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History of Medicine

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Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Varieties of Medical Ephemera
Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Varieties of Medical Ephemera banner. Here Today, Here Tomorrow is written in brown lettering above Varities of Medical Ephemera written in blue letter. Addiction written in blue lettering below an image of a woman laying in a bed with two children at her side. AIDS written in blue lettering below a red AIDS ribbon Bookplates written in blue lettering below an illustration of a man leaning against a stack of books holding a rod of Asclepius in his left hand. Children written in blue lettering below a color image of a boy sitting in a chair playing doctor on a dog lying on a table while three girls look on. Medical Education written in blue lettering below an illustration of a doctor making patient rounds in a hospital with three students attending. Medicine Show written in blue lettering below a color illustration of the cover of Graphic Scenes Kickapoo Indian Life in the South and West. Public Health written in blue lettering below a diagonal half white half black illustration with a cigarette in the center surrounded by a red circle with a line through it. The bottom right black diagonal has Thank you for not smoking here written in white lettering. Tuberculosis written in blue lettering below a predominantly blue poster with white and yellow lettering. In the center is an illustration of Santa Claus holding a little girl in one arm and an oversized Christmas seal in the other hand. Buy Christmas Seals Fight Tuberculosis is in yellow lettering at the bottom. Women written in blue lettering below a black and white image of a woman standing and taking the pulse of a man sitting in a chair. In the upper left corner are the words The Lady Doctor in black lettering.


This on-line version of Here Today, Here Tomorrow... presents a variety of printed medical ephemera from the collections of William H. Helfand and the National Library of Medicine. The exhibit was held at the National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland, May 22 through September 11, 1995.

The exhibit presents a lively and colorful collection of medical and pharmaceutical ephemera, dating from the 18th century to the present and contains nearly 400 items, including posters, informational pamphlets, trade cards, handbills, postcards, broadsides, and other types of printed ephemera. Over 140 representative items are displayed in this online exhibit. The exhibit is organized around a number of themes and categories - women, children, the medicine show, public health, AIDS, tuberculosis, medical education, and addiction. Also highlighted is a rich and varied collection of medical, dental, and pharmaceutical bookplates.

Here Today, Here Tomorrow... is designed to celebrate the importance of medical ephemera, those transitory and commonplace documents of everyday life which were not meant to survive, but surprisingly did. Tickets of admission to events long past, posters warning about unsafe health practices, advertisements for products no longer marketed, and booklets reviewing medical procedures and practices no longer necessary serve as reminders of an earlier time and offer insights to the historical past in a direct and revealing way.

Much of the ephemera displayed in this exhibit is plainly utilitarian, but certain items such as engraved trade cards or chromolithograph sheet music covers are attractive and have a certain measure of artistic appeal. But the content outweighs the form in adding to our understanding of medical activities of the past and present. Contemporary medical ephemera, such as that generated in response to the AIDS epidemic, sends a forceful reminder of this continuing public health crisis. Posters, bumper stickers, educational pamphlets, political leaflets and informational buttons are testimony to the massive outreach efforts aimed at all levels of society to inform and educate the public in preventive measures, as well as to provide hope and support for the victims of the epidemic.

Last Reviewed: January 25, 2024