The Only Known Existing Film Of FDR Being Pushed In A Wheelchair

The rare footage of FDR in his wheelchair, depicts a disability he tried to keep hidden from the public.

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This recently discovered footage was shot on July 26, 1944, and shows President Franklin Roosevelt being pushed down a ramp from aboard the U.S.S. Baltimore.

What makes the 8 second footage remarkable and rare is that there was an unspoken rule between the White House and journalists at the time: No one would photograph or film Roosevelt while in a wheelchair or while being moved around by others.

Roosevelt became paraplegic in 1921 — at age 39 — after contracting polio and was unable to walk without leg braces or assistance.

As Time points out, Roosevelt’s disability was not completely unknown to the public, but he and his advisors wanted to project an image of “someone who had been stricken by polio but who had triumphed over his affliction.” He went to great lengths to hide the extent of his disability and mentions in the media of his wheelchair were extremely rare.

Ray Begovich, a journalism professor at Franklin College in Indiana, discovered the rare 16-millimeter film of Roosevelt in the wheelchair, while doing research at the National Archives.

Laura Diachenko a spokeswoman for the National Archives told the Associated Press in an email, “With respect to whether or not this is the earliest or only existing footage of FDR in a wheelchair, we cannot state that this is definitively the case, although such footage is certainly rare.”

(Associated Press via NPR)

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