How New York Separated Immigrant Families in the Smallpox Outbreak of 1901
Vaccinations were administered by police raids, parents and children were torn apart, and the New York City Health Department controlled the narrative

Late on a Friday night in February 1901, when the residents of an Italian neighborhood in New York City’s East Harlem were home and sleeping, a battalion of more than 200 men—police officers and doctors—quietly occupied the roofs, backyards and front doors of every building for blocks. Under the command of the Bureau of Contagious Diseases, they entered the homes one by one, woke every tenant, scraped a patch of their skin raw with a lancet, and rubbed the wound with a small dose of the virus variola.

It was a smallpox raid, and the residents in good health were being vaccinated. But for anyone who showed any symptom of smallpox, the events of that night were even more alarming: They were taken immediately to docks on the East River, and sent by boat under the cover of night to an island just south of the Bronx: North Brother...