Public health messaging is tricky, as anyone who has been around for the past two years of COVID can attest. You need to strike the right balance between making people take a threat seriously, and not being so over the top that people dismiss your advice as scaremongering.
In the 1930s though, you just drew pictures of people peeing on electric lines and getting electrocuted via their penis.
People on Twitter are currently sharing their favorite public safety posters from times gone by, and they are largely amazing. The majority – including the boy who looks like his soul is leaving his body after experiencing the very real and common problem of peeing onto electrical lines – are, somewhat surprisingly, based on real accidents, as documented by the early 20th-century coroner Stefan Jellinek.
In 1899, Jellinek began what he called electropathological studies, or the study of electrical accidents, and dedicated much of his life to their treatment and prevention. As part of his work, he documented accidents that had taken place, and founded the Electropathological Museum in Vienna in 1909, "a collection about the processes and consequences of accidents involving electricity". It contained tissue samples collected from such accidents, as well as the depictions in cartoon form.
The accidents he documented varied from the unforeseeable to the "why are you mopping that wire?".
In 1938, Jellinek was forced to leave the museum behind, fleeing persecution from the Nazis on account of his Jewish heritage. He came to Britain, eventually had his collection returned to him, and continued to oversee the museum, traveling to Vienna several times a year.