Cartoon Histories – The Wellbee

Cartoons have often been used to inform and educate. The Wellbee was a popular mascot during the 190s. Wellbee, a cartoon bee, was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) national symbol of public health, and he appeared on many informative posters.
The Wellbee character appeared in many marketing campaigns, being featured in newspapers, printed on official CDC posters and leaflets, and even making radio and television announcements. Wellbee also made “personal” appearances at various public health events.
One of the first campaigns that Wellbee was involved with was the promotion of the Sabin Type II Orial Polio Vaccine – cunningly marketed with this carton, and the slogan “Get a booster!”:
For a cartoon images created in the 1960s, this one has held-up quite well. In fact, with the closure of the Space Shuttle program in favor of rockets, it’s almost as topical today as it was back then.
Another campaign which Wellbee ran in 1964 was one to encourage people to wash their hands more often, and to educate people in exactly how they should wash their hands:



Wellbee was also involved in campaigns to do with tetanus and diphtheria immunizations, physical fitness, and general injury prevention.
The clean and simple design of these posters is admirable. The font selection is clearly dated now, and the printing quality doesn’t stand up to modern standards, but Wellbee himself is instantly recognizable and highly memorable. In fact, many Twitter logos (and even the Fail Whale) use similar simple design elements. It would be nice to see a revival of this art style for modern posters. It’s far more attractive than the computer-generated mascots that are so popular today.
You can see the above cartoon posters, in addition to many others featuring Wellbee, at the Global Health Odyssey museum, which is run by the CDC.

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