A treasure trove of information on life during the epidemic can be found in the Quaker Collection at Haverford College. While few of the letters pertain in particular to Rush, they do show the difficulties faced by doctors.
In this August 25th letter the merchant Benjamin Smith writes to his father about sickness in his family as an influenza epidemic coexisted with the new fever while children suffered their usual late summer ailments:
...I told of my having had a pretty sharp attack of this Influenza as its called which confined me all last week pretty much, closely at first from necessity, but less so the last few days when I have kept within doors from prudential motives and indeed today as the weather is damp. I do not go to meeting for tho' I have gotten through pretty well, yet a troublesome cough that came on at the conclusion of the disorder has not worn off but I hope may soon. - When I wrote to Jno. yesterday morning I mentioned my Debby being unwell and I supposed getting the complaint. After I wrote the fever she then had increased rapidly. It was attended with a violent pain in the head, so much that I became a good deal uneasy. I could not help thinking of this prevailing infectious disorder which occasions so much alarm here & has followed in as upon the heels of the other which I mentioned first - however tho her fever continued high remitting at times this day & night, towards morning it abated & she is now pretty free from it & much better, so that we hope she will soon do well again. - I attribute much to the good care that has been taken of her by her valuable mother who was here all yesterday and has come again this morning.... Our little folks are both now pretty well tho they have been poorly.... I hope this rain may be very seasonable & have a great tendency to destroy those noxious particles which it is generally allowed have of late charged our atmosphere. Some idea of the alarm which this opinion has spread among us may be gathered from this circumstance, several burials have passed by Mother Morris' house both yesterday & today at 6.7. & 8 o'clock in the morning. Some with none & others very few attendants but those absolutely necessary but then as an abatement most of these were probably going to the potters field & of course strangers or very poor. Tho the disorder is called "the yellow fever", I do not find the physicians will allow it to be any thing unusual they says it the "bilious remitting fever" & owes its present degree of violence & supposed infection to the predisposed state of the air, the nature of which may perhaps be thoroughly altered by the present change in weather. - If the influenza should get among you, a good process from what I can learn would be an early soaking of the feet & camomile tea to produce a sweat with plenty of water gruel or diluting drinks with perhaps a good dose of salts & withal taking care & nursing well, all this I practice & found very servicable.
For more on the experiences of Benjamin Smith and Margaret Morris and their families, click here
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