Detroit Smallpox Map 1920


Published in the City Health Bulletin, May 1920 (Page 3) by George T. Palmer, Epidemiologist – this map shows how the first cases of smallpox were concentrated in the Black Bottom where the small black population resided. Since smallpox spreads easily by close contact and housing conditions in the Black Bottom were less than ideal, it is no wonder that the disease found easy vectors.

Epidemiologist Palmer notes that the “unprecedented influx of people to Detroit, combined with a woeful lack of suitable housing” causing overcrowding aided in the spread of disease by close contact.

The disease among the colored is confined largely to the unmarried adult male, from 20 to 50. This is mainly a roving population, living in rooming houses. Two-thirds of the colored cases have been in Detroit in less than a year. Never having been successfully vaccinated, this group furnishes a fertile field for smallpox once introduced.

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