Contagion Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics

Image Collections

The Contagion collection contains two specific image collections—Lantern Slides of the Manchurian Pneumonic Plague, 1910-1911, and Medical Satiric Prints, 18th and 19th Century—both from the holdings of the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

Lantern Slides of the Manchurian Pneumonic Plague, 1910–1911

The pneumonic plague outbreak in August 1910 originated in the Transbaikal and spread over 1,000 miles across Manchuria, killing 60,000 people by March 1911. The carriers of this plague were wild marmots trapped for their fur by inexperienced Chinese migrant laborers working in Manchuria. The disease spread quickly across the Chinese Eastern Railway in September 1910 after the first reports appeared of cases in the crowded migrant camps. The Chinese government called for an International Plague Conference. Richard Pearson Strong (M.D. 1897, Johns Hopkins University) became the chief delegate from the United States to the conference that was held in Mukden, Manchuria in April 1911. The 91 images in the Contagion collection documenting aspects of this plague in 1911 are part of the Richard Pearson Strong Collection located at the Countway Library. In 1913, Strong became the first professor of tropical medicine at Harvard University.

Full Collection Citation - Lantern Slides

Richard P. Strong Papers, 1911-2004 (inclusive), 1911-1945 (bulk). GA 82. Harvard Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.

Medical Satiric Prints, 18th and 19th Centuries

The Contagion collection includes a selection of late 18th- and early 19th-century medical satiric prints from the Countway Library. Some of the notable engravers and illustrators include Thomas Rowlandson, William Hogarth, George Cruikshank, and James Gillray. This selection offers a satirical view of medical practice in Europe and North America. The prints depict various treatments and remedies plied by medical practitioners, quack doctors, druggists, and apothecaries to heal patients of common infections, infectious diseases, and physical ailments. A common theme is the melancholic nature of illness and disease, along with the physicians’ hopes that their uncertain remedies would cure their long-suffering patients.

Also at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine