David K. Randall: Black Death at the Golden Gate



Ile 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 ven though anyone who has spent time in the west or southwest knows it xists still and that s touched on here a bit in regards to the wild suirrels 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 arthuake 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 specially is fascinating to me and Randall writes the history in a compelling ngaging manner Readers who dig this and are open to reading nonfiction for youth would do well with Bubonic Panic When Plague Invaded America as well which is how I was already aware of the history of the plague in America This is a really OBaby engaging pop history of science covering a series of Plague outbreaks in California at the turn of the last century It was remarkable to see today s headlines reflected in the issues of 1898 San Francisco from the anti vaxxers deriding the work of scientists to anxecutive blind to objectivity in favor of political Nerds expediency to an anti immigrant fervor against unwashed masses to hyperbolic claims and counter claims of fake newsThe story sometimes reads like a slowly unfolding horror movie with a mysterious silent killer lurking the streets of San Francisco while doctors and scientists do their level best to thwart itsfforts There were Jack the Ripper vibes and I could almost picture a modern police procedural in the description of Rupert Blue s map marked with red X s for Zack (Areion Fury MC every plague victimIt s a fascinating peek back just 120 years to a time when germ theory had only recently been adopted by the medical community to say nothing of the public but antibiotics were yet to be developed San Francisco was teeming with plagued rats under its wooden sidewalks and packed dirt basements and use of microscopes by physicians was seen as a uaint hobby Technologically we ve come a long way since then but in many ways we re still stuck in an 1898 mentalityOverall well written well narrated andxtremely interesting Until reading Black Death at the Golden Gate I didn t realize that San Francisco suffered not just one but two plague outbreaks in the Shadow on the Crown (The Emma of Normandy Trilogy, early 1900s Yetfforts to liminate the scourge were hampered by multiple factors Joseph Kinyoun the first doctor posted by the Marine Medical Service the federal agency then with jurisdiction over health matters alienated local politicians with his arrogant attitude Plus at this time the germ theory of medicine was just beginning to be acceptedCity and state leaders resisted the diagnosis of plague when residents of Chinatown began dying with the telltale symptoms including buboes because they didn t want to inhibit the city s growth Residents of Chinatown refused to cooperate because they feared officials would raze their neighborhood Meanwhile ordinary citizens believed whites were immuneOnly when Dr Rupert Blue replaced Dr Kinyoun a amiable administrator and when whites also started falling victim to the disease did officials cooperate to rid the city of the plague Thought safe from the crisis Dr Blue was reassigned but the arthuake of 1906 created a new Taxi ins Glück emergencyDavid Randall s book is a well written well researched andngaging book that reveals this hidden pocket of medical history while showing how powerful political interests greed and racism can undermine attempts to save the public Such a deep subject and over uite a span of time this was supremely researchedThe only star it loses is that it sidetracked to Gold Rush and other historical background context a bit than was necessary IM. Isco would become the American picenter of an outbreak that had already claimed ten million lives worldwideTo local press railroad barons and lected officials such a possibility was inconceivable or inconvenient As they mounted a cover up to obscure the threat nding the career of one of the most brilliant scientists in the nation in the process it fell to federal health officer Rupert Blue to save a city that refused to be rescued Spearhe.

