Who Founded Easterseals? The Story of Edgar Allen Pt. 1

The dramatic increase in polio cases during the early 20th century caused the disease to be regarded as an epidemic. Thousands of children and adults became paralyzed by polio, and Easterseals founder Edgar Allen raised funds and built a hospital where children with polio could be fitted with crutches and leg braces. Many children remained at that hospital afterwards to attend school there, but what event motivated this successful businessman to sell his businesses and devote himself to providing help for people with disabilities?

Edgar Allen was born in Newton, Mass. and moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1876, when he was still a child. He made his fortune by supplying telephone poles to American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) and railroad ties for the growing railroad industry.

On Memorial Day, 1907, one of Allen’s two sons — an 18-year-old named Homer — was killed in a streetcar accident. The family was living in Elyria, Ohio (a town with only one makeshift hospital) and Allen couldn’t help but think that if emergency medical care had been available his son’s life
could have been saved. The tragedy inspired Allen to sell his business and devote himself to raising funds for a hospital.

Elyria Memorial Hospital opened in 1908, and it was there that Edgar Allen met met 8-year-old orphan, Jimmy Bodak, who was brought to the hospital in an effort to help straighten his legs. The rest is history — stay tuned for part two to find out what happened after that.

Learn more about the 100th Anniversary of Easterseals!


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