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How Polio Changed Us, March of Dimes

Quote. I couldnít believe it, and I made [my wife] go over it again and again. The Foundation had been set up for cases like mine, people who couldnít possibly meet the overwhelming expenses involved in an illness like this, or who, by meeting it, would find themselves hopelessly in debt. End Quote. Larry Alexander, 1954

The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later renamed the March of Dimes, was established in 1938 and grew out of the great success of the Birthday Balls for President Franklin Roosevelt. The balls and the foundation, both Roosevelt’s ideas, were directed by his friend and former law partner, Basil O’Connor.

The March of Dimes was a grassroots campaign run primarily by volunteers. Over the years, millions of people gave small amounts of money to support both the care of people who got polio and research into prevention and treatment. Those contributions financed Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin, and the other researchers who developed the polio vaccines that children around the world receive today.

Factoids
bullet The organization’s name came from comedian Eddie Cantor’s comment that the donation of dimes from across the country could become a “march of dimes,” a reference to the popular March of Time newsreels of the era.
bullet The first March of Dimes poster child was Donald Anderson, in 1946. He is a retired postal worker and lives in Seattle, Washington.
Left image. A poster showing two little girls with leg braces next to large text stating, You can help, too! Join the March of Dimes
Right photo. March of Dimes collection can and an illustrated March of Dimes poster with an image of an iron lung
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Left: March of Dimes Poster, 1950s
Right. Artist John Falter designed the poster on this March of Dimes collection display in 1952. Falter was well-known for his sketches of soldiers during World War II and his Saturday Evening Post covers.

“Being a poster child was one of the highlights of my childhood. I got to meet Vice President Nixon and Alice Roosevelt Longworth and ride around in a taxi and be treated like a princess.”
—Carol Boyer, 2004

What Did a Dime Buy?
bullet A quart of milk in the 1930s
bullet A copy of On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, in 1937
bullet A copy of Esquire, LIFE, The New Yorker, Cosmopolitan, Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, or McCall’s in 1942
bullet A hot dog in 1945
bullet Two bottles of Coca-Cola in 1945
bullet A bag of popcorn at the fairground in 1948
bullet A one-way subway fare from Times Square to Coney Island in 1948
bullet A cup of coffee in 1950
bullet A pay phone call in 1960
Left photo. Louis Armstrong playing his trumpet in front of a March of Dimes sign
Right photo. Elvis Presley receiving a vaccination in his arm by a man and woman
Left: March of Dimes promotional photograph of Louis Armstrong at a fund-raiser around 1959 Courtesy of March of Dimes
Right: Elvis Presley being vaccinated, 1956 Courtesy of March of Dimes
Photo of Lassie Black's scrapbook with newspaper clippings and notes
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When her daughter contracted polio in 1946, Lassie Black got involved in the fight against polio and eventually led the northern Florida March of Dimes. This is one of the scrapbooks she kept about her daughterís illness and her own activities. Courtesy of Edna Hindson and Julie Silver
Photo of pins
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Selection of pins used by the March of Dimes over the years

March of Dimes collection envelope stating, Fight On! Join the March of Dimes
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March of Dimes collection envelope, 1940s

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