Event box

In Whose Best Interest? Children, Aspirin Poisoning, and the Pharmaceutical Industry, 1947-1976 | ARCHIVES TALK

In Whose Best Interest? Children, Aspirin Poisoning, and the Pharmaceutical Industry, 1947-1976 | ARCHIVES TALK In-Person

Join University of Pennsylvania nursing faculty and health historian Cynthia Connolly, PhD, RN, FAAN for a look into how big business set its marketing sights on little customers with flavored aspirin.


In September 1947, the bright orange-colored St. Joseph Aspirin for Children joined them amid a wave of creative marketing for what became known as candy aspirin. An immediate success, flavored low dose aspirin reshaped medical, nursing, and parental responses to pediatric fever and pain. Unfortunately, however, its popularity with children resulted in an unintended consequence—a 500% increase in aspirin poison rates within a few years. While pediatricians and public health activists argued for warning labels and reconfigured bottles that made it harder for children to access the pills, the aspirin industry challenged the problem’s existence and mounted a public relations campaign aimed at confusing the public.


This talk will analyze a complicated set of negotiations at the junction of science, commerce, and childhood. In an era rife with child protection rhetoric, debates surrounding children’s aspirin in the years between 1948 and 1973 reveal the competition among stakeholders to “speak” for children, the negotiations on how to determine children’s “best interests,” and what can happen when recommendations for children’s well-being challenge the bottom line of major corporations.



Cynthia Connolly, photo of authorCynthia Connolly, PhD, RN, FAAN loved being a pediatric nurse practitioner and a clinical nurse specialist. But from the day she discovered that she could combine her love of nursing with healthcare history, she began to focus on understanding and interpreting the historical forces that have shaped children’s healthcare delivery and family policy in the United States.



This event is brought to you by the UCSF Library Archives & Special Collections and the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine.

Archives Talks are free and open to the public. Light refreshments provided while supply lasts. 

Friday, Oct 18 2019
12:00pm - 1:30pm
Time Zone:
Pacific Time - US & Canada (change)
Rock Hall 102 Pottruck Auditorium
Mission Bay
  Archives and Special Collections  
Registration has closed.

Event Organizer

Profile photo of UCSF Archives Special Collections
UCSF Archives Special Collections