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Topics in Chronicling America - Typhoid Mary

Public health experts blame rare typhus bacilli carrier “Typhoid Mary” for more than 26 serious cases of the disease. Investigations linked cook Mary Mallon to households suffering typhoid outbreaks, leading to forced quarantine by the New York Health Department. After three years in isolation she successfully fought for release, only to be exiled to an island cottage for the rest of her life after authorities discovered she was continuing to work as a cook. Read more about it!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection ( Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.

Headline about Typhoid Mary

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Important Dates:

  • August 4, 1906: Mary Mallon begins work as a cook at home in Oyster Bay, NY. By early September, six members of the household are infected with typhoid fever.
  • Autumn 1906: Sanitary engineer Dr. George Soper investigates the case. He pronounces Mallon the progenitor of the outbreak.
  • March 19, 1907: Forcibly removed from her home by the health department, “Typhoid Mary” is sent first to hospitals then to an isolated cabin on North Brother Island. At this time she is referred to in the press with the pseudonym “Mary Ilverson.”
  • June 30, 1909: Mallon invokes writ of habeas corpus to be released from captivity. New York Supreme Court denies request.
  • February 1910: Typhoid Mary is released, on condition that she never work as a cook again.
  • December 1911: Mallon threatens to sue New York Health Department for mistreatment, but drops suit a year later.
  • March 1915: Mallon sent back to isolation after she is found to be working as cook, under an alias, at a hospital in the midst of a typhoid outbreak.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Typhoid Mary, Mary Mallon, Mary Ilverson.
  • It is important to use a specific date range if looking for articles for a particular event in order to narrow your results. For best results, limit your search to 1908 to 1915.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

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  October 9, 2014
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