Category Archives: History of Medicine

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!

Announcing our 2020-2021 Travel Grant Recipients

1946 magazine advertisement for american airlinesThe Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020-2021 travel grants. Our research centers annually award travel grants to students, scholars, and independent researches through a competitive application process. We extend a warm congratulations to this year’s awardees. We look forward to meeting and working with you!

Please note that due to widespread travel restrictions, the dates for completing travel during this grant cycle have been extended through December 2021.

Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture (Mary Lily Research Grants):

Dena Aufseeser, Faculty, Department of Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland, “Family Labor, Care, and Deservingness in the US.”

Elvis Bakaitis, Adjunct Reference Librarian, The Graduate Center, CUNY, “The Queer Legacy of Dyke Zines.”

Emily Larned, Faculty, Art and Art History, University of Connecticut, “The Efemmera Reissue Project.”

Sarah Heying, Ph.D. candidate, University of Mississippi, “An Examination of the Relationship Between Reproductive Politics and Southern Lesbian Literature Since 1970.”

Susana Sepulveda, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Arizona, “Travesando Chicana Punk”, an examination of Chicana punk identity formations through the production of cultural texts.

Tiana Wilson, Ph.D. candidate, University of Texas at Austin, “No Freedom Without All of Us: Recovering the Lasting Legacy of the Third World Women’s Alliance.”

John Hope Franklin Center for African and African American History and Culture:

Brandon Render, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, “Color-Blind University: Race and Higher Education in the Twentieth Century.”

Erin Runions, Faculty, Department of Religious Studies, Pomona College, “Religious Instruction of Slaves on Fallen Angels and Hell in the Antebellum Period.”

Katherine Burns, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Edinburgh, “‘Keep this Unwritten History:’ Mapping African American Family Histories in ‘Information Wanted’ Advertisements, 1880-1902.”

Leonne Hudson, Faculty, Department of History, Kent State University, “Black American in Mourning: Their Reactions to the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.”

Matthew Gordon, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Georgia, “American Memory and Martin Luther King, 1968-1983.”

Michael LeMahieu, Faculty, Department of English, “Post ‘54: The Reconstruction of Civil War Memory in American Literature after Brown v. Board.”

Harry H. Harkins T’73 Travel Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History:

Amanda Stafford, Ph.D. candidate, School of History, University of Leeds, “The Radical Press and the New Left in Georgia, 1968-1976.”

Caitlyn Parker, Ph.D. candidate, American Studies Department, Purdue University, “Lesbians Politically Organizing Against the Carceral State from 1970-2000.”

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History:

Andrew Wasserman, Independent Scholar, “The Public Art of Public Relations: Creating the New American City.”

Austin Porter, Faculty, Department of Art History and American Studies, Kenyon College, “Bankrolling Bombs: How Advertisers Helped Finance World War II.”

Elizabeth Zanoni, Faculty, Department of History, Old Dominion University, “Flight Fuel: A History of Airline Cuisine, 1945-1990.”

Hossain Shahriar, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Business Administration, School of Economics & Management, Lund University, “Gender Transgressive Advertising: A Multi-Sited Exploration of Fluid Gender Constructions in Market-Mediated Representations.”

Jesse Ritner, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, “Making Snow: Weather, Technology, and the Rise of the American Ski Industry, 1900-Present.”

Joseph Larnerd, Faculty, Department of Art History, Drexel University, “Undercut: Rich Cut Glass in Working-Class Life in the Gilded Age.”

Katherine Parkin, Faculty, Department of History and Anthropology, Monmouth University, “Asian Automakers in the United States, 1970-1990.”

Meg Jones, Faculty, Communication, Culture & Technology, Georgetown University, “Cookies: The Story of Digital Consent, Consumer Privacy, and Transatlantic Computing.”

Ricardo Neuner, Ph.D. candidate, University of Konstanz, “Inside the American Consumer: The Psychology of Buying in Behavioral Research, 1950-1980.”

Stanley Fonseca, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Southern California, “Cruising: Capitalism, Sexuality, and Environment in Cruise Ship Tourism, 1930-2000.”

History of Medicine Collections:

Jackson Davidow, Theory and History of Art and Design, Rhode Island School of Design, “Picturing a Pandemic: South African AIDS Cultural Activism in a Global Context.”

Lisa Pruitt, Faculty, Department of History, Middle Tennessee State University, “Crippled: A History of Childhood Disability in America, 1860-1980.”

Morgan McCullough, Ph.D. candidate, Lyon G. Tyler Department of History, William and Mary, “Material Bodies: Race, Gender, and Women in the Early American South.”

Human Rights Archive:

Andrew Seber, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Chicago, “Neither Factory nor Farm: The Fallout of Late-Industrial Animal Agriculture in America, 1970-2000.”

Eugene (Charlie) Fanning, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park, “Empire of The Everglades: A Global History of Agribusiness, Labor, and the Land in 20th Century South Florida.”

Jennifer Leigh, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Sociology, New York University, “Public Health vs. Pro-gun Politics: The Role of Racism in the Silencing of Research on Gun Violence, 1970-1996.”

Richard Branscomb, Ph.D. candidate, Department of English, Carnegie Mellon University, “Defending the Self, Preserving Community: Gun Rights, Paramilitarization, and the Radical Right, 1990-2005.”

Outliving Outbreaks: Exploring Early Efforts to Fight Epidemics

Post contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Librarian and Rachel Ingold, Curator, History of Medicine Collections.

Philadelphia in 1793. New York in 1795. Gloucestershire in 1798. London in 1854. Crimean Peninsula in 1855.

