All posts by ebg17@duke.edu

The Ladies’ Physician fumbles the mic a bit but mostly drops it

Post contributed by Michelle Wolfson, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern.

The History of Medicine special collection houses many exciting—and, dare we say, sexy—artifacts that draw the interest of students, staff, and researchers. The carved ivory memento mori is a thing of beauty. The amputation set invites people to picture themselves on a battlefield during the Civil War. Anatomy and dissection are contemplated as one looks at flapbooks and manikins.

But what draws me in? The written word. The books, the pamphlets, the zines—they are the voices echoing to me through time.

With abortion constantly in the news at this cataclysmic time, and with a young child with many questions about puberty, I threw myself into the History of Medicine Collections as its latest intern, wanting to know, “What do we say about puberty? About menstruation? About abortion? What do doctors say? What do mothers say? What does corporate America say? For heaven’s sake, what do we tell the children?!” Here is a small sampling of what the special collection offers.

Title page from The Ladies’ Physician: A Guide for Women in the Treatment of their Ailments.

The Ladies’ Physician: A Guide for Women in the Treatment of their Ailments by a London Physician is a book from 1884. This guide has several redeeming factors. It makes clear that it is the mother’s duty to inform their daughters of what to expect before menstruation begins. While not always feasible (what does one do when there is not a maternal figure in the child’s life?), I generally like the attitude that we do not leave young girls and women in the dark regarding their health. In some ways, the text is very thorough in covering many common issues that women might experience, including the more benign, such as leukorrhea (“the whites”, or simply, vaginal discharge), to the more serious, such as tumors and endometritis. This was somewhat shocking to me as, anecdotally, I hear from many women that their endometritis was ignored by health providers for many years before being properly diagnosed. Pregnancy and many of the possibilities an expectant mother might experience as the body changes are also covered—from varicose veins to constipation to neuralgia of the face.

The section on pregnancy begins with a quick history of how much has been discovered recently—such as how physicians can now say with certainty that a person is pregnant by using a stethoscope and auscultation. Only sixty years ago, our London Physician tells us, did a woman claim to be pregnant by the Holy Ghost and had many followers who believed her, including people in the medical field. (Actually, the London Physician says “medical men”, and I wondered if midwives were at all involved.) Different signs of pregnancy are written about, but we are also told that there may not be any signs at all, at which point, a story is told about a Mrs. G—–, which feels straight out of a modern showing of “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant”. Neither Mrs. G—– nor the neighborhood physician ever guessed she was pregnant, and indeed she was in labor and they still did not suspect that she was giving birth. Ten hours into labor, another doctor examined her and realized what was happening, though the expectant parents still did not believe it. The story has a happy ending—healthy mom, healthy and loved daughter. The London Physician also tells us that the opposite can occur, when a person thinks they are pregnant when they are not, whether it is due to false signs from tumors, an abnormal menstrual cycle, or simply gas or muscles twitching.

As one might expect, The Ladies’ Physician has its problems and questionable moments, too. The causes of puberty and menstruation are written about obtusely—I could not guarantee that a person without some prior knowledge of menstruation would completely understand what the book is saying happens during “the process which marks woman as woman.” (I will not even get into how this is not how we define “woman” anymore because now we know not all women experience menstruation.) The text also does not include visuals. At another time, the London Physician gives somehow not enough information by giving us too much information. We are initially told the average pregnancy is about nine or ten months, but the London Physician goes on for a distressing couple of pages about how some countries and cultures think that the duration of pregnancy lasts longer–three hundred days, or even going into years, the most being four years. (FYI: Elephants have the longest pregnancies of any land mammal, somewhere between eighteen to twenty-three months.) I do not know if this was simply an interesting point about varying belief systems, or to go back to the point about how physicians have recently learned more about pregnancy, or to cover all the bases of how long one might be pregnant in case somebody is incorrect.

One section regarding abortion was interesting to me, and I feel the need to quote it to get it exactly right. From pages 222-223, regarding severe cases of illness:

Pages 222-223 from The Ladies’ Physician

The cases in which such extreme measures are called for are of extreme rarity. It happens only when the mother’s life is in imminent and urgent peril; then it becomes a duty to act promptly and empty the uterus, and thus save the only life that can be saved, unless, indeed, it be in the later months of pregnancy, when both lives—the mother’s and the child’s—can in this manner be spared. Repulsive as it is to destroy the child, still it is the highest duty, and no hesitation should be felt in sacrificing it in circumstances stated, for unless this be done, and done promptly, not only the life of the child, but that of the mother will also be lost.

Another section about quickening was of interest from page 196. The London Physician does not think this is the moment a child is considered alive, instead that the

…embryo is alive from the first, though its life is a lower form of life than it is after the fifth or sixth month, just as the life of a child an hour before birth is a lower form of life than that it possesses an hour after birth.

