Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Philadelphia and Its People in Maps:
The 1790s

Yellow Fever Epidemic, 1793

map showing yellow fever epidemic

Map Copyright 2012, Paul Sivitz and Billy G. Smith, published with permission.


Yellow Fever broke out in epidemic proportion in 1793, 1797, 1798, and 1799. The most severe, and one of the most deadly in American history, occurred in 1793, when an estimated 5,000 inhabitants died. This map records the intensity of the fever, with darker colored lines marking the streets with highest mortality. Yellow fever was most deadly near the northern wharves, where poorer people lived, and where Hell Town was located. It also took a heavy toll along Dock Creek. Both areas furnished breeding places for the Aedes aegypti, the type of mosquitoes that transmit the disease. Wealthier people fled the city while the less affluent stayed behind. As a result, the affliction was class specific, killing the middle and lower classes more often than the elite.

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