Apr 22, 2006

Avoiding Cholera: 1849 Advice from Toledo Blade


While working in the archives today I came across the following poem - no author was listed - in the June 16, 1849 edition of the Toledo Blade.

Anti-Choleric Prescriptions

Don't get in a fluster and go on a buster,
nor allow yourself to be terrified;
But keep a cool head, and never be liked,
to join a hurrah and a spree.

If a sparking you go, and we know you do so,
keep an eye on the time as it flies;
And now do you see, don't stay later than three,
if you are anyways modelly wise.

Don't dread it all, be ye young or small,
neither be overly rash;
But keep calmly on, as ye always have done,
and avoid eating acid and trash.

Be tidy and clean, avoid everything green,
whether it be cabbage or krout;
And quite skimming you'll go, if you take for a motto:
"always know what you're about."

At the time the understanding of cholera was that the disease struck person so flow character, and that the disease was spread in a miasmic fashion; that is, foul odors wafting from putrefying garbage, dead bodies of victims, and through poor hygiene.

We have since learned that cholera is a water-borne disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The microbes are ingested by drinking contaminated water, or by eating improperly cooked fish and shellfish.

On the same day that this poem ran, the city of Toledo released this report:

Board of Health, June 21st.
There has been no case of cholaera in this city up to this time. The report in circualtion this morning as to there being some cases on canal boats just arrived, is without foundation. By order of the Board.

Of course, every other city in the eastern half of the US was reporting the epidemic. Here is a sampling from the telegraph postings on the same day in the Blade:

BY TELEGRAPH For the Blade by O'Rielly's Line

New York, June 23
48 cases and 11 deaths by cholera since last report.

Cincinnati, June 22
C.M. Clay, at the last accounts, was in a fair way of recovering. Cholera has assumed a more general form. Several very respectable citizens have died.

Richmond, June 21
Four cases of Cholera and one death.

St. Louis, June 22
Accounts have reached here, of a renewal of disturbances between the emigrants and Indians, and a number of both have been killed. Cholera was making sad havoc among the emigrants. Parties of stragglers are daily returning.

Buffalo, June 23
Cholera, 6 cases and 2 deaths in the last 24 hours.

Toledo did not officially admit any cases until mid-July 1849. This was a common practice among municipalities - report the epidemic elsewhere, but deny that the disease was manifest "in our fair city." This sort of head-in-the-sand thinking likely prolonged and worsened the ravages of cholera.


Hooda Thunkit said...

Cholera was everywhere, except it was NIMBY...

Yeah, who would want to admit that there were cases of cholera here.

Civic pride = Civic foolishness.

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