They do not know when the child possesses a soul but

…[l]et it suffice here to say that from the time of conception there is life in the embryo, simple though it be when compared with the higher life of a born child or an adult man, yet too complex to be solved by the greatest philosopher. 

Page 196 from The Ladies’ Physician

I think the London Physician dropped the mic there, so I will end here as well.

Some of this blog post was written tongue-in-cheek, but that does not discount how I think on this book. In 1884, women had something to refer to that gave them reassuring and helpful information regarding their bodies. The information is given in a matter-of-fact manner, not sensationalized or hidden in shame (though we could work on some bits for clarification). It still leaves me with many questions—how many people had access to this book? Who was the London Physician? What did people do if they did not have access to a book like this? I am assuming they sought other women for advice, or at least I am hoping they did.

 

 

 

 

Forceps, Women’s Rights, and Professional Turf War: American Pregnancy and Childbirth in the Twentieth Century

Post contributed by Haleigh Yaspan, Independent Researcher

Pregnancy and birth, as universal and unvarying phenomena, can offer a revealing and reflective view into a specific historical chapter. Careful attention to the dynamic nature of the circumstances that have historically defined the experiences of pregnant and birthing women can help us contextualize and better understand our present moment. The relationship is bidirectional: so too does an exploration of historical factors help shed light on the rationale for trends in the medicalization of birth. The aid of a generous History of Medicine travel grant allowed me to spend time with a number of fascinating collections at Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library that can offer such insight. These included, for example, the collection of medical instruments from the practice of Dr. LM Draper, the Louise Hortense Branscomb papers, and the Wilton G. Fritz Collection Artifacts.

In the United States, the circumstances of birth changed dramatically toward the end of the Progressive Era. Prior to the twentieth century, the care of pregnant and birthing women was most commonly the domain of midwives and other female practitioners, who were not incorporated into a recognized professional body. The shift toward a physician-centric approach can be traced back to a revolution within the medical profession, beginning in the late 1800s and continuing well into the following century. The wide variety of obstetrical tools surviving from Dr. LM Draper’s twentieth-century collection offers insight into standard practices of American physicians of the day. I was particularly intrigued by the array of various iterations of forceps, insinuated as they are in the medical profession’s early- and mid-century proclivity toward instrumental intervention in labor, an intentional move to set physicians apart from low-interventionist midwives.

a pair of metal forceps
Obstetrical forceps had been invented in the seventeenth century, although their use was not widespread until much later.

 

The glass slides for Dr. Carter’s OB/GYN lectures provided a window into the education aspect of the medical approach to obstetrics. Such primary sources set forth the gold standard of mid-century medical education of the day. The use of visuals in the slides informs an understanding of the historical pedagogical practices in this field, while the language employed clues us into the sociocultural milieu that circumscribed and defined medical education of the day.

American medical students learned about the history of childbirth, which had not traditionally been considered the purview of medical practitioners.

 

The medicalization of birth that took shape in the early twentieth century has attracted both celebration and criticism. Many have critiqued physicians, both in this period and since, for their quickness to instrumentally intervene in birth and their failure to outperform more hands-off midwives in terms of clinical outcomes. In the early twentieth century, Abraham Flexner, under the aegis of the Carnegie Foundation, set out to survey the state of medical education in the United States and Canada. His 1910 report eviscerated the medical profession, suggesting that a vast majority of American doctors were woefully unqualified and had received what little education they possessed from institutions of highly dubious rigor and quality. “But the very worst showing,” he noted, “is made in the matter of obstetrics.”

The Consumer Reports Archive

Post contributed by Joshua Larkin Rowley, Reference Archivist, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History

The Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History acquired the archive of Consumer Reports, the consumer advocacy and education non-profit, in October of 2019.  Staff were thrilled with the new acquisition and eager to make these fabulous collections available to researchers as soon as possible.  Then…the pandemic hit.

Finally, after nearly three years and hours of work by staff and interns in the Rubenstein Library’s Technical Services Dept. approximately 65 individual collections have been fully described and made available.  To mark the occasion we’ve published a website dedicated to highlighting the breadth of the Consumer Reports Archive, the history of the organization, a selection of archival collections, recently cataloged print items, and its interdisciplinary potential in teaching.  Explore the site here and check out some highlights from the collection below.

Two fake mouths mounted on a cylinder with red lipstick residue from testing.
Lipstick tester from the testing equipment collection.
Image showing cover of Consumers Union Reports.
First issue of Consumer Reports, May 1936.
Letter on Consumers Union letterhead.
Consumer Reports founder Colston Warne’s sworn statement that he’s never been a member of the Communist Party, April 1953, from the Colston Warne Papers
Image showing pen testing equipment with six pens writing on a white sheet of paper.
Pen tester from Consumer Reports Iconographic Collection.
image showing a room of television sets
Television set test from the Consumer Reports Iconographic Collection.

