Category: 19th century medicine

Linda Carroll-Bradd researches Nineteenth Century Health Resorts

Before I started writing An Agent for Dixie, book #73 in the popular Pinkerton Matchmaker series, I had a rather contemporary view of health spas and resorts. Of course, I had read about the waters at Bath in Somerset, England, from various regency titles over the years. But those books don’t go into much detail about what people actually did while they were there. I always assumed Bath was more like a popular destination where people went to be seen or to make connections.

Public baths were popular in Roman times and were often not located at a natural hot spring. Under the level of the pool, water was heated in boilers with wood fires. The location usually had three rooms with pools of different temperatures. A bather could use each in his choice of order or soak in only one. The warm pool was called the tepidarium. The caldarium contained hot water, and here slaves would rub perfumed oil over their masters and then scrape off oil and loose skin with a knife. The cold bath, where bathers swam, was called a frigidarium. 

Over the years, public baths went in and out of fashion, related to fears of catching certain diseases, as well as times when they were seen as places where political dissidents met. In the 16th century, ancient medical texts were recovered in Italy containing information about balneology, the science of the therapeutic use of baths. Chemical composition of the water was analyzed to determine which natural spring might help which ailment. More and more, “taking the waters,” or balneotherapy, became a doctor’s directive for the patients who could afford to take time away from their daily live for “the cure.” Another reason was that doctors didn’t have other remedies, before the invention or development of modern medicines, to recommend for certain maladies. Better to prescribe something than to admit their lack of knowledge.

In the 1800s, especially in mountain locations, health resorts sprang up throughout Europe and the United States (more so in the 2nd half of the century) where thermal pools had been discovered. Some people experienced an improvement in their health by drinking the mineral waters (usually from cold springs). Others were told by doctors that the hot mineral waters helped conditions like gout, arthritis, muscle strains, skin conditions, rheumatism, and lumbago. Often, mud treatments, massage, or restricted diets became part of the regime.

Owners of the natural pools hoped people would come to the location and linger, so hotels and/or boarding houses were constructed near the thermal pools. In the grander hotels, entertainment and activities were offered for the times the guests would not be partaking of the waters. The amenities ran the gamut from nature walks to game of croquet and shuffleboard to concerts and balls, depending on the clientele. Because of the variety of offerings, some enthusiasts made a circuit of visiting several locations during the summer months.

Health resorts that appealed to the citizen possessing modest means offered camping spots or minimal shelter
and advertised the benefits of sleeping outdoors. Some churches conducted their revivals at certain resorts, and annual traditions were born.
 Armed with this research, I had great fun in inventing a resort town with a spa in the grand fashion of an Italian bathhouse.

Foreign diplomacy is the Zivon family business but Alexei resists the polite constraints, not lasting a year in law school. The four successful years working as a Pinkerton agent prove he was meant to follow a different path. Now, he’s faced with the biggest challenge of his career—training a female agent who has no practical skills. Alexei figures he can convince her to just observe as he solves the case, because nothing will interfere with his success rate.

Since childhood, Dixie LaFontaine lived in her older sister’s shadow but applying to become a Pinkerton Agent is her first major decision. Being matched with confident Alexei is intimidating, especially when the assigned case involves them pretending to be brother and sister at a health spa where jewelry has gone missing. Dixie has no qualms about pretending to be a French heiress needing care for her arthritis. Soon, she falls victim to Alexei’s charm and realizes that hiding her feelings might be as hard as ferreting out the thief among the spa’s clientele.
Will Dixie focus on learning the skills of an agent, or will she concentrate on turning her marriage of convenience into a lasting love? You can check the book out on Amazon.


Have you ever been to a health spa or read about them. I’m giving away an e-copy of An Agent for Liana, book #63 in the “Pinkerton Matchmaker” series.

Loner Dale Claybourne is not afraid to face down thieves, swindlers and even murderers. But he quells at having to train a female agent. Gregarious Liana LaFontaine yearns for a taste of the adventurous life of being an agent. Impulsive by nature, Liana jumps into situations she doesn’t have the experience to handle. Dale fights his growing admiration for this French beauty while keeping close to guard her safety. At odds over almost everything, the pair has to solve the mystery of who is stealing from a Virginia City saloon—a task made even harder because of the wild attraction that shouldn’t be present in a marriage of convenience.

