5 Lesser Know Facts About FDR

On November 7, 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to an unprecedented fourth term in office. Here are 5 lesser know facts you didn't know about the only president to have served more than two terms...


FDR's Nickname Was The Sphinx While FDR is already on-point in terms of a nickname, journalists stepped up their game in the late 1930s and branded him The Sphinx since he refused to say whether he'd run for a third term in 1940. As a result, an eight-foot paper-mache sculpture of FDR as The Sphinx was made in 1939 and was the centerpiece for the White House Press Correspondents Dinner. (And it still exists!)

FDR Was The First Sitting President to Fly in a Plane At a time when air travel was much more dangerous, Roosevelt flew to Chicago in 1932 to accept the Democratic nomination for president. He then became the first sitting president to travel by airplane during his time in office. Crossing the Atlantic by air, Roosevelt flew in a Boeing 314 Flying Boat dubbed the Dixie Clipper to a World War II strategy meeting with Winston Churchill at Casablanca in North Africa. 


He Married His Distant Cousin Much has been documented about FDR's admiration for his distant cousin, Theodore. But few people realize that Eleanor was actually also a family member (albeit a distant one). Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was FDR's fifth cousin once removed and the niece of then-President Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy actually walked Eleanor down the aisle on her wedding day, March 17, 1905, because Eleanor's father had passed away. Sadly, Great Uncle Teddy wouldn't live long enough to see FDR rise to the presidency—he died in 1919.

Secret Service Agents Ruined Photos of FDR in a Wheelchair Most people know that FDR contracted polio in 1921 and spent most of his adult life relying on a wheelchair. Roosevelt was notoriously private about his ailment, choosing to have most public appearances showing him sitting in an open chair or standing behind a podium. Roosevelt never explicitly denied that he’d lost the use of his legs, but he sure did his damnedest to keep people—especially of the camera from seeing him wheel around.  Few photos depict FDR in a wheelchair and for good reason—media figures who tried found themselves getting their cameras confiscated or film ripped out as a result.

He was the First President to Make a Woman Part of His Cabinet It's something you can say about FDR: he didn't completely buy into gender roles. The late president was actually the first to name a woman to his cabinet: having appointed Frances Perkins as the Industrial Commissioner of the State of New York in 1929, he offered her the role of Secretary of Labor in 1932. She stepped down in 1945, resigning after Roosevelt's death in 1945.