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Reporting on the Epizootic -
Press Accounts from 1872
The Great Epizootic first attracted the attention of the
American press in late September, 1872. Because the risk of contagion was not
understood, a rapid spread of the equine influenza affected millions of horses
across the country. Sick and dying horses were to be found in small villages and
the largest cities on the continent. An estimated 2,500 horses perished in
Philadelphia alone; it prostrated 75% of the horses in Danville, Virginia,
in less than twenty-four hours. In many cases injurious results were visible for
a long time; in others, relapses apparently reoccurred. As a result, men were
forced to pull wagons by hand, trains and ships full of cargo sat unloaded, tram
cars stood empty and basic community services came to a grinding halt.
It is estimated that 80%-99% of America's horses were
During the course of this unprecedented equestrian
disaster, newspapers were hard pressed to report on events in such a wide spread
geographic area. One paper that attempted to monitor the extent of the equine
disaster was the New York Times.
Here are selected extracts from that renowned newspaper.
Click on pictures to enlarge.
|October 24th, 1872.
||The Horse Epidemic - Thousands of Horses Temporarily
There is hardly a public stable in the city
which is not affected, while the majority of the valuable horses owned by
individuals are for the time being useless to their owners. It is not
uncommon along the streets of the city to see horses dragging along with
drooping heads and at intervals coughing violently.
|October 29th, 1872
||The Disease Still Spreading
95% of all the horses in Rochester, New York, are
affected. Large quantities of freight are accumulating along the Erie
Railway in Paterson, New Jersey. The disease is spreading rapidly in
Bangor, Maine. All fire department horse in Providence, Rhode Island,
|Because the art of veterinarian science
was in its infancy in 1872, many desperate horse-owners fell prey to a
variety of quack remedies, including the idea of putting blistering agents
on the horse's body and then wrapping him in blankets, as seen in this
contemporary drawing. Professor James Law, who was employed by the
United States Federal Government to analyse the effects of the Influenza,
recommended to all horse owners, "All debilitating or depressing treatment
must be sedulously avoided. Bleeding, purging, severe action on the kidneys,
depressing sedatives and violent blistering are alike to be deprecated."
|October 30th, 1872
||Alarming Effect upon the People, Total Suspension of
Travel, Disappearance of Wagons.
During the early part
of yesterday, a large number of persons, mostly females, gathered at the
corner of Broadway and Park Row waiting for the tram. For some time,
they could not be made to believe that the cars had stopped running, but as
the hour advanced and not one of the cars came in sight, each began to ask
the other what to do.
|November 1st, 1872
||Cost of the Epidemic
What will be
the effect of even a temporary withdrawal of the horsepower from the nation,
is a serious question to contemplate. Coal cannot be hauled from the
mines to run locomotives, farmers cannot market their produce, boats cannot
reach their destination on the canals, and bills drawn against Western
shipments will be protested. Panic will seize the community and aside
from the many millions to be lost in the value of horses, the most
disastrous unsettling of values is more than probable.... There seems
to be no longer any doubt that the horse disease has reached Chicago and
that several hundred animals are already affected. The fatality
arising from the epidemic is on the increase in Boston, with deaths
averaging 25 to 30 daily.
|The recently discovered and rare Federal
document from 1874 points out that "it is in the close, unventilated, and
undrained stables of cities, with air loaded to suffocation with the
products of respiration and putrification. In these, the mortality
proves far in excess of that of the horses in the better-appointed stables
or in the country."
|November 15th, 1872
||Horses Dying Prohibits Physicians from visiting their
Because of the Epizootic, some physicians are
unable to procure conveyances to visit sick people in the area of Watertown,
New York. In Pottsville, Pennsylvania, the disease has spread
throughout the coal region. The mules are also affected by the disease
and several cases are reported wherein it has reached them while at work in
|By 1870 there were an estimated 600,000
horses in New York State alone. Yet when the Epizootic incapacitated
99% of them, men had to harness themselves to wagons instead.
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