What historical facts are mentioned in Fever 1793?

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Fever 1793, a historical novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, takes place in Philadelphia during the summer of 1793. The novel provides a vivid picture of what life was like in Philadelphia at that time.

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This novel takes place during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia, an actual historical event. The epidemic literally decimated the population of the city, killing 10% of its people. At that time, as the book mentions, Philadelphia was the capital of the country, not Washington, D.C. The doctor...

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mentioned in the novel, Benjamin Rush, was an actual physician who sought to cure the disease through bleeding. Dr. Kerr uses this method in the book to try to cure Mattie's mother of the disease, as Dr. Rush influenced the treatment used by other doctors. Dr. Rush also contracted the disease but survived. 

In the novel, Dr. Rush summons Reverend Allen of the Free African Society to help victims of the disease. This also really happened, as Dr. Rush thought people of African descent couldn't contract the disease, and the African American community thought nursing the sick and burying the dead would help African American people prove their equality to whites. There was a community of freed African American people in Philadelphia at the time, and the character Eliza, who works at the coffeehouse that Mattie's family runs, is part of this community. 

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Laurie Halse Anderson sets the narrative firmly in Philadelphia in 1793 by alluding to famous characters who lived during those times and events which took place.  Less than twenty years after the War of Independence, Philadelphia is still the center of government for the United States, and the Cook family's coffee house is located near both the State House where Congress meets, and the newly built residence of President Washington himself.  The author also makes passing references to other political personages, such as Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.

Historically, there really was a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793, which changed the face of its population.  Dr. Benjamin Rush was a real person whose philosophies influenced the way in which many patients were treated, and Dr. Jean Deveze was also real, having been the head physician at a hospital for fever victims established at the luxurious Bush Hill residence of Alexander Hamilton himself.

Other historical events incorporated by Anderson to give her book authenticity include Blanchard's hot air balloon launch and the work of the African Free Society.  Jean Pierre Blanchard made the first balloon ascent in America in January of 1793, and Mattie speaks of witnessing the event with Nathaniel Benson (Chapter 5), and Dr. Rush, mistakenly believing that African Americans were immune to the fever, solicited the help of the African Free Society in caring for the city's victims.

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What are some historical events that happened in the book Fever 1793?

Laurie Halse Anderson's historical novel Fever 1793 takes place in Philadelphia. As portrayed in the book, Philadelphia was then the nation's capital. The narrator of the novel mentions the State House, where the Congress then met. Coffeehouses, like the one portrayed in the novel, were common in Philadelphia at the time, and they were places where people could gather to speak about politics and to exchange ideas. The character of Eliza in the novel is a freed slave, and Philadelphia was home to about 2,000 freed slaves at the time. 

In addition, an actual yellow fever epidemic broke out in Philadelphia in July of 1793. It was the first significant yellow fever epidemic in the United States. Of the approximately 45,000 people then living in the city, 5,000 died and an estimated 17,000 left the city. Dr. Benjamin Rush, who is a character in the novel and who actually signed the Declaration of Independence, was a major figure in combating the disease. He believed in a treatment of giving his patients mercury and bleeding them. Dr. Rush mistakenly believed that African-American people were immune to the disease, and many African-Americans carried the responsibility of caring for sick patients. When they started to perish, this idea was discounted. While Dr. Rush praised their efforts, some in the community saw their work as an example of profiteering. Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, two African-Americans who had worked to help patients during the epidemic, published their own account of their work to discount these rumors. The Appendix (at the back of Fever 1793) provides more details about the historical background of the novel. 

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