 

Charlene Raddon: Were Those Really the Good Old Days?

We’re so happy to have Miss Charlene Raddon back visiting with us. She’s brought an interesting subject to talk about in addition to a giveaway at the bottom. Take us away, Charlene.

Thank you for having me. I’m so happy to be back. My image of a typical 19th-century family sitting down to supper used to include a table laden with healthy, wholesome, homemade foods. To a shocking degree, the truth is the opposite. Contamination was rife, even among foods prepared at home, on the farm or ranch. Few people understood germs, bacteria and E. coli. Foreign substances and chemicals tainted foods. By the 1840s, home-baked bread had supposedly died out among the rural poor. I find this hard to believe. But it is true that people living in small urban tenements, typically unequipped with ovens, bought their bread when they could afford it.

In 1872, Dr. Hassall, the primary health reformer and a pioneer investigator into food adulteration, demonstrated that half of the bread he examined had considerable quantities of alum. Alum lowers the nutritional value of foods by inhibiting the digestion. The list of poisonous additives from that time reads like the stock list of a wicked chemist: strychnine, cocculus inculus (both hallucinogens), and copperas in rum and beer; sulphate of copper in pickles, bottled fruit, wine, and preserves; lead chromate in mustard and snuff; sulphate of iron in tea and beer; ferric ferrocynanide, lime sulphate, and turmeric in Chinese tea; copper carbonate, lead sulphate, bisulphate of mercury, and Venetian lead in sugar confectionery and chocolate; lead in wine and cider. All were extensively used and accumulative in effect, meaning that, over a long period, in chronic gastritis, and, indeed, often fatal food poisoning.

                                          

Dairies watered down their milk then added chalk to put back the color. Butter, bread, and gin often had copper added to heighten the color. In London, where ice cream was called “hokey-pockey,” tested examples proved to contain cocci, bacilli, torulae, cotton fiber, lice, bed bugs, bug’s legs, fleas, straw, human hair, cat and dog hair. Such befouled ice cream caused diphtheria, scarlet fever, diarrhea, and enteric fever. Meat purchased from butchers often came from diseased animals.

 

A significant cause of infant mortality was the widespread practice of giving children narcotics, especially opium, to keep them quiet. Laudanum was cheap—about the price of a pint of beer—and its sale was unregulated until late in the century. The use of opium was widespread both in town and country. In Manchester, England, five out of six working-class families used the drug habitually. One druggist admitted to selling a half-gallon of a very popular cordial, which contained opium, treacle, water, and spices, as well as five to six gallons of a substance euphemistically called “quietness” every week. Another druggist admitted to selling four hundred gallons of laudanum annually. At mid-century at least ten proprietary brands, with Godfrey’s Cordial, Steedman’s Powder, and the grandly named Atkinson’s Royal Infants Preservative among the most popular, were available in pharmacies everywhere. Opium in pills and penny sticks was widely sold and opium-taking in some areas was described as a way of life. Doctors reported that infants were wasted from it—’shrunk up into little old men,’ ‘wizened like little monkeys’.

And what was the fate of those wizened little monkeys? Chances are the worst of them grew up in a “sanitorium” or an asylum for the mad. After all, we can’t have rich Aunt Matilda or the preacher’s wife seeing such a child. Or the child might be put in the attic to be raised by Grandma, who’s not quite right in the head.

Kept in a drugged state much of the time, infants generally refused to eat and therefore starved.  Rather than record a baby’s death as being from severe malnutrition, coroners often listed ‘debility from birth,’ or ‘lack of breast milk,’ as the cause. Addicts were diagnosed as having alcoholic inebriety, morphine inebriety, along with an endless list of man dypsomania, opiomania, morphinomania, chloralomania, etheromania, chlorodynomania, and even chloroformomania; and – isms such as cocainism and morphinism. It wasn’t until WWI that the term “addiction” came into favor.

In the beginning, opium was considered a medical miracle used as the essential ingredient in many remedies dispensed in Europe and America for the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, asthma, rheumatism, diabetes, malaria, cholera, fevers, bronchitis, insomnia, and pains of any sort.

