return to home page

I first published this on-line book in 1999 on AOL Hometown. I moved the book to Yahoo Geocities in 2002, before AOL ended Hometown. Yahoo is ending Geocities later this year, so I have moved this page to another site: I will also keep the page on this Geocities site until Yahoo burns all the books that thousands like me have put on-line with, until this year, Yahoo's encouragement.

The "classic" account of the epidemic of 1793 by Powell contains sparse scholarly apparatus and I could never find some the sources he alluded to. A meticulous bibliography of sources about the epidemics would be welcomed. Unfortunately, I did not have the time nor financial resources to do that. To contribute to that end, I have listed all the sources I consulted, with sufficient information about them so that anyone might find them, plus my comments on their value.



APS, American Philosophical Society

CHS, Connecticut Historical Society

HSP, Historical Society of Pennsylvania

LC, Library of Congress Manuscript Division

MHS, Massachusetts Historical Society

NLM, National Library of Medicine Manuscript Division

NYHS, New York Historical Society

NYPL, New York Public Library

Academy of Medicine, 1799, Further Proofs of the Origin of Yellow Fever..., 1799.

Academy of Medicine, 1798, Proofs of the Origin of Yellow Fever..., 1798. (The Academy was formed by Rush to endorse his views of the epidemics. These pamphlets are as valuable for what they show about the tactics used in scientific disputes in the 1790s as they are for information about the epidemics. In reading them one realizes that the 1790s was an era when a good affadavit was more valuable in a scientific dispute than a good experiment. I am of the opinion that Rush wrote most of the pamphlets, but I could not find drafts of them in his papers.)

Adams, Henry, History of the United States of America during the Administration of Thomas Jefferson, 1986. (not much on yellow fever in here.)

Addoms, Inaugural Dissertation on the Malignant Fever which prevailed in New York in the months of August, September and October 1791, 1792. (This neglected work should be more widely read as it foreshadows the coming epidemics. Young Dr. Addoms had the scoop of the decade and made nothing of it. His dissertation became known after the epidemic of 1793 and so it didn't influence the reaction to that epidemic. It was used in the medical disputes after the epidemic.)

Allen and Jones, A Narrative of the Proceedings of the BlackPeople..., 1993. (This is the other classic about the epidemic

Annals of Congress

Arnebeck, Through a Fiery Trial: Building Washington 1790-1800., 1991.(By doing a year by year study of the development of the federal city, I began to understand how important the epidemics were to the success of that project. I have a web page on the which includes essays touching of the yellow fever epidemics, see

Arroyo, et al, "Effects of Human Gamma Interferon on Yellow Fever," American Journal of Tropical Medical Hygiene, 1988,

Bayley, An Account of the Epidemic Fever which prevailed in the City of New York, 1796.

Bayley, Letters from the Health Office, 1798.

Bedini, Science in the Age of Jefferson,

Bell, The Colonial Physician, 1975.

Berkow, ed., The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 1977.

Biddle, Autobiography, 1883.

Binger, Revolutionary Doctor (This is a not very inciteful biography of Rush that is highly regarded because it is written by an M.D. It would seem to me that treating patients today is major disqualification for discussing the treatment of patients when another regime of medicine was in use.)

Blake, Water for the Cities, 1956.

Blanton, Medicine in Virginia in the Eighteenth Century, 1931.

Bozeman, Protestants in an age of Science, 1977,

C. B. Brown, Arthur Mervyn: a Memoir of 1793, (It could be argued the yellow fever ruined Brown as a novelist. It took him from tried and true Gothic themes and presented him with a terror that contemporaries did not want to be reminded of and that posterity would not understand. Plus he was not equipped, who would be, for the horror it visited upon him personally. That said, this novel is well worth reading.)

J. Brown, Elements of Medicine (Rush was mightily influenced by Brown, and someone bent on destroying my thesis might mine Brown and by showing how all of Rush's ideas were foreshadowed by him might thus prove that Rush indeed merely preached dogma and didn't have a scientific basis for his work. That said, I believe that contemporaries who knew the works of both men understood how Rush differed and why and that contemporary understanding is what is important in history.)

