“Ethical Displays”: AIHP’s Frank Pinchak Poster Collection & the History of Public Health Information

This post is from Points, the joint blog of AIHP and the Alcohol and Drugs History Society. Points publishes original reflections about the history of drugs, medicines, alcohol, pharmacy, and their allied fields.

Pinchak Poster 1960 Polio Report
Section of “1960 Polio Report From Your Pharmacist” pharmacy window display poster set from the AIHP Pinchak Poster Collection. Image courtesy of AIHP. Please click on any photo in this post to see a larger image.

“Records indicate that over 90 MILLION AMERICANS still need to be vaccinated,” blares the 26-inch by 42-inch professionally printed cardboard poster. “Epidemics start in neighborhoods where there are large concentrations of unvaccinated people,” the text screams. This disease “has not been controlled,” the poster alarmingly concludes, “because the public has been lax about being inoculated.”

These messages appear not in a current COVID-19 pandemic public service announcement. Instead, this poster was part of a three-piece educational pharmacy window display from sixty years ago titled, “1960 Polio Report from your Pharmacist.” The poster noted that “infants and children under five are victims” and sought to educate the public about the dangerous and, then still circulating, poliovirus and the available Salk vaccine.

This poster set is one of about 40 public health education pharmacy window display sets in the Frank Pinchak Poster Collection at the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy. Pinchak, a registered pharmacist from Paterson, New Jersey, produced and marketed such educational displays from the 1950s through the 1970s.

This important and unique ephemera collection documents the circulation of local public health information in the post-war era. The displays discuss subjects ranging from vaccinations to health technologies and from drug safety to narcotics. The many still-relevant topics covered by the posters can help us better understand the long historical roots of lively contemporary debates and controversies about health, drugs, medicines, and pharmaceuticals.

is currently in the process of digitizing these one-of-a-kind posters and hopes to soon make them available at the AIHP Digital Library so that researchers have easier access to these valuable resources.

Read the rest of this post by Greg Bond on Points.

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