Blanck Introduction

Infectious Diseases

The most common causes of deaths among children and young adults before the advent of antibiotics and vaccinations were infectious diseases.

Fred Erxmeyer's Daughter, Eliza, Died of Small Pox in 1872

Small pox was one of the worlds most dreaded diseases until it was eradicated in 1977. It was an acute viral infection, closely related to chicken pox but much more virulent. It started with a fever that lasted of 2 or 3 days. This was followed by eruptions of large blisters over the entire body, more markedly on the face and extremities than on the trunk. These blisters quickly passed into pustulars. The pustulars dried up after 8 to 10 days leaving distinct scars. The virus also attacked the cells in the internal organs, such as the liver. Fatalities were frequent and depending on the population ran from 8% to 90%. Infant mortality was high. It was exceedingly contagious and there was no know cure. For centuries the only hope was isolation.

Small pox was a very ancient disease. There are indications that the Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramses V, who died in circa 1156 BC, may have suffered from small pox. The disease is described in ancient Chinese and Sanskrit writings. Small pox was prevalent in Europe in the early 1600's and epidemic in the late 1600's. An inoculation was developed in 1796, from the cow pox virus, by the English Physician, Edward James. The World Health Organization pushed for world inoculation and the disease was totally irradiated in 1977. It is the first disease that has been completely eliminated by the efforts of man. There are still several vials of the virus which is being held for future research possibilities, under the supervision of the World Health Organization, in laboratories in the US and Russia.

On August 14, 1872 the New York Times ran a short article about a small pox outbreak in Jersey City, New Jersey. Twenty seven cases were reported in two weeks. It stated that the outbreak was mostly confined to cases among children.

On December 19, 1872 the New York Times ran a longer article about the need to immunize, especially among the newly arrived immigrants in the tenements. It stated that there had been twenty cases reported to the Board of Health in the previous two weeks. In 1871, during that same week, there had been fifty reported cases. Of the 20 cases reported in 1872, fourteen were in infants. The Sanitary Committee stated that very little attention was paid to vaccination except when there was an outbreak. Epidemics occurred on an average every three to five years; when there was a large enough un-inoculated population for the disease to spread rapidly. The Sanitary Committee recommended inoculation for all persons over six months, and resolved to form a corps of vaccinators to "secure the early vaccination of all persons thus unprotected."


Dorothe Blanck, the daughter of Henry Blanck and Melosine Erxmeyer, died at age 3, on February 25th 1883 of diphtheria. She had been ill for 16 days.

Diphtheria is an acute, infectious, bacterial disease spread in droplets of respiratoy secretion. It was a serious contagious disease until the the 20th century.

Victims suffer moderate fever, fatique, chills and sore throat. The germs usually settle in the tonsils and the hard palate. The primary lesions produce a powerful toxin which spreads thoughout the body through the bloodstream and can cause damage to the heart and nervous system. Often in the second to third week of the disease the patient developes toxic myocarditiis (inflamination of the heart) which can be fatal. If the patient survives this dangerous period, the heart recovers completely. However, the danger is not over. After appearing well for weeks, the patient can develope paralysis which could affect swallowing and breathing. In severe cases the patient may die.

At the time little Dorethy Blanck was ill there was no known cure. The disease is now preventable through inoculation.

Typhoid Fever

Louise Erxmeyer, the daughter of Henry Erxmeyer and Wilhelmina Andres, died on August 1, 1913, at age 30 from Typhoid Fever.

Typhoid Fever is an acute infectious desease spread by bacteria in food and water. Major epidemics were caused by pollution of water supplies. The disease was also spread by typhoid carriers, mainly food handlers, who show no apparrent ill effects.

Victims suffer from headache, generalized aching, prolonged, debilitating fever and diarrhea or constipation. High fevers last up to three weeks and can cause confusion and delirium. During the second week of the fever a rash appears on the trunk lating for four or five days. Complications include:

  • Ulceration of the walls of the bowels
  • Hemorrhaging into the bowels
  • Perforation of the bowel walls causing peritonitis
  • Acute inflammation of the gall bladder
  • Heart failure
  • Pneumonia
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis

If the patient survives, during the fourth week the fever begins to decline and the symptoms abate. Typhiod is fatal in about 25% of all cases. About 30% of those infected become carriers. Before the introduction of antibiotics in 1948, treatment was entirely symtomatic and supportive. Prevention of typhoid depends mainly on proper sewage treatment, filtration and chlorination of water and the exclusion of carriers from the food industries. In the early part of the 20th century a vaccination was introduced contributing to the lowering of incidences of the desease.

Two Deaths By Drowning in the Erxmeyer Family

Article in the Jersey Journal August 13, 1925.


Fearful that Walter Erzmeyer (sic), 20 of 125 Hudson Street, son of a grocer, met a death similar to that which befell his uncle seven years ago, members of the family have asked the Hoboken police to search for him.

The youth left his father's store last night to deliver a box of groceries to Paterson Barge No. 3 at one of the Lackawanna piers. He arrived at the barge and left the groceries but has not been seen since. Relatives who fear he fell overboard and was drowned on the return trip recall that his uncle met such a fate years age. The latter was delivering groceries to a boat moored at the foot of Sixth Street when he fell overboard and was drowned"

Ernst Erxmeyer, age 33 years old, single, died on December 23, 1916, cause of death, accidental drowning, in the Hudson River near Pier 6 (New Jersey Death Certificate). He was buried in the Grove Church Cemetery.

Ernst Erxmeyer was the son of Fred and Charlotte Erxmeyer. I could not find any thing in the papers in December of 1916 about Ernst Erxmeyers drowning. I also could not find a follow up story on Walter.