In the first decade of the twentieth century, Tuberculosis (sometimes referred to as TB or consumption) was the leading cause of death in the United States. Its prevalence led to the nationwide creation of organizations for combating the disease. In Atlanta, the Fulton County Medical Society created the Fulton Sanitary and Tuberculosis Prevention Society in 1907 to fight the spread of TB and care for those whom it afflicted. That same year, social activist and Red Cross volunteer Emily Bissell of Wilmington, Delaware was called upon to help raise three hundred dollars for a local sanitarium struggling with funds. She adopted an idea from Denmark that involved the sale of Christmas-themed seals which could be placed on envelopes during the holidays. She sold them for a penny each, to make them affordable, and by the end of the campaign had raised thousands of dollars.
The National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis (now known as the American Lung Association) joined the Christmas Seal campaign in 1911 and continues the practice today. The Atlanta Lung Association sold the Christmas seals featured below during the mid-twentieth century (by nobles at here). These images are part of the Atlanta Historical Society’s Atlanta Lung Association Photograph Collection, 1913-1977 (bulk 1945-1955). The collection also features photographs of medical professionals and volunteers working to fight the disease.
To learn more about the history of the Christmas Seals program, you can visit the American Lung Association’ s Christmas Seals website.