An American Plague

This dramatic account of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 is riveting. It is packed with historical facts and presents the horror of the disease, the implications for the city of Philadelphia and neighboring areas, and the reaction of both the townspeople as well as those in power with vivid detail.

Politicians, the medical community, common people, orphans, the poor are all brought to life before our eyes and we feel their pain, we share their misery, and we gain insight into what life was like for them during this terrifying time.

Author Jim Murphy chronologically follows the beginning of this epidemic, making us feel as if we were actual witnesses to this American Plague, using quotes from those who were there, newspaper clippings, period engravings and portraits.

Additionally, we are shown true acts of courage and selfless behavior as Mr. Murphy tells us of great men and woman who risked their lives to help their fellow people, and some who ultimately sacrificed their lives. He also unravels the controversies, particularly among the medical community in regards to the reaction to the disease and discusses bloodletting, ingesting poisons, bathing in vinegar, purging air with gunpowder, inhaling black pepper as well as other practiced modes of treatment.

Some people may find the descriptions of the disease and the progression of the illness horrifying, but it is truth nonetheless, Yellow fever is nothing short of horrific. I believe this fascinating book is truly deserving of the many awards it has earned (Newbery Honor, National Book Award finalist, The Robert F. Siberi Medal.) This very visual and brilliantly written book is a great tool for you to use in teaching this part of our nation’s history to your children.

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