Death By Everything November 03 2014

This print featuring 1880 maps and charts of deaths from various diseases in males raises all sorts of questions: Why were there so many pneumonia deaths in Washington state? Deaths from "diseases of the heart" in New Mexico? Deaths from "diseases of the digestive system" in Utah?

But perhaps the most surprising thing about this print is not the data itself but rather the source:

So the numbers for these federally-authorized death-maps came from life insurance companies? This seems odd until you consider that the Department of Health--not to mention the CDC, the FDA, and a whole slew of other health-related acronyms--did not yet exist. The data gathered by life insurance companies must have been the next best thing.

With ebola news continuing to range from concerning to downright upsetting, these are fraught times, disease-wise. But looking at these maps, we can take some comfort in remembering that at least we no longer live in a world beset by typhoid and consumption. (Plus we now know enough to get more specific now than "apoplexy," though it did bring us the fun, under-appreciated word "apoplectic.")

For more charts of death and disease, check out Distribution of Deaths from Disease (Scarlet Fever, Diphtheria, Malaria, Etc) and so many more prints.