2020-06 - Curator's Cabinet - Desktop/Laptop 

Poliomyelitis Vaccine Vial in the original box

Helen Green of Deal donated the vaccine vial and the Polio Pioneer card was donated by Bob Speck.  Helen's daughter Gail was in second grade in the Deal school where the injections were given. Bob and Eileen McCormack were also in grade two, the targeted grade for the trials in this area. Eileen was attending Oakhurst School and remembers being bussed to Deal School for the injections. 

Background Information

Polio (poliomyelitis) was the Coronavirus of the 1950s. At its peak, the disease would paralyze or kill over half a million people worldwide.  The fear of this pandemic gave rise to the development of new methods to prevent and treat it.  In 1954, 75% of cases reported were found in patients twenty years old and younger. Children were particularly vulnerable to the disease.
Polio Pioneer card issued by the March of Dimes

In 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine that successfully protected individuals from polio. Clinical trials using the Salk vaccine and a placebo were administered to two million American schoolchildren in grades 1-3. Children who volunteered for the study were called “Polio Pioneers.” They were presented with a pin and a card issued by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later known as the March of Dimes.

During the epidemic in the United States parents were fearful and restricted their children’s summer activities.  Swimming pools and movie theatres were closed along with some schools and churches.   Social distancing was encouraged. At the beginning of the 20th century, treatments were limited to quarantines and a respiration device referred to as the “iron lung.”  It was a metal container that fits over a patient’s body and was used to stimulate breathing when muscle control was lost.

The most notable polio victim was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who contracted the disease in 1921 at the age of 39.  When the disease left him partially paralyzed, he transformed his estate in Warm Springs, Georgia into a recovery retreat for polio victims.  Due to his high profile, he became an advocate for fundraising and polio research.  Polio Pioneers played a significant part in defeating polio. The disease still exists in parts of India and Africa, but it has been virtually eliminated across the world.