Thaddeus Brown, An Address in Christian Love to the Inhabitants of Philadelphia on the Awful Dispensation of the Yellow Fever in 1798.

Burnet, Natural History of Infectious Disease, 1987.

Burr, The Life and Work of Alexander Anderson, 1893. (Anderson had an extraordinary experience with yellow fever wihch unfortunately this book mentions only in passing. One has to go to his diary at the NYHS.)

Butterfield, The Letters of Benjamin Rush, 1951. (An excellent resource, so good that it might scare scholars away from what needs to be done - a modern multi-volume treatment of the extraordinary collection of Rush's correspondence - certainly he had mnay of the most interesting letters of the day written to him.)

Caldwell, Charles (1772-1853), Autobiography of Charles Caldwell, M.D.ed. Harriot W. Warner, 1855 (Lippincott) & 1968 (Da Capo). (Here was a great ego who at times clashed with Rush

Caldwell, Charles, Eulogium to the Memory of Dr. Samuel Cooper, 1799.

Caldwell, Charles, Semi-Annual Oration on the Origin of Pestilential Disease..., 1799.

Carey, A Short Account of the Malignant Fever, Lately Prevalent in Philadelphia, Ist edition 1793.

Carlson, Benjamin Rush's Lectures on the Mind, 1981. (The project here is to firm up Rush's reputation as the "father of American psychiatry," and I found it interesting primarily for demonstrating how secular scholars misconstrue the import of the evangelical zeal of scientists in the 18th century)

Carroll Papers, The John Carroll Papers, Thomas Hanley, ed., 1976.

Carter, Territorial Papers

Cassedy, Medicine and American Growth 1800-1860.

Cathrall A Medical Sketch of the Synochus Maligna... with an appendix containing a short chemical analysis of the black matter ejected from the stomach... and its effects when applied to the healthy systems. 1796.

Chisholm, An Essay on the Malignant Pestilential Fever introduced into the West Indies, 1795. (This is well worth reading. It has nothing about the Philadelphia epidemic of 1793 but it soon became an important work in the ensuing controversy over where the fever originated.)

Cipolla, Fighting the Plague in Seventeenth Century Italy,

Cohen, A Calculating People, 1985.

College of Physicians, Facts and Observations Relative to the nature and origin of the pestilential fever, 1798.

Condie, History of the Pestilence, commonly called yellow fever, which almost desolated Philadelphia in the months of August, September & October, 1798, 1799.

Cope, Philadelphia Merchant: The Diary of Thomas P. Cope.

Corner, The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, 1948.

Coulter, Divided Legacy: A History of the Schism in Medical Thought, vol. 2, 1977. (Here is the homeopathic critique of Rush, which incidently agrees, for other reasons, with my argument. The horrible medicines Rush gave his patients are akin to the horrible medicines your doctor gives you today)

Creighton, A History of Epidemics in Britain, 1894, vol 2,

J. Cronin, The Diary of Elihu Hubbard Smith, 1973 (This is the key book in my research as it shows what one of the bright young men of the day saw in Rush.

Wm. Cronin, Changes in the Land

Crookshank, History and Pathology of Vaccination, vol. 1, 1889.

Cullen, William First Lines in the Practice of Physic (This was the work of Rush's teacher and after reading it the modern scholar might be more sympathetic to Rush's simplifications.)

Currie, William 1792, An Historical account of the climates and diseases of the United States of America, 1792. (Rush, I think, never regarded Currie as a worthy opponent and really wished that the attacks on him came from MDs with better credentials. As much as I used and respect his many works, I never got the sense that Currie was thought of as a good doctor. Unfortunately his papers, which perhaps were as full as Rush's about yellow fever, were lost.)

Currie, William 1793, A Description of the Malignant, infectious Fever Prevailing at present in Philadelphia, 1793.

