Securities and Exchange Commission Historical Society

431 Days: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Creation of the SEC (1934-35)

The Kennedy Legacy

Private Man in the Public Eye

Joseph Kennedy was a "Washington insider" for only three years while serving on the SEC and the United States Maritime Commission. He was happy to play a part in an administration in which he believed, but Kennedy always knew that his time in Washington would be short, and he remained very much a private man.

Kennedy never brought his family to live in Washington. Instead, he left town nearly every weekend to join them in Palm Beach, Florida; Bronxville, New York; or Hyannisport, Massachusetts. During the week he sent off letters and telegrams from his office at the SEC offering warm affection to his daughters and sterner guidance to his sons.

Kennedy intentionally stayed out of the Washington social whirl, declining club memberships and dinner invitations alike. Instead, during his 431 days at the SEC, Kennedy dedicated nearly all of his waking hours to work.

Kennedy was accustomed, nevertheless, to a certain standard of comfort. His commute took him from the dingy government building downtown to Marwood, a luxurious rural estate. A French Italianate mansion built in 1931, Marwood occupied thirteen acres overlooking the Potomac River just west of Washington, D.C. Kennedy spent his weeks at Marwood along with long-time assistant Edward Moore (after whom he named his youngest son) and Moore's wife.

Kennedy usually avoided staying in Washington on the weekend, particularly in the summer. But when it did happen, Kennedy was gratified when his boss Franklin Roosevelt stopped by. As the months wore on, though, Kennedy claimed to grow increasingly tired of Washington and to look forward to the time when he could consider his work well done and his legacy to his family secure.

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Related Museum Resources


April 23, 1935
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
April 29, 1935
transcript pdf (with permission of the John F. Kennedy Library)
June 24, 1935
transcript pdf (with permission of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation)
July 13, 1935
transcript pdf (with permission of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation)
September 6, 1935
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the National Archives)
September 12, 1935
image pdf (Courtesy of the National Archives)

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