Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Today -100: December 3, 1909: Of lepers


The NYT reports that while other Central American governments aren’t that happy with Zelaya, the US’s de-recognition of his presidency scares the piss out of them.

Otherwise, a slow news day, so let’s focus on Man in the News John P. Early, who was arrested in Washington D.C. on the charge of being a leper. Early was a famous leper. Diagnosed the year before at 35, Early was a Spanish-American War veteran who probably contracted the disease in the Philippines. He was kept under armed guard in an abandoned farmhouse for a time, then eventually incarcerated in the Carville leper colony in Louisiana, which stole most of his army pension to pay for his involuntary stay. He escaped repeatedly over the next 20 years to bring attention to his unfree condition, appearing in 1916 at a Congressional committee considering a bill for the federal takeover of Carville, asking that it treat the disease rather than simply imprison its sufferers. He stayed in the committee room until they approved the bill. After one of his other trips to D.C., a newspaper reported that he’d spent a $2 bill, and for days people refused to accept the bills (thus the expression “as leprous as a $2 bill”). He died in 1938.

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