Edited by Gerald Boerner



JerryPhoto_thumb2_thumbOver the past half century, we have seen some of the greatest scourges of history reach the point of virtual eradication. Smallpox, Polio, and Rubella have all but disappeared from the developed countries and most of the third world countries. These crippling and deadly diseases are no longer a worry for most parents. In recent years, there has been been some rebound of these diseases following an increasing numbers of more affluent parents withholding the early childhood vaccinations due to their fear of autism. Yes, AIDS is still resistant to elimination, but we hold out hope that a cure for that malady will soon be found.


But that was not the case during the first half of the 20th century. Smallpox was still a killer. But the most feared malady was the incapacitating threat to young children. Our wartime president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was stricken with it in the 1920s, leaving his legs crippled. This threat was Infantile Paralysis (Polio) and its effects could range from mild to severe disfigurement and/or death. It forced those whose lungs were effected to be placed in “Iron Lungs” to enable them to breath. I grew up in Downey and that was the location of a large hospital dedicated to the treatment of polio — Rancho Los Amigos Hospital.

Hope came during the early 1950s when Jonas Salk developed a Polio Vaccine. Children were protected and polio became a rare occurrence. After a few years, Rancho Los Amigos was re-tasked to serve as a mental hospital.

And who do we have to thank for these advances in fighting polio and other communicable diseases? The March of Dimes. It all got started when children in the late 1930s were asked to send in their spare dimes to President Roosevelt. By 1938, sufficient funds had arrived that prompted FDR to create the group that became the March of Dimes. To borrow the words of another: “Thank you Mr. President!”.

But, let’s get on with our exploration of the history and work of the March of Dimes… GLB

These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved

[ 3632 Words ]


Quotations Related to Polio:


“Having children made us look differently at all these things that we take for granted, like taking your child to get a vaccine against measles or polio.”
— Melinda Gates

“Nature [is] that lovely lady to whom we owe polio, leprosy, smallpox, syphilis, tuberculosis, cancer.”
— Anonymous

“When I worked on the polio vaccine, I had a theory. I guided each [experiment] by imagining myself in the phenomenon in which I was interested. The intuitive realm … the realm of the imagination guides my thinking.”
— Jonas Salk

“I had a heartbreaking experience when I was 9. I always wanted to be a guard. The most wonderful girl in the world was a guard. When I got polio and then went back to school, they made me a guard. A teacher took away my guard button.”
— Francis Ford Coppola

“I had a series of childhood illnesses; scarlet fever, pneumonia, polio. I walked with braces until I was at least nine years old. My life wasn’t like the average person who grew up and decided to enter the world of sports.”
— Wilma Rudolph

“If you think dope is for kicks and for thrills, you’re out of your mind. There are more kicks to be had in a good case of paralytic polio or by living in an iron lung.”
— Billie Holiday

“In celebrating the 50th anniversary of Canada’s program of universal polio vaccination, we are indeed recognizing an important milestone in Canadian history, … Although many of our memories associated with polio are somber, this stamp is a celebration of the fact that polio is indeed just a memory in Canada.”
— John McCallum

“[Rotary members are doing everything in their power to ensure success during this final phase.] We will work from dusk to dawn to make sure that every child under the age of five is immunized, … The goal of ending polio and its devastating consequences is within reach. We must continue to build on improvements achieved in 2005, and deliver the polio vaccine to each and every child, including the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach children.”
— Bruce Howard


Franklin D. Roosevelt: Founding the March of Dimes in 1938…


FDR_in_1933The March of Dimes Foundation is a United States nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies. It was originally founded by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 to combat polio.

The March of Dimes is a not-for-profit organization with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. The foundation is headquartered in White Plains, NY and has 51 chapters across the U.S., including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The March of Dimes provides mothers, pregnant women and women of childbearing age with educational resources on baby health, pregnancy, preconception and new motherhood, as well as supplying information and support to families affected by prematurity, birth defects, or other infant health problems.

The organization began as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The name "March of Dimes"—coined in the late 1930s by vaudeville star Eddie Cantor as a play on the contemporary newsreel series "The March of Time"—was originally used for the foundation’s annual fundraising event and gradually became synonymous with that of the organization. It was officially adopted as the organization’s name in 1976, when it became known as the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. In 2007, the name became the March of Dimes Foundation.


