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As a major seaport, San Francisco struggled to control infectious diseases carried by passengers on ships entering the Bay. In 1882, a steamer from Hong Kong arrived carrying over 800 Chinese passengers, including one who had smallpox. The steamer was held in quarantine for weeks, during which time more passengers contracted the disease. This episode convinced port authorities better means of quarantining infected ships were necessary.
J. Gordon Frierson’s book covers the creation and operation of the quarantine station, which is integral to San Francisco’s history, and reveals the steps taken to prevent the spread of diseases; the political struggles over the establishment of a national quarantine station; and the day-to-day life of the immigrants and staff inhabiting the island. With the advancement of the understanding of infectious diseases and the development of treatments, the facility shuttered its doors in 1949.
Guarding the Golden Gate offers rich insights into efforts to maintain the public’s safety during a health crisis.
About the Author
J. Gordon Frierson, MD, is clinical professor emeritus in the Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco. After a decades-long career in the medical field, Frierson continues his longstanding interest in the history of medicine with the publication of Guarding the Golden Gate. He is a member of the Bay Area History of Medicine Society, the American Osler Society, and the American Association for the History of Medicine.
“Guarding the Golden Gate is a remarkably extensive history of isolation and quarantine as practiced in San Francisco. The scholarship is first-rate.” —George W. Rutherford, MD, Salvatore Pablo Lucia Professor of Epidemiology, Preventive Medicine, Pediatrics, and Head of the Division of Infectious Disease and Global Epidemiology, University of California, San Francisco