1800s America's top killers

In 1800s America, "consumption" and diarrhea were leading causes of death. This gallery looks back at the 1860 census report 'Mortality of the United States' to show how people died then.

Diarrhea is a symptom, not a disease, but in the 1800s it was used to describe watery stools without a specific cause.


Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. In the 1800s, the infection was a major killer.


In 1860, 8,408 Americans died from whooping cough. Disease killed 5% of infants that year.

Wooping Cough

Back then, convulsions included epilepsy, tetanus, & neonatal seizures.


Encephalitis is cephalitis. Like others on this list, it's a symptom. It's brain inflammation caused by viruses or autoimmune diseases.


Dysentery causes diarrhea, unlike the generic term "diarrhea." Bloody stools are common. It's caused by shigella & E. histolytica.


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