New York: Harper’s Weekly, 1858. Disbound.
This illustration, titled “Attack on the Quarantine Establishment, on September 1, 1858” was cut from 11 September 1858 Harper’s Weekly magazine. It measures approximately 10” x 7.5”.
Staten Island residents, fearful that disease might spread throughout the island, were strongly opposed to the quarantine facility from its first proposal in the late 1700s, and that resentment finally turned to violence in 1858. The facility opened in 1800 with a capacity to hold 1,500 patients, and at its peak thirty years later, it treated over 8,000 patients each year. Every arriving ship was boarded and all passengers inspected. If any was found to be infected, all passengers from the vessel underwent quarantine. First-class passengers spent their quarantine at the St. Nicholas Hotel; other passengers were house in the facility’s eight shanty cabins. There were separate hospitals for small pox patients and women with gynecological problems.
When New York health officials attempted to build an additional facility, locals burned it to the ground before construction was finished. After Yellow Fever cases appeared among the residents in August 1858, the local board of health urged citizens to take “action” against the facility. In response the New York Health Department issued an injunction against the local board, and the board responded on 1 September passing a resolution declaring the Quarantine to be “a pest and a nuisance of the most odious character, bringing death and desolation to the very doors of the people” and recommended “the citizens of this county to protect themselves by abating this abominable nuisance without delay."
That evening, a large mob broke through the facility’s gate and scaled its fence. Once inside, it removed patients to safety and used mattresses and hay to burn every building except the female hospital. Only two people died, one a patient who succumbed to Yellow Fever, the other an employee killed by a co-worker. A second mob burned the Female Hospital the following night. Several ringleaders were brought to trial and pleaded self-defense. They were found not-guilty by the presiding judge, a Staten Islander who owned property withing a mile of the site.. Very good. Item #010203
(For more information, see Krajicek’s "How arsonists burned down Staten Island's hated Quarantine hospital in the 19th century with little resistance" at the New York Daily News website and 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.).