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The Mosquito Crusades

A History of the American Anti-Mosquito Movement from the Reed Commission to the First Earth Day

Gordon Patterson

Publication Year: 2009

Among the struggles of the twentieth century, the one between humans and mosquitoes may have been the most vexing. As vectors of diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, and dengue fever, mosquitoes forced open a new chapter in the history of medical entomology. Based on extensive use of primary sources, The Mosquito Crusades traces this saga and the parallel efforts of civic groups in New Jersey's Meadowlands and along San Francisco Bay's east side to manage the dangerous mosquito population.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Studies in Modern Science, Technology, and the Environment


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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix


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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction: The Guardians of Paradise

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pp. 1-11

At 1:00 p.m. est on November 10, 1951, Leslie Denning, mayor of Englewood, New Jersey, phoned Frank Osborn, the mayor of Alameda, California. In Englewood, nearly one hundred reporters had crowded into the mayor’s office to watch Denning make the nation’s first long-distance, direct-dial phone call. Three thousand miles to the west in Alameda, Osborn waited expectantly. When the phone rang, Osborn answered declaring, “This is a great thing for...

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Chapter 1: Waging War on the Insect Menace

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pp. 12-34

On may 16, 1901, a man named Spencer Miller drove his horse and buggy to the South Orange, New Jersey, train station to meet Leland Howard. Miller had invited Howard, the head of the Bureau of Entomology in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), to address a handful of progressive businessmen and civic leaders who sought practical advice on fighting the mosquito menace. South Orange was...

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Chapter 2: The Garden State Takes the Lead

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pp. 35-57

I am in receipt of your report on Mosquitoes,” a young Berkeley professor named Henry J. Quayle wrote to John Smith at Rutgers in April 1905, “and wish to thank you very much for the favor. I am constantly referring to it in my work on mosquitoes here and find it a great help. Indeed, it is the only guide I have for practical control work on a large scale.”1 Smith’s Report on the Mosquitoes of New Jersey provided a scientific...

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Chapter 3: A Continental Crusade

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pp. 58-79

At 5:13 a.m. on April 18, 1906, the Great San Francisco Earthquake sent shockwaves that stretched five hundred miles from Coos Bay, Oregon, to Los Angeles, California. Many died instantly in the rubble beneath collapsed tenements. Gas lines ruptured throughout the city. The ensuing Great Fire raged for four days. Hundreds died in the earthquake and in conflagration...

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Chapter 4: Public Health, Race, and Mosquitoes

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pp. 80-102

Children growing up in the rural South in the early decades of the twentieth century learned to pay close attention to nature. In the Mississippi Delta lands, frogs proffered medicinal advice. Folk traditions taught that when evening fell, little frogs from the Arkansas swamplands to the Virginia Tidewater Basin piped “quinine, quinine, quinine” to which “the...

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Chapter 5: Widening the Campaign

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pp. 103-121

In 1921 the british writer D. H. Lawrence, with the experience of pest-filled Venetian nights still fresh, penned a seventy-four-line, free verse poem titled “The Mosquito.” Lawrence, whose explicit descriptions of human sexuality seven years later in Lady Chatterley’s Lover shocked his contemporaries, proved less competent in matters concerning the male’s role in nature’s great...

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Chapter 6: Advances and Retreats during the Great Depression

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pp. 122-142

Six months before the October 1929 stock market crash, humorist and Oklahoma cowboy philosopher Will Rogers discovered the mosquito crusade. Thomas Headlee’s presentation on “The Relation of Rainfall to the Seasonal ‘Peak Load’ of Mosquito Control” at the sixteenth annual meeting of the New Jersey Mosquito Extermination Association provided the unlikely occasion for...

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Chapter 7: Weapons of Mass Destruction

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pp. 143-166

Eight days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the California Mosquito Control Association held its annual meeting. The proceedings convey a sense of urgency. The meeting opened with a symposium on encephalitis. In the discussion that followed, Morris Stewart, a researcher at the University of California’s George Hooper Foundation, noted the value of...

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Chapter 8: The Postwar Era

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pp. 167-194

On February 7, 1949, 162 mosquito fighters assembled in the lecture auditorium of Agriculture Hall on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. The occasion was the seventeenth annual meeting of the California Mosquito Control Association (CMCA) and the first West Coast meeting of the recently incorporated American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA). ...

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Chapter 9: Discontent and Resistance

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pp. 195-215

Stan freeborn liked to tell the story of how he found himself at the end of World War I standing outside a delousing station in Newport News. Freeborn watched as a line of soldiers passed through the facility. When one of the enlisted men paused, Freeborn asked him “how he felt now that he was all cleaned up.” The soldier shook his head and declared, “Mister, I feel just plain...

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Epilogue: The End of the Crusade

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pp. 216-222

Perhaps you should consider changing your name,” Grant Walton, director of the Division of Environmental Quality in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) told the participants in the 1973 meeting of the New Jersey Mosquito Extermination Association (NJMEA). “You’ve been in business for sixty years and haven’t exterminated all the mosquitoes yet, ...


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pp. 223-253


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pp. 255-270

About the Author

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pp. 271

E-ISBN-13: 9780813547008
E-ISBN-10: 0813547008
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813545349
Print-ISBN-10: 081354534X

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 11 photographs
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Studies in Modern Science, Technology, and the Environment