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An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 (2003)

by Jim Murphy

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1,2379115,397 (3.97)36
It's 1793, and there's an invisible killer roaming the streets of Philadelphia. The city's residents are fleeing in fear. This killer has a name--yellow fever--but everything else about it is a mystery. Its cause is unknown and there is no cure. This powerful dramatic account by award-winning author Jim Murphy traces the devastating course of the epidemic. An American Plague offers a fascinating glimpse into the conditions in American cities at the time of our nation's birth while drawing thought-provoking parallels to modern-day epidemics.… (more)
  1. 20
    Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (bogreader, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: While Fever is fiction and An American Plague is nonfiction, both are utterly compelling accounts of the yellow fever epidemic that ravaged Colonial Philadelphia. Rich details, based on extensive research, highlight the previously neglected care-giving role of African-Americans.… (more)
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» See also 36 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
This was an interesting and informative book, but could have been much better. It is a short book, only about 150 pages. But the narrative is even shorter as there are many illustrations, which are actually the best part of the book. On almost every other page is an illustration from the time period, thus reducing the prose.

The book is the story of the Yellow Fever plague in Philadelphia in 1793. Unfortunately, the medical community neither knew what caused the disease, nor how to properly cure it. Only later did they learn the disease was carried by mosquitoes.

Overall, it is not a bad book, but I wish the story had gone deeper into the daily life of the citizens of Philadelphia and how they coped with the plague, as well as some in-depth stories of those who suffered and recovered from the disease.

As I said, the illustrations are beautiful and are the best part of the book, thus I was able to give it 3 stars. As it is a very short read, I can recommend it for those interested in this subject. There is a nice index and list of sources at the end for those wishing to read further on the subject. ( )
  dwcofer | Feb 17, 2023 |
Robert F. Sibert Medal 2004 for the most distinguished informational book published in the United States. ( )
  MaowangVater | Nov 19, 2021 |
This was an interesting enough book about a Yellow Fever epidemic in our Nation's Capitol in 1793. It's a side of our Nations early period you don't really get in the common history books. I didn't rate it higher, probably because I had just finished "The Ghost Map", about the London cholera epidemic around the same time in history. I preferred that book in the way it described the conditions of city life at the time, how the fears and torment of the people was described, and how medical "knowledge" at the time was so limited. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
Scary! ( )
  mbellucci | Apr 10, 2021 |
Very informative and interesting. I will use it as an informational text in my classroom. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
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For Mike and Ben – my wonderful, at-home germ machines. This one’s for you!

With love, Dad
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Saturday, August 3, 1793. The sun came up, as it had every day since the end of May, bright, hot, and unrelenting.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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It's 1793, and there's an invisible killer roaming the streets of Philadelphia. The city's residents are fleeing in fear. This killer has a name--yellow fever--but everything else about it is a mystery. Its cause is unknown and there is no cure. This powerful dramatic account by award-winning author Jim Murphy traces the devastating course of the epidemic. An American Plague offers a fascinating glimpse into the conditions in American cities at the time of our nation's birth while drawing thought-provoking parallels to modern-day epidemics.

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This is a non-fiction book written about a historical event using language that is easy to read, appropriate for 4th grade on. The author extensively researched this book, culling through books written during the time of the Yellow Fever outbreak in Philadelphia in 1793, visiting the sites, and searching public records. The author thoroughly explains the struggles of the citizenry in Philadelphia; how the rich, poor, black, white, and foreign all dealt with an unnamed fever that was swiftly and violently taking great numbers of lives. The author adeptly describes the pitiful scenery, the stench of the sick and dead, and the horrible suffering of so many citizens. He describes the government’s ineptness in dealing with the crisis while introducing groups that served the sick at grave personal risk. The book made me want to go visit the sites, to see the layout of the city, and to envision what it must have been like to live through such a terrifying time. Throughout the book are illustrations of prominent citizens of the time, maps, and “necrology”, lists of the dead, all of which help the reader glimpse what life was like in 1793 America.
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