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At times it is difficult to believe that tuberculosis was so prevalent a disease at the turn of this century. Medical science was increasing its knowledge of causes and treatment of the disease. Humanitarian efforts within the private sector were attempting to address the victims’ suffering. However, state support was slow in coming.

The Delaware Anti-Tuberculosis Society was formed in 1904, largely due to the efforts of Dr. John J. Black, co-founder of the National Tuberculosis Association. Private funding and the support of Alfred I. duPont eventually helped erect a treatment facility on the Brandywine River, the Brandywine Sanitarium, with a capacity for eight patients.1

By 1909, lobbying by the society for support had convinced the Delaware Legislature not only to create the Delaware State Tuberculosis Commission but also to appropriate $15,000 annually to support its goals. The commission was granted the authority to send indigent consumptive patients to sanatoria for treatment and to pay for such treatment. In addition, the commission was to establish a treatment dispensary in each county.2

The original nine members of the commission were also officers or members of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society. However, by 1910 the Society, which had continued to take in state referrals, threatened the state with termination of services if payments were not made.3

Frustrated by minimal state support and being barely able to make ends meet with private funding (the sale of Emily Bissell’s Christmas seals being the most reliable source of income), the commission in the early 1920’s again lobbied to have the Brandywine Sanitarium placed under state control.4

The legislature finally responded favorably with two separate actions. In 1923, the Tuberculosis Commission was dissolved and its duties and responsibilities assumed by the State Health and Welfare Commission (RG 1536).5 The second action by the legislature was the formal takeover of the Brandywine Sanitarium by the state in July, 1925.6 It became part of the Emily Bissell Hospital Facility.

The work of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society continued into the 1950’s and 1960’s, with the Christmas Seals annual program carrying on their fund-raising efforts. At present, the Bureau of Disease Control within the Public Health Division of the Department of Health and Social Service has only one staff member assigned to tuberculosis control statewide, reflecting the 99.6% decline in reported tuberculosis causes worldwide from 1900 to 1985.7

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1 A History of the Delaware Anti-Tuberculosis Society 1904-1954, pp. 2-3.

2 25 DL, ch. 74.

3 A History of the Delaware Anti-Tuberculosis Society 1904-1954, pp. 11-12.

4 Ibid.

5 33 DL, ch. 57.

6 34 DL, ch. 67.

7 1988 Information Please Almanac, p. 793.

jrf; September 14, 1988; November 9, 1988; January 3, 1989.