Baltimore Smallpox Epidemic Collection
The Baltimore Smallpox Epidemic Collection comprises correspondence and financial records relating to an epidemic between 1871 and 1882. Topics of interest include smallpox vaccinations, measures taken to prevent the spread of the epidemic, including destruction of clothing and the quarantine of afflicted patients. There is also personal correspondence on the epidemic.
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This collection is open for research.
Baltimore Smallpox Epidemic Collection, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.
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In November 1871, a smallpox epidemic arose in Baltimore, Maryland, spread from Philadelphia. From March 1872 through July 1873, the epidemic killed more than 2,000 residents. In order to stop the spread of the disease, the Baltimore Commissioner of Health was granted the power to quarantine the afflicted in a Marine Hospital. In addition, the Baltimore Board of Health developed a plan of action to stem the spread of smallpox in the city. This plan included requiring police officers to report cases of smallpox discovered on their beat; investigations of new cases by Baltimore Health Department medical officers; the employment of sanitary inspectors to quarantine the sick and disinfect contaminated clothing, furniture, and houses; and vaccinations of the infected. When smallpox continued to spread despite these efforts, the Board of Health employed additional physicians to assist in vaccinating residents. From 1874 to 1881, Baltimore was almost free of smallpox, however, another epidemic broke out again in 1882 and lasted to 1883, during which time the disease killed more than 1,500 residents. During this period, the Commissioner of Health was given the power to require vaccinations, which were only voluntary during the 1872-1873 epidemic. As of July 1883, between 85 and 90 percent of Baltimore residents were vaccinated, and the rate of smallpox declined dramatically. Smallpox never again reached epidemic proportions in Baltimore since the outbreak of 1882-1883.
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The Baltimore Smallpox Epidemic Collection spans the years 1871 to 1882. The collection contains cancelled checks and receipts written by Health Commissioners of the Baltimore Board of Health, documentation of goods destroyed, and a docket of expenses from the Commissioner of Health. Also included is a letter expressing condolences to a sick friend as well as news of smallpox in Baltimore. Topics of interest include smallpox vaccinations, destruction of property due to smallpox, and the quarantine of afflicted patients.
Custodial History and Acquisition Information
The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the Baltimore Smallpox Epidemic Collection from Modern Age of Maryland, Inc. of Rockville, MD in 1990. The collection also includes former Maryland Manuscripts 3520 and 4995, whose provenance is unknown.
Processed by Steven Bookman, March 2007.
The materials were placed in acid-free folders and stored in an acid-free box.
EAD markup creating using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Steven Bookman.
Arrangement of Collection
The collection has been divided into two series:
Detailed Description of the Collection
Series 1: Correspondence, 1873 (1 item)
This series consists of a letter to Captain John McCready [McGready] from Hercila [Hercillia] Hicks expressing her concerns about his health. Hicks also expressed concern about smallpox coming to Baltimore and expressed the hope that the epidemic would end quickly.
|Description||Series||Box / Reel||Folder / Frame||Item|
|Correspondence, January 19, 1873||series 1||box 1||folder 1|
|Autograph letter written in Baltimore by Hercila [Hercillia] Hicks to Captain Jonathan McCready: News of smallpox in the city and regrets to a sick friend., January 19, 1873||series 1||box 1||folder 1||item 01|
Series 2: Business Records, 1871-1882 (22 items)
The bulk of this series consists of cancelled checks and receipts written by Baltimore Health Commissioners and the Baltimore Board of Health from 1871 to 1882. They document the destruction of clothing of infected residents during the epidemic, payment for vaccines, vaccination physicians, and advertising in the newspaper about the epidemic. A list of goods destroyed is also included. There is also documentation of expenses from the Baltimore Commissioner of Health for internments, burials, destruction of clothing, and moving patients to hospitals. Arrangement is chronological, and alphabetical for items with the same date.
