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The President’s Birthday Ball, 1942

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Gift of Alfred Pleasonton, The National WWII Museum, Inc., 2003.329.005

On January 30, 1942, the nation celebrated the 60th birthday of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A Birthday Ball was held at the Uline Arena (now the Washington Coliseum) in support of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, an organization created by FDR in 1938. The Birthday Balls were conceived as a network of fundraising galas to be held across the country on January 30th, the President’s birthday, to raise money for victims of polio throughout the US. The first Birthday Balls were held in 1934 and raised over one million dollars to help victims of polio. The following years saw continued success. In 1945, comedian Eddie Cantor lent his support with an appeal to Americans to donate to the cause in a “march of dimes to reach all of the way to the White House.” This popular appeal precipitated the renaming of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis as the March of Dimes. The Birthday Balls officially ended in 1945 with the President’s death, but the March of Dimes continued to raise money for polio, shifting its focus to the general health of mothers and babies following the widespread eradication of the disease.

For more information see the online exhibit from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum: Birthday Balls: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the March of Dimes.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.


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