The story Fever 1793 takes place in Philadelphia during the post-Revolutionary War years. Philadelphia was the capital of the newly formed United States at that time, and the events described take place during a four-month period, from August to November, in 1793. Fever 1793 is historical fiction, meaning that, although the main characters are not real, the story and setting are firmly based on events that really happened.
The author vividly recreates the feeling of eighteenth-century Philadelphia, culturally, topographically, and politically. The reader is placed in the midst of the bustling city, surrounded by horses and carriages, small businesses, and friendly neighbors (and their pets) going about their daily routine. From the coffeehouse where Mattie, the main character, lives and works, the State House where Congress meets can be seen, as well as the home of President Washington, and, farther away, the ships on the docks on the Delaware River. In the coffeehouse itself, citizens and politicians alike gather to talk about the issues of the day, and there are ample references to important people who lived during those times, as well as significant events. Some of these famous persons include Dr. Jean Deveze and Dr. Benjamin Rush, who held opposing views on how fever victims should be treated; some significant events mentioned, in addition to the yellow fever epidemic of course, are the launching of Blanchard's hot air balloon and the brave activities of the African Free Society.