The Rubenstein Library’s disruptive copy of A Curious Herbal

Post contributed by Janet Stiles Tyson, independent researcher.

colored picture of fig plant
Hand-colored etching of fig, from Rubenstein copy of A Curious Herbal. Photo credit Janet Stiles Tyson.

This blog post concerns a copy of a historically significant English herbal, held by the Rubenstein Library. Along with its producer Elizabeth Blackwell, A Curious Herbal[1] comprised the topic of my PhD thesis for Birkbeck College, University of London. It remains the focus of my post-doctoral research.

She was born in London in 1699 as Elizabeth Simpson, and married to a Scotsman named Alexander Blackwell. She made 500 life-size watercolor drawings of medicinal plants and translated those drawings on to etching plates, which were then sent to a printer to be produced as black-and-white multiples. After printing, Blackwell used watercolor paint to color many of the imprinted images. Between mid-1735 and mid-1739, those images were sold in fascicules or gatherings of four pages each. Each fascicule also included a page of text explaining the use of the four illustrated plants. Gatherings that contained four uncolored images cost one shilling; each group containing four colored images cost two shillings. Buyers compiled their pages (along with title pages, indexes, and other leaves that were printed and distributed) and had them bound—typically into two folio-format volumes.

Image showing text from title page of A Curious Herbal
Volume One title page from Rubenstein copy of A Curious Herbal. Photo credit Janet Stiles Tyson.

Blackwell’s first publisher was Samuel Harding, whose name is found on title pages dated 1737. The name of Blackwell’s second publisher, John Nourse, is found on title pages dated 1739 and 1751. Copies also exist that were published under the name of Charles Nourse and dated 1782. However, composition and dating of extant copies isn’t as straightforward as this summary suggests, which is why much of my ongoing research involves finding and viewing as many copies as I can. Thus far, I have found about 110 copies, and have examined every single page of about sixty-five.

This brings me to the Rubenstein Library copy, which I visited in early August of this year [2022]. I first learned of it from catalogues for auctions held by Sotheby’s and Christie’s between 1981 and 2017. Online color photographs and verbal descriptions left me in no doubt about its beauty and importance. It was printed on extra-large folio sheets of paper, such that it measured about 18-by-12 inches in height and breadth. Pictures showed that its two volumes were bound in gold-stamped black morocco leather, and that the edges of its pages had been finished in gold. It also was evident that the plates had been colored with great care and subtly.

It originally had been owned by a London apothecary named Josiah Messer (1753-1830), whose signature was inscribed on the verso of the title page. A watercolor drawing and a hand-colored etching had been inserted at the back of volume one. Bookplates for another, presumably later, owner named George Hubbard were affixed to the marble endpapers in each volume. Assuming that its last sale at auction had been to a private collection, it seemed that I would never see Josiah Messer’s copy of A Curious Herbal.

Thus I watched, incredulously, as Rubenstein librarians removed the two volumes of the Messer copy from their archival boxes.

image showing page of text from preface
Blackwell preface from Rubenstein copy of A Curious Herbal.

I began carefully turning its pages. Messer’s signature was on the reverse of the title page. There were the customary two pages of endorsements by various medical men. There were five lavishly etched and engraved dedicatory leaves that I knew from other copies. And there was a blank leaf where the first explanatory page should have been. Briefly perplexed, I decided that explanatory pages had been arranged to face the first image of each group of four. I’d seen that in other copies and would duly note.

I turned the page to find its verso filled with words from top to bottom, facing the front of another densely printed page. The word ‘Preface’ topped the first, and at the bottom of the second was the name ‘Elizabeth Blackwell’, and the legend: ‘Chelsea April ye 12th 1739’. After some preliminaries were the words:

I from my very Infancy shew’d an Inclination to imitate Pictures and

to attempt drawing such Things as pleased me; Whether this

proceeded from the strong impressions made on my tender Brain by

the agreeable Objects I was daily surrounded with (my Father Mr.

Leonard Simpson being a Painter) or a Genius born with me I can’t

determine.

A shiver of excitement shot from my head to my fingertips at ‘my Father Mr. Leonard Simpson being a Painter’. Hurriedly I told the librarians about this discovery, then returned to my table to email my Birkbeck supervisors, Vanessa Harding and Carmen Mangion. Both promptly messaged their kudos. Then, as I finished reading Blackwell’s preface and proceeded to examine and photograph further pages, Harding sent me another email.

