Mother Cabrini arrived in New Orleans in 1892 to help with Yellow Fever Epedemic

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Mother Cabrini opened an orphanage in the French Quarter in 1892

As a Yellow Fever Epedemic was leaving many orphans in New Orleans, Mother Cabrini arrived.

In 1904, she received $75,000.00 from Captain Salvatore Pizzati to build a new orphange which is became Cabrini High School in 1959.

Mother Cabrini Statue at Harrison and Canal Blvds.

Records show that 7,849 people died in New Orleans in 1853 due to yellow fever. The total between 1817 and 1905 was in excess of 41,000. As yellow fever was very easy to diagnose (in the latter phases of the sickness at least), these figures exclude other causes of death.

Although this year represents the highest single-year figures, death tolls in previous and subsequent years throughout the 19th century often approached the levels of 1853. Studies will also show that the vast majority of victims were of immigrant stock; as yellow fever is a viral infection, previous infection by a less deadly strain would (mostly) serve to inoculate against future infection.

The last known epidemic of yellow fever in the United States occurred in Louisiana in 1905. Due to the intensity and frequency of these epidemics, it was often referred to as the “saffron scourge.”

The first case of yellow fever to strike Louisiana occurred in 1769, but the first epidemic transpired in 1796 when 638 people (out of a population of 8,756) died from the disease, translating into a mortality rate of 72.86 per thousand. In the 100-year period between 1800 and 1900, yellow fever assaulted New Orleans for sixty-seven summers.

Its main victims were immigrants and newcomers to the city, and for this reason it was also referred to as the “stranger’s disease.” The worst epidemic years coincided with some of the highest levels of Irish and German immigration into the city: 1847, 1853, 1854, 1855, and 1858.

It was not until 1900 that researchers discovered the cause of yellow fever. Before this discovery, many different “cures” were tried. Physicians most often relied upon bloodletting, blistering, purging, leeching, vomiting, and mercury.

Many New Orleans residents dismissed the threat posed by mosquitoes. Open wooden cisterns were the norm for collecting drinking water and, unfortunately, perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

In 1905, Italian immigrants unloading a cargo ship of bananas in New Orleans contracted yellow fever. Soon the fever spread, and the city asked the federal government for assistance. Orders were issued to fumigate New Orleans as well as to close all open sources of water and screen in cisterns. Residents were fined if they failed to comply. This dictate even included the holy water receptacles located at the entrances of Catholic churches after Archbishop Placide Louis Chapelle died from yellow fever. This final yellow fever epidemic in the United States ended in New Orleans in October 1905 with a total of 452 deaths.

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