The Boston Smallpox Epidemic, 1721
A Narrative of the Method and Success of Inoculating the Small-Pox in New England, 1722. From the holdings of Houghton Library—Harvard College Library.
Between April and December 1721, 5,889 Bostonians had smallpox, and 844 died of it. October was the worst month, with 411 deaths. Smallpox caused more than three–quarters of all the deaths in Boston that year.
Smallpox is a very old disease, with evidence for its presence going back centuries. In Europe and the United States, bouts of smallpox were considered to be almost inevitable, and the disease was greatly feared. Epidemics could kill 30% of those infected and cause permanent disfiguration in the rest. In some populations, the impact was even more severe: After being introduced by 16th-century Europeans, smallpox is said to have killed most of the indigenous population of North America