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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

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  3,464 ratings  ·  515 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.

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3.80  · 
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 ·  3,464 ratings  ·  515 reviews

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Jul 06, 2009 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 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 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.
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a significant event in the history of the U.S., yet I don't remember hearing it mentioned in school. Not only did it directly impact thousands of people, it also closed down the Federal gov't, resulting in a revision of some laws. It also sparked heated medical debate among the physicians (who knew very little about the disease).

Chapter 5 focuses on the Free African Society which had been founded in 1787, as the first organization in American created by blacks for blacks.. Amazingly, a
Cynthia Egbert
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
There are themes to this one that seem a wee bit strong for a work written for youth but it should certainly garner discussion. I learned a fair number of new historical facts in this one and truly appreciated the research and concise presentation of the events surrounding the 1793 yellow fever epidemic as well as so many other epidemics of this disease which hit different cities in the States. This is not a happy book, but you will learn a thing or two. I especially appreciated the fair and bal ...more
Good book about the plague, with an accessible level and a small length that avoids to become bored.

The book explained well the spread of the disease and gave a good insight on the cures that were tried, the number of deaths and the life conditions at this time. As a foreigner, I knew nothing about the illness and the events, so it was interesting to discover it. For an apocalyptic books lover, it was also a fun read, mostly because it depicted with no surprises how people reacted to it (the one
Jul 08, 2008 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 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 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 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
May 21, 2016 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 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
Angie Thompson
After listening to this on audiobook, I have a hard time believing it was written for children. Even as an adult who's interested in history, I found it very dry and sometimes hard to follow. It's also not for the faint at heart or easily disturbed, as it's full of semi-graphic descriptions of the disease, unsanitary conditions, dead bodies, etc.

Also, after spending the entire book concentrating on this one outbreak in 1793 Philadelphia, the last chapter traces the progress that's been made in u
Tim Brown
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: informational
Imagine living through a plague that's wiping out huge parts of the population around you, with nothing to stop it and no end in sight. An American Plague does just this. You live the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 through the eyes of a character who could quite possibly have lived through it. This is an amazing informational read because although the character is fictional, there are tons of facts about the time period and plague that lead you to believe that this person could have possibly live ...more
Short, focused, highly opinionated account of a yellow fever epidemic that killed thousands of Philadelphians and temporarily shut down the U.S. government. People thought it came from a pile of rotting coffee beans--back then people thought bad smells spread disease. Most interesting person Murphy discusses: the resplendently named Israel Israel, who risked his life helping others but then was cheated out of an election because he dared to suggest that Philadelphia should do more to help its po ...more
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
YA nonfiction about the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793. Filled with photographs. Reads more like fiction than a textbook. We learn about the doctors and their different approaches to the disease (bloodletting and purging versus more gentle approaches) as well as the work the Free African Society did caring for the victims (and the backlash they faced).
Jody Ruff
Feb 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
An Award Winner of three awards; The Newberry Award, The Rober Siebert Honor, and The National Book Award Finalist. Jim Murphy wrote a very descriptive story about the Plague in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The book has photographs and newspapers clippings from the time the plague happened in Philadelphia.
Mar 13, 2017 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 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
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting, informative, readable. Not an easy feat to pull off with a non-fiction book.

My one complaint isn't against the book itself or the author. The subject matter, and especially what was revealed in the final chapter, were anxiety producing. Some people might find it all a bit disturbing.


From an online conversation about the book:

15 October 2018 ·

I started this today--quick read. I have a print copy, but I'm using an audio book because there was a lot of driving for me today. I'm h
Wallace Johnson
Dec 10, 2012 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
Casey Strauss
May 07, 2012 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
Janna Gifford
Oct 30, 2012 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
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
Feb 23, 2010 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 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
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
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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”
“Dead animals were routinely tossed into this soup, where everything decayed and sent up noxious bubbles to foul the air.” 0 likes
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