That delta cases exploded in Missouri, a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates proves that the "Show-Me" state didn't learn from one of the wildest stories in the history of smallpox in the United States. A short thread 1/8
In 1907, a member of the Missouri House of Representatives, W. J. Salts, broke out with a bad case of smallpox on the floor of the Missouri capitol. Salts said he thought he had a cold, but another representative who was a doctor knew it was smallpox. 2/8 Photo of a man who survived...
The other members of congress fled for the exits, leaving Salts alone on the floor. He was eventually removed to one of the committee rooms. Despite vaccination being widely available, most of Missouri's congressmen and staff had not been vaccinated. 3/8
Although Jefferson City had seen a recent outbreak of smallpox cases, the city chose not to act. They had no facility to house smallpox patients and did not order vaccinations. So when Salts broke out, and soon several other representatives and staffers, they had no plan. 4/8 Image
As the news spread, the hotels and boarding houses where congressmen stayed started kicking them out for fear of them spreading smallpox. Governor Folk, who had been vaccinated, invited any who were infectious or lost their housing to stay at the Governor's Mansion. 5/8 Image
Jefferson City and the state health department finally began a vigorous vaccination campaign. A vaccination order was given for the city. All members of congress and their staff were vaccinated, even Dr. Alonzo Tubbs... 6/8 Image
...Tubbs, a Republican from Gasconade County in central Missouri, had declared just days before that "medicine is a fraud." A crowd gathered around him and his vaccination "was greatly enjoyed by the onlookers." 7/8 Image
W. J. Salts, Representative Barker, and several others who developed smallpox eventually recovered. But why did Salts show up to Congress so sick? He and Barker were key Democratic votes for a "Jim Crow" bill separating Black and white train passengers supported by Gov. Folk. 8/8 ImageImage
N.B. The picture of the poor guy with smallpox above is not Salts, but a smallpox survivor in Cleveland in 1902 courtesy of the Dittrick Medical History Center.…
And, yes, as several have pointed out, I should have written “state legislators” rather than state congressmen. I write about different state and colonial legislatures all the time, so I shouldn’t have made that (early morning) mistake. Where’s that edit feature @Twitter?
Rep. Salts' case was said to have been the "most aggravated" case of smallpox a doctor on hand had ever seen. Here are a couple different accounts of how was discovered on the House floor. It was also reported that Gov. Folks noticed his "pimples" earlier but didn't say anything. ImageImageImage

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More from @ProfWehrman

21 Jul
Wow! Because this tweet thread has gotten so much attention, here's another thread about Missouri Representative W. J. Salts a year before he broke out with smallpox in the Missouri Capitol. It also echoes loudly with the present. 1/7
Salts represented Phelps County and lived in Rolla. Rolla as Missourians know (I grew up in Missouri) is home to Missouri University of Science and Technology formerly UM-Rolla, and in Salt's day the Missouri School of Mines. 2/7 Image
I don't know how town-gown relations are today, but in 1906 the mostly rural district resented the college and its students. Gov. Felt, Sen. Hohenschild, and Rep. Salts ordered an investigation of the school in order to cut its funding. 3/7 Image
Read 7 tweets
27 Nov 20
Bostonians in the 18th century did not specifically close down churches during epidemics. They didn't have to. They didn't have germ theory, but with smallpox their system of close watch and quarantine was so effective that they managed to control most outbreaks.
If you had smallpox, you were required to tell a city official or selectman. The selectmen would either take you to a closely guarded pest house or build a fence around your house with a posted guard so that no one could enter or exit, usually for 21 days.
People closely watched the quarantine houses to make sure there were no lapses. The names and addresses were typically published in the newspaper, so people could know to stay away.
Read 6 tweets
30 Oct 19
"Trick-or-treating" is a relatively recent compromise between pranksters on one side and gun-wielding property owners on the other. Newspapers from the late 19th & early 20th centuries are filled with stories of horrible Halloween violence. Here's a thread: 1/15
Observances of Halloween or Hallowe'en or All Hallow's Eve, the night before the Feast of All Saints came to the US with Scottish and Irish immigrants from remnants of the Celtic festival of Samhain. The earliest newspaper reference I found was from Wilmington, DE in 1823. 2/
In that article, the author assumes the reader is not familiar with the holiday, but explains that Halloween was a night when the spirits might reveal future loves. Thus Halloween often featured parties with young men and women and also truly terrifying carved turnips. 3/
Read 17 tweets
13 May 19
1. I'd like to add my thoughts to the conversation about David McCullough's problematic new book "The Pioneers." McCullough's book is centered on the town of Marietta, OH, and for 4 years I lived and worked in Marietta as a professor of early American history at Marietta College.
2. Marietta was and remains a great place to teach and learn history. It was the first capital of the Northwest Territory. Marietta College’s Library has an amazing collection of 18th Century documents that McCullough used to write his history.
3. Living and working in Marietta reminded me of my favorite episode of the Simpsons: “Lisa the Iconoclast.” In the episode Lisa, in the course of researching the town founder Jebediah Springfield, discovers a well-kept secret.
Read 44 tweets

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