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Showing posts from November, 2010

Turn of the Century Health Fads

In the two centuries just prior to 1900 not only medical professionals, but ordinary people had taken an increased interest in new ways of maintaining their health. Spas had sprung up all over Europe and America, usually around natural sources of mineral water and hot springs. Here people went to seek cures for everything from infertility to rheumatism and paralysis. The methods used varied from curative waters to electroshock therapy, and typically included special diets and exercise regimens.

One such place was the Battle Creek Sanitarium which opened in Michigan in 1866. The name was a corruption of the word "sanitorium" which usually refered to a place of rest for soldiers. It was here that the Kellogg brothers started their "wellness institute" based on the health principles of the 7th Day Adventist Church. The Toasted Corn Flake Company follwed in 1906, and provided the basis of what would become the cereal empire we know today. Famous people who attended th…

1920s Prescription Drug Addiction

In 1929 two federal prisons were proposed to deal specifically with the treatment of drug addicts. Multiple factors had led to an increase in the number of addicts, estimated at 250,000. Amongst these were the return of soldiers after WWI who had brought with them drugs more easily attained in Europe, the Volstead Act which in outlawing alcohol drove people to other substances, and the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act which severely limited the types of narcotics available for medicinal usage and who could prescribe them, which in turn led people to seek relief from less clinical sources intent on profit rather than relief.

Statistics reported that 70% of cases began when victims were introduced to the drugs through associates who were either victims themselves or related to trafficking, 20% began as an attempt to alleviate pain, 5% through boredom and experimentation, and 5% through assorted other sources.
Doctors recognized three kinds of addicts. The "genius" who used drugs to ac…

Votive Offerings After Surgery

Whether in thanks for a good recovery or in hopes of a successful one, many votive offerings like the one to the left have been found in Roman and Greek temples and shrines across the ancient world. The Greek God Asklepios was co-opted by the Romans along with his daughter, Hygeia (from whom we get the word "hygeine"), and his followers would present representations of the body parts they were concerned with, some inscribed as the the one above which says "Tyche [dedicated this] to Asklepios and Hygieia as a thank offering."
Other examples of votive offerings include ears and mouths and even placentas for those worried about safe childbirth. In some cases entire torsos were presented complete with genitalia and internal organs.

Polite Society- Anesthesia in the Victorian Era

Medicine is such an interesting topic and I could easily make an entire series out of exploring what medicine was like throughout the ages, but that would be more like a book than a blog. In fact, just exploring one era would yield a whole books-worth of information, so instead I present to you a week of medically-related incidents through time.

Today we begin with the topic that led me to first examine the medicine and treatments of past ages; anesthesia. Pain is universal and the desire to lessen pain and suffering led early man to begin performing surgery, but this was fraught with peril even if the operation was a success because the trauma to the body from the stress and sensation of surgery could be overwhelming. The ancient Greeks used herbal mixtures to lessen the pain of surgery but this could not rightly be called an anesthetic. The word "Anesthesia" is Greek, meaning "without sensation", but the term was not coined until the poet and physician Oliver We…

17th century- Favourites

Officer and Lady

Ship of Fools: On the Black Death

"The symptoms were not the same as in the East, where a gush of blood from the nose was the plain sign of inevitable death; but it began both in men and women with certain swellings in the groin or under the armpit. They grew to the size of a small apple or an egg, more or less, and were vulgarly called tumours. In a short space of time these tumours spread from the two parts named all over the body. Soon after this the symptoms changed and black or purple spots appeared on the arms or thighs or any other part of the body, sometimes a few large ones, sometimes many little ones. These spots were a certain sign of death, just as the original tumour had been and still remained." - Giovanni Boccaccio The Decameron

In Flanders Fields- For Veterans/Remembrance Day

In Flanders fields the poppies blow


Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.



We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders fields.



Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Polite Society- Court Presentation Dress

There were few occasions more harrowing for a Victorian lady than her presentation at court. Whether she was the daughter of noble or married to an officer in the Queen's service there were rigorous rules to be followed. Though the action of approaching the Queen, kissing her hand, and backing out of the room took only a few moments, the preparations leading up to the event took many weeks at least.
In addition to learning to make a full court curtsy with the knee almost to the floor, walking with a ten-foot train, and backing out the length of the room with said train; the guidelines over what was to be worn were extensive. White was the preferred color for dresses, but light colors would be worn and typically were by married women unless they had their wedding gowns adapted for this purpose. The style of the dress itself could vary dramatically from that being worn for other occasions depending on how recently court regulations had been updated to reflect changing fashions. Reg…

Back in the Office

Back in the office after attending to a show that has consumed my every waking hour for the last two weeks. Regular posts will recommence shortly. Talk to you soon!