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The Mosquito Crusades

The Mosquito Crusades: A History of the American Anti-Mosquito Movement from the Reed Commission to the First Earth Day

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Mosquito Crusades
    Book Description:

    Among the struggles of the twentieth century, the one between humans and mosquitoes may have been the most vexing, as demonstrated by the long battle to control these bloodsucking pests. As vectors of diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, and dengue fever, mosquitoes forced open a new chapter in the history of medical entomology. Based on extensive use of primary sources,The Mosquito Crusadestraces this saga and the parallel efforts of civic groups in New Jersey's Meadowlands and along San Francisco Bay's east side to manage the dangerous mosquito population.

    Providing readers with a fascinating exploration of the relationship between science, technology, and public policy, Gordon Patterson's narrative begins in New Jersey with John B. Smith's effort to develop a comprehensive plan and solution for mosquito control, one that would serve as a national model. From the Reed Commission's 1900 yellow fever experiment to the first Earth Day seventy years later, Patterson provides an eye-opening account of the crusade to curtail the deadly mosquito population.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4700-8
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Environmental Science, History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction The Guardians of Paradise
    (pp. 1-11)

    At 1:00 P.M. est on November 10, 1951, Leslie Denning, mayor of Englewood, New Jersey, phoned Frank Osborn, the mayor of Alameda, California. In Englewood, nearly one hundred reporters had crowded into the mayor’s office to watch Denning make the nation’s first long-distance, direct-dial phone call. Three thousand miles to the west in Alameda, Osborn waited expectantly. When the phone rang, Osborn answered declaring, “This is a great thing for both our cities. New Jersey to Alameda in eighteen seconds. The world shrinks so that soon there won’t be enough room for the people.” During the next few minutes smiling...

  6. Chapter 1 Waging War on the Insect Menace
    (pp. 12-34)

    On may 16, 1901, a man named Spencer Miller drove his horse and buggy to the South Orange, New Jersey, train station to meet Leland Howard. Miller had invited Howard, the head of the Bureau of Entomology in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), to address a handful of progressive businessmen and civic leaders who sought practical advice on fighting the mosquito menace. South Orange was one of a string of villages and towns located along the first and second ridges of the Watchung or Orange Mountains. The handsome countryside and proximity to Newark, Elizabeth, and New York City...

  7. Chapter 2 The Garden State Takes the Lead
    (pp. 35-57)

    I am in receipt of your report on Mosquitoes,” a young Berkeley professor named Henry J. Quayle wrote to John Smith at Rutgers in April 1905, “and wish to thank you very much for the favor. I am constantly referring to it in my work on mosquitoes here and find it a great help. Indeed, it is the only guide I have for practical control work on a large scale.”¹ Smith’sReport on the Mosquitoes of New Jerseyprovided a scientific and practical guidebook for the growing mosquito crusade. “The report,” Leland Howard declared, “ . . . fills me...

  8. Chapter 3 A Continental Crusade
    (pp. 58-79)

    At 5:13 A.M. on April 18, 1906, the Great San Francisco Earthquake sent shockwaves that stretched five hundred miles from Coos Bay, Oregon, to Los Angeles, California. Many died instantly in the rubble beneath collapsed tenements. Gas lines ruptured throughout the city. The ensuing Great Fire raged for four days. Hundreds died in the earthquake and in conflagration that followed. Property damages were tremendous. Ineptitude and corruption magnified the losses. Progressives opened a statewide drive for reform. They demanded stricter building, sanitation, and fire codes. Hiram Johnson, a tough-minded Republican lawyer in San Francisco, directed his anger at corrupt politicians...

  9. Chapter 4 Public Health, Race, and Mosquitoes
    (pp. 80-102)

    Children growing up in the rural South in the early decades of the twentieth century learned to pay close attention to nature. In the Mississippi Delta lands, frogs proffered medicinal advice. Folk traditions taught that when evening fell, little frogs from the Arkansas swamplands to the Virginia Tidewater Basin piped “quinine, quinine, quinine” to which “the big bullfrog with his deep voice replied, double the dose, double the dose.”¹ Until the beginning of the twentieth century, except for the frogs’ croaking advice, the mill workers, sharecroppers, and poor farmers from the Carolinas westward to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada...

