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A 1970’s Time Capsule

NEWS AND NOTEWORTHY

Be sure to visit my Pop Culture post today as well.

Since I live in what we call the Delaware Valley, which is Philadelphia and its surrounding area, this story was a big deal.  Since my source, the History Channel, is also including it, then I guess it was bigger than a local story.  Also remember that in 1976, Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love was in the spotlight for the nations 200th birthday, the Bicentennial.

Vintage-Postcard-Philadelphia-The-Bicentennial-City

Spirit of 76

Spirit of 76

On July 23, 1976, members of the American Legion arrive in Philadelphia to celebrate the bicentennial of U.S. independence. Soon after, many began suffering from a mysterious form of pneumonia. Their ailment would come to be known as Legionnaires’ disease.

American Legion Member

American Legion Member

About 4,000 delegates from the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Legion met at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia for a four-day gathering.

Historic American Buildings Survey Library of Congress Site of the 1976 outbreak, the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel would close down for several months.

Historic American Buildings Survey
Library of Congress
Site of the 1976 outbreak, the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel would close down for several months.

Sooty Philadelphia circa 1910. "The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company.

Sooty Philadelphia circa 1910. “The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel.” 8×10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company.

While at the hotel, built in 1900, the Legionnaires did not notice anything unusual. However, several days after the event ended, many attendees became sick. By August 2, 22 people were dead and hundreds connected to the gathering were experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms.

A snapshot from an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in July 1976. Within a month, an infectious disease killed two of these men.

A snapshot from an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in July 1976. Within a month, an infectious disease killed two of these men.

The Center for Disease Control immediately launched an investigation, but it took four months to identify the culprit.

This photograph depicts former Centers for Disease Control microbiologist, and Deputy Director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases, Dr, Joseph E. McDade.

This photograph depicts former Centers for Disease Control microbiologist, and Deputy Director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases, Dr, Joseph E. McDade.

Joseph McDade, a CDC research microbiologist, finally isolated the bacteria that caused the disease: an aquatic microorganism, found in watery places like pipes and air conditioning units, which caused a low fever and mild cough in most people who were exposed to it, but could affect other people in far worse ways. In a small, but significant, minority of people, vomiting, diarrhea and pneumonia developed, following an incubation period of between two and 10 days. Smokers, very old people and those suffering from pulmonary disease were most at risk.

From the American Legion event in Philadelphia, about 250 cases were identified, which resulted in between 29 and 34 deaths. Researchers estimate that there are about 20,000 cases of Legionnaires ‘ disease annually in the United States, but only about 1,000 are correctly identified and diagnosed, as its symptoms can be similar to regular pneumonia. Antibiotics are usually effective against the disease.

Scientists are still unclear as to how long Legionnaires’ bacteria had been striking victims before it was finally identified in 1976.

Source:  http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/legionnaires-gather-in-philly

Source:  http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/Legionnaires.html (This is a good alternate article to read about legionnaires’ disease)

So what happened to the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel?  Do you think its infamous notoriety from 1976 would end her reign?  She did struggle and close as a result that year; however since then she open and closed a few times as other hoteliers took her on.  The hotel is in the US National Register of Historic Places and is known as the Grand Dame of Broad.  She is open today but has changed a lot over the years in both interior and name.   Its current name as of 2010 is the Hyatt at the Bellevue.  You can read all about her here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bellevue-Stratford_Hotel

The hotel's entrance in 2013

The hotel’s entrance in 2013

All images in this article are in the public domain. For any YouTube clips embedded in my posts, I am not the uploader.
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10 responses

  1. Mary Lou says:

    What a great idea!! …… 1970’s Time Capsule …….. Why didn’t I think of that!! 🙂
    https://meinthemiddlewrites.com/2016/04/14/me-in-the-middle-of-atozchallenge-letter-l/

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  2. There are still instances of Legionnaire’s Disease all over the country, but it’s rare in places without air-conditioning. Human comforts come with their own caveats sometimes!

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  3. I remember that in the news. And Legionnaire’s disease has now attacked the residents of Flint. As if the lead-poisoned water there wasn’t enough.

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    • I really feel for the people of flint. Whether it is corporate pollution such as the Erin Brocovich story or governments not doing what people pay taxes for, it is really sad.

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  4. Laura says:

    What a sad story. I had no idea. It looks like a beautiful old building too.

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    • It is. Today it is the Hyatt at the Bellvue. Lots of history including 2 Republican and 2 Democratic National Conventions in the 1930s and 1940s. It is on the National Register of Historical Places since 1977.

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  5. Birgit says:

    Oh..I remember this even though I was a kid. I remember being scared because of the way the media talked about it.

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