From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 39COMMUNICATION TO THE MAYOR FROM THE COMMISSIONER OF HEALTH CONCERNING BACTERIOLOGICAL TESTING
July 10, 1893
Although bacteriological testing had been demonstrated as valid in Europe years earlier, most physicians in this country, including those in Chicago, were slow to accept the germ theory of disease. But with the world's fair pending Chicago's leaders had every reason to seek out the most advanced practices in the public health field. Thus the city council passed an ordinance on November 21, 1892 establishing an independent division for the bacteriological testing of the city's milk supply. And Dr. Arthur R. Reynolds was appointed Commissioner of Health in early 1893. He proceeded to conduct the Health Department along the most current of scientific lines. In a reorganization of the department's laboratory, he implemented systematic chemical and bacteriological analyses of the city's supplies of water, ice, drugs and food products. Fines from $25 to $100 for each first offense were imposed on vendors of impure products. Subsequent violations carried doubled penalties. Under Reynolds's guidance campaigns in 1893 and 1894 to boil water were effective in reducing outbreaks of typhoid fever dramatically.
Points to Consider
What was this communication specifically requesting? What was the Health Commissioner's overall objective?
Why was bacteriological as well as chemical examination of ingested products judged necessary?
Which event occurred in Chicago in 1893 which would have given impetus to this request? Why?
Why do you expect your food and water to be free of impurities?