The Evolution of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital in Antebellum New York City: A Series of Firsts

Dates: 1800-1860


In the early nineteenth century, New York City was an overcrowded and dirty place. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, combined with political strife and famine across Europe, New York became a place of promise for immigrants. Waves of immigrants, approximately 3000 a year between 1789 and 1794 alone, had a major impact on the health of New York City.

How does a city, filled with this diverse pool of citizens, engaged in divergent activities and life styles take care of the health of its people?

In the spirit of the American Enlightenment movement and the period when Andrew Jackson was president (1829-1837), known as the era of the Common Man, politicians and constituents thought broadly about the right of the American individual, including collective responsibility for the health of the people. To illustrate the connection between this uniquely American mindset, and focusing on the rights of all men, the early history of Bellevue Hospital will be explored. This paper will attempt to tie together the evolution of public health in New York City in the early 1800’s with the progressive connection of charitable and philanthropic funding and support of a system of publicly accessible medical care under the influence of the age of reason in America, with Bellevue Hospital being at the forefront of public health treatment and reform.



The Mapping Project

My map informs my paper in a fleeting but very specific way because it is so focused. But I went in that direction because I needed to start the map work, though I was still early in the research process without a clearly formed path for the research topic. I kept the mapping topic the same because it did directly relate to the education of the doctors who served Bellevue during the Antebellum period. If I had proficiency with the mapping, it would have been fun to be able to expand the use of maps to help illustrate more of my research. But because of my lack of prowess, it was very time consuming for me to be successful with the map. The mapping project results did help prove the growing importance of Bellevue Hospital in the 18th century, including the education of doctors which was the focus of the map. It became evident with the mapping that Bellevue had a home grown crop of doctors to help staff the growing facilities and that it had specific affiliations with the local medical schools as well.



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