The most lethal epidemic disease of the twentieth century was the so-called Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. The American death toll may have reached as high as one million. Mortality in Pennsylvania, as in other states, ran into the thousands. Analyzing the response of different cities in widely varying regions within one state aids the historian in analyzing how private citizens and public institutions met what was perhaps the single worst calamity to befall their community.
This paper hopes to illuminate techniques, circumstances, and ideologies that may have made a difference in the responses disparate communities had when this modern plague visited. Differential responses between these communities help to illustrate the state of medicine in the early twentieth-century, as well as the ability of cities to react to an emergency the likes of which had not occurred within living memory.
Jim Higgins is a doctoral student in the Department of History at Lehigh University. While earning his Masterís at Duquesne University he became interested in epidemics and their effects on urban America. His thesis chronicled the 1918 influenza epidemic, its effect on Pittsburgh, and the ways in which local government responded to the disease. At Lehigh, Jim has continued his interest in the epidemic and is currently researching the manner in which influenza was responded to by differently-sized cities. He has begun work on his dissertation topic, which will be a narrative on the diseaseís course in Pennsylvania, as well as various urban-based responses to the epidemic.
There is no pre-circulated paper for this seminar, which is free and open to all. For further information and to RSVP, please contact Ed Morman (via email or phone).
Wood Institute for the History of Medicine
The College of Pgysicians of Philadelphia
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