Quarantine: Flying the Yellow Flag

Quarantine: Flying the Yellow Flag

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Olympic (1911) arrived in New York on 3 July 1920, two days late, after being held at Quarantine due to the presence of steerage passengers originating from typhus-infected areas of Europe.

Approximately 1,150 steerage passengers were shuttled by tender to Hoffman Island for five days of medical observation. Other passengers and crew, including 95 US citizens traveling in steerage who may have acquired the disease by contact, were subject to examination by J. C. H. Beaumont, the ship’s surgeon.

It’s hard to imagine this sort of policy being enforced today. Apparently, back then, if one was an upper class passenger and/or US citizen, a cursory examination was sufficient to prove disease immunity.

The situation had changed considerably by the mid-20th century, however. When the author’s immigrant family arrived in New York on board Queen Mary in 1949, there was no stop at Quarantine or tender service to Hoffman Island or Ellis Island. Although traveling in Tourist Class (pre-war Third Class), they simply disembarked with the other passengers at Cunard’s North River pier.

Continue on for a look at Hoffman Island’s prisonesque facilities.

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