“A people so well fed and so clean”: The 1832 Cholera Pandemic in New Jersey


  • David Petriello




This paper examines the 1832 cholera outbreak that struck the state of New Jersey. Over the course of several months, the disease infiltrated the waterways and canals of the state, killing over 500 and leaving a death toll that was statistically higher as a percentage of the state's population than all but five other states and territories. As the first, major pandemic to strike the United States, its effect on New Jersey as well as the state’s response are of historical importance. The article utilizes the various newspapers in existence in the state in 1832 as well as the collected correspondences of individuals such as Governor Peter Dumont Vroom and lawyer Silas Dickerson Canfield to explore the thoughts and reactions of both the public and local government to the outbreak. Upon examining these events, it is clear that there were distinctive political, social, and religious reasons for the differing reactions to the cholera pandemic. New Jersey’s response, while in keeping with larger trends taking place throughout the region, helped to introduce the advent of public health thinking and structures that would lead to further modernization in the prevention and treatment of disease.