“whole families dying, and no one to nurse the last”

Following on yesterday’s post, the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia (1793) was cause for concern in other parts of the country. Isabella Graham, writing from New York, gave a heartrending description of the situation in that stricken city to a friend.

A pestilential fever made its appearance in Philadelphia about two months ago. Between the 19th of August and the 5th of October, four thousand and sixty-four of its citizens died, besides many who quitted the city with infection on them, and died elsewhere. By yesterday’s accounts matters are no better: several of the physicians have been carried off by it, and some of them have fled. Doctor [Benjamin] Rush’s praise is in every mouth; he is still in the city, exerting himself to the utmost, and his prescriptions are universally followed. No neighbouring town will suffer any person to enter their gates till they have been fourteen days out of the city. The stages have been stopped, and even the horses shot, in some cases, where they have been bribed to force their way through. The most dismal stories have been related of whole families dying, and no one to nurse the last. It is not uncommon for people to be well, and in their graves in twelve hours. No friends attend the funerals; most of them are buried in the night, and every precaution taken to conceal the real amount of evil.

It appears that one attempt to prevent the spread of the disease was the imposition of a quarantine.

The excerpt is from In the Words of Women, Chapter 6, page 180.

posted May 10th, 2012 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Death, Epidemics, Health, Medicine, Philadelphia


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