Applying decades of research experience, Harding quickly found two other documents that cited Leonard Simpson by name. One announced the birth of a daughter to ‘Mr Leonard Simpson Designer in Paintings’, who lodged with a ‘Mr Simpson shoomaker of the Parish of St Mary Woolchurchhaw’. Dated ‘Aprill 1699’, it stated that daughter Elizabeth was born on the ‘three and twentith day of this moneth’ and  ‘baptized the 4th of May following’. The second document further noted that shoomaker Simpson’s dwelling was ‘next door to the White Horse in Poultry’.

color image of white waterlilly against a green lily pad
Hand-colored etching of white waterlily from Rubenstein copy of A Curious Herbal. Photo credit Janet Stiles Tyson.

Over the years, I’ve found other Simpson references, including information that identified Blackwell’s mother’s name as Alice. But the Rubenstein copy holds the key to confirming Elizabeth Blackwell’s birth date and place. So much more could be said about this book and its illustrations, and the myriad curious tales of Elizabeth Blackwell. And perhaps further research will find further copies of that preface. For now, however, I hope that I have communicated the importance of this object at Duke University.

Works cited

Blackwell, Elizabeth (1737). A Curious Herbal. Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the most useful Plants, which are now used in the Practice of Physick. Engraved on folio Copper Plates, after Drawings, taken from the Life. By Elizabeth Blackwell. To which is added a short Description of ye Plants; and their common Uses in Physick. London: Printed for Samuel Harding in St Martin’s Lane, MDCCXXXVII (1737) Rubenstein QK99.A1 B53 1737 folio v.1 c.1.

London Metropolitan Archives. Parchment register of the parish of St Mary Woolnoth, 1686-1726: LMA, P69/MRY15/A002/MS07636.

London Metropolitan Archives. Paper register of the parish of St Mary Woolnoth, 1695-1706: LMA, P69/MRY15/A/002/MSo7636.

[1] Full title: A Curious Herbal. Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the most useful Plants, which are now used in the Practice of Physick. Engraved on folio Copper Plates, after Drawings, taken from the Life. By Elizabeth Blackwell. To which is added a short Description of ye Plants; and their common Uses in Physick.

 

 

To Be or Not to Be (Vaccinated)?

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator for the History of Medicine Collections.

The history of vaccine hesitancy is nothing new. Pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers from the eighteenth through twenty-first centuries feature opposing views of vaccination. Some profess personal liberty and abhor government intervention (i.e. instituting compulsory vaccination); or claim that potential side effects from vaccines are too risky. Others stress that public health and the well-being of communities against preventable, lethal diseases, should prevail through large-scale, or even mandatory, vaccinations.

Does this sound a bit familiar?

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library has material, ranging in format and date, that document the long history of vaccine hesitancy. In October 2019, an exhibit Vaccination: 300 Years of Debate was installed in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room. When campus closed in March 2020, so did our exhibit spaces. This exhibit became inaccessible at a time when it was becoming most relevant.

Image annoucing that exhibit was closed in response to coronavirus.
Image from Vaccination: 300 Years of Debate, person in bed from Engravings by Clemens Kohl

We are now happy to share the online exhibit for Vaccination: 300 Years of Debate. Take a break from current news to view materials that give context to this ongoing, historical debate.

 

 

 

 

 

If These Saws Could Talk

Post contributed by Roger Pena, MLIS Student at UNC Greensboro and Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern

“There may come to me fresh blooming flowers, but I’ll love the faded bud best.

For it slept one night in the moonlight, on the sod upon his breast.”

– Winifred Cobb, widow of Benjamin. F. Cobb

I am a little over a month into my internship at the History of Medicine Collections at the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. In my short time working in the collection, I’ve been able to handle incunabula (books printed prior to 1501), surgical tools dating back to the 16th century, and a wide range of artifacts preserving the history of medicine, health issues, biomedical science, and disease in a global context.

image showing open amputation set
Amputation set, early to mid-19th century.

A library science degree with a focus in special collections is a career change from my decade of experience working in K-12 education. Being a history teacher for most of my career I had always been interested in battlefield medicine, especially throughout American history and the Civil War(1861-1865).

For most people with an interest in Civil War history, the treatment of wounded and injured soldiers is of particular interest. A search of the History of Medicine artifacts collection will lead you to several surgical and amputation saws donated to the Rubenstein Library.  As I mentioned previously, one of the surgical saws dates back to the 16th century and could require two people to operate while the collection also houses an amputation saw from the late 1890s.

image of tourniquet included in amputation set that show the name of the manufacturer, S. Maw & Son.
Detail on tourniquet showing the name S. Maw & Son, a medical supply company.

