News & Opinion | June 28, 2018 11:40 am

Newly-Donated Footage Shows Rare Glimpse of FDR Walking While President

Silent film clip features 53-year-old Roosevelt using a cane to walk to the White House balcony.

FDR (Getty Images)
Bettmann Archive

Newly discovered footage has been released showing a very rare sight of Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his presidency: him walking while at a White House event. The footage, from the White House Easter Egg Roll in 1935, was donated to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. The film is silent and black and white, but you can clearly see FDR,  who is 53 at the time, use a cane to walk over to the balcony of the White House and wave at the crowd.

“When I saw [it] … I gasped,” FDR library director Paul Sparrow told the Washington Post. “I had never seen this footage before, and we had a sense that no one had ever seen this footage before. It’s by far the clearest image I’ve ever seen of something that’s obsessed me for 20 years.”

FDR was paralyzed from the waist down by polio in 1921. The press very rarely filmed him struggling to move and studiously avoided mentioning the president’s disability, in part because the Secret Service did not want him to appear vulnerable. Historian Geoffrey Ward told WPDH that there are only a few private snapshots and amateur film that hint at his struggle. This new footage was donated by Richard Hill, whose grandfather, Fred Hill captured the moment (1:35 mark in video below).