In working on this creative project, it was an issue of inspiration: in reading through hundreds of sources, what jumped out at us as the stories to tell, as the perspectives to take? Ultimately, the form it took was the same as the form of this posting: blogs.
Now, there are advantages and disadvantages to using a blog format for an online project.
- Ability to ask “What if” questions about modern communication in non-modern settings
- Easy to create, easy to manage
- Myles is addicted to them (Also a disadvantage!)
The major disadvantage, however, is more apparent – they read backwards, so for people looking to read the whole story they need to scroll down the page and read in a strange fashion.
However, this is really an advantage: it reminds us that history doesn’t always start at the beginning, and that you have to search for those starting points in our look back into the past. We feel as if we have found some of these starting points, and are proud to be presenting these blogs as our final Class Project.
Notes for Reading “Blogging the Plague”
- You will notice comments on a number of the blogs – these are part of the story, and help emphasize the benefit of communication and the importance of dialogue. They also allowed us to contribute to one another’s projects, and to create a connection (however coincidental and convenient) between our separate works.
- Each blog has a “Sources” page which features references to documents, both primary and secondary, which inspired or informed our postings.
- As noted, blogs are read backwards – each blog fits onto one page, so a simple “End” will do the trick.
Thank you for reading, and thank you for your time.
Myles A. McNutt, B. Alexander Fage, Amandine Clairo, Jennifer Huizen
About “Blogging the Plague”
“Blogging the Plague” is a project designed to ask a series of “What if?” questions about the outbreak of plague in the United States of America, specifically in Honolulu and San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century.
What if the stories of the people close to the plague, be it victims or medical professionals, made it to public at large through mass media sources?
What if the reasons and explanations behind the decisions of J. Kinyoun had been made public, allowing the public to view what was behind his public image as the “Wolf Doctor?”
What if there had been a news source that cut through the pacts of silence to reach a broad worldwide readership, spreading the plague stories worldwide?
If all of these, or one of these, would have happened, how would this have changed the question of how plague spread? Would the government have felt more accountable, providing more resources to Kinyoun and others? Would the residents of these cities accept the treatment, and their efforts, considering this new scenario: or would such a free flow of information have organized them against it more quickly?
This project does not attempt to answer this question, but rather poses it while offering different timelines and perspectives on the arrival and infestation of plague in the Southwest U.S. The hope is that these people that we have inhabited will bring some element of posterity to these events, and provoke further investigation.
PlagueWatch is a community watchdog blog designed to provide a perspective into the rise of plague in Hawaii and California during the Victorian era. Its structure is fictional, but the events of each post are based on facts and sources.
It is designed to point out the nature of government corruption during this period, and the inability for the traditional forms of media to engage with such issues. There was a huge opportunity for media to help confront the problems of plague through aggressive action, but their decision to pander to big business ultimately held them back.
In modern societies, we see similar actions, but the spread of information has made it impossible for news to stay buried. This blog uses many of these methods, from podcasts to open letters and conversations, to demonstrate how this type of communication could have raised awareness amongst the public as to the importance of this process. If the people are aware, perhaps plague stops sooner – or, perhaps, it simply ignites civil conflict.
The creation of PlagueWatch was overseen by Myles A. McNutt (100073201).
About A Saving Grace
A wonderfully intelligent doctor who experiences a delirious fall from grace, J. J. Kinyoun guarded over the port city of San Francisco, vigilantly watching for any sign of his greatest foe – Yersinius Pestis, or plague.
A Saving Grace provides a personal and dramatic view of one of the most devastating and detrimental government scandals that San Francisco would ever experience. Kinyoun’s anguish and anger serve as a poignant reminder of the human experience that accompanies these great tragedies, and allows us a glimpse into the mind of a man scorned.
This is a glimpse not shared by his contemporaries, who drove him out of town with little appreciation of his efforts and the difficulty of his position. These entries are designed to humanize Kinyoun’s struggle, and to ask the question of whether everything would have been different if the people only knew his true thoughts.
The creation of A Saving Grace was overseen by B. Alexander Fage (100083618).
About Plague on the Island
I chose to write about the life of a Japanese immigrant woman who is widowed by the Hawaiian plague of 1899 and 1900. The life of Madoka Sukuichi is fictional, but she became very real to me the more I researched the lives of Asian immigrants in Honolulu and all the trials they went through at the turn of the century.
I found the Japanese community to be especially interesting. In 1900 they constituted nearly 40% of the total population of Hawaii (61,111 out of a total of 154,001 according to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census), thereby making up the largest minority group by far. The Japanese were noted as being a particularly progressive and adaptive immigrant population; they also had ties to the plague in particular through Kitasato Shibasaburo and were more accepting of the idea and principles of bacteriology than any other ethnic minority (as noted numerous times in James C. Mohr’s book Plague and Fire which formed the basis for my recreation).
The place where Madoka’s home would have been (based on the death record of her husband) has now been paved over and made into a parking lot, according to Google Earth, but I found it fascinating to try to imagine what her life might have been like during such a time of extraordinary upheaval and trauma. She was a very level headed, intelligent woman, caught up in a few months of intense crisis.
Plague on the Island was overseen by Amandine Clairo (100084898).
This blog is from the perspective eyes of a 20 year old Chinese nurse working at the New Oriental Dispensary, at 828 Sacramento Street. She lives with her father, often here referred to as her Ba, and her two younger brothers and sisters. She is trained as a traditionalist, a nurse who uses medicine such as herbs and acupuncture to help heal and prevent illness. She is overwhelmed with this new sickness which is being spoken of all around her in scientific terms and references she cannot comprehend.
She struggles throughout her time in San Francisco to come to terms with possibly leaving her own ways behind to adopt Western medicine, while also feeling extreme sympathy and compassion for her own people. Her story is important, because it is not one that is recorded in books or articles or archives. It is a story that shares insight into why the culture responded the way they did the plague, and what effect this had on the way the white population of San Francisco and the United States in general perceived them. She was a person on the ground floor of this whole ordeal, and a vision into what went on behind closed doors. This is her story.
The creation of Yechunwo’s Diary was overseen by Jennifer Huizen (100083194).