1. When the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 ravaged Philadelphia, then largest city in US and its capital, 20,000 fled, including founding fathers like Washington and Hamilton. Aquaintainces avoided each other. Poor black residents stayed behind and helped stricken white residents.
2. Jefferson loathed dense cities and the epidemic firmed his ideas on urban design (as new capital DC was being planned). To his James Madison, Jefferson wrote in 1787, “When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as in Europe.”
3. “The mobs of great cities,” Jefferson wrote, “add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body. A canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.” Jefferson believed cities ruin health, republics.
5. Doctors also disagreed about treatment, with some advocating bleeding and purging while others proposed teas and cold baths. Regardless, nothing was working to stem the yellow fever crisis in 1793. (Sound familiar?) Rush beseeched all "that can move, to quit the city."
6. Thomas Jefferson observed: "Everybody who can, is fleeing from the city, and the panic of the country people is likely to add famine to the disease." Hamilton left also but not before contracting the disease. He recovered but as he fled to Albany was treated as an outcast.
7. Acquaintances and friends avoided each other in the street. In some households, family members were banished into the street when they complained of a headache, a common precursor to yellow fever. "Parents desert their children as soon as they are infected.”
8. Most black residents of Philadelphia remained in the city and helped the stricken white residents (under the mistaken belief that black people were immune to yellow fever). The belief in immunity turned out to be unfounded; 240 black residents died of yellow fever.
9. On September 12, 1794, Mayor Clarkson warned a group of citizens that Philadelphia was approaching anarchy. The city's burial grounds were nearly filled. Meanwhile, cities in surrounding states established quarantine houses or roadblocks to stop Philadelphians from entering.
10. On October 31, 1793, a white flag flew over the Philadelphia city hospital, signifying that no yellow fever patients remained. The disease caused an estimated 5,000 deaths that year in Philadelphia, about a tenth of the residents of the city and its suburbs.
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