  10. Chapter 5 Widening the Campaign
    (pp. 103-121)

    In 1921 the british writer D. H. Lawrence, with the experience of pest-filled Venetian nights still fresh, penned a seventy-four-line, free verse poem titled “The Mosquito.” Lawrence, whose explicit descriptions of human sexuality seven years later inLady Chatterley’s Lovershocked his contemporaries, proved less competent in matters concerning the male’s role in nature’s great drama of blood and sex.¹ Six years later William Faulkner choseMosquitoesas the title for his second novel. Drawing on a seven-month stay in New Orleans, Faulkner used a boating excursion on Lake Pontchartrain as the frame for his mocking portrait of the Crescent...

  11. Chapter 6 Advances and Retreats during the Great Depression
    (pp. 122-142)

    Six months before the October 1929 stock market crash, humorist and Oklahoma cowboy philosopher Will Rogers discovered the mosquito crusade. Thomas Headlee’s presentation on “The Relation of Rainfall to the Seasonal ‘Peak Load’ of Mosquito Control” at the sixteenth annual meeting of the New Jersey Mosquito Extermination Association provided the unlikely occasion for Rogers’s musings. Headlee had traced the breeding potential of a single femaleCulex pipiensmosquito through six generations. By the sixth generation, Rogers learned, a house mosquito could theoretically have produced nearly eighty billion descendants.¹ This astounding number prompted Rogers to quip “what we need . ....

  12. Chapter 7 Weapons of Mass Destruction
    (pp. 143-166)

    Eight days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the California Mosquito Control Association held its annual meeting. The proceedings convey a sense of urgency. The meeting opened with a symposium on encephalitis. In the discussion that followed, Morris Stewart, a researcher at the University of California’s George Hooper Foundation, noted the value of the Hooper Foundation’s ongoing investigation of encephalitis in the Yakima Valley in Washington State “in view of the present emergency.” “In most [mosquito control] districts,” Stewart warned, “we have conveniently classified certain mosquitoes as of primary importance and we have devoted our attention almost exclusively...

  13. Chapter 8 The Postwar Era
    (pp. 167-194)

    On February 7, 1949, 162 mosquito fighters assembled in the lecture auditorium of Agriculture Hall on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. The occasion was the seventeenth annual meeting of the California Mosquito Control Association (CMCA) and the first West Coast meeting of the recently incorporated American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA). During the next three days, the topics under discussion ranged from the growth of new state programs to the role of DDT in mosquito control. Charles Hutchinson, dean of Berkeley’s College of Agriculture, delivered the University’s official welcome. “The University of California is justly proud of...

  14. Chapter 9 Discontent and Resistance
    (pp. 195-215)

    Stan freeborn liked to tell the story of how he found himself at the end of World War I standing outside a delousing station in Newport News. Freeborn watched as a line of soldiers passed through the facility. When one of the enlisted men paused, Freeborn asked him “how he felt now that he was all cleaned up.” The soldier shook his head and declared, “Mister, I feel just plain lonesome.”¹ Had Freeborn, who died in 1960, a year after retiring as UC Davis’s chancellor, lived another decade, he might well have concluded that the mosquito crusaders had much in...

  15. Epilogue The End of the Crusade
    (pp. 216-222)

    Perhaps you should consider changing your name,” Grant Walton, director of the Division of Environmental Quality in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) told the participants in the 1973 meeting of the New Jersey Mosquito Extermination Association (NJMEA). “You’ve been in business for sixty years and haven’t exterminated all the mosquitoes yet, people may question what’s been going on all those years. . . . I can foresee in a year or so you will have the New Jersey Mosquito Preservation Society, which will be holding meetings to counteract yours.”¹ Walton’s banter was not entirely in jest. A...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 223-254)
  17. Index
    (pp. 255-270)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-272)