Currie, William 1794, A Treatise on the Synochus Icteroides, or Yellow Fever, 1794.

Currie, William 1798, On the Causes and Cure of Remitting or Bilious Fevers..., 1798.

Currie, William 1799, Memoirs of the yellow fever, which prevailed in Philadelphia, and other parts of the United States of America, in the summer and autumn of the present year, 1798.

Currie, William 1800, A Sketch of the Rise and Progress of the Yellow Fever...., 1800.

Currie, William 1811, A View of the Diseases Most Prevalent in the United States.... 1811.

Darwin, Erasmus Zoonomia, (This is not a poem like his work on Botany. It shows how the medical imagination works when engaged in system building. This Darwin is often the butt of historians' put-downs, but this work coming out as it did just when Rush was writing his system of medicine, I think, stole a bit of Rush's thunder and perhaps explains why Rush never did come out with a text fully expounding his medical ideas.)

Davis, A Brief Account of the Epidemical Fever in New York,,1795. Evans # 28538.

Defoe, Journal of the Plague Year, 1990 edition

D'Elia, Philosopher of the American Revolution, 1974.

Deveze (1), An inquiry into and observations upon the causes and effects of the epidemic disease which raged in Philadelphia, 1793.

Deveze (2), Traite de la Fievre Jaune, 1820. (It would be nice if those who think of Deveze as being better than Rush in his understanding of yellow fever would translate this into English.)

Dewhurst, Dr. Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) His Life and Original Writings, 1966

Drinker diary, The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker, Elaine F. Crane, ed., 1991. (As excellent a source as these diaries are, I would caution that in living through these epidemics outside the city, Drinker must take a stance toward them that distances herself from the suffering humanity she left behind. More interesting are her comments on yellow fever in the aftermath and in prelude to the epidemics)

Duffy, (2), John Duffy, Epidemics in Colonial America, 1953. (Here was a good beginning)

Duffy (1), John Duffy, From Humors to Medical Science, 1993, (Here was a bad end)

Dunlap, Charles Brockden Brown, (Dunlap, being a creative man himself, had a certain sense of propriety in talking about the creativity of others that caused him to fail as a historian and a biographer. That said, if only there had been a hunded Dunlaps writing with sensitivity about their friends and colleagues!)

Elkins and McKitrick, The Age of Federalism, 1993 (This is an unfortunate book)

Ellenwood and Barceloux, Medical Toxicology 1988.

Fields, Virology, 1990.

Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington, 1931-40.

Flexner, George Washington and the New Nation, 1969.

Folwell, Short History of the Yellow Fever that broke out in 1797., 1797.

E. Ford, Notes on the Life of Noah Webster, 1912.

P. Ford, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 1892-9.

Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic, 1994.

Freneau, The Newspaper Verse of Philip Freneau,,

Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine, 1929.

Gerbi, The Dispute of the New World, 1973.

Gillett, The Army Medical Department 1818-1865,

Goodman, Benjamin Rush, Physician and Citizen, 1746-1813, 1934.

Grieve, A Modern Herbal, 1971.

Gross, Lives of Eminent American Physicians and Surgeons of the Nineteenth Century, 1861.

Hall, A Scientist in the Early Republic: Samuel Latham Mitchill, 1967.

Haller, American Medicine in Trnasition,

Hardie, An Account of the Malignant Fever lately prevalent in the City of New York 1798, 1799.

Hawke, Benjamin Rush, Revolutionary Gadfly, 1971.

Helmuth, A Short Account of the Yellow Fever in Philadelphia for the Reflecting Christian, 1794.

Herms, Medical Entomology, 1950.

Hoadley, "A Review of the History of the Epidemic of Yellow Fever in New Haven, Connecticut, in the year 1794," New Haven Colonial Historical Society Publication, vol. 6. 1900.

Holmes, Lavoisier and the Chemistry of Life, 1987.

