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Bring Out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793 (Studies in Health, Illness, and Caregiving)

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0812214239
ISBN-10: 0812214234
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A brilliant and model treatment of one of the most macabre incidents in American History."—New York Herald Tribune



"A brilliant case study of the visitation of the scourge in Penn's city."—American Historical Review



"A fascinating history of Philadelphia's great plague. Historian Powell's conscientious grubbing among the records pays off with a cumulative effect of horror and heroism seldom found in the most artful fiction."—Time



"Unique in its weaving of the timeless aspects of human behavior with an authentic account of a major epidemic in American and medical history, this book is carefully researched and a very good read."—Nursing History Review

About the Author

John Harvey Powell (1914-1971) graduated from Swarthmore College and earned his Ph.D. degree in American History at the University of Iowa. Kenneth R. Foster is Associate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Mary F. Jenkins is a Supervisory Park Ranger and Supervisor of the Dolley Todd Madison House and Visitor Center at Independence National Historical Park. Anna Coxe Toogood is Park Historian at Independence National Historical Park.
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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Health, Illness, and Caregiving
  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (June 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812214234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812214239
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #639,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Obviousely by what was written from the first reviewer he has no medical knowledge. This book portrays a disasterous time in Philadelphia that was repeated several times thereafter. However, the medical treatment in this time was based on the humours of the body : black bile, yellow bile, blood and phelgm. They utilized bloodletting and mercury concoctions to purge the body of "pestilence".

This book tells the story of the time of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793. It paints a picture of a time where cleanliness wasn't exactly up to par and nor was the medical care. At the time Philadelphia was thought to have the leading field in medicine, however the doctors were not prepared for that kind of crisis. There was many theories about what was causing the sickness. In that time they believed that rotting coffee brought overseas was the reason why people were falling ill. Another believed that it was unseen vectors in the air.

That summer many french refugees from the island of santa domingo arrived telling tales or a horrid fever. That July was when the fever struck; people had violent fever, yellow skin and black vomit. They usually died within a few days. When the frost finally arrived that November and killed the mosquitoes (that were the cause of it) one-tenth of the citys residents had died.

I highly recommend this book. It paints a clear picture of an effect of an epidemic in a time when not much could be done.
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This is a great story, full of familiar people (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson), life and death situations, bravery, cowardice, avarice, public hysteria, and stupidity. The author chose to focus on the drama of the event and the clash of medical authorities. But it seems to me that an even greater story lies in the mystery of why no serious effort was made to solve the mystery. That is, given that no one knew what caused the sudden and inexplicable death of thousands of America's finest citizen's, why was the scientific method not applied? Instead, the medical profession selected a host of mostly disastrous therapies, mainly lethal doses of mercury and bloodletting. Possibly as many people died from the "cures" as from the disease. What does this event tell us about our society's willingness to accept authority and mysticism, when a small dose of knowledge would go a whole lot further? This is a fascinating if horrifying portrait of our culture, as well as a great read.
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Frequently when we study history we fail to realize how fragile health was in pre technological early American life. Yellow fever worked its manevolence on the average of an outbreak every 10 years back in the 18th century. The plague of 1793 was particularly bad, and here is its chronicle. The writer, John Powell, was a scholar and reasearch director of the Free Library of Philadelphia. With access to the papers of Dr. Benjamin Rush his account is a factual, and thougough study of the great plague. It is fully indexed, illustrated, and annotated; with an interesting editor's preface in addition to the author's preface, and afterwards.
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I bought this book, lost it bought another and then lost that one. So, now I am on my third copy of it, but if I lose it, I will buy another because this is such a fascinating story. By that I mean the story of a yellow fever epidemic that swept Phildaelphia in 1793. It is high drama from a local and national view at the time. The local is that of the public officials trying to effectively deal with the plague that eventaully kills more than 5,000 of the town's citiznes. Another local angle, but with larger implications, is the coverage of the black or negro role in the plague. The blacks came to have a prominent role, primarily because of two men who founded what must have been the first black Methodist church--the sect from which the rest of the black Methodist churches sprang. One of the very interesting threads in the book is how these two black men (former slaves) viwed themselves as equal to the whites of the city. Their viewws, for that time, I found fascinating because I thought that all black people of the period, particularly former slaves, must have had an inferior view of themselves. These men did not, yet as they tried to be equal to the whites in the city, at one point, the whites shunned them even made it clear that they, the whites, did not feel them equal. That's when they formed their own church. I do not have the book right at my side at this moment, so, sadly, I do not remember their names. There are pictures of them in the book, or at least one of them, too, that are presented as white men would have been presented at the time, too. These men came to have a major role in the plague by having black citizens help the city by removing and burying bodies. This came about, in part, because of the view that blacks were not as prone to get the disease as whites.Read more ›
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By A Customer on September 26, 2000
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I ENJOYED READING THE BOOK, AND RECCCOMEND IT TO ANYONE WHO ENJOYS READING REAL HISTORY. PROVIDES A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE/ACCOUNT OF PHILADELPHIA, AND THE REACTION TO A PROBLEM THAT REACHES INTO EVERY CORNER OF THE CULTURE.
MANY GREAT PEOPLE STRUGGLED TO GET PHILADELPHIA THROUGH THESE DAYS!
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