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The City That Was

Stephen Smith

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Book Overview: 

This 1911 history of the public health revolution that transformed New York City in the nineteenth century is also about every city and town of the world and the sanitary challenges that each encountered. Stephen Smith was an American surgeon and a pioneer in public health. “The story of a great life-saving social revolution, the mightiest in the nineteenth century and one of the most momentous in the history of civilization, is told here for the first time. It is told from the standpoint of the transformation of the City of New York, by a chief actor in the event.” Chapter four, New York The Unclean, is the heart of this work.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .ught to this country by the immigrants, especially by those who came from Ireland. Indeed, the Irish immigrants suffered so generally and severely that the disease was sometimes called the “Irish Fever.” Immigration from Ireland was at that time at its flood and the typhus was so prevalent among these poverty-stricken people that the hospitals were overcrowded by them and large numbers were treated in tents, both on Blackwell’s Island and at the quarantine grounds on Staten Island.

Having completed a two years’ term of service on the interne medical staff of Bellevue Hospital, where large numbers of typhus cases were treated, I was placed in charge of the tents on Blackwell’s Island by the Commissioner of Charities. Soon after entering upon the service, I noticed that patients were continually admitted from a single building in East Twenty-second Street.

Impressed with the importance of closing this f. . . Read More