Photo: Library of Congress
Newly-discovered video from the National Archives shows President Franklin D. Roosevelt being pushed in his wheelchair.
Franklin College Professor Ray Begovich discovered the video when he was searching for video of Elmer Davis, Roosevelt’s Office of War Information director, in the National Archives.
Laura Diachenko, spokesperson for the National Archives, says the video shows President Roosevelt’s arrival at Pearl Harbor on the USS Baltimore, which appears to have occurred on July 26, 1944.
As seen in the video from the Associated Press, the wheelchair is not seen, but based on the movement, it is clear the President Roosevelt is in a wheelchair.
President Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921 and, as Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum’s website explains, he was very careful not to show signs of his condition.
“FDR requested that the press avoid photographing him walking, maneuvering, or being transferred from his car. The stipulation was accepted by most reporters and photographers but periodically someone would not comply. The Secret Service was assigned to purposely interfere with anyone who tried to snap a photo of FDR in a “disabled or weak” state.”
In an email to WFIU/WTIU News, Diachenko says she cannot say for certain whether the video is the only existing footage of FDR in a wheelchair.
“We cannot state definitively that this is the earliest or only existing footage of FDR being pushed in a wheelchair, but it is very rare,” she says, adding that there could be additional films in other archives or in private hands that have not been “discovered.”
However, the Associated Press reports several other archivists say they have no knowledge of other existing video.
Begovich says he does not have a specific plan for the footage, but he hopes its discovery will encourage historians to look for similar videos.
“It may spark historians and archivists to more purposefully look for perhaps other unknown footage of President Roosevelt in his wheelchair. Maybe even more clear footage so that those can be made public as well,” he says.
Below is the full eight-minute video that was shot by U.S. Navy cameramen. The eight-second clip of President Roosevelt is at 7:36.