Showing posts with label tuberculosis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tuberculosis. Show all posts

Thursday, February 13, 2020

A rare look inside the St. John's Tuberculosis Sanatorium.

This week, we were in North River helping scan photos and recipes as part of an ongoing community project. One of the participants, Sylvia Hurley, had a great collection of family photos, including some which were taken at or inside the tuberculosis sanatorium in St. John's. They give an interesting peek inside "The San" at Christmastime, decorated for the season.  The photos are undated, and the people in the photographs are unknown. Comment or contact us if you have any information!

The idea of a sanatorium in St. John's was supported by Governor Sir William MacGregor in 1908, and meetings on the tuberculosis crisis led to the formation of the Newfoundland Association for the Prevention of Consumption. A tuberculosis camp for women was established near Mundy Pond in 1911, but the outbreak of the First World War put plans for a larger facility on hold until 1916-17. After the Second World War, drugs to fight tuberculosis improved, and by 1972, all the sanatoria beds in the province had been closed.

If you have photos or memories of the sanatorium, email

UPDATE: 27 April 2020

Christina Penney send on this photo, also from the san, featuring her great aunt. She writes,
She's the patient in the bed on the left. Her name was Christina May Alexander, born in Bonavista in 1915, and died in the Sanitorium in St. John's in 1942 (age 27). Looks like another Christmas photo, but I'm not sure the exact year, but probably early 1940s.

Can you identify any of the other people?

UPDATE: 1 May 2020

Robert "Bob" Francis sent us three more photos, and some more photo-identification work. He writes,
The first picture us of my mom, Lucy who was in the San in the mid 1950s. The second picture is of my mom and her sister in law, Dorothy who was also in the San. The third picture is of myself, on the left, age 5, the other person is unknown.

If you have a memory of the sanatorium, post below, or if you have old photos, send them to me at and I'll add them here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday's Folklore Photo: This is Mr. TB Germ

Educational booklet published by the Newfoundland Tuberculosis Association.
Ca. 1950 
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, Newfoundland had a very high rate of tuberculosis infection and death, much higher than that of Canada, Great Britain or the United States. Several factors contributed to the spread of  TB in Newfoundland and Labrador. One was the custom of large families spending a lot of time in the kitchen, especially in winter, when all would gather to socialize and stay warm. A person with active TB would then expose their family and visitors to the disease.  A monotonous diet that lacked fresh food and important nutrients also weakened immune systems and left Newfoundlanders vulnerable to the disease. Tuberculosis was also difficult to detect until it became active and at this point was much more difficult to treat. Also, severe isolation in Newfoundland and Labrador meant there was little or no access to medical services and to top it off,  there was little understanding of the causes and prevention of TB. 

Educational booklet published by the Newfoundland Tuberculosis Association.
Ca. 1950 
The Newfoundland Tuberculosis Association, a dedicated anti-TB group founded in 1944 by Ted Meany, released publications to educate the community about the spread and prevention of the disease. The booklet featured in today's folklore photo was published by the association ca. 1950. 

Educational booklet published by the Newfoundland Tuberculosis Association.
Ca. 1950 
Tuberculosis continued to be a leading cause of death in Newfoundland and Labrador well into the 20th century, only being overtaken by heart disease and cancer in the 1950s. From 1901-1975, just under 32,000 people died of TB in Newfoundland. Often the victims were males aged 15 to 45, the wage earners of their families, so the social and economic costs of TB were great. It wasn't until the 1970s, with advances in pharmaceuticals, living conditions and through the efforts of the Newfoundland Tuberculosis Association, that Tuberculosis was defeated.

Click here to read the full booklet!