1848 – A long letter detailing the death of a young woman from smallpox and the terror it caused within the local community. “Cousin Nell”.
1848 – A long letter detailing the death of a young woman from smallpox and the terror it caused within the local community
1848 – A long letter detailing the death of a young woman from smallpox and the terror it caused within the local community

1848 – A long letter detailing the death of a young woman from smallpox and the terror it caused within the local community

Hartford, Connecticut: 1848. Envelope or Cover. This four-page stampless folded letter measures 15”x10” unfolded. It was sent by “Cousin Nell” in Hartford, Connecticut to Anna L. Andrus at Harwinton. The letter is datelined “May 28’/48” and bears a faint circular Hartford postmark in red and a bold red “5” rate stamp. In nice shape; a transcript will be provided.

The letter describes the death of Ann Gaylord who became infected with smallpox while visiting Nell. Initially, she was suspected of simply having gastric distress and subsequently an outbreak of a rash and pimples. However, after Ann’s blistery blemishes cojoined to cover her entire face and body, Nell recognized that her friend “had got the small pox.”

“Aunt Betsy . . . wished I would go and see Ann, for such a sight she never did see, so up I went. . .. Those pimples had all run together and her face was one complete blotch. The first thing that came into my head , she had got the small-pox. My heart! What a start it gave me. . .. Doct Hawley came soon, and our worst fears were confirmed. . .. He ordered every [thing] out of the room except what was absolutely necessary, and no one must go near her, except the one to take care of her, and we must all be vaccinated immediately, as we had all been exposed, and that was our only safeguard. . ..

“We asked her how she felt about going home, she was rejoiced to think she could go. . .. Wm met her father coming to town on business, He said he should take her home directly for he thought she might go comfortably. He had had the disease himself, knew just what to do for her. O how glad we were, for we were so afraid she would have to stay, pa got a coach, had a straw bed put in, covered it with a comfortable, she was then wrapped up in a quilt, when as comfortable as if she was in the house, she lived only a week. . .. . Mr. Gaylord said he laid Ann out, put her in the coffin, nailed it, and carried it out of doors, & followed her to the grave alone. No neighbor daring to venture near the house except the minister to make the prayer! Poor Ann, peace to her remains! . ..

“All the houses around were shut up tight for fear of infection, even now, when [our] house has been thoroughly cleansed, and, every thing washed and burnt that could contain the contagion, some are afraid to come near us, it is all over the city, scarcely a street but someone sick with it. I think I should have had it, for my arm was sore as if I had never been vaccinated, it made me sick for about a week, pa had all the hands in the shop vaccinated . . . making them sick. I really hope all of you will be careful, the doct. says it is in the air, and all over the country.”

. Very good. Item #009895

A scarce first-hand account of a smallpox death and the fear it visited upon the neighborhood. At the time of listing, nothing similar is for sale in the trade. The Rare Book Hub identifies several Civil War letters noting smallpox outbreaks, although none approach the detail of this one. A handful of letters, primarily from Civil War soldiers and missionaries, mentioning smallpox outbreaks are held by institutions per OCLC, however most do so only in passing, and none apparently approach the detail of this letter.

Price: $500.00

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