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

by J. H. Powell, Kenneth R. Foster, Mary F. Jenkins, Anna Coxe Toogood
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 1, 1993 0812214234 978-0812214239

In 1793 a disastrous plague of yellow fever paralyzed Philadelphia, killing thousands of residents and bringing the nation's capital city to a standstill. In this psychological portrait of a city in terror, J. H. Powell presents a penetrating study of human nature revealing itself. Bring Out Your Dead is an absorbing account, form the original sources, of an infamous tragedy that left its mark on all it touched.

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Bring Out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793 (Studies in Health, Illness, and Caregiving) + The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866
Price for both: $36.60

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Editorial Reviews


"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.

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: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #847,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Irrational behavior in the age of enlightenment November 24, 2000
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Odd Account of Little Known History March 29, 2006
By Gandalf
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars we learn from the past to gain in the present May 16, 2006
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you want real drama, this book has it. If you want characters of great strength on the one hand and great cads on the other, this book has that, too. What a story, all about a yellow fever epidemic that raged through Philadelphia in 1793--and how the population reacted to it. Some of the people in this drama are incredible. Take Stephen Girard, a man so wealthy that he left a bequeath for a school for orphan boys that still exists today, Girard College. Yet, he became personally involved in helping victims of a disease that no one understood and were deathly afraid of. There is Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who is convinced his way of treating people with the disease is valid even after some patients, no many patients die. There are the black, ex-slaves, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, who considered themselves equals in the City of Brotherly Love yet, who were so discriminated against by whites that they founded their own church, the African Methodist Episcopal church. They mobilize the black community of the city, too, to provide aide during the epidemic when the whites mostly fled. Again, what a wonderful, but tragic story this is. It is an exceptional book and a great story. How fortunate it is that J.H. Powell wrote it.
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