Another surgical saw is titled: “Amputation set, early to mid-19th century”.  The set is made up of at least 8 different pieces including a large surgical saw, a tourniquet with leather paddings to make the procedure more “comfortable” and four large knives that more resemble a modern set of kitchen knives than ones used to amputate a soldier’s limb. The set comes in a wooden box with a brass plate and an engraving with initials: B.F.C. Its contents were purchased through S. Maw and Son – a medical supply company operating out of London and featured prominently on the saw and knife handles. The wooden set was donated through the Alphonsus Cobb Collection, son of Benjamin Franklin Cobb.

image of B.F. Cobb
B. F. Cobb

The youngest son of Benjamin F. and Winifred Cobb, Alphonsus moved to the city of Durham around the turn of the 20th century. Throughout his time in Durham, Alphonsus would serve as a hotel manager and local businessman in real estate and insurance until his death in 1935. A look through collection control files revealed a folder with a detailed history of the Cobb family, historical columns written in local newspapers, and a poem written by Winifred, Benjamin’s widow, on the day of his burial. Not much survives of his record in the Confederate Army nor is there much information about Alphonsus, except for information about his business history in Durham.

Dr. Josiah C. Trent, whose original collection of medical books, manuscripts and artifacts helped to establish the History of Medicine Collections, hoped to create a collection that celebrated and studied the history of surgery. No doubt an artifact such as an amputation saw from the Civil War era would be a good fit for the collection.

The battlefields of the American Civil War saw nearly 60,000 amputations, roughly 75% of all surgeries performed in the conflict. Used as a method to prevent disease and infections such as gangrene, survival could depend on factors such as the location of the wound and when treatment was administered.  Though rudimentary by today’s standards, amputations during the Civil War were “sophisticated” procedures conducted with patients under anesthesia (chloroform or ether) and  “one of the quickest, most effective ways for surgeons to treat as many patients as possible.” Still, the harsh conditions of performing surgeries in the battlefield hospitals led to the reputation of surgeons and doctors acting more like “butchers” and soldiers fearing the short and long-term ramifications of an amputation.

Detail of amputation saw and descriptive card included in amputation kit.

Our saw’s owner, Benjamin F. Cobb was born into a slave owning family (1830 Census)  in Wayne County, NC in January, 1826 and completed his medical training at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1847. The 1850s would see Dr. B.F. Cobb in a general medical practice with a focus on obstetrics in Duplin Co., NC. In April of 1862, a year into the Civil War, Dr. Cobb was commissioned as a surgeon in the Provisional Confederate Army and would serve across the state of North Carolina until the end of the Civil War. Dr. Cobb was stationed as a Confederate Surgeon in Goldsboro, Fort Anderson, Smithville, Penders Hospital, and Fort Caswell until his capture in March 1865 and eventual loyalty oath in May of 1865. One can only wonder whether the “Amputation set” in the History of Medicine Collections was present as Dr. Cobb attended to wounded soldiers.

surgical knife from amputation set held against a peron's arm for scale
Detail of surgical knife from amputation set. Human arm for scale.

Today, the amputation set owned by Benjamin F. Cobb and donated by Alphonsus to Duke University serves as a hands-on teaching tool for students at Duke University in learning the ways that surgery has evolved over the last few centuries.  When opening the finished and well designed wooden box holding the amputation saw and accompanying instruments, it’s easy to step back in history and imagine a world where physicians grappled with decisions regarding the need for an amputation and  the thousands of soldiers whose lives were forever changed by the war and surgical procedure.

Detail of amputation saw. Human arm for scale.

Pull for Your Candidate

Post contributed by Kaylee P. Alexander, Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern 2020-2021.

Bumper stickers, a MAGA hat, a Hillary Clinton nutcracker, ads for Dick Nixon jewelry, and a Barry Goldwater beer can are just some of the relics of past presidential campaigns to be found in the over thirty boxes of the Kenneth Hubbard Collection of Presidential Campaign Ephemera at the Rubenstein Library. Gimmicky, kitschy and teeming with bad puns, objects such as these have become somewhat ubiquitous in American campaign culture, and the Hubbard Collection covers nearly every presidential campaign that took place between 1828 and 2016. Representing Republicans and Democrats—both winners and losers—as well as candidates running with the U.S. Socialist and Prohibitionist parties, the Hubbard collection provides interesting material and visual cultural insights in the history of American elections by demonstrating a wide range of strategies for advertising and showing support for would-be U.S. presidents.

Going through these boxes over the past month, I was not shocked to find what seemed like an endless supply of buttons, pins and ribbons. Nor was I very surprised to find objects such as that Hillary nutcracker, or the Bill Clinton tie that was kept in the box alongside it; these ridiculous artifacts seemed somewhat logical to me, having seen the bizarre assortment of collectibles—from bobble heads and action figures to, most recently, facemasks—for candidates who have run in my lifetime. No matter how many objects or documents I came across in the collection, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about the first folder I had pulled: a folder containing just one postcard, with a donkey illustration and twine tail. “Pull for Your Candidate,” the postcard instructed, and, in an oddly amusing sort of way, a portrait of William Jennings Bryan (1860–1925) emerged above the donkey as you pulled on its tail. I couldn’t help but chuckle.

