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The Inspiring Depression-Era Story of How the 'March of Dimes' Got Its Name

The Inspiring Depression-Era Story of How the 'March of Dimes' Got Its Name
From TIME - January 3, 2018

Today, its easy for Americans to take for granted being able to dive into a public swimming pool or sit in a crowded movie theater without worrying about contracting polio.

But thats what life was like 80 years ago, when President Franklin Delano Rooseveltwho had himself contracted polio in 1921 at age 39started the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The organization, which officially launched on Jan. 3, 1938, was behind the popular March of Dimes fundraising campaign. The idea grew out of the Birthday Balls that FDR had hosted on his birthday for several years running, to raise money to research a cure for polio, as well for as efforts to care for patients and prevent the spread of the disease.

FDRs backing of the organization helped raise the public profile for research efforts in a critical way. But coming up with the March of Dimes name for its primary fundraising campaign was the work of comedian Eddie Cantor.

He instantly understood [the names] appeal, based as it was on a pun on the contemporary newsreel, The March of Time, according to the organization. First broadcast on radio in the early 1930s, The March of Time, a product of Time Inc., had become even more of a household name when the 20-minute news recaps ran in movie theaters.

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As for the dimes part of the name, the March of Dimes was designed to solicit a contribution that even people in the Great Depression could make. Nearly everyone can send in a dime, or several dimes, Cantor stressed in his Jan. 1938 appeal for donations. However, it takes only ten dimes to make a dollar and if a million people send only one dime, the total will be $100,000.

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