Guarding the Golden Gate: A History of the U.S. Quarantine Station in San Francisco Bay (Paperback)
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As a major seaport, San Francisco had for decades struggled to control infectious diseases carried by passengers on ships entering the port. In 1882, a steamer from Hong Kong arrived carrying over 800 Chinese passengers, including one who had smallpox. The steamer was held in quarantine for weeks, during which time more passengers on board the ship contracted the disease. This episode convinced port authorities that better means of quarantining infected ship arrivals were necessary.
Guarding the Golden Gate covers not only the creation and operation of the station, which is integral to San Francisco’s history, but also discusses the challenges of life on Angel Island—a small, exposed, and nearly waterless landmass on the north side of the Bay. The book reveals the steps taken to prevent the spread of diseases not only into the United States but also into other ports visited by ships leaving San Francisco; the political struggles over the establishment of a national quarantine station; and the day-to-day life of the immigrants and staff inhabiting the island. With the advancement of the understanding of infectious diseases and the development of treatments, the quarantine station’s activities declined in the 1930s, and the facility ultimately shuttered its doors in 1949.
While Angel Island is now a California state park, it remains as a testament to an influential period in the nation’s history that offers rich insights into efforts to maintain the public’s safety during health crises.
About the Author
J. Gordon Frierson, MD, is clinical professor emeritus in the Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco. After a decades-long career in the medical field, Frierson continues his longstanding interest in the history of medicine with the publication of Guarding the Golden Gate. He is a member of the Bay Area History of Medicine Society, the American Osler Society, and the American Association for the History of Medicine.
“A comprehensively detailed and impressively presented medical history, Guarding the Golden Gate: A History of the U.S. Quarantine Station in San Francisco Bay provides an insightful study revealing the efforts of the country's then fledgling federal medical agency to maintain the public's safety during a communicable disease health crisis. . . . [it] is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library American medical history and epidemiology collections.”
—Able Greenspan, Midwest Book Review
“Guarding the Golden Gate is a remarkably extensive history of isolation and quarantine as practiced in San Francisco. The scholarship is first-rate.”
—George W. Rutherford, MD, Salvatore Pablo Lucia Professor of Epidemiology, Preventive Medicine, Pediatrics, and Head of the Division of Infectious Disease and Global Epidemiology, University of California, San Francisco