One must remember that at this time, the physician’s cabinet was almost bare of alternative drugs, and a doctor could hardly practice medicine without it. A great many respectable people imbibed narcotics and alcohol in the form of patent medicines and even soft drinks. Coca Cola got its name because it originally contained a minute amount of cocaine, thought to be a healthy stimulant. A shocking number of “teetotaling” women relied on daily doses of tonics that, unknown to them, contained as much alcohol as whiskey or gin. Of course, it was no secret that men imbibed alcohol at alarming rates, and alcoholism was rampant. The result was a happy but less than healthy population.

 

 

I used this in my mail-order bride story, Forever Mine. The hero’s shrew of a wife had diabetes and treated it by drinking a tonic that promised to cure everything. It didn’t. In my book, Taming Jenna, the heroine’s missing father fell victim to dipsomania and was saved by the hero’s determination and kindness. In Thalia, Book 7 of the Widows of Wildcat Ridge Series, my heroine is in love with the town’s newspaper owner. Unfortunately, he suffers from dipsomania. It doesn’t faze Thalia though. She loves him anyway.

Is it any wonder the nineteenth century became known as “the good old days”?

What are your thoughts on this? Would you have drank Coca Cola if you knew it had cocaine in it? I’m giving away a $5 Amazon gift card plus a copy of one of these books—Forever Mine, Taming Jenna, or Thalia—to one person who comments. The drawing will be Sunday.

 

Charlene Raddon is an Amazon bestselling author of sixteen historical romance novels set in the American West. Originally published in 1994 by Kensington Books, she is now an Indie author. Charlene also designs book covers, specializing in western historical. You can find her covers at https://silversagebookcovers.com

http://www.charleneraddon.com

http://www.facebook.com/charleneraddon

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/charlene-raddon

The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same

My favorite time period to write about is between 1880 and 1890. In many ways, the cowboys of yesteryear struggled with some of the same issues we currently face and that’s what makes the time period so fascinating to me.

They aren’t paying attention to each other. They’re too intent on the wireless.

For example, technology in the way of telephones and electricity changed the way people lived in the 19th century, just as new technology does today.  The Victorians even had their own Internet.  It was called the telegraph, and this opened-up a whole new world to them.

What, for that matter, is a text message but a telegram, the high cost of which forced people in the past to be brief and to the point?

In the past, our ancestors worried about losing their jobs to machinery.  Today, there’s a real possibility that robots will make us obsolete.

Sears and Roebuck was the Amazon of the Gilded Age. The catalogue featured a wide selection of products at clearly marked prices. No more haggling.  Customers were drawn to the easy-to-read, warm, friendly language used to describe goods, and the catalogue proved an instant success. Our ancestors could even order a house through the catalog and that’s something we can’t do on Amazon.

The Victorians worried about books like we worry about iPhones. We worry about screen time damaging the eyes.  Victorians were certain that the mass rise of books due to printing presses would make everyone blind. 

Then as now, women fought for equal rights.  Our early sisters fought for property ownership, employment opportunities and the right to vote. Women have come a long way since those early days, but challenges still exist, especially in matters of economics and power.

Nothing has changed much in the area of courting

Almost every single I know subscribes to at least one dating site.  These are very similar to the Mail-Order Bride catalogs of yesteryear.

Did our Victorian ancestors worry about climate change?  You bet they did! The Florida Agriculturist published an article addressing the problem in 1890. The article stated: “Most all the states of the union in succession of their settlement have experienced a falling off in their average temperatures of several degrees.  A change from an evenly tempered climate has resulted in long droughts, sudden floods, heavy frost and suffocating heat.”

Nothing much has changed in the world of politics. Today, the Republicans and Democrats are still battling it out, just as they did in the nineteenth century. We still haven’t elected a female president, though Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood tried to change that when she ran in 1884 and again, in 1888.

What about environmental concerns? Today we’re concerned that plastic bags and straws are harming our oceans.  Our Victorian ancestors worried about tomato cans. That’s because a German scientist told the New York Times in 1881 that the careless deposit of tin cans was “bringing the earth closer to the sun and hastening the day of the final and fatal collision.”

During the 1800s, horses were taken to task for messing up the streets.  (Oddly, enough, it was once thought that automobiles were good for the environment.)  Today, cattle are under fire for the methane in their you-know-whats. Oh, boy, I can only imagine how that would have gone over with those old-time ranch owners.

