Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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March 26th
America Beats a Deadly Disease
The word polio terrified Americans during the first half of the twentieth century. The disease often struck children, killing its victims or leaving them crippled. During the summer, which seemed to bring the worst outbreaks, worried parents kept their children away from swimming pools, movie theaters, and other public places. Newspapers ran regular reports on new cases and deaths.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, crippled by the virus himself, rallied the country to fight the disease. Scientists worked around the clock to find a vaccine while Americans dug into their pockets and donated change to the March of Dimes to pay for research.

The miracle Americans had been praying for came on March 26, 1953. Dr. Jonas Salk announced on a national radio show that he had successfully tested a polio vaccine. To show that it was safe, he vaccinated himself and his own family.

Salk, the son of Polish immigrants, could have become rich from his discovery. But when asked who held the patent on the vaccine, he answered: “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

Within months, schoolchildren across the country were receiving the vaccine, and the number of polio cases began to drop. Dr. Albert Sabin developed a second polio vaccine, and the number dropped even further.

Scores of laboratories, thousands of doctors and nurses, and millions of Americans with their dimes and dollars worked together to bring an end to the summers of fear. By the close of the century, polio had been virtually eliminated in much of the world. The United States had taken on a cruel, deadly menace and won.

American History Parade
1885
The Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company of Rochester, New York, begins commercial production of flexible photographic film.

1953
Dr. Jonas Salk announces that he has successfully tested a vaccine against polio.

1979
At the White House, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat sign the Camp David peace treaty, brokered by President Carter, ending decades of hostilities between the two countries.

1982
Ground-breaking ceremonies are held for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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