I was originally drawn to Dr. Bronwyn Rae’s article on Chicago’s typhoid epidemic leading up to the 1893 World’s Fair because it all took place right here in our own backyard. The story that the author laid out was filled with larger than life characters who were on a mission to improve Chicago’s world-wide reputation before the fair. Two men, William T. Sedgwick and Allen Hazen, risked a lot by reporting on the rapid increase of typhoid death in the city, and called out Chicago politicians for their mishandling of the city’s sanitation and water systems. I was inspired by the author’s storytelling, and saw an opportunity to use familiar imagery from Chicago to illustrate a city on the brink of being overrun by illness. I was excited to come across a widely-circulated map of the Columbian Exposition fair grounds, as it struck me as a way to illustrate the infrastructure that was so integral to the spread and eventual control of the typhoid outbreak. I recreated this map, trying to maintain the look and feel of the time, and superimposed on top of it the Salmonella typhi bacterium taking over the streets and waterways of the city.
About the Artist
Meredith Hoffman is a Chicago-based medical illustrator. Originally from Michigan, she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design with a minor in Biology from the University of Michigan in 2011. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago working on a Master of Science in Biomedical Visualization, a field that allows her to use images to convey complex information to new audiences. In her free time, you can usually find her drinking coffee, playing various instruments, and listening to too much public radio.
Meredith can be contacted at mhoffm26 #at# uic #dot# edu.