Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race to Save America from the Bubonic Plague

Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race to Save America from the Bubonic Plague

For Chinese immigrant Wong Chut King, surviving in San Francisco meant a life in the shadows. His passing on March 6, 1900, would have been unremarkable if a city health officer hadn’t noticed a swollen black lymph node on his groin—a sign of bubonic plague. Empowered by racist pseudoscience, officials rushed to quarantine Chinatown while doctors examined Wong’s tissue for...

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Title:Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race to Save America from the Bubonic Plague
Author:David K. Randall
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Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race to Save America from the Bubonic Plague Reviews

  • Meg

    Remember the Middle Ages with all of its death-by-pandemic? This is a true account of when the Bubonic plague hit the United States at the turn on the last century.

    For years, one of my favorite books and reading experiences for book club was Steven Johnson’s GHOST MAP. I’ve been searching for something to scratch that itch ever since, but hadn’t found anything close enough... until now.

    Author David Randall tells a fascinating story about the race to discover the cause and cure, with an element

    Remember the Middle Ages with all of its death-by-pandemic? This is a true account of when the Bubonic plague hit the United States at the turn on the last century.

    For years, one of my favorite books and reading experiences for book club was Steven Johnson’s GHOST MAP. I’ve been searching for something to scratch that itch ever since, but hadn’t found anything close enough... until now.

    Author David Randall tells a fascinating story about the race to discover the cause and cure, with an element of racism to foul things up even further, all set on the Pacific seaboard of the United States.

    This is one of those “how have I never heard about this?!” stories from history.

  • Jane

    A devastating disease, an apathetic and greedy local government, and an unlikely hero.

    Black Death at the Golden Gate is a shocking tale of a plague outbreak in turn of the century California, an event that had previously been buried in America's history. David K. Randall paints a vivid picture of the chilling events from San Francisco, using a multitude of sources to give the readers a true understanding of who these men facing the Black Death were, and what they stood for.

    Randall does an amazi

    A devastating disease, an apathetic and greedy local government, and an unlikely hero.

    Black Death at the Golden Gate is a shocking tale of a plague outbreak in turn of the century California, an event that had previously been buried in America's history. David K. Randall paints a vivid picture of the chilling events from San Francisco, using a multitude of sources to give the readers a true understanding of who these men facing the Black Death were, and what they stood for.

    Randall does an amazing job at pointing out that history isn't just black and white; no person is either "good" or "bad." You learn each character's strength, but also their faults. I am often frustrated that authors leave the less pretty information out to make a more compelling hero. Randall absolutely came through, providing the whole picture.

    This read is fascinating, shocking, chilling, and in the end, encouraging. It is an absolute must read!!

  • Jeanette

    Such a deep subject and over quite a span of time- this was supremely researched.

    The only star it loses is that it sidetracked to Gold Rush and other historical background context a bit more than was necessary, IMHO. But all told the title is the core of this book.

    Oh the early 1898-1903 "fights" between the individuals and the politico "eyes" (BOTH) of the two highest officials! And the obscuring of the reality to the populace or even to the numbers or locations because of the disorganization an

    Such a deep subject and over quite a span of time- this was supremely researched.

    The only star it loses is that it sidetracked to Gold Rush and other historical background context a bit more than was necessary, IMHO. But all told the title is the core of this book.

    Oh the early 1898-1903 "fights" between the individuals and the politico "eyes" (BOTH) of the two highest officials! And the obscuring of the reality to the populace or even to the numbers or locations because of the disorganization and just plain selfishness of the "know betters"! It reminds me of the politico "eyes" of the present which allow infectious disease to stream into the country without the stringent measures required at all and at every time because it doesn't fit their "compassionate" politico agenda. Then, like now, the politicians and officials druthers came/ come first. And people continued to die.

    It was the most remarkable 5 star portion within the last 1/3rd, in the story of Rupert Blue in particular. I had never heard of the man. What a true heroic life he lead. And what sacrifices and disdaining rejections he suffered for his unrelenting truth telling. And rat wars he conducted against huge and always ridiculed push back. Not to speak of the loneliness!

    Only the quirks of the fleas saved 100,000's (100's dying instead of 100,000's) and we still get about 7 deaths a year in the western USA presently. Squirrels can carry it too.

    The big Earthquake seems to have put the Bubonic Plague in the shade, so to speak, historically re San Francisco. It sure shouldn't have. Not for the great numbers it killed then and since. Lies, lies, lies and cover ups to disease outcomes and sources with their paths-alive and well within S.F. presently-just as the feces piles and the rats are.

    For the most delicate, this book is not politically correct, IMHO. Racial projection and laws, treatments and consequences for a number of issues, like quarantine- very unequal as well.

  • Fredrick Danysh

    A well written history of the plague's appearance in Hawaii and San Francisco as well as the efforts to combat it at the advent of the twentith century. The development of the Public Health Service is chronicled as well as the personalities of the doctors involved. The ethnic and financial bias of the period is also well documented. This was a free review copy obtained through Goodreads.com.

  • Kelly

    A fascinating, engrossing, and at times downright enraging look at the spread of bubonic plague in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century. The book follows how two doctors recognized what was going on and how one was let down turn after turn, allowing the disease to spread because of inadequate funding and support -- as well as rampant xenophobia and racism -- while the other doctor was able to make inroads and discover that it was a specific type of flea that spread the disease to rats a

    A fascinating, engrossing, and at times downright enraging look at the spread of bubonic plague in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century. The book follows how two doctors recognized what was going on and how one was let down turn after turn, allowing the disease to spread because of inadequate funding and support -- as well as rampant xenophobia and racism -- while the other doctor was able to make inroads and discover that it was a specific type of flea that spread the disease to rats and then onto people. He helped develop a public health system and ways to combat the further spread of plague (even though anyone who has spent time in the west or southwest knows it exists still, and that's touched on here a bit in regards to the wild squirrels).

    Randall doesn't shy away from the realities of racism and classism, and he does a great job framing the situation in San Francisco with the greater things going on in the US and around the world at the same time. The earthquake is covered and offers sort of the ah ha moment of figuring out why the disease was spreading the way it was, followed later by further understanding of its spreading in Los Angeles following World War I and the Spanish Influenza.

    The history of disease, and plague especially, is fascinating to me, and Randall writes the history in a compelling, engaging manner. Readers who dig this and are open to reading nonfiction for youth would do well with

    as well, which is how I was already aware of the history of the plague in America.

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