‘Poster child’ concept originated in Hickory

“In 1944 polio swept through defenseless communities…. The worst epidemic, near Hickory, North Carolina, would provide the first real test for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.

“The foundation agreed to equip and staff a makeshift polio hospital…. Like most polio epidemics, the one in Hickory faded with the cooling winds of fall. The  hospital had treated 454 patients.  All told, the foundation spent about $400,000 during the epidemic…..

“The publicity was priceless. ‘The Miracle of Hickory’ became a staple in future fund-raising efforts. Photographs of smiling victims were distributed nationwide. The caption read: ‘These are some of the Children your Dimes and Dollars Helped.’…Here were the first poster children….

“In 1946 the [National Foundation’s] March of Dimes introduced its first ‘official’ polio poster child. The idea was controversial….How did one portray a polio victim? As cheerful and optimistic or frightened and sad? … Guided by the ‘Miracle of Hickory’ campaign, the foundation chose option No. 1….”

–From “Polio: An American Story” (2005) by David M. Oshinsky