Thursday, August 10, 2017

August 10, 1882 -- Mortality Reports Show Terrible Toll on Infants

August 10, 1882:  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the city’s Health Office has reported 53 deaths during the preceding day, 30 of those being children under the age of five, 24 of that number being infants less than a year old.  Of the two dozen babies who died, 16 of them succumbed to a disease known at the time as cholera infantum, a particularly pernicious disease that attacked infants primarily during the warm weather months, especially in large urban areas.  Beginning around 1893 infant mortality, thankfully, began a sharp downward trend, most probably brought about by two important initiatives.  First, the four-mile crib off Monroe Harbor was opened in 1891 and shoreline water intake was permanently ended.  Research shows that the act of safeguarding the city’s drinking water lowered the city’s mortality rate between 1870 and 1925 somewhere between 35 and 56 percent.  Secondly, the responsibility for monitoring milk distribution in the city was transferred from an independent body to the health department. Also in 1880 the Chicago City Council approved an ordinance that granted the city’s Health Department the right to inspect and regulate sanitary conditions in the work place and in tenement dwellings, an initiative that began to eliminate the unsanitary and unhealthful conditions in poorer areas of the city.

August 10, 1918 --  It is difficult to believe today, but for years – over a decade – a swimming race was held that had athletes navigating a course in the lake before heading west up the river to Wells Street.  On this day in 1918 Perry McGillivray of the Great Lakes training station wins the tenth annual river swim of the Illinois Athletic Club, establishing a new record for the two-mile course of 33:44.  Miss Rebecca Wells of the Walton Athletic Club is allowed to participate, but she is not eligible for any of prizes because women are officially barred from the event.  In the 1912 Olympics McGillivray was a member of the American 4 X 200 meter freestyle relay team that won a silver medal.  In 1920 he earned a gold medal as a member of the United States 4 X 200 meter relay team, also participating in the country’s water polo team as it earned a fourth-place finish.  The old Chicago Daily News photo above shows the crowds lining the river as the 1909 race approaches Wells Street.

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