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Clip #: SF-2C
Library: TFA Network
When the film was made in 1912, tuberculosis was still the leading cause of death in the United States, as it had been throughout most of the nineteenth century. Known familiarly as consumption, for the wasting weight loss that followed initial bouts of coughing, the frightening disease was finally traced in 1882 to the tubercle bacillus. Although the death rate from TB had been declining even before then, urbanization and workplace changes at the start of the twentieth century conspired to make the disease more of a social problem. Once TB was identified as a bacterial contagion, sweatshops and urban tenements crowded with new immigrants were recognized as breeding grounds, and polluting smoke from factories was understood as increasing susceptibility. The popular thought was that tuberculosis was a “city disease”—and that the more affluent living in small towns needn’t worry overmuch about it.
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