Thursday, February 19, 2015

1803 and the Vaccine Controversy in New England

This news story is from the Farmer's Cabinet, Amherst, New Hampshire, Thursday, 23 June 1803, Volume I, Issue 33, page 2, accessed on line at Genealogy Bank.  The controversy over vaccinations has been the news lately with outbreaks of measles and whooping cough making a comeback after decades of relief from these diseases.  In 1803 the small pox vaccine was fairly new, invented by Edward Jenner in 1798.  Before Jenner's discovery, people tried to inoculate themselves with partial success with a process known as variolation.  But since most people alive at that time knew the consequences of catching the disease, the majority of people were innoculated with Jenner's vaccine.   According to this article, there were still a few who held off getting the vaccine and died of this dreaded disease.  

We all know that when the entire population was vaccinated, the disease small pox almost disappeared from our planet.  Diseases such as measles, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and others remain to plague everyone (children and adults) because of the current trend to ignore or even deny vaccinations.  

This is a case of learning from history, not ignoring it. 

Small Pox -  The Charleston Courier, after 
mentioning the death of Mr. Josiah Smith,
of the small pox, observes, "While we sym-
pathize with his family, we cannot but la-
ment his folly in neglecting vaccination,
which would have secured him with certainty,
from the ravages of that disorder, which has
made his wife a widow, and his children or-
phans."  The same paper informs us, that 
since the introduction of the Cow-Pox 
into Charleston, it has been twice lost from
the want of succession of subjects, and that
from present appearances it is likely soon to
be lost a third time, although the small pox
is propagating there apace.  This is a de-
plorable instance of the force of strong pre-
judices.  We are happy to understand that
in New-York, vaccination meets so lib-
eral an encouragement, as to afford strong 
hopes that the Small-Pox will before long en-
tirely disappear.  We have been informed
that the most respectable gentlemen of the 
faculty of this city, have come to a resolu-
tion not to inoculate for the small pox any
more.  If this be true, it is an instance of
bold and independent conduct, in the highest
degree honorable to every individual of the
association, and one which promises the most
saluatory consequences to our fellow-citizens.

Genealogy Bank

The Small Pox Vaccine, at Wikipedia

The 1730 and 1774 Marblehead Riots against Small Pox Inoculation 

A previous blog post about the large numbers of children lost to "throat distemper" (diptheria)

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Copyright (c) 2015, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Heather, This is definitely still a timely post with all the news about measles outbreaks. It will be interesting to see the modern outcome. However, I really wanted to congratulate on your 1.2 million views and 300 followers. That is fabulous.

  2. People have no idea how vulnerable kids were to these so-called 'normal' diseases. When complications happen(ed) they could be very severe, even deadly. And when infected with some diseases as adults - wow - awful!
    Thanks for posting this.