Board of Health (Lawrence, MA)

mortalityThere are at present two collections of material from the City’s Board of Health although there is more material to be processed.  First there are 124 printed reports called “Monthly statement of mortality” and sometimes “Mortuary report.”  Information included: population, death rate, stillborn, nativity (country of origin), death by ages, causes of death, residents who died out of town, non-residents brought to Lawrence to be buried, and contagious diseases (and deaths there from).  The first is dated July 1915 and the last is December 1924.  Second there is material also generated from the Health Department, includes a list of some of the individuals cared for by the Lawrence Health Department during the influenza epidemic of 1918/1919.  It also includes receipts for a variety of items needed to care for the invalids.  Here is a list of the sufferers.

Influenza cases

In 1850 3 years after Lawrence’s incorporation as a town, the 3 selectmen (chosen every March) functioned as both a Board of Health and overseers of the poor.  Later works performed by a board of health were undertaken by the fire and streets departments, expenses being drawn from an incidental fund.  In 1878 an independent Board of Health was formed.  The board started out with one horse named “Dixie” and 2 men to collect garbage and ash.  By the end of the year the department had a stable on Lowell Street separate from the city stables.  The department offices were located in the City Engineer’s office in City Hall.  The duties of the board included the removal of trash, ash, and dead animals from the streets and alleys of the city; to clean privy vaults; to remove stagnant water and fill up lowlands; to see that sink and drains entered sewers (where they exist) and where there were no sewers to see they drain away from buildings; and to inspect tenements for healthful drainage, ventilation and cleanliness.  The working force consisted of an investigative agent and a clerk, who had a desk in the board offices to sign permits for burial, keep board accounts, ad submit annual reports to the state board of health, 8 laborers, 4 horses and carts, and one horse for the agent.

By the time the monthly mortality reports were being printed (1915) the department was called the Department of Public Health and Charities and had a director or commissioner.  There was also a clerk, a plumbing inspector, a sanitary inspector, 2 school physicians, a health physician, a bacteriologist, a milk inspector, an inspector of meats and provisions, and a school nurse.

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