Report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia for the Year Ended June 30, 1901 Vol. III (Report of the Health Officer)


Washington, D.C. was a filthy place at the turn of the century!

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“The excess of the colored death rate over that for whites is even more marked in the earlier years of life than in the entire population. Unless the returns of the Federal census of 1900 are incorrect, which, as suggested before, seems probable, approximately 457 of every thousand colored children recently born in this district died before completing their first year of life. The corresponding figure for the whites – 183 out of every thousand – while startling enough, is not nearly so appalling as that for the colored.” – pg. 8

This frankly heartbreaking report highlights the disastrous sanitary conditions experienced by many residents (mostly, the poorest) of Washington, D.C. at the beginning of the 20th century. It was issued by the Health Officer of the Commissioners of the District Columbia and printed by the Government Printing Office in 1901. The report’s 280+ pages catalog a city plagued by infectious disease, contaminated water, and adulterated food products.

Tables of statistics show death rates disproportionately high among members of the colored community, despite the efforts of the author to pin the racial disparity on flaws in census data. Mortality data also show alarmingly high death rates among residents of the city’s alleys, generally due to a lack of waste disposal infrastructure and running water. Such conditions, prevalent in many urban areas across America, helped prompt the Health Revolution of the late 19th century – the report is a continuation of those efforts towards greater hygiene and sanitation.

It is accompanied by four folding maps of Washington, D.C., each measuring approximately 28″ x 29.5″ and shows the distribution of deaths caused by various diseases. Diarrhoeal diseases, diphtheria, scarlet fever, consumption (tuberculosis), and acute lung diseases (pneumonia, bronchitis, etc.) are all covered, the latter two identified according to race – white and colored.

Sources: CDC; Coming Clean: The Health Revolution of 1890-1920; The Problematic Role of Public Health in Washington, DC’s, Urban Renewal

Map Details

Publication Date: 1901

Author: Government Printing Office

Sheet Width (in): See Description

Sheet Height (in): See Description

Condition: B

Condition Description: 285 pp. printed report extracted from an incomplete and busted Congressional volume. Includes four folding maps that show wear, toned fold lines, and small tears where previously bound. Otherwise, the old string binding retains enough tensile strength to keep the contents bound. Good condition overall, though possibly missing one of the maps (No. I is not present).


1 in stock