Oliver Zunz, author of Philanthropy in America: A History, writes for the opinion pages of The New York Times about the origins of the Christmas Seals campaign to fight tuberculosis:
CHRISTMAS SEALS, first sold 104 years ago in a Delaware post office, transformed the treatment and control of tuberculosis, one of the most feared killers of the age.
Just as important, they produced a revolution in philanthropy. At that time, the 1 percent of the late Gilded Age, men with names like Carnegie and Rockefeller, were creating major new philanthropic institutions. Christmas Seals, in a way, was the response from the other 99 percent: by marketing something as inexpensive as a stamp and using the proceeds to attack a major disease, the founders of the Christmas Seals program demonstrated the collective power of the American public.