1,001 Ways To Die In New York City In 1855

 A Detailed Look At New York City Mortality For One Week In 1855

the new york city morgue Frank Leslies Illustrated Newspaper 1866

The New York City morgue

Maybe there weren’t 1001 ways to die, but in a typical week in New York’s death log 160 years ago there were at least 73 ways to enter into eternity. New York City was only the borough of Manhattan and the population was around 629,000.

355 people died during the week of September 22 – 29, 1855.

First looking at how people died we see things that are not predominant causes of death in the United States today.

The most common causes of death that week were: Consumption (38 dead); Infantile Marasmus (35 dead); Infantile Convulsions (31); Stillborn (25); Cholera (25) and Dysentery (20).

Consumption was the 19th century name for tuberculosis. What exactly is marasmus? It is severe malnutrition. Only 5 people died of cancer. Old age was listed only once as the cause of death.

Some other causes of death that week that are now relatively uncommon or in some cases all too common (i.e. shooting, suicide): Bleeding Bowels (1); Colic (1); Diarrhea (21); Dropsy of Head (9); Gravel (passing broken Kidney Stones) (1);  Hydrophobia (Rabies) (9); Scurvy (1); Suicide by arsenic (1); Killed or Murder by shooting (1); Casualty being run over (1); Drowned (1) and Teething (2). Teething?

Death came to both sexes rather evenly with 181 males and 174 females dying. White persons – 347; Colored persons – 8. As far as nativity, U.S citizens comprised the vast majority of those who died, 273, while 50 people hailing from Ireland passed away.

In the 19th century it was almost expected that many children frequently did not survive childhood . The death statistics bear this out. Children’s deaths far outnumbered adults 248 to 107.  Dying were 135 infants under one year of age and 60 children between the ages of one and two. On the flip side very few people would be considered “elderly.” 17 people died over the age of 60, with only 2 people dying between the ages of 80 – 90.

Out of the 355 people who died, 22 passed away in public institutions such as City Hospital and Ward’s Island Emigrant Hospital.

Below is the complete city mortality report reproduced from The New York Times.

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2 thoughts on “1,001 Ways To Die In New York City In 1855

    1. B.P. Post author

      Hi John
      Found it while researching a previous story about shot towers in New York City which ran on our site Feb 3 2015. The mortality list was on the same page in the newspaper. Thought it was interesting.
      thanks for asking.


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