The lack of historical imagery gives the impression that Roosevelt actively concealed his paralysis. But experts say he tried to minimize it to make the public more comfortable and to ensure that other nations didn’t view him as a weak leader.
“Thousands of people saw him walk like that quite frequently, in person. That was no secret at all,” said Ray Begovich, a journalism professor at Franklin College near Indianapolis who has researched Roosevelt’s public image. “Americans knew he had polio, that he was sick and that he struggled, but they just did not know the extent of his disability.”
The FDR snippet is about eight seconds of DeShong’s silent footage, which overall is more than five minutes long.
The rest of the film, shot with an 8 millimeter camera during batting practice at Griffith Stadium, features a slew of baseball players, including Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg and Dizzy Dean.