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

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  2,996 Ratings  ·  449 Reviews
1793, Philadelphia. The nation's capital and the largest city in North America is devastated by an apparently incurable disease, cause unknown . . .

Jim Murphy describes the illness known as yellow fever and the toll it took on the city's residents, relating the epidemic to the major social and political events of the day and to 18th-century medical beliefs and practices. D
Hardcover, 165 pages
Published June 23rd 2003 by Clarion Books
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Spook Harrison There are so many inserts and pictures you won't find the written content difficult.

Community Reviews

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Jul 06, 2009 karen rated it liked it
Shelves: mark-harmon
it is inconceivable to me that this is a book intended for children. the beginning part is fine, but the last chapter or so is paralyzingly terrifying. if i had read this as a child, it would have given me night terrors for years and even now i would think of it with chills, as i do with "tailypo". brrr... this book chronicles an outbreak of yellow fever that killed 5000 people. and by chronicling, i mean it goes into details of black-bile-vomiting, and women giving birth to babies where both di ...more
Jun 17, 2009 Greg rated it liked it
I have to admit that I learned some things from this book. I had no idea that for about 3 months the Federal government got shut down because of yellow fever. Imagine that? For three months nothing happened in the government, no laws were passed, no meetings, nothing and yet the world still went on, and this at a time much more critical than normal, when part of the population wanted another revolution to go along with the French Revolution, and the entire country was only a few years old. So be ...more
Mar 26, 2008 Andrea rated it it was amazing
A fascinating review of an event not so long ago that could be repeated in our heavily populated cities and poorly prepared hospitals. An interesting aspect is the courageous role that African Americans played which was largely ignored by history. Also, the aspect of scentists battling an unknown disease with some unfortunate consequences. The man who should be credited with figuring it out watched the mosquito bite him that ended up killing him.
Jul 08, 2008 Wendi rated it really liked it
Interesting history of Philadelphia at the time. Very readable history. The author made the book interesting while presenting a good historical narrative of the events.
Dec 25, 2009 Josiah rated it liked it
"Sometimes...I lose myself in looking back upon the ocean which I have passed, and now and then find myself surprised by a tear in reflecting upon the friends I have lost, and the scenes of distress that I have witnessed, and which I was unable to relieve."

—Dr. Benjamin Rush, An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793, P. 101

An American Plague has to be one of the finest juvenile non-fiction books to be published in a very long time.

Jim Murphy has
Ok, so I'm on a roll here reading about disease and epidemics! This one sparked my curiosity because in "The Great Influenza", Philadelphia is hit badly by the 1918 influenza epidemic. It looks like in this book Philadelphia was also badly hit in 1793 by the yellow fever epidemic. Gotta read it to find out more!

This book is a Newberry Honor book for children. As such it is not difficult reading at all, but still was worthwhile to read.

In the summer of 1793 yellow fever hit Philadelphia and
May 10, 2016 Ashley rated it really liked it
I was required to read An American Plague for one of my MLIS classes. This nonfiction book, written by Jim Murphy, was a quick and fascinating read. I had never learned about Philadelphia's 1793 yellow fever epidemic in school. Murphy supplies a vast amount of information about this interesting topic. The reader learns the symptoms of yellow fever and the various treatments doctors recommended to rid patients of the disease. Dr. Benjamin Rush's "ten-and-fifteen" purge was the most extreme and he ...more
NSAndrew Liebergen
Students in grades 7-12 take a tour of the dramatic events that happened in 1793 when the Yellow Fever Epidemic broke out. The book is wonderfully written with historical facts everywhere. Murphy describes the horror of both the people involved in the plague and the disease itself. Murphy also describes the interplay between Philadelphia and neighboring areas, and the conflict between the ordinary person and those who held power/made decisions.
Murphy chronologically follows the beginning of th
April Helms
Dec 21, 2007 April Helms rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A narration of the Yellow Fever outbreak in Philadelphia in 1793, which claimed the lives of between 4,000 and 5,000 men, women and children. It relates the medical practices of the day, such as blood-letting, the use of mercury and other remedies considered of questionable (at best) value today. It contains pictures and illustrations, including pages from a list compiled of the dead.

