New Dealish: FDR’s Birthday Ball

FDR Birthday Ball Window Placard Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1936.

FDR Birthday Ball Window Placard Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1936

As president, FDR used his birthday, January 30, to advance his most important cause—raising awareness and money to eliminate polio, a disease FDR knew first hand. The first Birthday Ball was held in 1934; 4,376 communities joined together in 600 separate celebrations to raise more one million dollars for the Warm Springs Foundation, a charity FDR founded. The Birthday Ball became an annual event, but the revenue was not enough to support the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which FDR created in 1938 to help victims of polio all across the country, not just in Warm Springs. Radio personality and philanthropist Eddie Cantor urged Americans to send their loose change to President Roosevelt in “a march of dimes to reach all the way to the White House.” “Nearly everyone can send in a dime, or several dimes,” Cantor stressed in his January, 1938 fundraising appeal. By the end of that month, the White House had received a total of 2,680,000 dimes, or $268,000. The money raised by the Birthday Balls and March of Dimes went directly to the research that enabled Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin to develop polio vaccines in the 1950s that, by the 1960s, eradicated the disease throughout most of the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.