Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Lowell Harrison, Crawford Crow, Richard Troutman

Degree Program

Department of History

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Asiatic cholera has been called the scourge of the nineteenth century, for it caused the untimely death of millions throughout the world. During its four visits to the United States, unknown thousands of Kentuckians fell victims to the disease. In attempting to prevent the dreaded scourge, Kentuckians became more conscious of the need for cleaner cities, pure water and adequate sewage disposal. Modern waterworks facilities, sewage treatment and disposal facilities have provided the means by which the United States has conquered this scourge of the nineteenth century, for with these facilities cholera is the easiest of all communicable diseases to prevent. But, as with the eradication of any disease, constant vigilance and continued use of modern scientific knowledge are necessary to prevent its return. The disease is presently ravaging India and the Far East, and with modern jet travel it could bypass quarantine stations and enter the United States undetected. The “seeds” of the pestilence could be sown across the nation within a few hours. The only safeguard is modern sanitation facilities, for no permanent inoculation or miraculous cure has been developed. Today many rural areas of Kentucky and other states use wells and old cisterns that are, or could easily become, contaminated by human fecal matter. A fifth visit from cholera should not be necessary to correct the ignorance and complacent attitudes concerning inadequate sanitation facilities that exist in these areas of the nation. This study attempts to show the horrors of cholera’s four visits to Kentucky, and how the fear of the disease stimulated interest in public health.


Arts and Humanities | Bacterial Infections and Mycoses | Diseases | History | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Medicine and Health Sciences | Public History | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social History | United States History