This is a very sobering read, especially after Hurricane Katrina. Teens won’t miss parallels between then, with t
I didn't know this was a YA history when I picked it up and started reading. Though, like a typical adolescent, what prompted me to pick it up in the first place was the promise of death, horror and misery. :P

It's a solid piece, and Murphy uses an array of sources, leaning heavily on the primary ones to give the reader a sense of how Philadelphia's citizens of the time dealt with - admirably or less so - with the plague.

The most interesting factual reveal during the course of the book was that l
May 21, 2016 Senor rated it liked it
Shelves: history, summer-2016
quick and informative read. ditch the last chapter tho. its not *ABOUT* the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793.
Christy Dickerson
Apr 04, 2017 Christy Dickerson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: elm-572-books
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy is an informational text that brings the epidemic alive in such detail that you can feel the sorrow and fear on every page. The story begins by explaining how the public sewer and water system in Philadelphia in the late 1700s could lead to such an outbreak. They had an open sewer system and the dead animals, spoiled food and waste ran down channels right beside the roads where citizens lived and ...more
Mar 13, 2017 Heidi rated it really liked it
Well there's a cozy bedtime story. Great nonfiction companion to Fever 1793.
An American Plague tackles the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 and does include quite a bit of authoritative documentation including excerpts from diaries of those living back during the epidemic and an extensive list of sources considering there are no survivors around today to confirm what really happened. The text attempts to describe how Philadelphia became almost unrecognizable when the yellow fever hit in 1793, using historical stories to paint a grim picture. One of the negative features of ...more
Amy Maclaren
Nov 22, 2014 Amy Maclaren rated it liked it
Jim Murphy has woven a list of facts into a story worth telling and more importantly, worth reading. An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 is the tragic story of the yellow fever epidemic and how it affected thousands upon thousands of lives, and in turn, the nation. Murphy’s sentence structures and his complex wording may frighten off potential readers, however, this made me want to read it and challenge myself a little bit more, and I’m a more e ...more
Casey Strauss
May 07, 2012 Casey Strauss rated it really liked it
Shelves: info-bios
An American Plague, written by Jim Murphy, details the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, which occurred in Philadelphia. The book is written in a easy to follow narrative, with excellent details, its evident that Murphy did his research about this time in history. At the beginning of the book is a map of the city of Philadelphia, which outlines the different streets and locations referenced in the chapters. It all began in August, when there was an alarming amount of flies, insects, and mosquitoes. ...more
Wallace Johnson
Dec 10, 2012 Wallace Johnson rated it it was amazing
Genre: This title is non-fiction history. I placed it under my Other listings of Junior Books

Summary: Philadelphia, home of President Washington and the nation’s federal government, is dealing with the deaths of thousands due to Yellow Fever in 1793.

(a.) The strength if this titles lies within the author’s ability to gather factual evidence, enlightening today’s readers on this dreadful time in our history and how it affected thousands of people. From newborn children to the elder, nearly every
Susan O
I liked this book even though it was repetitious at times. It is written in a linear fashion, giving a specific date for each section as well as a newspaper clipping. He then gives an update - how many people are being buried each day, the status of the population, who has stayed to help, etc.

In addition to a description of the disease, you are also treated to descriptions of the treatments given by various doctors as well as the disagreements between them. Of course no one knew what caused it
Janna Gifford
Oct 30, 2012 Janna Gifford rated it it was amazing
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy is a nonfiction book that won the Newbery Honor Award. This book is intended for the intermediate and advanced age level. This book is about an incurable disease that took over the town of Philadelphia in 1793. The book went over on how the first person died on August 3rd to how the Free African Society took time to help take care of the victims of the illness. I rated this book five stars based ...more
Feb 23, 2010 Samantha rated it it was amazing
Jim Murphy's book feels more like historical fiction than a purely informational book. We are introduced to the people and places of Philadelphia as we see the plague beginning to spread. Murphy tells about the different doctors' opinions and the debates that ensued. Many people fled the city leaving a few brave people, doctors, and the dying to figure out the rapidly spreading fever. Later people determine that mosquitoes are carriers. They use DDT excessively to control the problem. The book i ...more
Mar 26, 2013 Joy rated it liked it
2004 Newbery Honor Book

This was an excellent nonfiction book about the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793. I knew about the plague because I've read Fever 1973 by Laurie Halse Anderson which is a fictionalized account of the event. What I didn't realize in reading the fiction novel was that at the time, Philadelphia was the capital of the United States and George Washington resided there at the time of the plague.

