Business during an Epidemic: Yellow Fever Notes

HomeEducationUnit PlansEconomics through the Long History of America’s First BankBusiness during an Epidemic: Yellow Fever Notes

Business during an Epidemic: Yellow Fever Notes

The 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia was devastating for a number of reasons.  The toll to humanity was extraordinary: Thousands were killed, and thousands became sick.  There were political ramifications, being as Philadelphia was then the nation’s capital, and even President George Washington had to flee Center City.  There were medical consequences, considering that Founding Father and Physician Benjamin Rush was baffled by the disease.  There were social effects, as Philadelphia’s African American community offered heroic service to their fellow citizens, only to be accused of treachery. 

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has extensive sources that relate to the various aforementioned effects of the epidemic, which can be found here.  But, important to this lesson plan (considering that it refers to a relevant source from the Bank of North America collection) is how this epidemic affected the economy, especially banking in Philadelphia – then the financial as well as legal capital of the United States.  Students will analyze a fascinating primary source concerning the way in which the epidemic affected the economy.

Funders/Sponsors: 

Common Core Standards:

CC.8.5.11-12.A.

CC.8.5.11-12.B.

CC.8.5.11-12.C.


In Partnership With:

Essential Questions

What role does analysis have in historical construction?
Why is time and space important to the study of history?

Objectives

Objectives

The students will be able to:

  • analyze primary sources, through the use of a "Reading Road Map."
  • evaluate the ways in which an epidemic can affect the marketplace by evaluating the bank procedures from the Bank of North America Collection.

Other Materials

Primary Source

From the Bank of North America Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:

A Memorandum Book recording minutes from the Bank of North America’s Board of Directors during the Yellow Fever epidemic (Vol 3).

Worksheet

A Reading Road Map, relating to the Memorandum Book above.

Suggested Instructional Procedures

  1. Teachers are encouraged to use this lesson in order to scaffold towards understanding how to interpret and read primary sources.
  2. Teachers may want to distribute the primary source – a Memorandum Book recording minutes from the Bank of North America’s Board of Directors during the Yellow Fever epidemic – and the Reading Road Map (which can be collected and graded).  The primary source would work best if it was electronically distributed to the students, so that they could more easily "zoom in" to the text.
  3. Time permitting, students could write a short response "evaluating the ways in which an epidemic can affect the marketplace."

Related Resources for Students