The Great White Plague



Two days ago I published a piece about Inge-Va in Perth. Excavations carried out from 1987-1994 recovered approximately 50,000 artifacts, 15,000 of which came out of an abandoned privy. This pit contained over 350 china objects and 280 glass objects. Items recovered from the privy include 10 different sets of tableware, 280 bottles, 71 wine glasses, 108 pharmaceutical and toiletry bottles, 16 chamber pots and seven toiletry sets. These items were discarded in an attempt to rid the house of tuberculosis. These objects provide a unique insight into how medical threats were addressed in the latter part of the 19th Century. An estimated 110,000 died each year from tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis was one of the leading causes of death in North America in the early twentieth century. Those infected with tuberculosis were isolated from society and placed in sanatoriums. These self-contained communities became known as “waiting room[s] for death.” The initial application into the sanatorium acknowledged the possibility of death. On the entry application, there was a question about permission to perform an autopsy. The autopsy acknowledged the possibility of death. The staff encountered death and had to maintain composure in the sanatorium environment. The staff was restricted from telling any patient about the death of another patient. The poor were left to suffer, and in many cases, to die. Their bodies must fight off the infection on their own.


Canada’s first TB sanatorium opened in Muskoka, Ontario in 1897. TB sufferers were sent to sanatoriums to be benefit from rest and fresh air and to avoid infecting others.



Author’s Note- In the 40s my mother had tuberculosis at the age of 14 and was sent to the Ste. Agathe Sanitorium in Quebec. Her parents were told she was never coming back so they consequently burned everything she had because of either fear of being in contact with the disease- or the fact they were told she was going to die.

She went on to live until 1963 when she died at the age of 34 from Lymphoma on the spine-which no one had any idea to what she had until my sister died of the same disease at 40 in the late 90s.




Smallpox in Carleton Place — Did You Know?





The Gazette
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
18 Nov 1878, Mon  •  Page 3

The last name was COUCH and his wife died 10 months earlier from TB

Name:Mrs John Couch
Birth Date:abt 1815
Birth Place:Ireland
Death Date:16 Feb 1877
Death Place:Lanark, Ontario, Canada
Religion:Church of England
Cause of Death:Consumption

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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