Newyorkitis: Sickness and the City

by Christian Parreno

REMEDIA

By Kate Womersley

In June of 1901, The Commoner, an American weekly journal, advertised a new medical treatise for the general reader:

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Although Newyorkitis has been largely forgotten today, it caused a stir on publication. “Rarely has a book fresh from the press attracted so much attention,” touted The New York Press. “[I]n all sections of the country has appeared column after column – and even whole pages – concerning Dr John H. Girdner’s Great Book,” The Commoner wrote later that year.

Promoting Newyorkitis outside of Manhattan strikes me as strange, given the audience for which Girdner’s book seems to be intended. This critique-cum-self-help guide hoped to save the “chronic New Yorker”, an individual who had lived in the metropolis for too long, and been both hardened and weakened by it. Peculiar to 38 square miles of island, a sickly tribe of Newyorkitics were thought at risk from physical, psychological and moral degeneration. The suffix –itis denotes an inflammation, as for appendicitis, but…

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