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The Contagious CityThe Politics of Public Health in Early Philadelphia$
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Simon Finger

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801448935

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801448935.001.0001

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“A Suitable Charity or an Effectual Security”

“A Suitable Charity or an Effectual Security”

Community, Contagion, and the Care of Strangers

(p.33) 3 “A Suitable Charity or an Effectual Security”
The Contagious City

Simon Finger

Cornell University Press

This chapter details how the expansion of the “migrant trade” brought new anxieties about disease and Pennsylvanian identity. The influx of newcomers forced a community that began as a self-consciously English and Quaker colony to develop a corporate identity that could encompass accelerating mobility and increasing linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity. In addition, the migrant trade also revived all the old terrors of the sea—contagion above all others. Conditions aboard the ships served as potential incubators for deadly infection. To care for the sea-sickened and to prevent a possible outbreak in Philadelphia, the provincial governor proposed a lazaretto, or marine hospital. But the fight over an institution designed to prevent the spread of physical contamination unleashed latent tensions about cultural contamination, the place of the newcomers in Pennsylvania, the place of Pennsylvania in the empire, and what it meant, finally, to be a Pennsylvanian.

Keywords:   migrant trade, contagion, physical contamination, cultural contamination, Pennsylvanian identity, lazaretto

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