Hosack, An Inaugural Essay on the Yellow Fever as it appeared in this city in 1795, 1797.

Humphreys; Margaret Humphreys Yellow Fever and the South, 1992,

Hunter; John Hunter, A Treatise on Blood, Inflammation and Gunshot Wounds.

Huxham, An Essay on Fevers

Important Trial: A Report on Libel, 1800.

Iredell, Life and Correspondence of James Iredell. ed. Griffith J. McRee, 1949.

Jacob, The Newtonians and the English Revolution., 1976,

Jarcho, The Clinical Consultations of Giambattista Morgagni

King (1), The Medical World of the Eighteenth Century,

King (2), The Road to Medical Enlightenment 1650-1695.

Kiple, Cambridge World History of Human Disease, 1993.

Labaree, Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 3. 1960.

LaRoche, Yellow Fever, considered in its historical, pathological, etiological, and therapeutic relations, 1855.

Latrobe, Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 1984.

Latrobe, Journals of Benjamin Latrobe, vol. 3.

McMaster, The Life and Times of Stephen Girard, 1918.

Mann, Murder Magic and Medicine, 1994.

Miller, "Elisha Perkins," Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, vol. 8, pp 41-57.

Minutes of the proceedings of the committee to attend to and alleviate the sufferings of the afflicted with the malignant fever, 1794.

Mitchill, Remarks on the Gaseous Oxyd of Azote or of Nitrogen....Being an Attempt to ascertain the true nature of contagion, 1795.

Monath, "Yellow Fever: A Medically Neglected Disease," Revue of Infectious Diseases, 1987.

Moreau, Moreau de St. Mery's American Journey,

Nassy, Observations on the causes, nature and treatment of the epidemic disorder prevalent in Philadelphia, 1794.

New York Common Council Minutes, City of New York Common Council Minutes.

Pascal-Ouviere, An Account of the Contagious Epidemic Yellow Fever which prevailed in Philadelphia and the summer and autumn of 1797, 1798.

Pa. Laws, Compilation of the Health Laws of the State of Pennsylvania, 1798.

Pernick, Martin S. "Politics, Parties, and Pestilence: Epidemic Yellow Fever in Philadelphia and the Rise of the First Party System," William and Mary Quarterly, 1972, pp 559-586.This is a vastly overrated monograph based in part on a misinterpretation of a humorous article by Philip Freneau. It represents scholarship in the 70s at its worse with that wanton combination of different disciplines, i.e. medical history and political history, given a patina of rigor by bogus charts and statistics. It represents posterity's lowest cut to the suffering humanity that endured the epidemics. It is absurd on the face of it. The great rivals Rush and Hutchinson were both Jeffersonians.

Powell, John Harvey Bring Out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793, 1949 & 1993. I have often pondered why this book is held in such high regard by scholars. Its very title is a fiction. There are no reports that the African-American cartmen used those words as they collected corpses and it would have probably been deemed insulting to whites if they did. Powell neglects the Quaker experience during the epidemic, perhaps because it did not support the panic that Powell makes so much of. His treatment of Rush is both melodramatic and condescending. I think scholars like it for its essential mistake. Powell's treatment makes the epidemic seem exotic, and thus tangential to the basic thrust of most scholarly projects dealing with the development of Philadelphia or the young Republic. Of course what is needed is a history examining the whole period of the yellow fever epidemics. Until such a work is written it is fair to say there is no scholarly work on the epidemic of 1793.

Proceedings of the College of Physicians

Quasi-War, Naval Documents Related to the Quasi-War Between the United States and France, vol. 1, 1935.

Qvist, John Hunter 1728-1793, 1987.

Redman, An Account of the Yellow Fever as it Prevailed in Philadelphia in the Autumn of 1762.

Rees, Remarks on the Medical Theories of Brown, Cullen, Darwin and Rush, 1805.

Reps, The Making of Urban America: A History of Urban Planning in the United States, 1965.

Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the President, vol. 1, 1896.

