An image from film footage that shows FDR walking at the 1937 All-Star game. / AP
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was crippled by polio at age 39, just as his political career was taking off, and the fact that he could only walk with assistance was something he wanted to hide from the American public, fearing they would perceive him as weak.
Now rare film footage that shows America's only four-term president walking has been donated to the Pennsylvania State Archives by the family of former baseball player Jimmie DeShong, a Harrisburg native who shot the film at the 1937 All-Star game.
Film of FDR when he is not in a car, sitting at a desk or standing behind a podium is very rare because the press corps of the time followed an unwritten rule that they should not portray a struggling chief executive.
According to an article on the website of the FDR Library, the president "requested that the press avoid photographing him walking, maneuvering, or being transferred from his car" and the Secret Service was assigned to interfere with anyone who tried to snap a photo or film of FDR in a "disabled or weak" state.
When Roosevelt did have to walk â?? such as getting to his box at the 1937 All-Star Game â?? he used a cane and the arm of his son or adviser for balance. "He would maneuver his hips and swing his legs forward in a swaying motion to make it appear as if he was walking," according to the archives article.
The president would often visit a resort in Warm Springs, Ga., in a bid to improve his condition. According to the FDR Museum, he learned of an incident where a young man called Louis Joseph, who was stricken by infantile paralysis, was cured by its "healing waters." No cure occurred for FDR, but he found that swimming there helped his overall physical wellbeing. Roosevelt was at Warm Springs when he died in 1945.
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