While doing research at the National Archives in College Park, MD, Ray Begovich recently stumbled upon a film showing President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a wheelchair.
While we can’t state definitively that this is the earliest or only existing footage of FDR being pushed in a wheelchair, it is very rare. It’s a great example of how researchers can explore, discover, and learn from our holdings here at the National Archives.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio, in 1921, at the age of 39. The disease resulted in paralysis of both of his legs. Although FDR’s disability did not directly interfere with his role as President, his use of a wheelchair was concealed when he was in the public eye.
The film, shown here, captures President Roosevelt on a visit to Pearl Harbor descending a ramp on the USS Baltimore. He appears to be in a wheelchair, though the chair is obstructed by the ramp. 7/30/44. The 8-second clip starts around 1:25 minutes.