When Fears of Tuberculosis Drove an Open-Air School Movement

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By the dawn of the 20th century, tuberculosis – otherwise known as consumption, “white plague” or “white death” – had become the leading cause of death in the United States. The terrible lung disease has killed about 450 Americans a day, most of them between the ages of 15 and 44.

At the time, tuberculosis was associated with dirty and unsanitary living conditions, which were common for workers who had gathered in cities across Europe and the United States since the Industrial Revolution. In the absence of an effective drug available (yet), the preferred treatment was outdoor cure, or exposing patients to as much fresh air and sunlight as possible. This has led to the proliferation of anti-tuberculosis sanatoria, ranging from luxury resorts to government institutions across Europe and the United States.

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