GIF of the postcard showing William Jennings Bryan's head pop out from behind a donkey when the tail is pulled.
“Pull for Your Candidate” Postcard for William Jennings Bryan campaign (1908), Kenneth Hubbard Collection of Presidential Campaign Ephemera, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Printed by the Elite Post Card Company of Kansas City, Missouri, the verso provided space for you to compose your own message and address the card to whomever you wanted to send it to. Designed for the 1908 presidential election, in which Bryan faced off against Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, William H. Taft in a “battle of the Bills,” the postcard provided an attention-grabbing method of advocating for one’s presidential pick, not unlike today’s letter writing campaigns, or even contemporary social media activity urging folks to get out and vote.

1908 election postcard with pictures of William Taft and William Jennings Bryan and the caption “Each Bill Would be THE Bill, But which Bill will?”
G. H. Allen, “Each Bill Would be THE Bill, But which Bill will?” Postcard for the 1908 Presidential Election.

A proponent of a progressive income tax and stronger antitrust laws, Bryan was hailed “The great Commoner.” 1908 would be the third and final time that Bryan, formerly Nebraska’s 1st District Representative, would run for president. Unfortunately, it would also be his biggest defeat, earning just 162 electoral votes to Taft’s 321. With Taft’s defeat after one term by New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson, Bryan would serve as Secretary of State from 1913 to 1915. Despite his presidential losses, however, Bryan is still considered to be one of the most influential, albeit somewhat controversial, politicians of the Progressive Era.

A bit of digging revealed that a Republican version of the 1908 postcard, featuring an elephant in place of the donkey, had also been produced for Taft, an example of which can be found in the Dr. Allen B. and Helen S. Shopmaker American Political Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. With both of these postcards available to potential voters, one would have been able to literally and figuratively pull for their candidate and motivate others to do so as well.

Postcard for the William Taft campaign featuring a picture of Taft.
“Pull for Your Candidate” Postcard for William H. Taft campaign (1908), Dr. Allen B. and Helen S. Shopmaker American Political Collection, St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum, University of Missouri-St. Louis.

 

So, with a few days to go before Election Day, be sure to take a lesson from the Elite Postcard Company and pull for your candidate. Every vote matters.

Cookies for the Dead

Post contributed by Kaylee P. Alexander, Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern, 2020-2021

Man dies to live, and lives to die no more…until then, we eat cookies.

Tucked away in the Rubenstein Library’s box of memorial cards, ribbons, notices and ephemera in the Leona Bowman Carpenter Collection of English and American Literature is a lone advertisement for a curious confection: funeral biscuits. Imploring the reader to prepare for death, the ad suggests that one’s funerary arrangements simply cannot be complete without Hick’s biscuits.

Advertisement for funeral buscuits with decorative elements and a short poem.
Advertisement for Joseph Hick’s Funeral Biscuits (n.d.), Leona Bowman Carpenter Collection of English and American Literature, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Joseph Hick was a Yorkshire confectioner. In 1803, he had opened his first confectionery in partnership with Richard Kilner. In 1822, Kilner dissolved the partnership, leaving sole ownership to Hick, who relocated the business to 47 Coney Street. Hick operated his own confectionary until his death in 1860, when his estate and confectionery were left to his three children. Hick’s youngest daughter was Mary Ann Craven, the wife of Thomas Craven whose confectionery at 19 High Ousegate had been in operation since 1840. When Thomas died in 1862, Mary Ann was left in control of both confectioneries, which she merged and renamed M.A. Craven. In 1881, her son, Joseph William, joined the firm and the company was renamed M.A. Craven & Son.

With its thick black border, Hick’s advertisement mimics the design of early obituaries while inclusion of the elegy, “Prepare to Die,” hints towards the tradition of funeral cards. It is most likely, however, that the advertisement was intended to provide the reader with a sample design of what they might expect to encounter on the paper wrapper of Hick’s funeral biscuits.

small accouncement for the funeral of Mary Reed from October 14, 1832
Funeral Announcement for Mrs. Mary G. Reed (1832), Leona Bowman Carpenter Collection of English and American Literature, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Brown paper biscuit wrapper with text from the funeral of Mrs. Oliver.
Biscuit wrapper for the funeral of Mrs. Oliver, Collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, Oxford, England.

