Einar Holboll, a Danish postal clerk, thought of the idea of adding an extra charitable stamp during Christmas to help fight tuberculosis. 4 million stamps were sold in 1904 bearing the likeness of the Danish Queen and the word Christmas. After six years enough money was raised to build the Christmas Seal Sanatorium in Kolding. Eventually it was decided to put future money into convalescent homes for children.
On December 8th, 1907 Emily Bissell introduced am American Christmas Seal after learning about the Danish stamps. She designed the stamps herself and convinced local post offices to sell them for 1 cent. Although it took a while to catch on, she raised ten times what she had originally been seeking, $300 for the Brandywine Creek sanitarium.
Howard Pyle donated the design of the second stamp. The stamps became a national program administered by the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis and the American Red Cross. Eventually the Red Cross would leave the coalition and all of the money raised went to fight TB.
After World War II Tuberculosis became curable after the discovery of streptomycin. Emily Bissell got to see a cure that she had worked for, as she supported the Christmas Seal program until she died in 1948. It took years after this until the disease was fully in control in America. The organization broadened its scope and is now known as the American Lung Association, although Tb is common in parts of the world and is making a comeback with antibiotic resistant strains appearing.
Over the world there are almost a hundred different organizations that issue Christmas Seals. The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease hold contests among these organizations for the best designs. While many different charity organization issue seals or stamps, only lung disease organizations can officially issue Christmas Seals.
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