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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Philadelphia in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Potato Blight - Its Origin

 
 
The Potato Blight - Its Origin Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., March 22, 2017
1. The Potato Blight - Its Origin Marker
Inscription.

The fungus that decimated the potato fields of Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century is well named. Phytopthora infestans, literally "infesting plant destroyer," can, under the right conditions, reduce the foliage of a field of potatoes into a putrid mass in just a few days. A common disease of potatoes wherever they are grown, the devastating fungus is particularly prevalent in areas where the weather is unusually cool and wet, such as it is in Ireland. Remaining localized during the years where weather conditions were warm and dry, the disease became widespread in the wet years of the mid-1840s.
• Crossing from North America to Belgium in 1843, the potato blight traveled to the Isle of Wight and then to England. Following its devastation of the potato crops in both France and Holland, the fungus appeared in Ireland in September 1845 where it promptly destroyed about forty percent of the country's potato crop. In 1846, almost one hundred percent of the crop was lost. The year 1847 was considered the worst of all because of the especially harsh winter; crops fared no better from 1848-49. These losses were catastrophic to the people who lived in rural Ireland because of their forced and complete dependence on the potato.
• The disease remained a mystery to botanists, who mistakenly attributed its cause to

The Irish Memorial / Leacht Cuimhneacháin na nGael image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr.
2. The Irish Memorial / Leacht Cuimhneacháin na nGael
excess moisture created by the damp, still weather. In 1845, the official committee of inquiry, believing the disease to be a kind of "wet rot," suggesting that the best way to prevent the rotting of the potatoes was to store them in well-ventilated pits. Other suggestions offered to alleviate the dampness included drying the potatoes with air, drying them in a kiln, or covering them with ashes. Most experts in 1845 did not seriously consider the idea that the mold on the potatoes could have been caused by a fungus. This misdiagnosis led to government complacency about the potato harvest of 1846 and the failure to remedy the problem in the years immediately following.

[Illustration captions read]
From: The Illustrated London News, 1849:
Left: Searching for potatoes in a stubble field.
Right: The potato plant.
 
Erected 2003 by Concerned Citizens and Organizations. (Marker Number 2.)
 
Location. 39° 56.879′ N, 75° 8.531′ W. Marker is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia County. Marker is at the intersection of Chestnut Street and Front Street, on the right when traveling east on Chestnut Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: I-95 Park (100 South Front Street), Philadelphia PA 19106, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least

Famine Detail on The Irish Memorial Sculpture image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr.
3. Famine Detail on The Irish Memorial Sculpture
8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Ireland's Past - A Prelude to Disaster (here, next to this marker); Starvation (here, next to this marker); An Gorta Mór - Ireland's Great Hunger (here, next to this marker); The Irish Memorial / Leacht Cuimhneacháin na nGael (a few steps from this marker); Lorenzo L. Langstroth (within shouting distance of this marker); Arrival and Reception (within shouting distance of this marker); The Lessons of The Great Hunger (within shouting distance of this marker); Passage and Emigration (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Philadelphia.
 
More about this marker. Marker is part of The Irish Memorial.
 
Also see . . .
1. The Irish Memorial [Philadelphia]. (Submitted on March 28, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. The Irish Potato Famine, 1847. (Submitted on March 28, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Great Irish Famine Commemoration. (Submitted on March 28, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
4. Irish Famine Archive. (Submitted on March 28, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
Categories. AgricultureDisastersSettlements & Settlers
 
Starvation or Emigration Detail on The Irish Memorial Sculpture image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr.
4. Starvation or Emigration Detail on The Irish Memorial Sculpture
Arrival in a New World Detail on the Irish Memorial image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr.
5. Arrival in a New World Detail on the Irish Memorial
The Irish Memorial / Leacht Cuimhneacháin na nGael image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr.
6. The Irish Memorial / Leacht Cuimhneacháin na nGael
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on March 28, 2017. This page originally submitted on March 28, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 101 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on March 28, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
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