|Description||Series||Box / Reel||Folder / Frame||Item|
|Business Records, 1871-1882||series 2||box 1||folder 2|
|Receipt signed by Patrick Lyons acknowledging reimbursement of $15.25 from the Baltimore Board of Health for the appraised value of articles taken due to proximity to Pat Lyons, who had smallpox, April 7, 1873||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 11|
|Receipt from John E. A. Cunningham for goods purchased by Mayor and City Council for Appeal Tax Court, February 18, 1871||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 01|
|Check and attached receipt from Milton Taylor, Health Commissioner of Baltimore to J. Cloud Norris for $10.50 for advertising in The Sunday Telegram on the Baltimore smallpox epidemic, November 14, 1871||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 02|
|Embossed cancelled check for $18.25 to L. Forrester from Dr. George W. Benson, Health Commissioner of Baltimore, for reimbursement of clothing burned due to smallpox. Embossed receipts signed by L. Forrester acknowledging receipt of $18.25, February 11, 1873||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 03|
|Embossed cancelled check for $10.60 paid to Taylor and signed by George W. Benson, Health Commissioner of Baltimore, authorized under the extra vaccination and smallpox clothing destruction resolution. Check signed on back by Eliza Taylor, February 12, 1873||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 04|
|Receipt from Dr. Theodore Cooke for payment of $72.00 from Dr. George W. Benson, Commissioner of Health, for 48 vaccines, February 18, 1873||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 05|
|Embossed cancelled check for $20.00 paid to Elizabeth Richardson by George W. Benson, Health Commissioner of Baltimore under the extra vaccination and smallpox clothing destruction resolution, February 18, 1873||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 06|
|Cancelled check for $50.00 paid to Dr. R. M. Hults by James A. Stewart, Health Commissioner of Baltimore. Attached is one handwritten receipt acknowledging payment for $50.00 for services as vaccine physician [for smallpox] of Third Precinct, Sixteenth Ward for one month, signed Robert M. Hults, March 7, 1873||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 07|
|Cancelled check for $10.50 paid to A. B. Engle from James A. Stewart, Health Commissioner of Baltimore, under the extra vaccination and smallpox clothing destruction resolution, April 7, 1873||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 08|
|Cancelled check for $15.25 paid to Pat Lyons from James A. Stewart, Health Commissioner of Baltimore, under the extra vaccination and smallpox clothing destruction resolution, April 7, 1873||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 10|
|One docket of expenses on two pages to Dr. W. Coleman from Dr. George W. Benson, Baltimore Commissioner of Health for internments, burials, moving patients to the hospital, and destroying clothing, October 1, 1882||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 20|
|Cancelled check for $7.20 paid to John A. Preston from James A. Stewart, Health Commissioner of Baltimore, under the extra vaccination and smallpox clothing destruction resolution, April 7, 1873||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 12|
|Receipt signed by John A. Preston acknowledging reimbursement of $7.25 from the Baltimore Board of Health for articles taken due to close proximity to Moses Fleetwood, who had smallpox, April 7, 1873||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 13|
|Signed receipt acknowledging payment of $26.00 from the Baltimore Board of Health in Baltimore for reimbursement of articles taken from Bridget Walsh, whose things were in proximity to William Walsh, who had smallpox, April 7, 1873||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 14|
|One list of goods and their value belonging to Joseph Burdick, which were destroyed by order of the Baltimore Board of Health during the smallpox epidemic in 1881. List is signed by Joseph Fitzpatrick and George E. Brown, Sanitary Inspectors., December 13, 1881||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 15|
|Document indicating reimbursement owed to Dr. Joseph Burdick for $20.35 by Dr. James A. Stewart, Commissioner of Health during 1881 epidemic. The document is signed by Joseph Burdick, Thomas Widgins, and as witness G. C. Vansant., December 15, 1881||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 16|
|Receipt from Strasburger & Son, Tailors and Clothiers, for goods purchased by the Marine Hospital Quarantine Station for $55.35 to replace clothes burned, August 3, 1882||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 17|
|Receipt from Strasburger & Son, Tailors and Clothiers, for goods purchased by the Marine Hospital Quarantine Station for $8.20 to replace clothes burned. Receipt signed by J. West Howard, August 12, 1882||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 18|
|Cancelled check for $153.85 from Appropriation for Marine Hospital to Strasburger & Son, signed by William Pinkney Whyte, Mayor of Baltimore, and George W. Benson, Baltimore Health Commissioner for clothing burned, September 4, 1882||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 19|
|Receipt signed by A. B. Engle acknowledging reimbursement of $10.50 from the Baltimore Board of Health for the appraised value of articles taken due to proximity to A. B. Engle, who had smallpox, April 7, 1873||series 2||box 1||folder 2||item 09|
Howard, William James, Jr., MD. Public Health Administration and Natural History of Disease in Baltimore Maryland. (Washington: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1924). (UMCP HBK Maryland Room, Maryland Stacks RA448.B3 H6). Includes statistics and dates on smallpox epidemics in Baltimore to 1920.
The Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, Maryland, holds a diary of Lucy Bronson 1881-1882 (MS 2753), a young girl from Baltimore, documenting her feelings during the smallpox epidemic. The society's holdings also include a vertical file entitled Minstrel Program, February 9, 1883, a ticket for a benefit for those infected by smallpox. Handwritten notes list jokes and songs to be included on the program. Also at the society is a copy of A Paper on Smallpox, written by J. (Johannes) Conrad (Baltimore: Innes & Company, 1874). (Maryland Historical Society Main Reading Room MP3.C754S). This book about smallpox in Baltimore was written immediately after the 1872-1873 epidemic.
For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.
Selected Search Terms
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.
- Epidemics -- Maryland -- Baltimore.
- Public health -- Maryland -- Baltimore
- Smallpox -- Maryland -- Baltimore
- Smallpox -- Vaccination -- Maryland -- Baltimore