NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. III, No. 2, Summer, 1947
OUR FOREFATHERS TACKLE AN EPIDEMY—THE CHOLERA OF 1832
Samuel Hopkins Adams
COLUMNS OF thick, black smoke rising into the upstate
New York skies attracted the critical attention of visiting
Britishers in the summer of 1832. The tourists surmised
that the “Yankee ignorami” were propitiating evil spirits with
votive fires. They were mistaken. The populace was endeavoring
to protect itself against a threatening pestilence.
Cholera Asiatica had jumped the Atlantic early in the year
and broken out, first in Canada, then in Phi1adelphia and New
York. Central New York, vigilant but unterrified, prepared to
combat it. The region was not unversed in the strategy of epidemics.
Typhus had been brought in, early in the 1820s, by the
“redemptioners,” degraded contract labor shipped from Europe
to the hemp fields, minteries, and merino farms of the western
regions. “Croup,” for which read malignant diphtheria, had ravaged
die settlements and had been followed by “spotted” (scarlet)
fever. Smallpox was a recurrent scourge. Cholera was something
The stouthearted upstaters prepared to meet it with confidence.
Health Committees were organized. Inspection of shipping
from Canadian ports was instituted. Enhanced powers were
given to Boards of Health, Doctors were alerted and grocery
stocks of painkiller replenished. ...
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