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Collection Exhibition Themes
“Beware Little Children”
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection
This image is part of the sheetmusic for the song “Beware Little Children,”written by Charles P. Hughes in 1924. Above the score for the song the publishers warn children about the dangers of the road by informing them of the following: “10,000 Little Children were killed by autos in 1924. 700,000 persons were injured—many for life. There are 12 principal Commandments of Safety. Keep these and you will be safe from accidents. Be sure to show your work to daddy and mother and your teacher. Be a little Apostle of Safety. Have your teacher form and ‘ABC’ Club, which means ‘Always Be Careful,’ and sing the Safety Song at home and in school." The song’s lyrics were laden with advice to avoid being hit by a car, but placed the onus of responsibility on the child, not the driver: “When you're playing in the street don't forget that danger's near/With the noise of scrambling feet you can't hear the cars appear/And soon the little friend you loved lies in pain/You may never see him again.”
Physical Description
Sheetmusic. Coloring page. The top half of the page shows a colored-in image of children playing on the sidewalk, and one of them falling in between two moving cars. The bottom half of the page is designed to be colored in by a child. In between the two images are the words “Commandment No. 1—Don't play on the street. Stay on the sidewalk or in your yard. The street is for autos. Autos are increasing. Streets are not. Therefore the street is dangerous at all times, and you must remember to ‘Always Be Careful.’” Copyright 1925 by F. J. Kroulik
Date Made:

In 1913, more than 4,000 people died in car accidents. By the 1930s, more than 30,000 people died every year. In an effort to lower accident and death rates, safety advocates stressed the Three Es: engineering, enforcement, and education. Since most safety advocates—like most Americans—assumed that careless people were the cause of wrecks, early safety efforts focused on educating drivers and pedestrians, rather than designing and producing safer automobiles and highways.

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