In nineteenth-century England—particularly in Yorkshire and Lancashire—it was customary to send funeral biscuits to the family and friends of the recently deceased. These confections would often be served with wine to funeral guests, and the wrappers, which frequently bore the name of the deceased, became souvenirs for those who had been in attendance. While the collecting of funeral tokens, from gloves to spoons, was commonplace well before the nineteenth century, the distribution and collection of funeral biscuit wrappers seems to most closely anticipate—in design, materials, and text—contemporary practices surrounding funeral cards.

artwork on marble showing funerary banquet
Marble grave relief with a funerary banquet and departing warriors (2nd century B.C.), Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The custom has typically been seen as a relic of Antique practices in which funerary banquets and offerings of wine and cakes for the dead were standard commemorative practices. The English tradition has also been likened to the Welsh practice of sin-eating, in which a designated sin-eater would consume a ritual meal, passed to him over the coffin, in order to absorb the sins of the deceased.

An 1896 text on English customs describes the use of funeral biscuits as follows:

At a funeral near Market Drayton in 1893, the body was brought downstairs, a short service was performed, and then glasses of wine and funeral biscuits were handed to each bearer across the coffin. The clergyman, who had lately come from Pembrokeshire, remarked that he was sorry to see that pagan custom still observed, and that he had put an end to it in his former cure. […] At Padiham wine and funeral biscuits are always given before the funeral, and the clergyman is always expected to go to the house, and hold a service before the funeral party goes to church. Arval bread is eat at funerals at Accrington, and there the guests are expected to put one shilling on the plate used for handing round the funeral biscuits. (Ditchfield, 202-203)

This tradition was not limited to the British Isles. Variants could also be found in other countries of Northern Europe, and was carried to the American colonies in the seventeenth century by the English and Dutch settlers. Here, the life of the funeral cookie lasted through the nineteenth century, before crumbling in the twentieth. The tradition lives one, however, in the passing out of funeral cards that, like the packing of the funeral biscuit, function as mementos of the deceased.

Though the original recipe(s) for funeral biscuits seem to have been lost to time, some have suggested that ginger or molasses cookies would have been the go-to flavors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. So, if you’re, like me, interested in resurrecting this uncanny confection, check out these historical and contemporary recipes!

Selected References:
Paul Chrystal, Confectionery in Yorkshire Through Time (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2009).

Margaret Coffin, Death in Early America: The History and Folklore of Customs and Superstitions of Early Medicine, Funerals, Burials, and Mourning (New York: Elsevier/Nelson Books, 1976).

H. Ditchfield. Old English Customs Extant at the Present Time: An Account of Local Observances, Festival Customs, and Ancient Ceremonies yet Surviving in Great Britain (London: George Redway, 1896).

Robin M. Jensen, “Dining with the Dead: From the Mensa to the Altar in Christian Late Antiquity,” in Commemorating the Dead: Texts and Artifacts in Context, Studies of Roman, Jewish, and Christian Burials, eds. Laurie Brink and Deborah Green (New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2008)

Summer Strevens, The Birth of The Chocolate City: Life in Georgian York (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2014).

 

What’s Inside That Thing?: Scarificators and Medical Instrument Design

Post contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Librarian

There’s no denying it: artifacts are more fun when they come with sharp blades! And, in the History of Medicine Collections, we have a lot of sharp things! From giant amputation saws (for your less precise cutting needs) to more modern surgical kits, it’s a wonder we still have all of our fingers!

Image of large amputation saw.
Large amputation saw dating from the late 16th or early 17th century.

Not all of our blades are for such extreme procedures as amputations. We have many examples of smaller (but no less sharp) cutting tools intended for the once-popular procedure of bloodletting. Intended to balance the body’s humors and restore a patient to health, bloodletting was a standard medical procedure for centuries. Used to cure a range of ailments, bloodletting could involve draining a patient of large quantities of blood. Benjamin Rush, prominent physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, recommended bloodletting as a treatment during the 1793 yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia. [The Benjamin and Julia Stockton Rush papers, which document Rush’s medical work, have been digitized and are available online.]

If, for some reason, you needed to bleed someone, you could choose from a number of tools in our collection like three-bladed fleams, lancets with tortoiseshell handles, and scarificators with as many as sixteen blades. We even have bleeding bowls to keep all of that blood from dripping onto your carpet.  [Disclaimer: As appealing as it may sound, the Rubenstein Library does not recommend bloodletting. We recommend getting your medical advice from a medical professional and not a library blog.]

image of bloodletting bowl.
Bleeding bowl.

The many-bladed scarificator is an interesting device and we have several examples in our collection. Designed to create multiple cuts simultaneously, the narrow and quickly-delivered punctures produced by the scarificator made it a (supposedly) less painful bloodletting technique.

Images of several scarificator examples.
Some scarificator examples from our collection!

