March of Dimes Collection

Summary Information

Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections
March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation.
March of Dimes collection
1947-1968, undated
0.5 Cubic feet

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: "Item title, Collection title, Collection Identifier, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan."

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President Franklin Roosevelt's personal struggle with polio led him to create the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis at a time when polio was on the rise. Better known as the March of Dimes, the foundation established a polio patient aid program and funded research for vaccines developed by Jonas Salk, MD and Albert Sabin, MD. These vaccines effectively ended epidemic polio in the United States.

Born on the eve of World War II as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP), the Foundation achieved an instantaneous popularity that reflected the contemporary popularity of its founder, Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR’s polio disability – he was never able to walk again on his own after contracting polio – translated into a systematic program to uncover the mysteries of polio and to lend a helping hand to Americans suffering from the disease. The war years were a time of titanic struggle, and efforts to launch the March of Dimes were boosted by radio, Hollywood, and the personal appeal of the president. Basil O’Connor, a close associate of FDR through his entire presidency, became the leading light of the March of Dimes for over three decades, and his immediate task in 1938 was to build an organization that could quickly respond to polio epidemics anywhere in the nation. As president of the NFIP, Basil O’Connor set out at once to create a network of local chapters that could raise money and deliver aid – an adventurous program that paid off substantially just as polio was on the rise. Entering the 1950s, the 3,100 chapters of the NFIP operated almost completely by volunteers who proved that the March of Dimes was a grass-roots movement, captured nicely in the ubiquitous slogan “Join the March of Dimes.”

A March of Dimes grantee, Jonas Salk, MD, pressed forward from a routine virus typing project to the creation of a vaccine that spelled the end of polio in a matter of years. Tested in a massive field trial in 1954 that involved 1.8 million schoolchildren known as “polio pioneers,” the Salk vaccine was licensed for use on April 12, 1955, the very day it was announced to the news media as “safe, effective, and potent.”


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Scope and Content

The March of Dimes collection contains materials related to March of Dimes fundraising and activities in Ingham County and Lansing, Michigan. The collection contains photographs documenting these activities including local fundraising and collection drives, airplane transport of patients to Warm Springs, Georgia, hydrotherapy of patients, hospital wards, local children affected, presentation of money and equipment, scenes of people and groups, and children getting vaccinations. There are also images of a WILS-aired event or fundraiser, a WILS-sponsored teen dance held at the Lansing Civic Center, and an event at Hotel Olds with Basil O'Connor, president of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. There are also national advertisements. The majority of the images are of local efforts, although a few images might be related to the national March of Dimes. There is also a flyer of statistics of polio in Ingham County.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections April 2013

Conrad Hall
888 Wilson Road, Room 101
East Lansing , MI, 48824

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University unless otherwise noted. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University, unless otherwise noted on the material.

Custodial History

Transferred by the Lansing March of Dimes.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Hotel Olds (Lansing, Mich.).
  • National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.
  • National Foundation.
  • WILS-AM (Radio station : Lansing, Mich.).
  • WJIM-TV (Television station : Lansing, Mich.) .
  • WTOM-TV (Television station : Lansing, Mich.).


  • Photographs

Geographic Name(s)

  • Ingham County (Mich.)
  • Lansing (Mich.)

Personal Name(s)

  • O'Connor, Basil, 1892-1972
  • Salk, Jonas, 1914-


  • Fund raising
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Poliomyelitis -- Patients
  • Poliomyelitis -- Treatment

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Collection Inventory


Box Folder

Advertisements 1963, undated 

1 1

Airplane Transport of children to Warm Springs, Georgia 

1 2

Children 1949, 1960, undated 

1 3

Collection Drives 1947-1948 

1 4

Collection Drives 1950, 1952, 1956-1958, 1962 

1 5

Collection Drives undated 

1 6-7

Event at Hotel Olds with Basil O'Connor January 1951 

1 8


1 9

Event. Teen Dance at Lansing Civic Center January 26, 1957 

1 10

Exhibit at Ingham County Fair 1952 

1 11

Hospital Wards 1948-1949, undated 

1 12

Hydrotherapy 1948-1950, undated 

1 13

Iron Lungs 1950, 1956, 1968 

1 14

Parade Float 

1 15

People 1949, 1951, circa 1952, 1955-1957, 1966 

1 16

People undated 

1 17

People. Salk, Jonas 

1 18

Presentations of money and equipment 1947, 1952, 1953 

1 19

Television event 1956, undated 

1 20


1 21

Vaccinations 1957 

1 22

Womens' Groups 

1 23

Negatives 1956-1957 

1 24
Box Folder

Flyer with statistics about polio in Ingham County 1954 

1 25