Rollins, The Autobiography of Noah Webster, 1989.

Rosenberg, Explaining Epidemics and Other Essays in the History of Medicine, 1992

Rothstein; William Rothstein, American Physicians in the 19th Century; From Sects to Science, 1992.

Rush 1793a; Benjamin Rush, Medical Inquiries and Observations, 1793.

Rush 1793; Benjamin Rush An Account of the Bilious Remitting Fever as it appeared in Philadelphia in 1793, 1794. (It is essential for a correct understanding of Rush's work during the epidemic to read an early edition of his work. The version reprinted by the Arno Press in 1972 was edited by Rush to conform to his thinking just before his death when he no longer believe yellow fever contagious. Also many of the letters of opposing physicians were edited out of his later editions.)

Rush 1796, An Account of the Bilious Remitting and Intermitting Fever as it appear in Philadelphia in 1794, 1796.

Rush 1798, Medical Inquiries and Observations, 1798.

Rush July 1799, Observations Upon the Origin of the malignant bilious or yellow fever in Philadelphia and upon the means of preventing it: addressed to the Citizens of Philadelphia, 1799.

Rush Nov. 1799, A Second Address to the Citizens of Philadelphia containing additional proofs of the domestic origin of the malignant bilious or yellow fever...., 1799.

Rush 1815, Medical Inquiries and Observations, 1815 (1972 reprint.)

Rush 1977 Sixteen Introductory Lectures, 1977,

Rush, Essays Literary, Moral and Philosophical,

Rush, Letter to Redman, Inquiry into the Origin of the Late Epidemic Fever in Philadelphia in a Letter to Dr. John Redman, 1793.

Rutland, Papers of James Madison, 1977.

Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1991.

Schultz, The Republic of Labor: Philadelphia Artisans and the Politics of Class, 1720-1830. 1993.

Seaman, An Account of the Epidemic Yellow Fever, 1796, Evans 31169.

Shryock (2), Medicine and Society in American,

Shryock (1), Medicine in America, Historical Essays.

B. Smith, The Lower Sort: Philadelphia's Laboring People 1750-1800, 1990.

Spector ed., Noah Webster: Letters on Yellow Fever Addressed to Dr.William Currie, 1979.

Stokes The Iconography of Manhattan, vol 5.

Strode, ed., Yellow Fever, 1951.

Syrett, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 1961-79.

Tagg, Benjamin Bache and the Philadelphia Aurora, 1991.

Tappert, "Pastoral Heroism in a Time of Panic: Helmuth in the Yellow Fever Epidemic in Philadelphia 1793," Lutheran Church Quarterly 1940.

Taylor, Taylor on Poisons, 1848.

Theobald, A Monograph of the Culicidae Mosquito, 1903.

Thomson, Life of William Cullen, MD. vol. 2. 1859

Warner, The Therapeutic Perspective: Medical Practice, Knowledge and Identity in America, 1820-1885, 1986.

Warren, A View of the Mercurial Medicine, 1813.

Webster A Collection of Papers on the Subject of Bilious Fever, Prevalent in the United States for a Few Years Past. 1796.

Winslow, The Conquest of Epidemic Disease

Wolf, A History of Science, Technology and Philosophy: 18th Century,

Wood and Bache, The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1834.

Zimsen, The Type Material of I. C. Fabricius, 1964,

Zuchau et al, Principles and Practice of Clinical Virology, 1994,


Amer. Daily Adv., American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, Pa.

Argus, New York, NY

Aurora, Philadelphia, Pa.

Balto. Med. Rep., Baltimore Medical and Physical Recorder,

Clay. Gaz., Claypoole's Gazette, Philadelphia, Pa.

Com. Adv., Commercial Advertiser, New York, NY.

Daily Int., Daily Intelligencer, Baltimore, Md.

Fed. Gaz., Federal Gazette, Philadelphia, Pa., 1790-1793.

Gaz. of U. S., Gazette of the United States, Philadelphia, Pa.