The March of Time is a radio series, and companion newsreel series, that was broadcast on CBS from 1931 to 1945 and shown in movie theaters from 1935 to 1951. It was created by Time, Inc. executive Roy Edward Larsen, and was produced and written by Louis de Rochemont and his brother Richard de Rochemont for most of its 16-year run on film. The newsreel feature was based on the network radio series of the same name which had premiered four years earlier.

Poliomyelitis was first recognized as a distinct condition by Jakob Heine in 1840. Its causative agent, poliovirus, was identified in 1908 by Karl Landsteiner. Although major polio epidemics were unknown before the late 19th century, polio was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century. Polio epidemics have crippled thousands of people, mostly young children; the disease has caused paralysis and death for much of human history. Polio had existed for thousands of years quietly as an endemic pathogen until the 1880s, when major epidemics began to occur in Europe; soon after, widespread epidemics appeared in the United States.

By 1910, much of the world experienced a dramatic increase in polio cases and frequent epidemics became regular events, primarily in cities during the summer months. These epidemics—which left thousands of children and adults paralyzed—provided the impetus for a "Great Race" towards the development of a vaccine. Developed in the 1950s, polio vaccines are credited with reducing the global number of polio cases per year from many hundreds of thousands to around a thousand. Enhanced vaccination efforts led by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and Rotary International could result in global eradication of the disease.


Ella Fitzgerald for the March of Dimes… (3:18)




The March of Time

The March of Time began as a weekly radio series airing on the CBS network beginning on March 6 of 1931, sponsored by Time magazine to promote the weekly news magazine. For most of its run it was a dramatized presentation of the week’s major stories, mixing actual clips of newsmakers’ voices (when available) with the sound of actors re-creating events through imitation of the actual newsmakers when authentic voice cuts were unavailable.

It was the first network presentation of a dramatized "news" format which had previously been tried experimentally by some local radio stations. One example of this programming genre was "The Day’s News Dramatized", produced by the Buffalo Evening News newspaper and presented on its radio station WBEN, a CBS affiliate, starting on its first day of broadcasting, September 8 of 1930. It’s not known to what degree, if at all, these regional productions influenced the national March of Time when it premiered six months later, or if The March of Time’s creators were aware of local dramatized news program pioneers that had anticipated it.

The companion newsreel series to the March of Time radio broadcast was launched on February 1, 1935 in over 500 theaters. Each entry in the series was either a two- or three-reel film (20 or 30 minutes). Westbrook Van Voorhis, who hosted the radio program, served as narrator of the film series. The series, which finally totaled close to 200 segments, was an immediate success with audiences. However, because of its high production costs—estimated at $50,000 per episode, released at the rate of about one episode per month—the series was a money loser. However, it remained in production for six years beyond the cancellation of the radio show on which it was based.

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Poliomyelitis is caused by infection with a member of the genus Enterovirus known as poliovirus (PV). This group of RNA viruses colonize the gastrointestinal tract — specifically the oropharynx and the intestine. The incubation time (to the first signs and symptoms) ranges from three to 35 days, with a more common span of six to 20 days. PV infects and causes disease in humans alone. Its structure is very simple, composed of a single (+) sense RNA genome enclosed in a protein shell called a capsid. In addition to protecting the virus’s genetic material, the capsid proteins enable poliovirus to infect certain types of cells. Three serotypes of poliovirus have been identified—poliovirus type 1 (PV1), type 2 (PV2), and type 3 (PV3)—each with a slightly different capsid protein. All three are extremely virulent and produce the same disease symptoms. PV1 is the most commonly encountered form, and the one most closely associated with paralysis.

Individuals who are exposed to the virus, either through infection or by immunization with polio vaccine, develop immunity. In immune individuals, IgA antibodies against poliovirus are present in the tonsils and gastrointestinal tract, and are able to block virus replication; IgG and IgM antibodies against PV can prevent the spread of the virus to motor neurons of the central nervous system. Infection or vaccination with one serotype of poliovirus does not provide immunity against the other serotypes, and full immunity requires exposure to each serotype.

