Faces of Cholera: “J.G.” and “P.S.”

By September 1832 some 2,030 patients had been treated in New York City’s cholera hospitals. These public institutions-hastily established because private hospitals refused entry to cholera victims-were makeshift at best: a requisitioned bank, a school, and a windowless workshop into which “winds and rain were freely admitted” before carpenters “could be induced to work among the sick and dying.” Of the 410 patients admitted to the cholera hospital on Rivington Street, 179, or just over 43%, died.

The images below, with their accompanying case studies — two of several from Horatio Bartley’s llustrations of Cholera Asphyxia in its Different Stages, Selected From Cases Treated at the Cholera Hospital, Rivington Street (New York: S.H. Jackson, 1832) — provide a unique view of the plight of those unfortunate enough to have contracted the disease.


“J.G. aged thirty-one, admitted six o’clock, P.M. July 17th, 1832, in the stage of collapse. Was rubbed with camphorated mercurial ointment, until reaction was produced; he was then put under hospital treatment. 22d. Ptyalism [excessive salivation] being induced, was ordered small doses of sulphur, and a wash of the same for the mouth. At six o’clock P.M. diarrhea increasing, was ordered an anodyne enema. He was under medical treatment until 24th, when he died, at three o’clock, P.M.”

Cholera Victim no.8

“P.S. aged 33, intemperate Negro. Admitted 4th of August 8 o’clock P.M. Was attacked with diarrhea and vomiting, 2 days ago. When brought in was cold at the surface; pulseless; hands shriveled; eyes sunken. He underwent medical treatment until 6 o’clock A.M. on the 9th August, and died after an illness of four days and a quarter.”

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply