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Lazaretto

How Philadelphia Used an Unpopular Quarantine Based on Disputed Science to Accommodate Immigrants and Prevent Epidemics

David Barnes

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How the controversial practice of quarantine saved nineteenth-century Philadelphia after a series of deadly epidemics.

In the 1790s, four devastating yellow fever epidemics threatened the survival of Philadelphia, the nation's capital and largest city. In response, the city built a new quarantine station called the Lazaretto downriver from its port. From 1801 to 1895, a strict quarantine was enforced there to protect the city against yellow fever, cholera, typhus, and other diseases. At the time, the science behind quarantine was hotly contested, and the Board of Health in Philadelphia was…

How the controversial practice of quarantine saved nineteenth-century Philadelphia after a series of deadly epidemics.

In the 1790s, four devastating yellow fever epidemics threatened the survival of Philadelphia, the nation's capital and largest city. In response, the city built a new quarantine station called the Lazaretto downriver from its port. From 1801 to 1895, a strict quarantine was enforced there to protect the city against yellow fever, cholera, typhus, and other diseases. At the time, the science behind quarantine was hotly contested, and the Board of Health in Philadelphia was plagued by internal conflicts and political resistance. In Lazaretto, David Barnes tells the story of how a blend of pragmatism, improvisation, and humane care succeeded in treating seemingly incurable diseases and preventing further outbreaks.

Barnes shares the lessons of the Lazaretto through a series of tragic and inspiring true stories of people caught up in the painful ordeal of quarantine. They include a nine-year-old girl enslaved in West Africa and freed upon arrival in Philadelphia, an eleven-year-old orphan boy who survived yellow fever only to be scapegoated for starting an epidemic, and a grieving widow who saved the Lazaretto in the midst of catastrophe. Spanning a turbulent century of immigration, urban growth, and social transformation, Lazaretto takes readers inside the life-and-death debates and ordinary heroism that saved Philadelphia when its survival as a city was at stake. Amid the controversy and tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic, this surprising reappraisal of America's historic struggle against deadly epidemics reminds us not to neglect old knowledge and skills in our rush to embrace the new.

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Lazaretto

David Barnes

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Book Details

Release Date
Publication Date
Status
Preorder
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
304
ISBN
9781421446448
Illustration Description
33 b&w photos
Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Grace Under Pressure
Part I: Struggling for Survival, 1793-1803
1. The Nation's Capital at Rock Bottom, 1793-1798
2. Righteousness and Desperation in 1799
3. A New

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Grace Under Pressure
Part I: Struggling for Survival, 1793-1803
1. The Nation's Capital at Rock Bottom, 1793-1798
2. Righteousness and Desperation in 1799
3. A New Lazaretto, 1800-1801
4. Exodus (Again) and Compromise, 1802-1803
5. A Regime of Vigilance "to Banish from Among Us Even the Apprehension of Disease"
Part II: Managing the New Normal, 1804-1847
6. "Expedient" Measures and Rioting Redemptioners, 1804
7. A Mischievous Boy
8. "This Inhuman Traffic"
9. Fencing Off Neighborhoods
10. "Detained On Account of Her Hides"
11. "Brought to Our Shores by the Cupidity of Others"
12. The Care Cure
Part III: Crisis, Statesmanship, and Decline, 1853-1895
13. "Gross and Criminal Negligence" at the Lazaretto, 1853
14. The Darkest Hour
15. Quarantine, a Political Minefield
16. The Final Days, 1888-1895
17. Afterlives
Afterword: Did Quarantine Work?
Acknowledgements
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

David S. Barnes

David Barnes (PHILADELPHIA, PA) is an associate professor of the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Great Stink of Paris and the Nineteenth-Century Struggle against Filth and Germs.