Polio in Appalachia


During the summer of 1944 an outbreak of poliomyelitis descended upon western North Carolina and Kentucky . For nearly a year both states were battling the epidemic until the spread of infection could be contained. Over the next 15 years there were several other epidemics.

Introductory Text: 

Sink, Alice . The Grit Behind the Miracle . Lanham , Maryland : University Press of America , 1998. APP COLL RC181.U6 N798.

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 
  • Poliomyelitis - Hospitals - North Carolina - Hickory -- History
  • Poliomyelitis - Hospitals - Kentucky -- History
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • RC.180
  • RC 181

Bridges, Wake. Hickory is One Hell of a Town . Lakemount , GA : Copple House Books, c1982. NC 975.6785 BRI 113478.

Gould, Tony. A Summer Plague: Polio and its Survivors. New Haven : Yale University Press, 1995. RC 180.9.G68.

Mason, Martha. Breath: Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung: A Memoir . Asheboro , NC : Down Home Press, 2003. ISSN 1878086952 (no LC number available from the Catawba County Library System).

Paul, John R. A History of Poliomyelitis . New Haven : Yale University Press, 1971. RC 180.9.P38.

Sass, Edmund J., George Gottfried, and Anthony Sorem, eds. Polio’s Legacy: An Oral History . Lanham MD: University Press of America , 1996. RC 181.U5 P65.

Sink, Alice . The Grit Behind the Miracle . Lanham , MD : University Press of America , 1998. APP COLL RC 181.U6 N798


Register of the Kentucky Historical Society . Vol. 87.1. Refers to the polio epidemics in Kentucky and its effects on the people of Kentucky .

Filson Club History Quarterly . Vol. 74.4. Includes an article on the Kentucky polio epidemic.

Audio and Video Sources: 

Eller, Richard, Dir. Way Back When: The Miracle of Hickory - The 1944 Polio Epidemic . Prod. Richard Eller, Iron Boot Productions and Prime Cable Productions. Hickory , NC : Charter Communications, 1997. .

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Dare Cook, 30 November 2004