May 25, 2021

Old Records Shed New Light on Smallpox Outbreaks in 1700s

From an Associated Press article by William J. Kole:

BOSTON (AP) — A highly contagious disease originating far from America’s shores triggers deadly outbreaks that spread rapidly, infecting the masses. Shots are available, but a divided public agonizes over getting jabbed.

Sound familiar?

Newly digitized records — including a minister’s diary scanned and posted online by Boston’s Congregational Library and Archives — are shedding fresh light on devastating outbreaks of smallpox that hit the city in the 1700s.

And three centuries later, the parallels with the coronavirus pandemic are uncanny.

“How little we’ve changed,” said CLA archivist Zachary Bodnar, who led the digitization effort, working closely with the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

“The fact that we’re finding these similarities in the records of our past is a very interesting parallel,” Bodnar said in an interview. “Sometimes the more we learn, the more we’re still the same, I guess.”

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