To use the scarificator, a doctor would retract the blades and cock them into position using the lever seen in the images above. The device would then be placed blade-side down on a patient’s arm and the button used to release the blades into the skin. [For an excellent demonstration, see this video from the Mütter Museum.]

The frustrating thing about the scarificator is that the inner workings are hidden. What’s going on in that little brass box? As you might imagine, we prefer that people not pry apart our artifacts to find out. Luckily, other items in the History of Medicine Collections can fill in details about the design of medical instruments as well as the thought process behind the design.

A patent is one way to learn more and we hold a patent granted to George Tiemann in 1834 for a scarificator. The patent is an impressive document: it is signed by President Andrew Jackson and includes several hand drawn images of Tiemann’s device along with Tiemann’s very detailed description of how the device works and is constructed.

image of patent text
Front page of George Tiemann’s patent with Andrew Jackson’s signature.
image of patent text and illustrations
George Tiemann’s illustrations and description of his scarificator design.

This is only a quick look at George Tiemann’s patent and we encourage further research into scarificators and other medical instruments (we have over 800 and many have been described and photographed). Maybe, if you are handy type of person, you could try to recreate Tiemann’s design!

Pan Am Innovations: Creating Pleasant Airline Travel

Post contributed by Leah Tams, Pan Am CLIR Grant Intern

With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent implementation of travel restrictions, social distancing, and quarantines, one of the industries being significantly affected is the airline industry. How airlines and the larger travel industry will recover from current events remains to be seen, but we can look back at the history of Pan American Airways (Pan Am) to see how they introduced innovations in order to overcome contemporary challenges and appeal to American travelers.

Advertisement for Pan Am’s Club Lounge, 1949.

A couple of Pan Am’s earlier innovations (late 1940s to early 1950s) in passenger service between the continental U.S. and other places—predominantly Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Europe—was the introduction of “Sleeperette Service” and “Club Lounges” on Boeing 377 flights (more popularly known as Pan Am’s Stratocruisers, specifically “The President” or “El Presidente” service). Pan Am’s Sleeperette Service featured large, comfortable armchair seats during the daylight portion of a flight, and at night the seats converted to bed-length compartments, complete with curtains for passenger privacy. Also available on Boeing 377 flights was Pan Am’s “Club Lounge,” which was located on the lower deck of the airplane. The Club Lounge was an informal place where passengers could congregate, socialize, and order “anything from a demi-tasse to a tall cold one.” In an era where airline travel still remained far more time-consuming and uncomfortable than it is today, these innovations from Pan Am were instrumental in creating comfortable environments and positive experiences for its passengers.

Before and after the flight, Pan Am endeavored to make flying as convenient as possible for its customers. One way in which they tried to accomplish this was with the construction of the Pan Am Terminal, later renamed the Worldport, at JFK Airport. The terminal had a large, saucer-like roof that extended far beyond the building and allowed aircraft to be parked underneath it. The impetus behind this design was to bring the plane to the passenger, thus creating proximity and convenience for Pan Am’s travelers.

Pan Am’s Worldport terminal at JFK airport.

Another innovation that Pan Am introduced to make travel more convenient was its helicopter flights. In 1965 they partnered with New York Airways to provide helicopter service between the Pan Am Building (now the MetLife Building) in Manhattan and JFK Airport in Queens. Later, Newark Airport was also added to this rotation. Despite the convenience that the helicopter service added for some passengers, Pan Am stopped these flights in the late 1970s after a series of fatal crashes on the route.

In the 1980s, Pan Am debuted its WorldExpress program, which allowed their passengers to bypass the hassles that came with connecting flights. Pan Am advertised WorldExpress as “One Ticket. One Check-In. One Baggage Claim. To The World,” and they made sure that connecting flights for their passengers were “just steps away, not terminals away.” Pan Am’s WorldExpress program thus strove to make airline travel as easy and convenient as possible for its passengers by eliminating some of the logistical barriers that continue to make travel difficult today.

Advertisement for Pan Am’s “Weatherproof Vacation” insurance, 1970s.

After creating good airline experiences, of course, came the actual vacation or occasion for travel. While we would probably all agree that the post-flight experience is completely out of airlines’ hands, in the 1970s Pan Am decided to team up with an insurance agency and guarantee its passengers a pleasant post-flight experience. In 1971 Pan Am introduced the “Weatherproof Vacation,” which it accomplished through a partnership with the American Home Insurance Company. For an “attractive” premium, Pan Am’s passengers could purchase Vacation Weather Insurance. This insurance plan ensured that if Pan Am’s passengers experienced rain or otherwise adverse weather on their vacations, they could receive a portion of their expenditures back. With its global reach well established by the 1970s, the assurance of a pleasant vacation was an innovative way for Pan Am to ensure that its passengers’ positive experience extended beyond that of the flight.