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Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt American History Famous People Visual Arts American Presidents

Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt were married in March of 1905.  This photo was taken soon after their wedding.

At this point in his life, FDR had not-yet contracted polio.  That happened 16 years later, in 1921, when he was 39 yeras old. His doctors believed he may have contracted the illness after visiting a Boy Scout camp.  We learn more about it from the FDR Library:

On August 10, 1921, FDR developed acute symptoms of poliomyelitis while visiting his summer home on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada. He was thirty-nine years old.

Based on the incubation period of the polio virus, it is believed that FDR most likely was infected while visiting a large Boy Scout encampment at Bear Mountain, New York on July 28, 1921.

Roosevelt lost the use of his legs because of polio.  He tried everything which his physicians thought might help, but nothing worked. 

A friend recommended that he might want to try the “warm springs” at a Georgia resort.  Although the waters did not rid FDR of his paralysis, he enjoyed the warm water. 

A man of financial means, before he became America’s president, Roosevelt bought the resort.  He allowed many other polio victims to use it.

Eventually, the Warm Springs Foundation - which he created - became the March of Dimes Foundation.  The dollars which people donated helped to fund the search for a vaccine (since polio is not curable):

At the suggestion of a friend, FDR went to a run-down resort in Warm Springs, Georgia, to bathe in the mineral rich waters. He was delighted to find the water was so buoyant that he could walk around in it without braces.

In 1927, he purchased the resort and converted it to a water therapy treatment center for polio patients. It became the Warm Springs Foundation and, over the years, treated thousands of polio victims who went to Warm Springs, Georgia for treatment. It was believed that the naturally warm waters had recuperative powers for polio victims. 

The Warm Springs Foundation became the March of Dimes and ultimately funded the research that led to the polio vaccine.

FDR did not live long-enough to realize that a polio vaccination was, indeed, possible.  When he died, in April of 1945, the Salk vaccine was still about a decade into the future.

Polio did not impact FDR’s favorite hobby - collecting stamps.  Even when he was President, he worked on his collection nearly every day.  When he died, he had accumulated more than 1.2 million different stamps:

While recovering from polio, he spent many bedridden hours arranging and annotating thousands of specimens. As President, there was scarcely a day when he did not spend some time with his collection.

At his death, his personal stamp collection numbered over 1,200,000 stamps, 80% of which was of little value - "scrap" as the President called it. The collection was sold at public auction in accordance with his wishes and realized $228,000.00. The stamps he received officially from foreign governments were not sold, but are a part of the holdings of the Roosevelt Library.

In addition to collecting stamps, FDR loved growing trees.  His favorite was the “tulip poplar,” and there are lots of those near the President’s grave site at Hyde Park.

Roosevelt had a favorite poem - “If,” by Rudyard Kipling - and its words seemed to track FDR’s own life.  Despite his disability (which was never publicized by the press), Americans elected him to be their President four times. 

Click on the image for a better view.


Media Credits

Photo of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt, online courtesy FDR Presidential Library and Museum.

Quoted passages, above, from the FDR Library.

 

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