We have Coronavirus, but that’s nothing compared to what our ancestors battled.  The 1894 Hong Kong plague was a major outbreak and became the third pandemic in the world. The rapid outbreak and spread of the plague was caused by infected fleas. Repressive government actions to control the plague led the Pune nationalists to criticize the Chinese publicly. Sound familiar?  The plague killed more than 10 million people in India, alone. 

As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Reading how people in the past survived and, yes, even prospered during tough times inspires me and gives me hope for the future.  I hope it does the same to my readers.

This list is nowhere near complete, but what did you find the most surprising?

Attorney Ben Heywood didn’t expect to get shot on his wedding day–and certainly not by his mail order bride.—Pistol-Packin’ Bride/Mail Order Standoff collection.

Amazon

B&N

 

Updated: February 27, 2020 — 10:30 am

Old-Time Surgeons & Modern-Day Robots ~ Pam Crooks

As I write this, I’m recuperating from hernia surgery.  I’ve always been blessed with excellent health, and this was my first surgery ever.  Needless to say, I didn’t know what to expect after they wheeled me out of the operating room. 

But I admit to an undying gratitude for modern-day medicine.  In my case, the surgeon was very skilled, he commonly does hernia surgery, and recovery is faster than it’s ever been. In fact, my paperwork listed the procedure as “Robotic assisted laparoscopic bilateral inguinal hernia repair.”

Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?  But one word should jump out at you.

Robotic.

That’s right.  My surgeon used a robot to help him fix my hernias.

Oh, my, my, my.  What a far cry from surgeries in the 19th century.  While researching with the assistance of Doctor Google (hey, who doesn’t run to Google when they need a little self-diagnosing?) I came across an interesting story that I’d love to share with you.

Dr. Ephraim McDowell was a respected frontier surgeon in Kentucky in the early 1800’s when he traveled to a primitive cabin to examine 45-year-old Mrs. Jane Crawford, who, due to her protruding stomach, believed she was pregnant with twins.  However, after examination, Dr. McDowell determined Jane wasn’t pregnant at all, but instead carried a massive tumor in her abdomen.  He advised her he would attempt to remove the tumor, but she had to ride to his home in Danville where he had surgical tools and medical staff to help.

Mother of four children, Jane was forced to make the decision whether to have the surgery and risk death–or keep the tumor . . . and risk death.  After what must’ve been great angst, she left her children with her husband and traveled alone by horseback SIXTY miles through treacherous Kentucky wilderness to the surgeon’s home.

Yikes. 

Once she arrived, he bade her rest several days for stamina to endure the ordeal, er, operation. He often performed his surgeries on Sundays so that the prayers offered at his church would be with him. Indeed, he carried a special prayer in his pocket for divine intervention as he performed the surgery.

Now, mind you, they did not have anesthetic in those days. While poor Jane relied on uttering her psalms for strength, Dr. McDowell relied on two medical assistants and a nurse to hold her down while he made a twelve-inch incision in her belly.  Immediately, her intestines spilled forth, forcing him to turn her over onto her side to get them out of the way so he could delve deeper–and see what he was doing!–to remove the tumor.

Well, after twenty-five agonizing, perspiring but steady-handed minutes, he succeeded. The tumor was out and weighed TWENTY-TWO POUNDS.  

Five days later, she was strong enough to make her bed.  By the end of three weeks, she climbed back onto that horse and made the arduous sixty-mile journey through that Kentucky wilderness to return to her family.

What a joyous reunion that must’ve been, eh?  She went on to live another 32 years.

Later, Dr. McDowell was named the “Father of Abdominal Surgery” and was known for cleanliness while he worked, a factor that no doubt helped many of his patients to live.

For me, it was just my husband and a nurse in the recovery room after the 90-minute procedure.  Afterward, he made a five-minute drive in an air-conditioned car to take me home. 

What a difference a couple of centuries makes, eh?

Needless to say, I’m happy to live in this day and age with its medical marvels.  I’ll be the first to admit I’m no Jane Crawford.  I’m pretty sure I’d be a sniveling wimp if I’d had to go through what she did!

How about you?  Have you had a surgery before?  Two or three?  Are you a wimp when it comes to pain?  

 

Updated: September 2, 2019 — 8:19 pm