136-year-old newspaper article tells of smallpox resistance in Montreal

While demolishing a church in McAdam, N.B., crews came across a tattered piece of newsprint that featured a story about vaccination for school children in Montreal, telling a familiar story of unrest during a smallpox outbreak in 1885.

The clipping details a push to get Montreal school children vaccinated against smallpox at a time when vaccine mandates were sparking violent riots, despite the disease killing thousands in Quebec.

The smallpox outbreak of 1885 killed 3,259 people in Montreal alone and 5,964 across Québec.

During the outbreak, violent riots broke out in the streets of Montreal by groups opposed to the city’s vaccination campaign, according to Jonathan M. Berman’s When antivaccine sentiment turned violent: the Montréal Vaccine Riot of 1885, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

“On Sept. 28, the Board of Health announced that vaccination was to be made compulsory,” writes Berman.

“In response, a ‘howling mob’ surrounded the East End Branch Health Office that evening and ‘wrecked’ the building.”

Our thanks to reader and supporter, C. Asher for the above. ~ Editor