The Exhibit will remain on display from March 22nd - April 30th
"Throughout history, pandemics have transformed individuals and society in a multitude of ways. This exhibit draws parallels between the Covid-19 era and Saranac Lake's history as a community that welcomed people suffering from Tuberculosis." - Historic Saranac
Tuberculosis in the Adirondacks:
In 1884, Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau established the Adirondack Cottage Sanitorium in Saranac Lake, NY. Dr. Trudeau established the sanatorium after overcoming his own "miraculous" recovery from Tuberculosis. Tuberculosis in the late 19th to early 20th Century was the first cause of death for many across the globe. Many people feared this respiratory disease. Dr. Trudeau built the sanatorium to treat and study Tuberculosis patients. In 1893, the Saranac Laboratory was built in order to search for a cure for Tuberculosis. By creating a safe space and isolation of TB patients for treatment and research, Trudeau was able to lessen mortality rates. Many people replicated Trudeau’s ideas such as “cure cottages” and the power “of fresh air, rest, positive attitude, and good nutrition” when combating TB. After Trudeau’s death in 1915, the Adirondack Cottage Sanatorium was changed to Trudeau Sanatorium. By 1932, the TB colony had grown to a population of 2000, making the community of Saranac Lake around 8000 individuals or the size of Carthage, NY today. After the discovery of streptomycin, the Trudeau Sanatorium closed and the era of sanatorium came to an end.
Understanding Tuberculosis (TB)
Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that usually affects the lungs and can spread through the air. Similar to Covid-19, the Flu, and the Common Cold, infected individuals can spread TB through coughing, sneezing, talking, singing, and spitting that propels the bacteria through the air. TB leads to the breakdown of the immune system that then enables other diseases to take root such as pneumonia, liver cirrhosis, renal failure, or malignancy. While it still affects many people and countries, today tuberculosis is preventable, treatable, and curable by taking medicine and the BCG vaccine.
Some famous people who passed away as a result of Tuberculosis-borne diseases were George Orwell, John Keats, Emily Bronte, both of Edgar Allan Poe’s wives (Elizabeth & Virginia), and Franz Kafka.
Pandemic Perspectives Exhibit
The Pandemic Displays are a Travelling Exhibit from Historic Saranac Lake. Following their display, they will return to:
Historic Saranac Lake at the Saranac Laboratory Museum
89 Church Street, Suite 2, Saranac Lake, New York 12983
Impact of Disease on Small Communities
Military communities are similar to small towns as they have the infrastructure and the similar mindset. The military community is tight-knit and while spread over a greater area, share similar values and ideas of small town life.
In 2020, with the spread of Covid-19, small town communities felt the greatest impact. Small businesses closed, people lost their jobs, and many were unable to visit loved ones. Similar to the Tuberculosis outbreak in the early 1900s, many people in the countryside feared being stigmatized or blamed for bringing the disease to their town. Phyllis Kanki, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases, states that “when diseases impact particular sub-populations, the potential for blame and stigma increases while reducing rational health-seeking behavior.” Many small businesses post-pandemic have failed to reopen and have forever changed the local climate of small towns in New York. People faced the inability to buy common products. For example, on Fort Drum, “the Commissary and Main Post Exchange began imposing limits on high purchase items” such as toilet paper and sanitizing products. Dairy farmers around Northern New York also faced a dire situation during the pandemic. As “30 to 45 percent of all dairy produced in the United States,” is consumed by the food service industry, and due to Covid-19, many manufacturers and businesses halted their milk orders. Jay Matteson, the agricultural coordinator at Jefferson County Economic Development, states that the milk industry faced “an unprecedented crisis” that had not been “experienced in the United States in 100 years.”
While the impact has been great, diseases have shown the power of a small town community’s ability to come together. Farmers rather than dumping their milk, began giving it away to underprivileged individuals. People began visiting hospitalized family members via FaceTime and on Fort Drum, people cheered high-school graduates on through car parades. The Fort Drum base commander stated at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic that “we are all in this together” and can thereby stay safe as a community, “for one another, and for ourselves.”