Social Security Comic Books

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Nov. 27 2012 7:00 AM

Selling Social Security to Youth, One Comic Book at a Time

The Vault is Slate's brand-new history blog. Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @slatevault. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

The Social Security Administration’s website hosts full scans of comic books that the government published in the 1950s and 1960s in order to inform young citizens about their rights. These pamphlets were printed at a time when everyone was trying to reach kids through comics; government agencies were no exception.  

Why should young people care about Social Security? Some of these comics sold the program as a way that the government could help free young people from familial obligation. The crew-cut young men and well-dressed girls wanted to help parents in dire straits, but they shouldn’t have to. Social Security would make sure Tom wouldn’t have to skip engineering school to take over the family farm, and Janet wouldn’t have to postpone her wedding to earn money for her family. (Yes, Janet’s “dream” was marriage, even in a comic published in 1965; the 1950s died hard.)

Advertisement

The SSA also published a book of “factoids” that associated Social Security with celebrities (the program was “the world’s largest autograph collection”) and tried to impress with the program’s technological reach (the names were held on 2005 reels of microfilm!).

Page from Social Security comic book

From "Three Who Came Back!," 1965. Published by the Social Security Administration.

factoids

From "Social Security Factoids," 1965. Published by the Social Security Administration.

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Dec. 19 2014 4:15 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? Staff writer Lily Hay Newman shares what stories intrigued her at the magazine this week.