Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you The Fever Districts of the United States, as of 1856 (click for a larger version):

Keith 1856 Fever Districts of the USA

Note the outlining of the Intermittent Fever districts, including Lansing, MI, where I live. Note the intense yellow rim of Yellow Fever.  Note the Small Pox Measles Scarlatina Consumption Endemic region along the Eastern seaboard, the large-case TYPHUS, the DYSENTERY, the casual “And many epidemics” tacked on to the main Yellow Fever, the serpentine red band tracing cholera. 1 There’s goitre in the Midwest and Mexico, elephantiasis down in South America, “Dia. & Dys. (severe)” in tiny writing down in the Bahamas, and the Bermudas are “generally healthy: Influenza, Rheumatism, Dysentery, Yellow Fever”.  And so much more.  (Compare to the map of Malaria in the USA, 1870.)

Keith 1856 USA Health & DiseaseThis amazing map is a mere afterthought, an inset of a map whose awesomeness goes up to 11.  The US map to the right2 (again, click for a larger version) is still just a small fraction of the whole, and that’s not even mentioning the jaw-dropping charts and graphs, also inset, showing “Consumption: Proportion of Deaths in the different quarters of the Globe”, “Comparative Value of Life in Different Countries”, “Proportionate Mortality of European Residents in Foreign Countries” and still more and more.

This map is “The geographical distribution of health & disease, in connection chiefly with natural phenomena. (with) Fever districts of United States & W. Indies, on an enlarged scale,” and it’s from:

The physical atlas of natural phenomena
by Alexander Keith Johnston, F.R.S.E., F.R.G.S., F.G.S.
William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, MDCCCLVI 3

I’d run across reverent mentions of this map — especially the Fever Districts inset — here and there in old books, and I just stumbled across it in downloadable form.  You must go at once to The David Rumsey Collection and pore over it for several hours, at the highest resolution.


  1. Lansing seems to have been just barely cholera-free, at least in 1856.[]
  2. The colors refer to “zones of disease” – Torrid (brown), Sub-torrid & temperate (green), sub-temperate & arctic (blue) []
  3. That’s 1856, for those of you who, like me, need to pause a while in thought when confronted with years in Roman numerals[]