Did you buy your Easter Seals?

By Stephen D. Bowling

For many years, beginning in 1935, the residents of Breathitt County and the City of Jackson worked together to raise money for underprivileged and disabled children. The annual event was part of a larger national-wide charitable drive that coincided each year with the Easter season. The effort, sponsored by numerous local agencies and individuals, had locals asking each other, “Have you gotten your Easter Seals yet?”

Founded in 1919 as the National Society for Crippled Children, the name “Easter Seals” was given to their fundraising program established in 1934. The program involved individuals and businesses selling “colorful adhesive seals, the size of postage stamps” during the months and weeks leading up to the annual Easter holiday. The small, stamp-like stickers could be attached to the back of envelopes, greeting cards, and other postal materials.

James H. Donahey, a cartoonist with The Cleveland Plain Dealer, designed the first Easter Seals stamp. Donahey chose a plain design that delivered a simple message consistent with the charity’s goal of fighting for the “disabled to have the right to live a normal life.”

During the first year, the seals sold for one cent each and raised more than $47,000 to benefit hospitals and other aid societies nationwide, including several children in Breathitt County. In 1935, the second year of the campaign, the Jackson Kiwanis Club sponsored the local drive, and the Easter Seals became a major fundraiser each year. Local businessman A. W. Brown chaired the 1935 campaign and worked hard to spread the word about the effort. The Jackson Times announced the campaign’s launch with an article on page one in March.

Crippled Seal Sale To Be Observed

Citizens throughout Kentucky will have an opportunity in the near future to give the State’s crippled child a “lift.” The opportunity to help this handicapped and needy boy or girl- and more than 12,000 others similarly afflicted will come with the observance of Crippled Children’s Week- April 7-13, when the Kentucky Society for Crippled Children renews its annual membership campaign and sponsors a sale of Easter Seals for the purpose of furthering the work being done by Kentucky Crippled Children Commission to promote the rehabilitation and general welfare of the crippled child.

A recent survey reveals that in the ranks of Kentucky crippledom, there are from 12,000 to 15,000 children. More than half of this number, it is estimated, can be corrected; one-third can be helped, and another one-third can be educated to be self-supporting.

Prentiss M. Terry, Chairman, has announced that the Society’s membership and Easter Seal Sale Campaigns will include every county in Kentucky, with the State being divided into 26 districts and centering, principally, in those localities where the Commission is conducting free clinical activities during the year. The chairman for Breathitt County is A. W. Brown; Bruce Rose, superintendent of Wolfe County schools, has been appointed chairman of that county.

The Jackson Times, Thursday, March 21, 1935, page 1
A newspaper update of the 1968 Easter Seals campaign was printed in the April 18, 1968 edition of The Jackson Times.

The sales of the stamps in 1935 started slow. nearly five days in, the Kiwanis Committee reported only $80.10 of the county goal of $100 had been raised. Brown and others doubled their effort in the final days of the sale and added locations and sellers. The following week, April 18, The Jackson Times reported success in the campaign and that Breathitt County’s first Easter Seal sale had raised $125.60, with several stamp sellers that had not returned their sales. Campaign officials hoped the delinquent totals would push the county over $140. When the final tallies were calculated, county residents purchased more than 15,000 Eastern Seals.

The seals became a popular tradition during Christmas and Easter seasons. Each year, Breathitt County worked hard to meet its quota and to continue the community’s generous support of the effort.

Nationally, the campaign took off. After a few years, the organization was so synonymous with the annual stamp sale that the National Society for Crippled Children officially changed its name to “Easter Seals” in 1967 and later to “Easterseals.” The funds raised by the annual sale of the small stamps helped support medical research and treatment for children with various disabilities. In 1952, the white lily was chosen as the official logo of Easter Seals because of its image as a Spring plant, the symbolism of renewal that the season brings, and the hope of new beginnings.

I am unaware of any local campaign that runs today, but Easter Seals was a significant part of the charitable giving each year for local residents. By 1956, Breathitt County had 12 children who were being treated at the Cardinal Hill Hospital in Lexington as the result of the campaign.

Breathitt County has always been a caring and giving community filled with people who support numerous charitable organizations, from Kiwanis, the Lions Club, the Masonic Lodge, and hundreds of other public service organizations. The long tradition of generosity still lives in Breathitt County in the hearts of its people. We saw it most recently during the recent floods, and I am sure we will continue to see the spirit of the Easter Seals when challenges arise. In the end, good people always do good things.

Happy Easter!

© 2023 Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Breathitt County, Businesses, Jackson, Traditions and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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