45 stars A historical medical mystery following two doctors who recognized plague when it came to the US and had to fight politicians business interests and rampant racism and xenophobia in trying to control the disease Because of all the pushback the doctors and the Marine Medical Service ncountered it took too long to make the connection to rats and fleas and now western suirrels also carry the disease as anyone who has been to a park near Lake Tahoe can tell you there are signs warning people to stay away from plague bearing suirrels As noted in the last sentence the disease remains hidden along the wide open horizon of the West where it waits to once again make a jump into the human population A devastating disease an apathetic and greedy local government and an unlikely heroBlack Death at the Golden Gate is a shocking tale of a plague outbreak in turn of the century California an The Magic Rolling Pin event that had previously been buried in America s history David K Randall paints a vivid picture of the chillingvents from San Francisco using a multitude of sources to give the readers a true understanding of who these men facing t A well written history of the plague s appearance in Hawaii and San Francisco as well as the fforts 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 thnic and financial bias of the period is also well documented This was a free review copy obtained through Goodreadscom I had forgotten I had put a hold on this through my library so was a little surprised when it popped up in my audio libraryFirst the narration I am not a fan of speed reading and felt that I could have slowed this book down to 80% of speed and been fine with it The guy who narrated it simply spoke to fast to let the story sink inSecond the story I remember learning about the black death and how they figured out that it was transmitted through fleas in High School I did not recall that it happened in the United States nor the opposition the scientist faced when investigating itAt the time Americans had reached the conclusion that the plague was spread through fifth Moreover they had decided that the plague was specifically a Chinese problem I deliberately did not say Chinese American because while most of the Not Without a Fight early victims were undoubtedly Americans they were not seen as suchMostxperts wanted to pretend that the disease was limited to Chinatown in the San Franscico area If somebody caught it it was a de facto proof that they had been to Chinatown As it manifested itself in the pubic areas first it was seen as a sexually transmitted diseaseNeedless to say the Garden Bouquets and Beyond experts didn t know what they were talking about andxiled the scientist so that they couldn t spread their liesI guess in that regard this book has something to say about modern America Don t confuse our irrational beliefs with the facts Unfortunately this realization comes in reflecting upon this review than it did while listening to the audio 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 centuryFor years one of my favorite books and reading The Unseen Wonder experiences for book club was Steven Johnson s GHOST MAP I ve been searching for something to scratch that itchver since but hadn t found anything close The Management Bible enough until now Author David Randall tells a fascinating story about the race to discover the cause and cure with anlement of racism to foul things up Zu schnell even further all set on the Pacific seaboard of the United StatesThis is one of those how have I never heard about this stories from history A fascinatingngrossing and at times downright nraging 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 inadeuate funding and support as well as rampant xenophobia and racism wh. 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 uarantine Chinatown while doctors xamined Wong’s tissue for telltale bacteria If the devastating disease was not contained San Franc.

HO But all told the title is the core of this bookOh the arly 1898 1903 fights between the individuals and the politico yes BOTH of the two highest officials And the obscuring of the reality to the populace or ven to the numbers or locations because of the disorganization and just plain selfishness of the know betters It reminds me of the politico yes of the present which allow infectious disease to stream into the country without the stringent measures reuired at all and at Invisible (The Curse of Avalon 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 dieIt was the most remarkable 5 star portion within the last 13rd 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 lonelinessOnly the uirks of the fleas saved 100000 s 100 s dying instead of 100000 s and we still get about 7 deaths a year in the western USA presently Suirrels can carry it tooThe big Earthuake 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 SF presently just as the feces piles and the rats areFor the most delicate this book is not politically correct IMHO Racial projection and laws treatments and conseuences for a number of issues like uarantine very uneual as well 45 stars The plague was not only spreading but Chinese residents appeared to be hiding victim s bodies in hopes that the decomposition process would obscure the true nature of death turning the survival of San Francisco into a cat and mouse game pages 58 59 Sometimes I like nothing better than investing time in a non fiction novel a stylish narrative that covers an actualvent a natural or man made catastrophe a crime an accident tc and getting caught up in the story likes it s an all star disaster movie from the 70 s That sounds a bit ghoulish perhaps but I d like to think people often show their best selves when confronted with a very bad incident Or alternatively you can get a glimpse of just how rotten or petty some people can beRandall s Black Death at the Golden Gate recounts the deadly bubonic plague outbreak striking San Francisco at the start of the 20th century At the time said city was THE metropolis on the US west coast much larger and populous than Los Angeles though that would ventually change with the forthcoming ntertainment industry as it was a major port and railroad terminus and it hosts and still does the largest community of Chinese immigrants in its large Chinatown neighborhood Unfortunately it was also a city then known for its self serving uestionable and corrupt politics Into this mix arrives the lethal plague which confounds the local medical stablishment nflames racism since it first appeared among the Chinese population and is badly downplayed by many in city and state government to safeguard the area s reputation After the initial investigating physician a federal officer from the Marine Hospital Service now called the US Public Health Service and an honest if not xactly personable man is cruelly xcommunicated after attempting follow correct procedures we meet the true protagonist of the vent Rupert Blue the next assigned government physician an underdog type he is sort of described as an average ordinary guy uickly taps into previously unused personal skills and strength with his new unenviable position The humble hard working Dr Blue admirably rises to the occasion and then literally races against time to prevent the plague from spreading beyond San Francisco s Bay Area The sweeping changes in health codes and sanitation things we now take for granted as a result of the outbreak were also sort of fascinatin. Ading a relentless crusade for sanitation Blue and his men patrolled the sualid streets of fast growing San Francisco Evolution, Me Other Freaks of Nature examined gory black buboes and dissected diseased rats that put the fate of thentire country at riskIn the tradition of Erik Larson and Steven Johnson Randall spins a spellbinding account of Blue’s race to understand the disease and contain its spread the only hope of saving San Francisco and the nation from a gruesome fa.

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David K Randall is a senior reporter at Reuters and has also written for Forbes the New York Times and New York magazine He is an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University and lives in Brooklyn New York