Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rare Footage of FDR Walking

A rare eight-second clip of Franklin Delano Roosevelt recently surfaced, showing the former President walking to his seat during the 1937 All Star baseball game at Washington D.C.'s Griffith Stadium. The clip, shot on an 8mm home movie camera, was donated to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The film is a notable find, as it is now only one of two extended film clips showing FDR walking. The president, known for his battle with polio, had been paralyzed from the waist down since 1921.

Harrisburg-native baseball pitcher James (Jimmie) DeShong filmed the famous video. The clip shows (a very tall) FDR arriving to the stadium, holding an assistant's arm, and clutching a handrail as he ascends a ramp, presumably to his seat. The wind pressing against his pants show the outline of his braces. Many Major League baseball all-stars and executives can also be spotted, including Joe McCarthy, Charlie Gehringer, Spud Chandler, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Hank Greenberg, Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Carl Hubbell, Dizzy Dean, Lefty Gomez, Red Rolfe, Eddie Collins, and Tom Yawkey.

Clips of FDR walking are rare, as the Secret Service would prohibit or confiscate cameras when he was attempting to walk with assistance. FDR wanted to minimize the public's knowledge of the effects polio had on him. Back then, the press would honor a president's wishes. 

After Jimmie DeShong's daughter donated the clip to the Pennsylvania State Archives, Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett unveiled the film. Corbett explains, "This unique look at Franklin Delano Roosevelt gives us a better understanding of his physical struggles and his courage and strength in leading our country through difficult times despite personal challenges."

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