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United States Capitol Building (image credit: Marcos Bais//Pexel).

Of Inaugurations, the United States Capital, Pandemic, and Mosquitoes

If you are an American, no matter whether you lean left or right politically, or consider yourself middle-of-the road and a moderate; no matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican; no matter for whom you voted — this past Tuesday was an occasion of promise.

On that day, January 20, 2021, America again showed the world — an admiring world — how transition of power is done:  peacefully, orderly, optimistically, ceremonially, and enthusiastically.

Now, for sure, there should be no blinking, nor ignoring, that we are a nation almost divided in half politically — and long stretches of that divide are wide and the cavern below runs deep.   And, yet, our republic — imperfect and flawed — is still, as Abraham Lincoln observed, “the last best hope of earth.”

In this space, ohDEER makes a practice of tying in what we do — all-natural deer, mosquito, and tick control — to history and current events.

As an example, if you click here you will be taken to a post — published on this blog this past July 4th — the subject of which is how the mosquito helped the American colonies win their independence from Great Britain.

The mosquito influenced the infancy of the United States in other ways — including causing the capital of the U.S. to be temporarily moved.    Of added relevance, it was outbreak of deadly disease — outbreak the mosquito generated —- that resulted in the temporary relocation of the capital.

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It was Philadelphia — not Washington D.C. — that was replaced, on an interim basis, as the capital of the republic.

You see, the U.S. has had three capitals.

From 1785 through 1790, New York City served as the seat of power and administration of the new nation.  It was in Federal Hall in NYC where, on April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the U.S.   On September 25 of that year in Federal Hall, Congress signed the Bill of Rights — 12 amendments to the Constitution of the United States — which was then forwarded to President Washington.  On October 2, 1789, the president sent the amendments to the Constitution to the 13 U.S. states to be ratified.

In July of 1790, Congress passed and President Washington signed into law the Residence Act that provided for the capital and permanent seat of government of the U.S. to be located along the Potomac River, with the capital established and ready to operate in that place no later than December 1800.  Also designated in the act was that Philadelphia would serve as the temporary capital of the country from 1790 through 1800.

We are about to get to the mosquitoes.

In the spring of 1793, large numbers of French colonists, some bringing with them slaves, fleeing a revolution of self-liberated slaves in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, arrived on ships in Philadelphia, the capital of the U.S.  Arriving with them was the Aedes aegypti mosquito, an insect that thrives in tropical environments, and which found a hospitable home in the city for the next four months, including one of the hottest summers the area had experienced in years.

Female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carry many viruses — among them those that cause yellow fever, dengue fever, Zika fever, and chikungunya.   All these diseases have symptoms that range from mild to serious, and sometimes can be fatal.

Mosquitoes are happy in heat and humidity, and breed in stagnant water.   During the hot summer of 1793 in Philadelphia — a city surrounded by marshes and swamps, with its open sewers, and barrels used to collect rainwater — mosquitoes thrived.

And in the summer of 1793 in Philadelphia, yellow fever raged.

The fever raged until the frosts of October and the sickness and dying stopped.

That saving relief came because when the temps get and stay cool, mosquitoes cannot fly, and the adults die off, but not before the females lay a final batch of eggs in water that will overwinter in a sort of of deep sleep before hatching and releasing a new generation when warm temps arrive.

Still, starting in August, and until those frosts of October,  yellow fever took the lives of 5,000 Philadelphia residents, which was 10 percent of the population of the city.

No one knew that mosquitoes were the sickness spreaders.  It was thought that the disease was communicable between humans.

And, yet, partly true was one widely-held belief of the time —- that unsanitary conditions were a source of the disease.

The people of Philadelphia used social distancing as a measure to protect themselves.

Those with the means to do so left Philadelphia.   Many political leaders departed the city.

In late summer, President Washington took it upon himself to temporarily move the U.S. capital 10 miles north of Philadelphia to the town of Germantown, PA. The president and his staff held meetings in Germantown until the yellow fever threat subsided.  In December, executive business was transferred back to Philadelphia.

It would not be until 1900 that it was discovered that mosquitoes are the source of yellow fever.  Making the discovery was U.S. Army physician James Carroll.

To read an informative and interesting article about the 1793 Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic please click here to be taken to a story, “Philadelphia Under Siege: The Yellow Fever of 1793,” by Samuel A. Gum, published in the Summer of 2010 on the website of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book.

There would be other major yellow fever outbreaks in America, with the final taking place in New Orleans in 1905, from May through October, resulting in the deaths of 900.

It would not be quite four years after the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia that, on March 4, 1797, the first and only presidential inaugural was held in Philadelphia.

On that day, John Adams became the second president of the United States of America.

He was sworn in in the House of  Representatives chamber of Congress Hall in the city.

And we are compelled to mention that John Adams was from Massachusetts  —- yes, the same state in which ohDEER was founded, and where always has been located, our corporate headquarters.