May 1, 1997 Library of Congress Exhibition Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan

Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940

On June 2, the Library of Congress will open an exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, which extended aid to Europe in the aftermath of World War II.

The exhibition, located in the Current Events Corridor on the first floor of the James Madison Building, features newspapers, cartoons, photographs and other material on the origins and impact of the Marshall Plan. It presents both American and European points of view as well as negative Soviet reactions that fostered Cold War tensions.

The Marshall Plan stemmed from a now-celebrated speech delivered at the Harvard University commencement on June 5, 1947, by Secretary of State George Catlett Marshall, who proposed a solution to the widespread hunger, unemployment and housing shortages that Europeans faced in the wake of World War II. He suggested that the European nations themselves establish a program for the reconstruction of their economies, with U.S. assistance.

This speech marked the official beginning of the Economic Recovery Program (ERP), better known as "the Marshall Plan." Under the plan, the United States provided aid to the major areas affected by the war to prevent starvation, repair the devastation of those areas as quickly as possible, and begin economic reconstruction.

The Marshall Plan has had far-reaching consequences. In the short run, it averted a depression potentially worse than the one of 1929-1931. In the long run, it enabled the West European nations to recover and maintain not only economic but political independence. It also paved the way for other forms of international cooperation such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Economic Union.

A highlight of the exhibition is a number of items from the papers of Averell Harriman, the ERP special representative in Europe from 1948 to 1950, whose collection in the Library's Manuscript Division contains photographs, letters, memos, progress reports and printed material that document the early days of this significant international initiative.

The small exhibition, free and open to the public, will be on view through August 31. Hours for the exhibition are 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. The James Madison Building is located at 101 Independence Ave. S.E.


PR 97-071
ISSN 0731-3527