Gen. Adv., General Advertiser, Philadelphia, Pa. -1793.

Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.

Ind. Gaz., Independent Gazette, Philadelphia, Pa.

MR, Medical Repository, New York, NY

Mer. Daily Adv., Merchant's Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, Pa.

Monitor, Litchfield, Conn.

New York Diary, New York, NY

Phil. Gaz., Philadelphia Gazette, Philadelphia, Pa., 1794-

Por. Censor, Porcupine's Censor, Philadelphia, Pa.

Por. Gaz., Porcupine's Gazette, Philadelphia, Pa. 1797-1800.

Rush-Light, New York, NY, 1800.

Time-Piece, New York, NY

True American, Philadelphia, Pa.

Manuscript Collections:

Adams Family Papers, MHS. Like you, if I had to take the collected letters of one of the Founders onto that deserted isle, I would take Jefferson. There was a man for an island. Adams had a wife, sons, n'er-do-well son-in-law, nephews, et al. Here is the essential source for a history of this period. Unfortunately, all the clan steered clear of the epidemics but most did embrace the new medicine that grew out of the epidemics.

Alexander Anderson diary, NYHS. That his exploits at the beginnings of Bellevue Hospital are not published is a testament to the laziness of New York historians.

Mason Cogswell Papers, Yale University Library.

Tench Coxe Papers, HSP (microfilmed.)

Dillwyn letters are indexed under "yellow fever" at HSP.

Edward Garrigues diary at HSP. Another key to understanding what was going on, as I explain in my MS

Horatio Gates Papers, NYPL, (microfilmed.)

Stephen Girard Papers, available in microfilm at APS.

Grenville letters are in Foreign Office copying project, LC.

Samuel Powel Griffitt's diary at Philadelphia College of Physicians.

Helmuth diary at Lutheran Seminary in Mt. Airy, Pa.; in German and not yet translated. When will a German scholar of early America come along who will translate works that don't deal with Indians?

Jardine, "Lecture on the institute and practice of medicine, 1799," NLM

Rebecca Jones letters at Quaker Collection, Haverford College.

Kuhn Lecture, Philadelphia College of Physicians

Morris correspondence in Edward Wanton Smith or Allinson Family Papers, Quaker Collection, Haverford College.

Morton correspondence in Robinson Family Papers, Quaker Collection, Haverford College.

NY Minutes, Minutes of the New York City Health Committee in New York Historical Society

Philadelphia College of Physicians collection on yellow fever includes several letters, papers, lectures etc. pertaining to the epidemics by or to Drs. Currie, Kuhn, Rush, Wistar and others.

Timothy Pickering Papers, MHS (microfilmed.)

Rush Accounts, account books at HSP.

Rush. "Lecture, 1798," Toner Collection, LC.

Rush lecture 1799, NLM.

Rush letters from his wife are in APS.

Rush letters on 1798 epidemic at in Trent Collection at Duke University Medical Library.

Rush, "Notebooks," HSP.

Rush Papers, HSP.

Thomas Scattergood diary and letters, Quaker Collection, Haverford College.

Diary of Peter Seguin, Stephen Girard Studeis #2, Girard College, ed. W.F. Zeot, 1984.

Benjamin Smith correspondence in Edward Wanton Smith Collection, Quaker Collection, Haverford College.

Smith notes, E. Smith, "A course of lectures on the theory and practice of medicine 1790-91" NLM.

S. H. Smith, Samuel Harrison Smith Papers, LC (microfilmed.)

George Washington Papers, LC (microfilmed,)

Noah Webster Papers, CHS and NYPL (microfilmed.)

John Welsh letters, all addressed to one recipient, HSP.

Wistar letters on controversy with Rush are in Quaker Collection at Haverford College.

Oliver Wolcott Papers, CHS, (microfilmed.)

Wyck Papers, APS, (microfilmed.)

Yearly Meeting Epistles are in Friends Collection, Swarthmore College (microfilmed.)