WGBH Openvault

American Experience; Polio Crusade, The

Home Video Master

License Clip

More material is available from this program at the WGBH Archive. If you are a researcher interested in accessing the collection at WGBH, please email archive_requests@wgbh.org.

Undigitized item: Request Digitization

Untranscribed item: Request Transcription

American Experience
Polio Crusade, The
Program Number


Series Description

Premiered October 1988 As television's longest-running, most-watched history series, American Experience brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that helped form this nation. Now in its eighteenth season, the series has produced over 180 programs and garnered every major broadcast award. Series release date: 10/1988

Program Description

It was the largest public health experiment in American history- a crusade that eradicated one of the twentieth century's most dreaded diseases. The polio epidemic terrified Americans for decades, affecting thousands of children, leaving many crippled, paralyzed, or condemned to life in an iron lung. But on April 26, 1954, hope emerged. At the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia, six-year-old Randy Kerr stood at the head of a long line of children, and waited patiently while a nurse gently rolled up his sleeve, then filled a syringe with a cherry-colored liquid containing the world's first polio vaccine. Developed just a few years earlier by virologist Jonas Salk, the polio vaccine had not yet been widely tested on humans. No one was certain it was safe, or whether it could provide effective protection against the disease. In the coming weeks nearly two million school children in forty-four states received the shots. The Salk vaccine trials were the dramatic culmination of years of research and a multi-million dollar investment, made up in large part by public donations.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Chicago: “American Experience; Polio Crusade, The,” WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed April 26, 2019, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_01EDF6B6A57B49CCA15D42CFA4A45586.
MLA: “American Experience; Polio Crusade, The.” WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. April 26, 2019. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_01EDF6B6A57B49CCA15D42CFA4A45586>.
APA: American Experience; Polio Crusade, The. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_01EDF6B6A57B49CCA15D42CFA4A45586
If you have more information about this item, we want to know! Please contact us, including the URL.