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Jack Glenn

Jack Glenn (1904-1981), a journalist and film producer, graduated from Rice University in 1925 and worked as a reporter for the Galveston (Texas) "Daily Reporter" from 1925-1927. In 1927, he was a reporter for the New York "Herald-Tribune" in Paris where he met Louis de Rochemont, producer of the "March of Time" newsreels. Glenn worked for de Rochemont as senior director for the "March of Time" series from 1927-1953, and later directed promotional films and documentaries for Chrysler Corporation, General Electric, YMCA, and McGraw-Hill with his own movie production company, Jack Glenn, Inc. Glenn also directed the motion picture film "The House of the Seven Gables" (1973), which was produced by Freya Films. Glenn was also president the Screen Directors Guild from 1948-1958, and public relations director of the Screen Directors International Guild.

A large portion of the collection is audio and visual materials, including reel-to-reel audio and film reels. While some of this material is personal (including home movies), most of it is related to Glenn’s career as a director and producer. Some "March of Time" films are present, as are other promotional films and documentaries Glenn made for various corporations and organizations. A large bulk of the film is related to Glenn’s movie “The House of the Seven Gables.”

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Louis de Rochemont

Louis de Rochemont (January 13, 1899 – December 23, 1978) was an American film maker known for creating, along with Roy E. Larsen from Time, Inc., the monthly theatrically shown newsreels The March of Time. His brother Richard de Rochemont was also a producer and writer on The March of Time.

The newsreels defined film news from 1935 to 1951. The 20-minute films, which combined filmed news with interpretive interviews and dramatizations, appeared between featured films in theaters.

When he moved from newsreels to feature films, de Rochemont chose to produce films based on real stories in actual locations, often with locals in the cast. After three spy films that helped define film noir, including The House on 92nd Street (1945), he produced a wide array of feature films such as the semi-documentary Boomerang (1947). He has been called the "father of the docu-drama." His early documentary productions won two Academy Awards. He also produced Windjammer (1958) and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1962).

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Richard de Rochemont

Richard de Rochemont (13 December 1903 – 2 August 1982) was an American documentary film-maker in the late 1940s, who also worked on the March of Time newsreel series.

He produced a series of shorts which covered such subjects as World War II, the 1920s, and the Vatican. He produced Crusade in Europe (1949), the very first documentary series produced for television, based on the book by Dwight D. Eisenhower, and produced by Time Inc. and distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox Television. He also won a Best Documentary Short Academy Award for A Chance to Live (1949).

He was the brother of documentary filmmaker and feature film producer Louis de Rochemont.

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History of the March of Dimes

Anti-Polio Efforts

The group was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 3, 1938, as a response to U.S. epidemics of polio, a condition which can leave people crippled. Roosevelt was himself diagnosed with polio in 1921, and it left him unable to move his legs. The foundation was an alliance between scientists and volunteers, with volunteers raising money to support research and education efforts. Basil O’Connor, an attorney and a close associate of President Roosevelt, helped establish the foundation. He became its president in 1938, a position he held for more than three decades. His first task was to create a network of local chapters that could raise money and deliver aid—more than 3,100 county chapters were established during his tenure. In the years between 1938 and the approval of the Salk vaccine in 1955, the foundation spent $233 million on polio patient care, leading to more than 80 percent of polio patients in the U.S. receiving significant foundation aid.

Change of Mission

With its original goal of eliminating polio accomplished, the March of Dimes faced a choice: to either disband or dedicate its resources to a new mission. Basil O’Connor, president of the March of Dimes at the time, directed his staff to identify strengths and weaknesses of the organization and reformulate its mission. In 1958, the NFIP shortened its name to the National Foundation (NF) and launched its "Expanded Program" against birth defects, arthritis, and virus diseases, seeking to become a "flexible force" in the field of public health. In the mid-60s, the organization focused its efforts on the prevention of birth defects and infant mortality, which became its mission thereafter. At this time the cause of birth defects was unknown; only the effects were visible. In 1976, the organization changed its name to the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. In 2005, reducing the toll of premature birth was added as a mission objective.


Initiatives after Polio


Rubella, also called German measles, is associated with a disorder called congenital rubella syndrome, which can cause miscarriages and birth defects such as deafness, blindness and mental retardation. Vaccination is an effective preventive measure. On behalf of the March of Dimes, Virginia Apgar testified to the United States Senate in 1969 about the importance of federal funding of a rubella immunization program, and the organization funded a vaccine, which was licensed in the early 1970s. In 2006, a statement published in Birth Defects Research Part A credited the "remarkable success of the immunization program to eliminate rubella is due to joint efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, various state and local health departments, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the March of Dimes".

