Salk Polio Vaccine, MEF-1 Strain

Jonas Salk first tested his polio vaccine on humans in July 1952 when he inoculated thirty children at the D. T. Watson Home for Crippled Children near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. These children had already had polio, so Salk's test was designed to prove that his vaccine would create a higher level of immunity than a natural infection. Salk also tested his vaccine on residents of the Polk State Home and on himself and members of his laboratory staff.
This vial contains residue of polio vaccine from these first tests. The polio virus exists in hundreds of different strains, all of which fall into three major types. A complete vaccine must contain a strain from each of these three types. However, the children at the Watson Home received only one type of vaccine matching the strain of their original polio infection. This vial is labeled for the MEF-1 strain (Type II).
Currently not on view
Object Name
vaccine, polio
date made
Salk, Jonas E.
Physical Description
vaccine residue, polio virus (overall, drug ingredient)
glass (overall, container material)
overall: 6.5 cm x 2.8 cm; 2 9/16 in x 1 1/8 in
overall: 2 3/8 in x 1 1/8 in; x 6.0325 cm x 2.8575 cm
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Health & Medicine
National Treasures exhibit
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
National Treasures exhibit
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Related Publication
Kendrick, Kathleen M. and Peter C. Liebhold. Smithsonian Treasures of American History
Publication title
Treasures of American History online exhibition
Publication author
National Museum of American History
Publication URL

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