The Baltimore Smallpox Epidemic collection comprises correspondence and financial records relating to an epidemic between 1871 and 1882. Topics of interest include smallpox vaccinations, measures taken to prevent the spread of the epidemic, including destruction of clothing and the quarantine of afflicted patients. There is also personal correspondence on the epidemic.
This collection is open for research.
Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
The Baltimore Smallpox Epidemic collection spans the years 1871 to 1882. The collection contains cancelled checks and receipts written by Health Commissioners of the Baltimore Board of Health, documentation of goods destroyed, and a docket of expenses from the Commissioner of Health. Also included is a letter expressing condolences to a sick friend as well as news of smallpox in Baltimore. Topics of interest include smallpox vaccinations, destruction of property due to smallpox, and the quarantine of afflicted patients.
In November 1871, a smallpox epidemic arose in Baltimore, Maryland, spread from Philadelphia. From March 1872 through July 1873, the epidemic killed more than 2,000 residents. In order to stop the spread of the disease, the Baltimore Commissioner of Health was granted the power to quarantine the afflicted in a Marine Hospital. In addition, the Baltimore Board of Health developed a plan of action to stem the spread of smallpox in the city. This plan included requiring police officers to report cases of smallpox discovered on their beat; investigations of new cases by Baltimore Health Department medical officers; the employment of sanitary inspectors to quarantine the sick and disinfect contaminated clothing, furniture, and houses; and vaccinations of the infected. When smallpox continued to spread despite these efforts, the Board of Health employed additional physicians to assist in vaccinating residents. From 1874 to 1881, Baltimore was almost free of smallpox; however, another epidemic broke out again in 1882 and lasted to 1883, during which time the disease killed more than 1,500 residents. During this period, the Commissioner of Health was given the power to require vaccinations, which were only voluntary during the 1872-1873 epidemic. As of July 1883, between 85 and 90 percent of Baltimore residents were vaccinated, and the rate of smallpox declined dramatically. Smallpox never again reached epidemic proportions in Baltimore since the outbreak of 1882-1883.
The collection has been divided into two series:
The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the Baltimore Smallpox Epidemic collection from Modern Age of Maryland, Inc. of Rockville, MD in 1990. The collection also includes former Maryland Manuscripts 3520 and 4995, whose provenance is unknown.
The materials were placed in acid-free folders and stored in an acid-free box.