Maternal and Neonatal Care

In 1976, the March of Dimes published a report titled Toward Improving the Outcome of Pregnancy (TIOP), and in 1993 they published Toward Improving the Outcome of Pregnancy: The 90s and Beyond (TIOP II). TIOP "stratified maternal and neonatal care into 3 levels of complexity and recommended referral of high-risk patients to centers with the personnel and resources needed for their degree of risk and severity of illness.” TIOP was published when "resources for the most complex care were relatively scarce and concentrated in academic medical centers.” TIOP II updated care complexity designations from levels I, II and III to basic, specialty and subspecialty, and the criteria were expanded. In 2001, the March of Dimes introduced a family support program for those with babies in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The program seeks to educate NICU staff to communicate effectively with patients’ families. The March of Dimes hosted the Symposium on Quality Improvement to Prevent Prematurity in October 2009. In December 2010, the March of Dimes released TIOP III, subtitled Enhancing Perinatal Health Through Quality, Safety, and Performance Initiatives.

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Newborn Screening

March of Dimes states on its website that it supports mandated newborn screening of all babies in all states in the U.S. for at least 30 life-threatening conditions for which effective treatment and reliable testing is available to prevent catastrophic consequences to the child.

In 2003, the March of Dimes began releasing an annual, state-by-state report card on each state’s adoption of expanded newborn screening recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics. March of Dimes president Jennifer L. Howse, Ph.D. has stated that this program is intended to inform parents of the tests available in their state, enabling those with affected babies to pursue early treatment.

According to a presentation at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, individual, state-based March of Dimes chapters work with governors, state legislators, health departments, health professionals, and parents to improve state newborn screening programs and to make comprehensive newborn screening programs available to every newborn throughout the country.

In 2005, only 38 percent of infants were born in states that required screening for 21 or more of 29 core conditions recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics; but by 2009, all 50 states and the District of Columbia required screening for 21 or more of these treatable disorders.

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Polio: The The Irreversible Mistake… (8:43)


Living With Polio… (8:44)



Please take time to further explore more about March of Dimes, National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, The March of Time, March of Dimes Foundation, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Louis de Rochemont, Richard de Rochemont, Jack Glenn, Birth Defects, Polio, Rubella, Neonatal Care, Rotary International, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below. In most cases, the text in the body of this post has been selectively excerpted from the articles; footnotes and hyperlinks have been removed for readability…





Other Events on this Day:

  • In 1521…
    Pope Leo X excommunicates theology professor and religious dissident Martin Luther following Luther’s condemnation of the Catholic Church’s corrupt practices in his 95 Theses.

  • In 1777…
    A Patriot army under General Washington defeats the British in the Battle of Princeton, New Jersey.

  • In 1870…
    Construction on the Brooklyn Bridge begins.

  • In 1920…
    Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sells Babe Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees for $125,000 and more than $300,000 in loans, beginning the Yankees’ greatest years of baseball success — they will win 29 American League pennants between 1921 and 1964. The Red Sox, on the other hand, suffered from the "curse of the Bambino" and did not win a World Series until 2004.

  • In 1938…
    President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later renamed the March of Dimes, to help fund research for a polio vaccine and the rehabilitation of children suffering from the disease.

  • In 1947…
    Congressional proceedings are televised for the first time as part of the 80th Congress’s opening ceremonies and are broadcast in a few cities.

  • In 1953…
    Rep. Frances Bolton and her son, Rep. Oliver Bolton, both Republicans from Ohio, become the first and only mother and son to serve simultaneously in Congress.

  • In 1959…
    Alaska becomes the forty-ninth state.

  • In 1962…
    Pope John XXIII excommunicates Cuban leader Fidel Castro in accordance with Pope Pius XII’s 1949 decree forbidding Catholics from supporting communist governments.


Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)


Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: March of Dimes…

Wikipedia: The March of Time…

March of Dimes Web Site: March of Dimes

Wikipedia: Franklin D. Roosevelt…

Wikipedia: Louis de Rochemont…

Wikipedia: Richard de Rochemont…

Rocky Mountain Online Archive: Inventory of the Jack Glenn papers, 1922-1981…

Think Exist: Polio Quotes

Brainy Quote: Polio Quotes…


Other Posts on related Topics:

Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Polio, or Infantile Paralysis Vaccine…

Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Matthew Shepard & Hate Crimes…

Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: “The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself”…

Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Robert Koch: Discovery of Cause of Tuberculosis…