Murphy goes into how the doctors attempted to treat the disease. The or
Mar 11, 2009 Kim rated it it was amazing
I typically stay away from non-fiction. Perhaps I'm being unfair to the genre, but these sorts of books always end up reminding me of school assignments. Get in, get the info, get out; do not pass go, do not collect $200. And certainly don't enjoy yourself.

So, when I was assigned to read a non-fiction Newbery book in graduate school, I was not amused. And after much moaning and groaning, I flopped on the couch one afternoon to read this. The words "True" and "Terrifying" offered a spark of hope
Sep 23, 2008 Heather rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Murphy has written a fascinating and very well researched account of the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793 that took place in Philadelphia. At that time, Philadelphia was the capitol of the fledgling nation of United States. President Washington and his family were one of the first to flee the city when the epidemic began. Murphy recounts the events leading up to the epidemic, from the first few cases to the massive number of deaths. The descriptions of early medical treatments for the yellow fever ...more
Feb 24, 2013 Dora rated it it was amazing
Shelves: info-bios
This book narrates the life and times of the year 1793 in Phildelphia, during the yellow fever outbreak. It starts from a excruciating summer day, to the culminating deaths and evacuations of the townspeople. Yellow fever quickly takes over the lives, quite literally, of all the medically trained as well as the politicians trying to keep control of the town. Throughout the story, you learn about significant people who contributed to the town's survival or the town's downfall. A very thorough rea ...more
Monica Fastenau
Feb 08, 2015 Monica Fastenau rated it it was amazing
Read more on my blog:

This Newbery book was fantastic! I loved it way more than I ever enjoy nonfiction books. I kept reading sentences and factoids aloud to my husband, and I devoured it in two hours.

The book talks about the yellow fever plague that swept through Philadelphia in 1793, killing thousands in a matter of weeks. It is compulsively readable and full of interesting facts about treatments, politics, racial issues, and disease control at the time.
I found parts of this book fascinating and other parts a little boring. It was almost hard to believe what people did in the past because they thought it would cure them. It was interesting to see the different angles of this period of history. I especially liked seeing how there were two vastly different approaches to this disease and how it was to be treated. I didn't realize the political complications of this wide-spread fever either. I liked reading this book, but I wouldn't say it was the ...more
Ch_wesley Miller
Mar 09, 2010 Ch_wesley Miller rated it it was amazing
Shelves: info-bios
The American Plague is a well- written story about the devastating Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. It started with one person contracting the disease and fnished with an estimated 5,000 Philadephians dead.I learned that free African Americans played a major role in saving the city by working as nurses to take care of the infirmed.This book provides a vivid account of the tragedy that occurred in 1793.
Sep 17, 2016 Jeff rated it really liked it
I do love these little nuggets of history that fall through the cracks in most schools. I'm happy to say this book was assigned to my fourth grader and she also enjoyed it even though the political aspects towards the end were a bit boring to her. I really liked the impact the yellow fever epidemic had on America's involvement in the French Revolution as well as other engagements around the world. It's also scary to think that another epidemic is likely to happen any day.
Jul 27, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
I am not a big non-fiction reader, and I certainly do not enjoy reading about disease and grossness. But this was absolutely fascinating. One of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. I've recommended it many times at the library, once to a teacher of a predominantly African American class, thinking they'd appreciate seeing how the community in Philadelphia really stepped up to help, despite how they were treated.
David Orphal
Nov 24, 2015 David Orphal rated it liked it
For a small book, it packs a lot of information about the 1793 Yellow Fever outbreak in Philadelphia. I really liked it because my students all write papers about the 1794 Congressional election in that city and the government's response to the crisis was definitely a factor in the unseating of Thomas Fitzsimmons.

This book offers an in depth look at the epidemic that summer.
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an American author of more than 35 nonfiction and fiction books for children, young adults, and general audiences, including more than 30 about American history. He won the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 2010 for his contribution in writing for teens. Jim lives in Maplewood, New Jersey, in a hundred-year-old house with his wife Alison Blank, a children’s TV produce ...more
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“Sometimes...I lose myself in looking back upon the ocean which I have passed, and now and then find myself surprised by a tear in reflecting upon the friends I have lost, and the scenes of distress that I have witnessed, and which I was unable to relieve.

—Dr. Benjamin Rush”
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