United States and American History: 1872

About the history of the United States in 1872, the Great Epizootic where America's energy system was damaged by diseases to horses, Susan B. Anthony is arrested.

1872

--There are thousands on thousands in New York who have no assignable home and flit from attic to attic and cellar to cellar; there are other thousands more or less connected with criminal enterprises, and still other tens of thousands, poor, hard-pressed, and depending for daily bread on the day's earnings, swarming in tenement houses, who behold the gilded rewards of toil all about them but are never permitted to touch them.

Charles Loring Brace, social reformer

--Montgomery Ward began its mail-order business.

Sept. In New York and Philadelphia men were seen harnessed to carts and trolleys, pulling them along streets. In Boston a great fire wiped out the downtown area with a loss of over $80 million. In cities across the country, homes went without heat, garbage went uncollected...public transportation ceased, deliveries halted...stores closed, unemployment soared..

The Great Epizootic of 1872 had struck and America was without the power it needed to function--most power at the time being horse power.

An epizootic is a disease prevalent in one kind of animal and in this case an unknown equine virus had been imported via Canada. The disease hit in epidemic proportions, claiming almost a quarter of the nation's horses--some 4 million in all before it ran its course. As a result, America suffered a shock that helped bring on the Panic of 1873.

From the time the Great Epizootic struck in late September until the day the last horse died, 19th-century medical science was unable to provide veterinarians with any method to stem the disease. The doctors were powerless against the deadly virus which strangely enough, seemed to strike hardest at horses stabled in the urban areas. Within a month, 200 horses a day were dying in New York City, and metropolitan newspapers devoted their front pages to the Great Epizootic. New York was virtually shut down, transportation and deliveries almost at a standstill, unemployed transit workers pulling trolleys down the street. Belmont Park and other racetracks closed their gates, and one great American thoroughbred, Pocahontas, fell to the disease.

In Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, the situation was just as bad and soon outbreaks were reported in southern cities, including New Orleans, Atlanta, and Savannah. Some southern cities escaped without much damage, but in Washington, D.C., all mail service had to be discontinued and street railways were closed down.

Yet in no city were the results worse than in Boston. On November 9, a fire broke out in the downtown section and few horses were available to move fire-fighting equipment to the scene, over 2/3 of them being dead or incapacitated by the disease. Oxen were used in place of horses and the 1st steam-powered fire engine was tried in this fire, but they were employed too late to be of any real use. The fire had a good start and raged for 3 days, resulting in the destruction of 600 buildings, property damage of more than $75 million.

The Boston fire scared people, and scientists were urged to work even harder to find the cause of the Great Epizootic. But the virus was never isolated. The disease continued taking its toll until well into December, when really cold weather set in and suddenly ended its ravages. Only later did scientists learn that cold weather had killed the mosquitos that transmitted the deadly virus.

R. H.

Nov. 5 U. S. Grant was reelected President over his opponent Horace Greeley. Susan B. Anthony and other suffragettes were arrested for attempting to vote in Rochester, N. Y.

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