Dead Flies Wanted!


Dead Flies Wanted!


In May of 1912, the Paris, KY Civic League executed what was thought to be a brilliant plan to exterminate flies. The organization offered cash prizes to boys and girls who turned in the largest number of dead flies by June 8, 1912. Supposedly, the plan had been used successfully in a number of U.S. cities, and Cincinnati, OH was conducting their campaign at the same time as Paris. Leading up to June 8th, the dead flies would be turned in weekly, and the Paris Civic League would pay each child 10 cents per pint of dead flies. Each cache was to be turned in at the basement of the Paris Public Library on Saturdays between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. There would be a committee in the basement that would keep an accurate record of the quantity of dead flies turned in by each child. On the day of the deadline, June 8, 1912, the boy or girl who turned in the most dead flies would receive the prize of $10. The second place prize was $5. The third place prize was $3, 4th place $2, and 5th place $1. After the distribution of the prizes, the Paris Civic League would continue to pay 10 cents per pint of dead flies until further notice. The timing of the dead flies campaign was said to be early, before the flies started breeding. The newspaper article announcing the dead flies campaign gave tips on the types of traps and techniques for enticing, catching, and killing flies. “Those caught with sticky fly paper cannot be used.” Today, we may read about the dead flies campaigns with disbelief. But, it was not widely known in 1912 that it was a health risk to encourage children to catch, kill, and collect dead flies. Flies are loaded with bacteria and are carriers of typhoid fever, cholera, and dysentery. There are much healthier ways to get rid of flies than was attempted in 1912.


Champ & Miller




1. “League offers reward for flies,” Bourbon News, 1912-05-10, p.3.
2. "Are flies the cause of disease?" A Very Well Health web page.
3. "Chapter4: Disease Vectors and Pests" A Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web page.


Reinette Jones, University of Kentucky Librarian & African American Studies Academic Liaison


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