The First American Pandemic

(Over 200 Years Ago)

Robert Watson / Lynn University

Presented by:

The devastating Covid pandemic was not the first major outbreak to hit America. Nor was the Spanish influenza scourge of 1918. That dubious distinction would be the yellow fever crisis of 1793: a pandemic that struck the interim capital city of Philadelphia. The state of medicine at the time was such that the medical community did not know the origins of the outbreak and there was no known cure. The ensuing terror necessitated the evacuation of the city and federal government, killed perhaps 10-20 percent of the city’s population, and, with eerie parallels to the debates surrounding Covid, prompted a public rift regarding the wearing of masks, social distancing, and personal freedoms–and even claims that the disease decimating the capital city was fake. This lecture takes a deep dive into the outbreak, the consequences of having no functioning federal government, and lessons from this first American crisis.

Robert Watson

Lynn University

Robert Watson is an award-winning author, professor, historian, and analyst for numerous media outlets. He has published over forty books on history and politics, five works of fiction, and hundreds of scholarly journal articles, book chapters, and reference essays. He also serves as the series editor for the scholarly book anthology on the American presidency published by the State University of New York and as the editor of The American Presidents and American First Ladies. He serves as Distinguished Professor of American History, Avron Fogelman Eminent Research Professor, and Director of Project Civitas at Lynn University and as Senior Fellow at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship.

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