Please Do Not Spit

Unlike the scare tactics of Big Pharma today, encouraging you to take a pill if you’re sad, and another if you’re anxious, and another for every emotion known to man, tuberculosis was a legit concern in March 1928, when Met Life Ins. Company placed this ad below in National Geographic.

How terrifying it must have been, not knowing if it lay dormant in you, and you might pass it on to your babies.

Way back in 1884, Edward Trudeau had opened the first U.S. sanatorium at Saranac Lake, NY, and others soon followed, including this one in Denver. Can you imagine a doctor telling you to go out into the sunshine to receive UV rays?

Denver Public Library
Library of Congress

But progress was on the horizon, and it wasn’t click bait. The Met Life ad continued:

Think about what an exciting time that was. The readers of this announcement will not have to worry about TB. Have you ever worried about TB? Does it cross your mind? states that by the dawn of the 19th century, tuberculosis—or consumption—had killed one in seven of all people that had ever lived. Mindboggling.

Of course, it’s still a very real threat to those with HIV, their number one killer, in fact. Forbes stated, “In 2016, 10.4 million people became ill with active TB globally, and there were 1.7 million deaths from the infection. While ill, a person with active TB is likely to infect 10-15 others over a year’s time.” Still frightening, but not the threat that it was back in 1928. And the US did its best to keep the nation informed. The Met Life ad continued:

Fourteen years later, baseball player Larry Doyle would contract TB and enter the Trudeau Sanitorium in Saranac Lake. When they closed their doors in 1954 due to the development of an effective antibiotic treatment, Doyle was the last resident to leave, and Life Magazine captured his exit. He spent the rest of his life in Saranac Lake, and died there twenty years later, at age 87. Thank God for the cure.


11 thoughts on “Please Do Not Spit”

  1. When I was young a neighbor contracted TB and had to be isolated in a sanitarium. Everyone was concerned. I can’t recall how he fared. He wasn’t mentioned much after that.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I am a family historian and have an interest in disease (especially pandemics) so I keep a tally of death for my deceased family members. After being a casualty of war, TB is the biggest cause of death in my family history. Drowning is third. We are very lucky to live in an era and in places where TB is under control because we have access to treatments. There are, of course, places in the world where it is still killing terrible numbers of people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. I hope you can swim, and all your boys as well. Scary. By odd coincidence, I just finished transcribing an interview with a South African doctor talking about the AIDS epidemic and how TB is killing so many people there, how people won’t use condoms or get circumcised or stop trading sex for items, and how it’s out of control. A terrible way to go. Let’s both die in our sleep. Surely TB is done with your line.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m happy to report that nobody in my family has expired from TB in over a century. Yes, we can all swim. I’m from a long line of fishermen and traditionally they never learned to swim. One of my ancestors drowned with two of his sons when their boat capsized in water shallow enough that their bodies could be seen from the land.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. If you want to see how pervasive this disease is/was, Google “famous people with TB”. Eleanor Roosevelt, Tina Turner, Nelson Mandela, Ringo Starr. Cat Steven’s and on and on. Also Doc Holliday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Poor Ringo Starr spent two years recovering from it. I didn’t realize today that it was still such a big killer in the rest of the world. Why can’t they just do what we did 70 years ago? Sorry. I’m feeling snarky today.


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