Smallpox in Charleston, SA

The outbreak of smallpox in Boston took a hit on the population of 11,000. Out of that 11,000 people 6,000 cases were reported and with the death rate climbing through the roof, people were still fighting over whether or not to inoculate people. When the smallpox had gotten to Charleston, South Carolina in 1738, the question again came up on whether to inoculate people or not. A British surgeon who had sailed into the town harbor suggested the process to inoculating people to all of the practitioners. All of the doctors declined the method, until Doctor John Kilpatrick agreed. Kilpartick inoculated about 800 people and had only 8 deaths. As the practitioners had seem the positive results of the inoculation, more and more people got inoculated.

Most of what I had found on the inoculation of the smallpox virus was articles on the statistics of how many got inoculated and how many people died from it. This article shows you what the “Chances were” when concerning smallpox. The picture below shows you what the article not only looked like in terms of being a colonial paper, but it shows you the difference of the death rates between getting the smallpox naturally and inoculation. [1] This very article was printed in the Boston-Evening Post for only one issue (November 20, 1738), same with the New England Weekly Journal, it was only published in the Nov. 21, 1738 issue. The Boston Newsletter published it from Nov. 16 until Nov. 24, 1738. The Pennsylvania Gazette had it from Nov. 2 until Nov. 8, and lastly the Boston Gazettepublished it in their paper from Nov. 13 until Nov. 20, 1738. In today’s society, I wouldn’t say that the news of inoculation in Charleston was widely circulated due to the fact all the papers were mostly in New England, but in 1738, yes this was widely circulated. Some papers, kept the article for a while, which gave people more of a chance to be able to read it. But on the other hand, the header is “America” [2]. Doctor John Kilpatrick went back to London to tell Englanders about the inoculation. This article was most likely circulating in England as well.

The point of this article I think was to let people know that inoculation is not going to be the worst thing possible for you. Yes people can die from getting inoculated, but the chances are a lot higher and more painful if you contract it naturally. In 1738, the amount of papers were all along the coast, and more north than Charleston. So the article was circulated more throughout the north just because of where the printers were. But with the power of people, one person could get a newspaper, and then when they are done reading it, give it to another person for them to read and enjoy. That eventually can get the news around, to people who couldn’t afford to buy a paper, and even to places where there were not any presses.

The inoculation of the smallpox virus in Charleston, came from the controversy of the Boston outbreak. But it also links to the outbreak during the American Revolution when George Washington had to make the decision whether to inoculate the militia or not to. With the article being about the stats of how many people died and how many people lived, really showed the population of the colonies, what inoculation can do to help you. The inoculation didn’t just happen here in Charleston, people were also inoculated in New York and Philadelphia at this time. With more people researching the outcomes of being inoculated it got people to recognize the methods of immunity and what we know today.


[1] Boston-Evening Post, November 20, 1738.

[2] Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Gazette, November 2, 1738.





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