Saturday, March 12, 2011

1842 Medicine - "One day he flies to one remedy, next day to another"

An 1842 letter in my collection, from a mother to her son, contains timeless family chit-chat, but also reveals the panoply of medical choices available to a typical antebellum city-dwelling family in the East: the physician, the town druggist, homemade remedies, and a neighbor’s advice.

My own dear Charlie,

How you must be wondering at my long silence but we are all dependent upon circumstances even in this land of independence. Your letter with cash ($20) enclosed did not reach me until Monday afternoon and then I had just returned from the city unwell and much fatigued. I therefore determined to write the following day but on Tuesday I was worse but still hoped by evening to be better. I took the cholera remedy but without removing my distress. Afternoon came, your father had staid in the city, therefore I gave up all thoughts of writing, for never again will I trust a letter by any hand but those belonging to me…[Your father's] leg troubles him much but he will take no one's advice. One day he flies to one remedy, next day to another. Last Sunday he took the advice of a physician here and after taking the medicine for one day and bandaging his leg as directed he went to the city on Monday but neglected to get the oiled silk. Started again on Tuesday; left his medicine behind. Went to a druggist, got some other nostrum. Came back Friday with his leg unbandaged, no oil silk purchased. Oh he is so trying, I have lost all patience with him …Our old neighbor Mr. Platt recommended me to take some vinegar salt which I have done and think it has done me some service, though I feel excessively weak.”

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