Item #010201 Circa 1845 – Wood engraving of the Quarantine Station and Marine Hospital for emigrants at Staten Island, New York

Circa 1845 – Wood engraving of the Quarantine Station and Marine Hospital for emigrants at Staten Island, New York

Leipzig, Germany. Illustrite Zeitung (Illustrated Newspaper), Circa 1845. Disbound.

This wood engraving clipped from an unidentified edition of the Illustrite Zeitung (Illustrated Newspaper), known colloquially as the ‘Leipziger,’ is undated, but information on the reverse indicates that it was published by J. J. Weber of Leipzig, Germany. It is titled, Quarantine und Marinehosital fur Einwanderer auf Staten Island, Newyorf (Quarantine Station and Marine Hospital for Immigrants at Staten Island, New York). It is in nice shape with some light toning.

It can be dated as locations of the buildings and dock exactly as shown almost identically match those shown on a map of the grounds, “Marine Hospital Ground, Staten Island . . . made by John Ewein. Dated March 1845 . . . City Surveyor.” The large building in the foreground is “[St. Nicholas] Hospital.” The center building on the hill is the “Yellow Fever Hospital.” The building to the far right is the “Small Pox Hospital.” The small buildings on the “Wharf” and “Pier” are a “Shed” and “Store House.”

Between 1795 and 1798, Yellow Fever killed thousands in New York City, spurring passage of a quarantine law that funded the construction of the New York Marine Hospital on this site. At its peak, the hospital could house 1,500 patients and was treating more than 8,000 per year. Before landing at New York, all vessels were boarded by inspectors, and if they found any trace of disease, everyone was unloaded at the Quarantine. First-class passengers spent their quarantine at the St. Nicholas while lower-class passengers were held in shanties not visible in the wood engraving.

There was considerable local opposition to the hospital, both from land developers who wished to use the grounds for projects and locals who blamed outbreaks of disease on the passengers under quarantine. The tension escalated and in 1856, a local health board prohibited anyone, including staff, from exiting the building by land. On the first of September 1858, the same board passed a resolution declaring the facility to be ”a pest and a nuisance of the most odious character, bringing death and desolation to the very doors of the people [who must abate] this abominable nuisance without delay.” That night a giant mob attacked the hospital, and after evacuating patients and staff from the buildings, burned most of the complex to the ground. The following night, they burned the rest. When later brought to trial, the mob leaders were acquitted, the jury deciding that they had acted in self-defense.

. Very good. Item #010201

In his semi-autobiographical novel, Redbun: His First Voyage, Herman Mehlville recounts a typical chaotic scene as ships were searched and inspected by health officials and later expresses relief when upon returning to New York harbor as his ship passed the Staten Island complex, apparently unnoticed by port officials, and escaped inspection.

(For more information, see Stephenson’s “"The Quarantine War: the Burning of the New York Marine Hospital in 1858" in the Jan-Feb 2004 issue of Public Health Reports, available online.)

Uncommon. Wood engravings of the Staten Island hospital from illustrated magazines and auctions occasionally appear at auction. The majority are post-attack illustrations showing the ruins or replacement buildings.

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Price: $150.00