Quarantine Rules

Staten Island, 1826

Original content by: Ryan Chalifour

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About This Document

Quarantine rules like these were provided to all ships arriving to Staten Island from foreign ports in the 1820s. This copy was posted on the Brig Bogota after the ship returned to the United States from Cartagena, Columbia in 1826. The regulations were legally binding and applied to all cargo, passengers, crew members and officers on a quarantined vessel. Quarantine regulations were established by local health authorities and were standard practice in American port cities, each establishing and enforcing its own particular quarantine protocols. 

Read by John Boudreau.

Historical Context

In the early 1800s, the nature of infectious disease was not fully understood. Rival theories were supported by different medical and scientific factions which sought to explain how illness was contracted and should be treated. Early recognition that diseases could be transmitted from person to person led to the establishment of quarantine regulations for ships arriving from foreign ports, especially during epidemics. These policies outraged the theorists who refuted disease transmission. They argued instead that all diseases and illness arose spontaneously in the body, belived to be caused by elemental humors, gases, behavior and morality. Quarantine regulations became the standard in most European countries despite further arguments that those regulations damaged commerce and economy.


Questions for Further Thought

  1. What kinds of ships would have been coming into port at Staten Island in the early 1800s?
  2. How did the rush of immigration in the early 1800s influence port cities and public health?
  3. In 1826, some European countries were not using quarantine practices because they were considered damaging to international trade and believed by some medical professionals to be old-fashioned. How effective were quarantines at stopping epidemics?