If you use Christmas seals on your cards and packages, you will benefit the American Lung Association. Today the American Lung Association is trying to eliminate air pollution, get you to quit smoking and support you if you have asthma, COPD or even the flu. Long ago (in the 1960s) (and before), however, when everyone was still happily smoking up a fog unaware of any detrimental health issues – if you don’t believe me, ask your parents or see any episode of Mad Men – the main concern regarding lungs was tuberculosis.
The National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis was founded in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1904 and a local group formed here just one year later. And when I say “here”, I do mean here, at GRPL. Samuel Ranck, our “head librarian” for nearly forty years, was one of many in this community taking up the cause against tuberculosis. After Ranck hosted a lecture by the dean of U of M’s Medical School in our Ryerson Auditorium on March 3, 1905, the Grand Rapids Anti-tuberculosis society was organized with John W. Blodgett as president.
The society existed for eighty years, though TB was largely controlled in America by the mid 1950s and the national anti-TB society handed over the double barred cross logo and the Christmas Seal campaign to the lung association in the early 1970s.
When the local society dissolved, it donated its papers here, bringing its history full circle. The collection was recently processed and is available for use.
Next time you’re in our auditorium, try to picture Samuel Ranck and John Blodgett in that very room launching an organization that would last for the next eighty years dedicated to making us all breathe easier.
If you’d like to read the reports of the visiting nurses, see photos of the open air classrooms (once thought to help cure tuberculosis) or view Christmas seal artwork, among other things, check out this new collection!