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One Vaccination, Under God: When George Washington Kept a Smallpox Epidemic From Costing Him the American Revolution

"You, there! Have you been vaccinated?" George Washington looks to be saying in this portrait.
"You, there! Have you been vaccinated?" George Washington looks to be saying in this portrait.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In 1751, a teenaged George Washington emerged from a harrowing bout of smallpox, which he had contracted in Barbados, that left him weak, pockmarked, and well aware of just how catastrophic an outbreak of the insidious disease could be. Nearly 25 years later, the experience would help him prevent smallpox from ravaging the ranks of American soldiers, an event that could have dramatically affected the outcome of the American Revolution.

As Andrew Lawler for National Geographic, British, Canadian, and German troops surged into Boston in 1775 to quell the burgeoning revolt, bringing with them both weapons and, unwittingly, germs. While the foreign forces had built up an immunity to smallpox美女视频黄频大全视频 due to previous exposure, Boston colonists were no match for the disease, which began to spread through the city. To keep it from infecting his Continental Army, stationed across the Charles River, Washington forbade anybody from Boston from entering his camp and quarantined any soldier who showed signs of sickness. Washington’s precautionary measures proved successful, but the venerated general wasn’t satisfied with temporarily keeping smallpox at bay: He wanted to inoculate his entire army.

There were a few significant stumbling blocks to this course of action. For one, the vaccination process—known as variolation, after variola美女视频黄频大全视频, the virus that causes smallpox—was still illegal in some states, and the Continental Congress had outright prohibited military surgeons from inoculating soldiers. Much like modern vaccinations, variolation entailed injecting a patient with a tiny quantity of the virus, just enough for the immune system to fight it off without seriously sickening or killing the patient. When administered properly, variolation resulted in immunity. If the dosage was wrong, however, it could lead to death—which had happened to King George III’s own son.

Washington wasn’t exactly abstaining from mass inoculation on behalf of the legislature, though. Even when done correctly, the vaccination can produce smallpox symptoms, and Washington couldn’t afford for thousands of his soldiers to be incapacitated for weeks right in the middle of the war. Instead, he ignored Congress’s order and mandated variolation only for newly recruited men, calculating that they would be fully recovered before heading into battle.

Despite his efforts, smallpox was already wreaking havoc on the existing troops. In May 1776, for example, Major General John Thomas lost somewhere between one third to one half of his 10,000 soldiers to smallpox during a siege on Quebec (which they did not win), and Thomas himself of the disease on June 2.

“The smallpox is ten times more terrible than Britons, Canadians, and Indians together,” John Adams wrote.

In February 1777, Washington told Continental Congress president John Hancock美女视频黄频大全视频 that he saw no other way to prevent the spread of the disease than to inoculate the whole army. By the end of the year, variolation had been performed on about 40,000 soldiers, and infection rates plummeted from 20 percent to a measly 1 percent. Soon after that, legislators across the fledgling nation did away with variolation prohibition.

美女视频黄频大全视频While Washington has long been lauded for leading American revolutionaries to victory on the battlefield, his shrewd foresight and strong leadership in the face of disease was just as, if not more, important.

“A compelling case can be made that his swift response to the smallpox epidemic and to a policy of inoculation was the most important strategic decision of his military career,” historian Joseph Ellis told National Geographic.

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You Can Browse Ellis Island’s Passenger Database Online

Millions of immigrants came through Ellis Island.
Millions of immigrants came through Ellis Island.
Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images

Under normal circumstances, Ellis Island is a place for guests to learn about the history of immigration in New York City and potentially dive into their own family's past. The site is currently closed due to the COVID-19美女视频黄频大全视频 crisis, but that doesn't mean its records are off-limits to the public. With Ellis Island's , you can view historical immigration documents dating back to the 19th century.

According to the , approximately 12 million people immigrated to the U.S. through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. If a branch of your family tree landed in the country during this period, the move may be documented on the Ellis Island Foundation’s .

To use the tool, create a free account and search for your last name. If you know the full name of a relative who may have passed through the island, you can input that too. Your search will bring up the name, birthplace, arrival date, and ship manifest of anyone who matches the information.

美女视频黄频大全视频While the tool will tell you who in the database shares your last name, it can't confirm if they're related to you or not. For that, you'll need to reach out to your oldest surviving relatives. A genealogy project is a great excuse to schedule a video chat with grandparents, aunts, and uncles and learn more about your family tree at the same time. When asking surviving family members about late relatives, the recommends getting specifics like age, full names, and possible nicknames.

Browsing Ellis Island's database is an easy first step into the world of genealogy. Here are some secrets of genealogists to know if you're interested in the subject.

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Why Is the White House White?

A sunny day at the White House.
A sunny day at the White House.
Cezary p, //

The President of the United State’s famous mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, stands out in part because its white facade contrasts brilliantly with the well-tended, green grounds that surround it. But while the appearance is certainly aesthetically pleasing, it’s really just a serendipitous side effect—the real reason that the White House was painted white is a little more utilitarian.

In 1791, then-President George Washington the site for the estate, and construction began the following year. By 1798, the year after Washington had completed his second and final presidential term, workers had finished erecting the sandstone walls of the building. Instead of painting it with traditional paint, they used whitewash, a lime-based liquid that would prevent water from leaking into the porous stone and freezing.

Reader’s Digest that the mansion’s first resident was John Adams in 1800, and it wasn’t long before people stopped referring to it as “the President’s House” and adopted a nickname that alluded to the place’s eye-catching exterior: the White House.

美女视频黄频大全视频“There is much trouble at the white house, as we call it, I mean the President’s,” Massachusetts congressman Abijah Bigelow wrote to his wife on March 18, 1812 []. As The White House Historical Association , this was just three months before the United States would declare war against Britain.

美女视频黄频大全视频In August 1814, British troops actually set fire to the White House, giving rise to the still-prevalent rumor that the White House was painted white to cover up the damage, but the whitewashing that took place after the disaster was really just a continuation of the years-long tradition. In 1818, the maintenance staff finally switched to using white lead paint (a whole 570 gallons of it) to keep the White House in gleaming condition.

The nickname remained informal for the next 80-odd years, until President Theodore Roosevelt made it the official name of the residence in 1901. It wasn’t the only lasting impact Roosevelt had on the place—the following year, he launched a major renovation project that included relocating the president’s offices to what’s now known as the West Wing.

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