Monday, May 18, 2009

In 1887, Smallpox Was the Problem

The swine flu pandemic is our worry de jour, but in 1887, it was smallpox. The Feb. 25, 1887 New York Times lists recent cases of smallpox deaths, including three members of the family of William Coakley, who lived at 187 State Street in Downtown Brooklyn, shown above.

The last one to die, reports the Times, was the father, who was sent to Flatbush Hospital (probably against his will). "The mother and one child are still alive."

At one point the Flatbush Hospital -- said to be "filthy," "wretched" and disgraceful" -- was called the Flatbush Smallpox Hospital.

The Flatbush Hospital started as a notoriously squalid Almshouse, located upon what was once a farm of 70 acres in Flatbush about three miles south of the City Hall of Brooklyn.

Flatbush Hospital is now called Kings County Hospital; problems persist.

Photo by MK Metz

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