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Elvis Presley Enterprises Partners with March of Dimes for 75th Anniversary

April 24, 2013



As part of the 75th Anniversary, Elvis Presley Enterprises is teaming up with a charity close to Elvis' heart. The Memphis March for Babies will take place on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at Shelby Farms at 8:00 a.m. Among thousands of attendees, will be Mary Kosloski, an original poster child for March of Dimes pictured in the photo above with Elvis on the foyer steps of Graceland. Learn more about walking in your own community by clicking here.

Kosloski will be attending the 2013 Memphis March for Babies where many of these famous photos of Elvis supporting the March of Dimes will be showcased in the 75th Anniversary Tent.  During her visit to Memphis, Kosloski will be recreating her famous 1957 pose on the interior staircase of Graceland.

There are at least 20 other photos of Elvis Presley in the March of Dimes Archives photography collection. These include photos of Elvis with national poster child Mary Kosloski and other polio sufferers, both children and adults. In 2004, a German author, Andreas Roth, licensed eight of these photos taken on December 9, 1958, for "The Ultimate Elvis in Munich Book," which has been called one of the finest intensive pictorial studies of Elvis. The author used the March of Dimes photographs of Elvis and Robert Marquette, a six-year-old American boy disabled by polio as evidence of his strong commitment to the mission of the March of Dimes.

Elvis Presley actively supported the March of Dimes in the 1950s to promote polio vaccination among teenagers after the Salk polio vaccine was licensed for use in 1955. A key March of Dimes photo depicts Elvis Presley receiving his own polio vaccination from Dr. Harold Fuerst on October 28, 1956, with New York City Health Commissioner Leona Baumgartner. Elvis agreed to this photo opportunity to support the March of Dimes Teens Against Polio (TAP) publicity efforts.

The photo of Presley, Fuerst, and Baumgartner is one of the truly iconic publicity shots in the photography collection of the March of Dimes Archives. That it was taken on October 28, 1956, the date of Elvis Presley's second appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, is especially remarkable. The March of Dimes distributed the photo to over 600 Elvis fan clubs across the nation to encourage teen-age polio immunization, calling Elvis Presley “the Pied Piper of modern youth.” Though the photo pre-dates March of Dimes involvement in the problem of prematurity, Leona Baumgartner, as New York City Commissioner of Health, had earlier helped to establish a network of premature infant centers and local transport for premature infants in New York City in the 1940s. The photo thus bridges the evolution of the March of Dimes mission “from polio to prematurity” in an unforeseen but powerful way.

Elvis Presley’s appearances on this show were enormously important in the explosive popularity of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s. The photo was used successfully to encourage teenagers to get their polio vaccinations during the period of intensive public education about the polio vaccine from 1955 to 1962. A related March of Dimes polio vaccine brochure was titled "You Can't Rock 'n Roll with Polio," used in the Teens Against Polio program.

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. Its mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. In 2013, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th Anniversary. The March of Dimes was founded in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to end polio in the United States and it succeeded. Babies born today continue to receive the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines and benefit from many March of Dimes supported breakthroughs, such as treatments for premature infants and for children with birth defects.

Learn more about the March of Dimes mission and how you can help donate or walk by visiting MarchofDimes.com. Also, check out some of our new specials and packages to plan your own rock 'n' roll pilgrimage to Graceland and learn more about the King of Rock 'n' Roll's charitable contributions!