Governors Mansion

Virtual Visit: Object Stories - FDR Wheelchair

Discover the story behind Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wheelchair at the New York State Executive Mansion.
Virtual Visit: Object Stories - FDR Wheelchair
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Virtual Visit: Object Stories - FDR Wheelchair

Discover the story behind Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wheelchair at the New York State Executive Mansion.  

Fast Facts

 

  1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 44th Governor of New York and the fourth New York Governor to serve as President of the United States.
  2. Another FDR wheelchair can be found at Roosevelt’s birthplace in Hyde Park, New York.
  3. Before being Governor, Roosevelt also served as a NYS Senator from 1911-1913.
  4. FDR was one of the first politicians to address the public by radio and did so from the Executive Mansion. These addresses were forerunners to the famous “Fireside Chats” he would give as President during the Great Depression.
  5. Gov. Roosevelt would often look at his stamp collection by spreading it out on a large table. This table is found on the second floor of the Executive Mansion today. Marks found underneath the table are from Roosevelt banging into it with his wheelchair
  6. When FDR was Governor, wife Eleanor Roosevelt would travel to New York City three days a week to teach American literature and history at a school for girls
Trivia

 

When did Franklin D. Roosevelt become Governor of New York State and how long did he serve?
Frankin D. Roosevelt was the 44th Governor of New York State and served two terms from 1929 to 1932 before being elected as President of the United States. 

How many New York State Governors went on to become President of the United States?
Four NYS Governors went on to become President of the United States:  Martin Van Buren (1899), Grover Cleveland (1883-1885), Theodore Roosevelt (1899-1900), and Franklin D. Roosevelt (1929-1932). 

When did Franklin D. Roosevelt contract Polio?
In 1921, at the age of 39, Roosevelt was diagnosed with infantile paralysis known as polio.

Is it true he made his own wheelchairs from everyday chairs?
Roosevelt found the standard wheelchair of the 1920s to be too bulky and difficult to get around in so he designed his own wheelchairs by replacing the legs of modern dining chairs with bicycle-like wheels.

What is the FDR Memorial Pool?
In 1929, a greenhouse at the NYS Executive Mansion was transformed into a heated therapy pool for Roosevelt that replicated the heated swimming therapy he received prior to his term as governor in Warm Springs, Georgia. 

Is the FDR Memorial Pool at the Executive Mansion still active today?
In 1988, Governor Mario M. Cuomo oversaw the pool’s restoration and rededication to Franklin D. Roosevelt.  While the pool is functional today, it is used as a historical memorial and symbolic artifact of Roosevelt’s connection to Albany.

How did FDR go upstairs in the Executive Mansion?
Governor Roosevelt had an elevator installed in the Executive Mansion so he could go through the house with ease. The elevator still exists and is located near the kitchen. Roosevelt would be dropped by car at the back of the house and enter the home from the rear.

How was Theodore Roosevelt related to Franklin and Eleanor?
Theodore Roosevelt was Eleanor Roosevelt’s uncle; his brother was Eleanor’s father. Franklin was Theodore’s fifth cousin.

How was FDR’s wheelchair kept secret from the public?
Contrary to popular belief, it was widely known that FDR had difficulty walking. Several news articles of the time mentioned his wheelchair in passing. Roosevelt and his staff made sure to downplay any questions about his health. He used a wheelchair only in private, however, and used leg braces, crutches, and the support of others if he had to stand or walk-in public. Even if reporters wanted to photograph him in a wheelchair—which they agreed not to—it would have been very difficult for them to do so. Press events would be staged where he would already be at a podium, behind a desk, or sitting in a car when people arrived.