Thursday, October 31, 2013

I Am Death

Public health campaigns have, it seems, always gone for shock value -- who can forget such ads as the crying Indian, the smoking fetus, or "This is drugs ... this is your brain on drugs"? Nevertheless, this 1912 poster from the Indiana Board of Health stands out for the stark and threatening appeal it offers against what were seen as the worst health hazards of its day. It's odd for us today to consider that "midnight suppers" or "large amounts of black coffee" might be up there with alcohol as bona fide life-shorteners, and the caution not to "bolt your food" sounds like it's right out of a Dickens novel (and it is). This image comes via the Indiana Public Health collection at IUPUI Scholar Works, a project of Indiana University and Purdue University, an archive which also contains delightfully harsh warnings about the hazards of the house fly and rats and fleas, along with (on the other side of the equation) the illustrious benefits of good hygiene among children.

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