As of July 6th, APS offices are open to staff and invited visitors. The Society will remain closed to the public until further notice. Library & Museum staff now have access to our collections and will respond to reference and photoduplication requests as soon as possible. However, please note that response times may be delayed due to increased demand. The Society will continue a robust slate of virtual programs throughout the fall. Read more about virtual programming and resources that can be accessed remotely. For further information on the APS reopening and its COVID response, please click here.

A Malignant Tale (Yellow Fever, 1793 Epidemic)

Learn how Caspar Wistar Haines experienced the yellow fever epidemic in 1793 by taking part in the 'Malignant Tale' interactive lesson at home or in the classroom.

Take part in the “Malignant Tale” at home or in the classroom and learn how Caspar Wistar Haines experienced the yellow fever epidemic in 1793. Through the personal letters of Philadelphians in our archive, we know what people in 1793 did during a time not too different than ours. The Malignant Tale is an interactive lesson (we encourage the use of sensory engagement) about early U.S. History and the history of Philadelphia. This activity was created for learners in grades 5 through 8 and has content that deals with death, race, and medicine.

The Malignant Tale was made in collaboration with Historic Philadelphia Inc.’s Bloodletting and Burials Story Stroll. These letters are also part of the Wyck Association Collection, which was recently donated to the APS. 

In 1793, Philadelphia was the capital of the newly formed United States. Philadelphia had a population of 50,000 and was considered the center of politics, medicine, and science. However, that particular summer, yellow fever would strike the city killing 5,000 Philadelphians. This caused panic and desperation throughout the city. No one knew what caused it or how it spread. People tried various ways to keep themselves healthy and relied on a variety of medicines and remedies in hopes of curing themselves.