Quarantine Question, 1858


Entitled: "The Quarantine Question." Appeared in Harper's Weekly, October 2, 1858. Cartoon with Death scattering pestilence among the people. A quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease to see if they become ill. The word comes from the Italian quaranta, meaning forty, which is the number of days ships were required to be isolated before passengers and crew could go ashore during the Black Death plague epidemic. In 1858 New York Marine Hospital, known as the Quarantine, was New York City's first line of defense against immigrant borne infectious diseases like smallpox, cholera, typhus and yellow fever. Health inspectors met ships in the harbor. If they found a sick passenger or crewman, they would flag the vessel with a dreaded Yellow Jack and divert everyone on board to the Quarantine until they were cleared as disease free.On September 2, 1858, in an act of anarchy, arsonists had set fire to the Quarantine. The walled complex of about 20 buildings stood in Tompkinsville, Staten Island, south of today's ferry docks. The Quarantine was relocated offshore to a floating hospital, the Florence Nightengale. In 1866, it was moved to two islands, Swinburne and Hoffman, created from landfill off South Beach, Staten Island. Decades later, the facility moved to Ellis Island.


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