Quarantine & Eradication: Plague in San Francisco

Event detail
 

The third plague pandemic broke out in 1855 in Southwest China (Yunnan) and raged across the globe until 1959, causing the death of approximately 12 million people. The plague hit San Francisco twice, first in 1900-1903 and the second time in 1907-1908.

As Yersinia pestis spread in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1900, the public perception of the infectious disease affected the built environment of the district – with race discrimination evident. Amidst political upheaval, Chinatown was quarantined as way to stop the spread. By 1903, there were no more plague cases documented. Then, less than one year after the Earthquake and Fire of 1906 devastated the City of San Francisco, the plague hit San Francisco for a second time. This time the infectious disease was represented throughout the neighborhoods of San Francisco, and the war on rats began.

Drawing from rarely-displayed photographs, ephemera, City Archives, and organizational papers of the San Francisco History Center, this special exhibition offers a glimpse into the entangled history of the efforts made by government, business, and societal leaders who reacted and responded to the third plague pandemic in San Francisco.

This exhibition is occurring in conjunction with the Visual Representations of the Third Plague Pandemic project. This interdisciplinary research project led by social anthropologist, Dr. Christos Lynteris, based at University of Cambridge's Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities (CRASSH), is funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant (under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme/ERC grant agreement no 336564).

The Daniel E. Koshland San Francisco History Center contains a research collection of books, newspapers and magazines, photographs, maps, posters, archives and manuscript collections, and ephemera documenting all aspects of San Francisco life and history. The Center is also the official archives for the City and County of San Francisco.

Learn more about History and Genealogy through the wealth of resources available at the Library.

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