Health and Living Podcasts

The Curious Case of Typhoid Mary: The Race to Quell an Epidemic

PODCAST An account of a mysterious typhoid fever outbreak and the woman — Mary Mallon, the so-called Typhoid Mary — at the center of the strange epidemic.

American Red Cross 1919, courtesy Library of Congress

The tale of Typhoid Mary is a harrowing detective story and a chilling tale of disease outbreak at the start of the 20th century.

Why are whole healthy families suddenly getting sick with typhoid fever — from the languid mansions of Long Island’s Gold Coast to the gracious homes of Park Avenue?

Can an intrepid researcher and investigator named George Soper locate a mysterious woman who may be unwittingly spreading this dire illness?

Mary Mallon — is she a victim or an enemy? One of the weirdest and divisive tales of the early 1900s. What side are you on?

Listen today on your favorite podcast player:


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‘The typhoid germ hunters are after the men who cut ice from polluted waters to sell in New York.’ New-York Tribune, March 8, 1903,

The infamous newspaper article from the New York American (June 30, 1907) which depicts Mary literally seasoning her meals with death.


Another newspaper headline from the Evening World, April 1, 1097


Mary Mallon in a hospital bed at North Brother Island


Dr. Emma Sherman standing next to Mary Mallon in the early 1930s. Mary has already spent over 15 years on North Brother Island by this time.


The sanitation engineer (and detective of our story) George Soper who relentlessly tracked down Mary.  (From the New York Times, April 4, 1915)


Sara Josephine Baker, the pioneering doctor who was brought in by Soper to (futilely) talk some sense into Mary.


Willard Parker Hospital, formerly at East 16th Street along the East River in the old gashouse district.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

The smallpox hospital on North Brother Island.

Photo by Jacob Riis, courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Photo by Jacob Riis, courtesy Museum of the City of New York

Mary Mallon’s cottage on North Brother Island where she spent the remainder of her life.


A poster hung in eating establishments following the whole Typhoid Mary fracas.

Otis Historical Archives Nat'l Museum of Health & Medicine
Otis Historical Archives Nat’l Museum of Health & Medicine


After listening to this show, take a dive into previous episodes which relate to this subject —

Sara Josephine Baker also appears in this 2019 episode about women health care workers in the Progressive Era:

Many years before North Brother Island, America’s largest quarantine hospital was located on Staten Island. That is, until 1858 when the residents, endangered for decades and ignored by the state, finally took matters in their own hands

Welcome to Bellevue Hospital, New York’s most famous (and infamous) hospital — from ‘pest house’ to execution ground, from a Pathological Museum to New York’s first city morgue

1 reply on “The Curious Case of Typhoid Mary: The Race to Quell an Epidemic”

Fantastic! I just came across you guys and your works while shopping in the Amazon bookstore. Reading a free sample of your book-captivating! Don’t worry, I’m going to buy it. Learned about your podcasts so I just listened to #190. This stuff is right up my alley! History told with fresh perspective and enjoyable to listen to. So now I am on The Bowery Boys bandwagon. I cannot wait to see where we go next and I’m not even from NYC! I’ve bookmarked your website too. Thanks and keep up the great work.

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