When Lungers Came to Tucson: Seeking Recovery and Discovering Tuberculosis as a Social Disease
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed a massive migration of "health seekers," who traveled to the Western Frontier in search of health. This migration was responsible for one in four permanent settlers to the frontier during this period. Among the many respiratory illnesses that health seekers suffered from, tuberculosis was the most prevalent and the most deadly disease in America. Tucson, Arizona was one of the most popular and famous "health resorts" because medical thinking praised sunshine, dry air, and open space for healing diseases like tuberculosis. But during the height of health seeker migration, medical thought changed drastically with scientific discoveries such as the isolation of the tubercle bacillus, which was an early validation of the germ theory. As a result, society altered its approaches to healing disease, but only a minority of people were able to enjoy the advancement in medical practices: the wealthy. Nationwide, tuberculosis became a social disease by 1900, and Tucson’s unique experience brings this fact into light. Eventually, there were two classes of tuberculosis sufferers in Tucson: the wealthy class, and the destitute one. Changes in science, as well as the realities of the Southwest, first provoked migration to Tucson, and then discouraged it. Nevertheless, Tucson both endured and benefited from health seekers as its community battled against a social disease.
Degree ProgramHonors College