for school children, a visitor center and a museum about the New Deal are in the offing.

One comment on “New Dealish: The Presidential Yacht Potomac

  1. Susanne Levitsky

    Members of the California Conservation Corps were among those working on the Potomac in the early 1980s, under the direction of members of the building trades.

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FDR delivering one of his fireside chats.

The 2023 New Deal Book Award

The winning titles and authors have been announced. The 2023 Award, with a prize of $1,000, will be presented at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library June 22, 2024.

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