Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pneumonic Plague in LA--1924

By the 1880's America was transitioning from farmland to cities. A home of one's own was an American dream, which was becoming more achievable with the average Joe-the-Plumber home. These homes consisted of four to six rooms with a yard and a porch for community life.
By the 1920's, as America boomed, L.A. swelled with urban poor contributing to the migration of the white residents fleeing to greener, suburban pastures.

742 Clara St. was an average Joe-the-Plumber house. Built near the L.A. River in 1895 by the Mead family who eventually became wealthy and contributed to a foundation that offered, as was reported, "homes on easy payments and with profit, for wage earners, and people with small or moderate salaries".

On October 2, 1924 pneumonic plague broke out. The city responded fiercely. Neighborhoods were quarantined by officials. These neighborhoods could include a total of 1,800-2,500 people living there. Sometimes even when there was no plague, due to the ethnicity of the area, the streets were blocked. Inspectors would execute stray animals, tear off the siding of homes in order to fumigate the foundations, burn bedding , and bury garbage. Residents continued to get sick until the plague was contained in November. By the end of the year nearly 40 people had died.

The house on Clara St. became ground zero of the infestation. The residents at the time, the Caldersons, suffered greatly loosing three out of their four sons and other family members. Mexican were implicated in the spread of the disease. Unfortunately many lost their homes and jobs.

When all was done, 2,500 buildings were lost, the city dodge having to compensate the owners for their loss, and the disease was spun to be a positive claiming that LA was now a "ratless port".


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