An American Plague

By Danny Honeychurch

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Jim Murphy

  • September 25, 1947 and lives in Maplewood, New Jersey
  • wrote over 35 nonfiction and 30 are American history
  • This book and The Great Fire won the Newbery Honor and the Silbert Medal
  • won the Margret Edwards Award in 2010 for writing for teens
  • won the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award three times
  • won the Jefferson Cup Award three times

Other Books by Jim Murphy


  • Yellow fever started in August 1793 in Philadelphia
  • Cases started on a few streets
  • People believed they were caused from a horrible smell from the harbor
  • People started to die unexpectedly
  • Wealthy citizens started to run for the countryside

Key Figures

  • Dr. Rush- He was a well know doctor that studied the first cases and declared the virus Yellow Fever. All of the other doctors were scared to think that the notorious virus came to their city.
  • Free African Society- the FAS was a group of free Africans that were once slaves. Dr. Rush begged the society to use their men and woman as nurses to care for the sick. They volunteered for free and went to peoples houses and worked at Bush Hill.
  • Bush Hill- Bush Hill was a mansion that was turned into a hospitable because the owner was in England. At first no one wanted to be admitted because it was like a "death sentence" but later people wanted to go and get cared for.

Summary of the Beginning of the Book

  • Every person in Philadelphia hid in their homes and too scared to come out
  • Farmers stopped selling food- food became expensive (that's a problem because the majority of the people left were poor)
  • Dr. Rush found a cure- mercury and a poisonous Mexican root, then were bled
  • Other doctors disagreed, a new cures were tried
  • People in Philadelphia were now trapped because the other cities didn't let anyone leave
  • Items were burned, paper was dipped in vinegar, in one case a woman was tarred and feathered
  • Bush Hill became too crowded, and disorganized
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Summary of the End of the Book

  • The mayor and a committee started to organize sub committees
  • Each has a specific job to do
  • Dr. Deveze used a gentle cure he used when Yellow Fever was in the West Indies
  • Bush Hill was turned completely around- people left cured
  • Death rate dropped (was once over 100 and dropped to less than 60 a day)
  • Then kept dropping till basically everyone was cured
  • George Washington traveled from his home in Virginia back to Philadelphia
  • Road his horse in as people walked outside for the first time in weeks
  • If anyone got sick, they immediately got cure

My Favorite Quote

“Every morning found more bodies lying in the streets. Everyday a new horror story surfaced… By the end of the first week of September, the yellow fever epidemic had driven the state government from Philadelphia and crippled the city’s administration… Without Congress to pass laws and appropriate money, the working of the federal government would eventually come to a grinding halt” (Murphy 45).

My Rating

  • Interesting, learned a lot about Yellow Fever
  • I would recommend this book if you like to learn about viruses or epidemics
  • Like a time line because each chapter starts with a date
  • Also at each chapter is a quote from a citizen in Philadelphia
  • A little slow at the end
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Thank you! Any Questions?

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