Boston in the Time of Cholera (episode 161)


Boston in the Time of Cholera (episode 161)

Cholera is a truly horrifying disease, with severe diarrhea causing death through dehydration, while the patient remains awake and in agony. The disease is carried by fecal bacteria, so it’s virtually unknown in highly developed countries today, because of our sophisticated sewage and drinking water systems.

Back in 1849, Boston had just begun to address its drinking water needs, with the Cochituate aqueduct opening the year before. We had not, however, even begun to deal with our sewage. In most of Boston, raw sewage ran in open gutters down the sides of the street. When the first major cholera epidemic hit Boston in the summer of 1849, hundreds died. There were no antibiotics or IV rehydration to treat victims with. Instead, the city government took a public health approach that was focused on sanitation first.

Please check out the transcript and full show notes at: And support the show on Patreon. Boston in the Time of Cholera Boston forms a Board of Health Commissioners in response to the threat of a cholera epidemic in 1832 The Board of Health Commissioners gives terrible advice on how to avoid contracting cholera The 1849 Internal Health Department report on the cholera epidemic Map showing concentrations of cholera infections near Fort Hill, in the North End, and along the South Cove in 1849, highlighted below 1852 map that includes the location of Half Moon Court, detail shown below. 1852 map detail showing location of Half Moon Court1869 map outlining how the city counsel would redraw the street grid to eliminate Half Moon Court and similar alleys. An 1849 editorial in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal that basically blames Irish immigrants for their own health problems.

Dr. JH McCollum’s 1892 “Observations on Cholera” in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal Report on the 1866 outbreak of cholera in Boston Ball, Laura. “Cholera and the Pump on Broad Street: The Life and Legacy of John Snow.” The History Teacher GF Pyle’s “The Diffusion of Cholera in the United States in the Nineteenth Century” Cholera hits Boston in 2011 A summary of how cholera completely decimated Boston, Indiana in 1849 Boston Book Club Public Health in the Town of Boston, 1630-1822 is an extensive study of Boston’s battle against epidemic disease in the years between English colonization and incorporation as a city that was published in 1959 by Dr. John Blake.

We didn’t even know this book existed until recently, but once we discovered it, we realized we had missed out on an important book. I can’t believe that we released two different episodes about the 1721 smallpox epidemic, not to mention the Spanish flu, without consulting this volume. It’s exhaustively researched, tying Boston’s struggles with smallpox, yellow fever, and dysentery to advances in medicine and broader historical themes. Here’s how the Harvard University Press describes the book: In this book, based almost exclusively …Read less

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