locked Yellow Fever Quarantines - 1905

Bill Schafer

While many of us are bewildered and apprehensive about Covid-19 these days, you might like to see how Southern Railway responded to the yellow fever epidemic of 1905, which originated in New Orleans that summer. This is before the days of cell phones, the internet, and even television. By that time, Dr. Walter Reed, another famous Virginian, had figured out what caused the disease and took measures to combat it (eliminate the mosquito breeding grounds). His discovery allowed the completion of the Panama Canal. For whatever reason, however, many of the leaders in the South didn't understand the science or allowed their ignorance to get in the way of their good judgment, with the result that "quarantine warfare" broke out. It put the Southern and the other railroads in the difficult position of policing who could go where, and they frequently responded by annulling or truncating trains. Throughout the summer and fall of 1905, Southern's passenger department issued bulletins, sometimes on a daily basis, indicating the latest restrictions on travel. Attached are the five pages of General Quarantine Notice No. 13, issued on August 15, about at the height of the epidemic. This notice is one of many found in the Presidents' Files in the SRHA Archives in Chattanooga. 2019-3 TIES Magazine featured a good article on the 1905 epidemic, authored by Dr. David Bott. Copies of this issue are available from the Grab - order on-line (SRHA.net) or by snail mail.