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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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“Those Friendly Reciprocities”

“Those Friendly Reciprocities”

Panic and Participation in the Age of Yellow Fever

(p.120) 8 “Those Friendly Reciprocities”
The Contagious City

Simon Finger

Cornell University Press

This chapter chronicles a period of panic and disunity at the onset of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic. In the next dozen years, yellow fever returned to terrorize Philadelphia six more times, taking thousands of lives, paralyzing the port economy, and sowing the seeds of a panic which sundered family, congregation, community, and possibly even country. Yellow fever was the central fact of early national Philadelphia, touching every facet of society in the nation's capital. After witnessing the panic in 1793, the medical community saw fear as the key obstacle to cooperative action. In the crucible of fever, the city's medical establishment used appeals to heart and head—to civic virtue and self-preservation—trying to thread a course between complacency and hysteria.

Keywords:   yellow fever, Philadelphia, mass panic, civic virtue, self-preservation, cooperative action, medical community

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