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Historical Highlights

The First Evening Annual Message

January 03, 1936
The First Evening Annual Message Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
On January 3, 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the first State of the Union address delivered in the evening.
On this date, during the second session of the 74th Congress (1935–1937), President Franklin D. Roosevelt held the first nighttime Annual Message. Designed to reach the largest possible radio audience, the last-minute decision by Roosevelt to deliver an evening speech, spawned major media attention and heightened interest in Congress and the President. Modeled after his famous “fireside chats,” the address touted the accomplishments of the Roosevelt administration and the New Deal. Those in attendance marveled in anticipation of the nighttime address. Some questioned if formalwear was in order for the rare occurrence. When asked about her intended attire, Representative Florence Kahn of California stated she would wear “just exactly what I’d wear if he spoke in the daytime—street clothes.” The House Gallery filled to capacity nearly an hour before the start of the speech. “An uneasy tension held the listeners who packed the chamber…” the Chicago Daily Tribune reported. “Feverish applause and sudden gusts of laughter frequently interrupted the chief executive during the fifty minutes he held forth.” After the speech Members of the House commented on its content and themes. Speaker of the House Joseph Byrns of Tennessee remarked, “It very clearly sets forth the major issues of the coming campaign.” House Minority Leader Bertrand Snell of New York dismissed it as, “a political speech…and a political hippodrome.” The first President to address Congress at night was President Woodrow Wilson, who on the evening of April 2, 1917, asked a Joint Session for a declaration of war on Germany.

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