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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND BOARD OF HEALTH - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The CLEVELAND BOARD OF HEALTH was an appointed board of physicians and public officials who worked to improve SANITATION in Cleveland to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Between 1832-1910 it was abolished and restored several times as an independent city department. The first Board of Health in Cleveland was founded to combat the CHOLERA EPIDEMIC OF 1832. Appointed by the village trustees, the board included Drs. EDWIN W. COWLES†, JOSHUA MILLS†, Oran St. John, and 2 other men--S. Belden and Charles Denison. It was empowered to inspect all vessels arriving from an infected port, examine suspicious cases, and provide a building for isolation and treatment. A second cholera epidemic in 1849 brought into existence Cleveland's second Board of Health, consisting of A. Seymour, WILLIAM CASE†, and John Gill. The board reported daily to the community and helped pass an ordinance prohibiting the sale of vegetables and fruits on the streets, especially in immigrant neighborhoods. On 7 March 1850, the Ohio legislature authorized the city council to establish a Board of Health with power to "abate nuisances" and implement necessary measures to control infectious diseases. In 1856 the council passed an ordinance creating a Board of Health; Dr. Frederick W. Marseilles was appointed health officer. The ordinance also provided that the mayor, city marshal, and director of the infirmary serve on the board.

In the 1870s, the board sampled and analyzed the milk supply, and soon after appointed a full-time milk inspector. The board also distributed circulars from house to house with information on diseases (cholera, diphtheria, etc.). In 1875 the board was merged into the Bureau of Police (see CLEVELAND POLICE DEPARTMENT) and became the Health Department. In 1882 it was restored and came more under the control of physicians, who appointed a health officer for each city ward. The board continued to work on improving the milk supply, attacked problems relating to sewage and garbage collection, and exposed "quacks" practicing medicine unlawfully. In 1886 the legislature authorized the board to appoint sanitary police officers, 1 for every 15,000 people. In 1893 revision in the Ohio sanitary laws helped increase the board's powers of inspection, extending to dairies, slaughterhouses, meat shops, food products, and a quarterly inspection of schoolhouses. The new laws were put into effect with city ordinances. The board was also given control of all registrations of births, deaths, and marriages and the granting of burial permits; its power of quarantine was made absolute. Between 1892-1902, the duties of the board again came under the department of police. It was restored as an independent department in 1903. In 1905 there was a substantial increase in the number of district (ward) physicians and sanitary police. At this time the board included a food, inspector, a meat inspector, a bacteriologist, a barber shop inspector, a plumbing and sewers inspector, 26 district physicians, and 37 sanitary police officers. In 1907 the Board of Health was once again abolished, its duties relegated to a bureau of the department of public service. In 1910 a new department was created, the Department of Public Health & Sanitation, which a few years later became the Division of Health.


Last Modified: 11 Jul 1997 03:54:51 PM

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