Early American History Seminar: Andrew Wehrman, Northwestern University

Thursday, October 23, 2008

5:30 pm to 7:00 pm

Early American History and Culture Seminar

“The Siege of ‘Castle Pox’: Marblehead, Massachusetts’ Medical Revolution, 1764–1777”
Andrew Wehrman, Northwestern University
After an epidemic of smallpox broke in Marblehead, Massachusetts, in 1773, several of the town’s rising Whig leaders built a private inoculation hospital to combat the distemper. By January the maritime workers and other members of the “Savage Mobility” burned the hospital, nicknamed “Castle Pox,” to the ground. Far from being ignorant or anti-inoculation, as some historians have claimed, the desperate action by the people of Marblehead was a true act of revolution. This paper recreates the explosive events and argues that the people of Marblehead sought equal access to medicine as raucously as they did political rights.