Syphilis Propaganda

Untitled document Back before AIDS and HIV, before the invention of antibiotics, the Big Bad that haunted sexuality was syphilis. Untreated syphilis is a truly monstrous thing, that ultimately leads to madness, blindness, and extreme disfigurement. And like AIDS, because it was a sexually-transmitted disease, it took decades before it was treated with anything like compassion; puritans found it useful as a device to control the sexuality of the masses, and attempts to treat it were often opposed as promoting promiscuity (is any of this sounding vaguely  familiar?)

Ethan Persoff, whose web site has perhaps one of the best collections of graphic ephemera on the Internet, has twenty anti-syphilis health posters from the 1940's.  In their approach, they range from fear-mongering misogyny to enlightened compassion, and are simultaneously products of their time and strangely modern. One of the most interesting to me is the green one below, with the caption "Stomp Out Syphilis!" Note that it lists several hospitals for treatment and testing, indicating which ones are "Colored Only" and which are "Whites Only."

syphillis-05.jpg    syphillis-01.jpg   syphillis-09.jpg   

syphillis-14.jpg    syphillis-17.jpg     syphillis-18.jpg  


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