In the days before antibiotics many people died from communicable diseases. One of these diseases was pneumonia. At the turn-of-the-20th–century it was the leading cause of death, and 40 percent of those who died were under the age of five.
Adults, of course, were not immune. Women were susceptible to pneumonia because their tight corsets made it difficult for their lungs to function properly.
Still, death rates for contagious diseases were dropping as the new century dawned thanks to sanitation, clean drinking water, hygiene, pest control and vaccination.
Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs caused usually by bacteria or a virus. Those with underlying medical conditions or a weakened immune system are more vulnerable.
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Fluid on the lung
- Bluish skin tone
The lung of a patient might experience what is called crackles, a distinctive sound.
Pneumonia claimed the lives of many during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
Some notable people who died of the disease before 1920 include:
- Leo Tolstoy
- John McCrae
- Lewis Carroll
- Victor Hugo
- Walt Whitman
- Harriet Tubman
- Johann Strauss II
- Susan B. Anthony
- Andrew Carnegie
- Stonewall Jackson
- Robert E. Lee
- Calamity Jane
- President William Henry Harrison
- President Benjamin Harrison
- Boss Tweed
- John Muir
The best means of prevention are handwashing and covering the nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing. Vaccines also are available.
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Updated: 23 October 2020
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