Image of the Week: Convincing Facts
How do you convince people that they should do something? Especially if it is something they don’t want to do, or they don’t believe in?
Perhaps with capital letters, powerful statistics, and exclaiming ‘Convincing Facts!’ to make sure everyone pays attention. That is the approach used in this week’s image.
This framed poster appeared as an article in The Times on 25 July 1923, when a smallpox epidemic was raging across Gloucester. The Times had previously implored people to be vaccinated against the disease: the paper’s medical correspondent wrote in 1922 that campaigns opposing smallpox vaccination were ‘stupid and mischievous propaganda… (with) evil effects’.
This poster demonstrates a slightly different approach, marshalling statistics to try and persuade ‘those who disbelieve in vaccination’ to think again.
The poster’s striking appearance, with arresting capital letters, is designed to stress the gravity of the matter. In 1896, over 400 people had died in Gloucester from a huge smallpox epidemic. In both 1896 and 1923, Dr Walter Hadwen led an anti-vaccine campaign purporting to denounce the ‘Fraud of Vaccination’. In this context, the poster in The Times was part of a bitter debate about the merits of vaccination.
Nearly a century on, vaccinations still have the capacity to spark public debate, most notably when MMR was incorrectly linked with autism in 1998. Parents opting out of their children having the MMR vaccination led to an increase in the number of measles cases in the UK.
Thankfully there has not been a known case of smallpox since 1978 – showing the success of the vaccination programme against it. It is interesting to compare the style of posters promoting vaccination against smallpox in Turkey in the 1930s and Nigeria in the 1950s with this one.
Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. All our images are available in digital form and many are free to use non-commercially under the terms of a Creative Commons licence.