This may seem like an unrelated list of places and dates, but each represents a particular moment in the history of our fight against infectious disease. From the earliest days of epidemiology to the experiments that launched our vaccinated world, these moments continue to resonate today. While most of us have more immediate concerns – from job security to our own physical and mental health – it is worth considering the roots of now-common disease maps or the idea of “social distancing” to slow infection rates.

The Rubenstein Library’s History of Medicine Collections has material related to the history of epidemics, pandemics, and infectious disease. Below you’ll find a sample of sources from us as well as resources from other institutions.

Yellow Fever, 1790s

When yellow fever struck Philadelphia in 1793, nearly a tenth of the city’s population perished during the outbreak. Physicians struggled to understand how the disease spread and struggled to effectively treat the growing number of ill Philadelphians. One physician, Benjamin Rush, wrote to his wife throughout the outbreak and their letters offer a look at life during an epidemic.

These letters, part of the Benjamin and Julia Stockton Rush papers, are digitized and available online. A companion digital exhibit, Malignant Fever, curated by Mandy Cooper, provides more information about Rush and includes additional resources for understanding the 1793 outbreak.

Letter from Benjamin Rush to Julia Stockton Rush describing the symptoms of yellow fever and noting that all common remedies have failed. August 29, 1793.

 

Image of the tongue during different stages of yellow fever, by Etienne Pariset, 1820.

 

Other American cities were not immune to yellow fever and New York City saw an outbreak in 1795. Local physician Valentine Seamen, trying to locate the source of the disease, collected information about each case and created an early disease map using this data.

Valentine Seaman’s yellow fever map where the dots represent known cases of yellow fever and an “S” represents areas with waste or filth.

Seaman, despite his efforts, did not correctly identify the cause of yellow fever. He did note the presence of mosquitoes, but concluded that the accumulated filth near the city’s docks were to blame. Seaman’s case data, maps, and his analysis were published in The Medical Repository. The Rubenstein Library has a copy and a digitized version can be accessed through HathiTrust.

Cholera, London, 1854

A later attempt to trace the source of a contagion through mapping was more successful. John Snow suspected that contaminated water was to blame for a cholera outbreak in London. Snow investigated each case and noted which water pump the infected individual used. He marked the cases on a map published in the 1855 edition of On the mode of communication of cholera.

John Snow’s map showing the spread of cholera in the Soho area of London.
Detail of cholera map showing the concentration of cases around the contaminated Broad Street pump.

Fortunately, Snow was right about the source of cholera. His data was convincing enough to have the water pump at the center of the outbreak disabled. The Rubenstein Library holds a rare copy of On the mode of communication of cholera (shown above).

Smallpox, 1790s

Decades before John Snow’s map, Edward Jenner investigated smallpox, a widespread and dangerous disease in the eighteenth century. Jenner created an early vaccine using material taken from a fresh cowpox lesion after observing that cowpox infection prevented subsequent smallpox infection. Jenner shared his discovery in An Inquiry into the causes and effects of the variolae vaccinae (1798). The library holds a copy of this book containing surprisingly lovely illustrations of infected arms. The library also holds a small collection of Edward Jenner’s papers that include letters discussing vaccination and a diary containing vaccination records.

Illustration of a cowpox infected arm from Jenner’s An inquiry into the causes and effects.

 

Camp Diseases, Crimean Peninsula, 1854-1855

As a nurse during the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale saw large numbers of soldiers die from diseases like cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, and typhus. Linking these deaths to poor sanitation, Nightingale worked to clean up military camps while also collecting data about the impact of disease on British soldiers.

In Mortality of the British Army (1858), Nightingale’s data is used to create visualizations that illustrate the poor camp conditions and make the case for sanitation reform. One visualization stands out as we practice “social distancing.” The image below compares the population densities in various locations and notes the amount of space per person. Densities in military camps, where disease was widespread, were noticeably higher than even places like urban London where people had more distance from their neighbors.

We hold a copy of this work (that is definitely worth seeing in person) and a digital copy is available through Internet Archive.

Diagrams of densities in military camps compared to those in London.

 

From our colleagues at other institutions, you can find other excellent resources on this topic:

Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics is a digital collection of sources from Harvard libraries. As their site explains, the goal is to provide historical context to current epidemiology and contribute to the understanding of the global, social-history, and public policy implications of disease. Materials include digitized books, manuscripts, pamphlets, and more. The site is organized around momentous historical outbreaks such as the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia and the 1918 Influenza outbreak in North America.

The National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health also have a number of resources, such as health information guides from past pandemics. The National Library of Medicine hosts the  Global Health Events web archive, a resource that has archived selected websites from 2014 around major global health events such as Ebola and Zika.  The collection includes both websites and social media with the goal of offering a diverse and global perspective ranging from government and NGOs to healthcare workers and journalists.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of resources related to infectious disease and the attempts to stop its spread. If you want to explore more of these materials in the Rubenstein or find additional online resources, our “Guide to Researching Epidemics in the Rubenstein” is a good place to get started.

We encourage you to visit us when we reopen! In the meantime, get in touch and let us know if you have questions!

 

Houdini: Magician, Escape Artist, Collector

Post contributed by Steph Crowell, Trent History of Medicine Intern

While searching through Duke’s Parapsychology Lab materials, I uncovered some evidence that Houdini himself had at one point contacted J.B. Rhine. As an amateur magician and great fan of the folks over at the Rhine Research Center, I had to know more.

After doing some digging, I found this photo in the Rubenstein’s Picture File:

On the left a photograph of Houdini, wearing a suit, sitting with what appears to be the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. On the right, the back side of the photo with a handwritten note that reads "J.B. Rhine. Best Wishes, Houdini"
Houdini, Harry, 1900s, Picture File, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Front and back.

The writing on the back of the photo may be difficult to read, but it says, “J.B. Rhine Best wishes, Houdini.” Armed with proof, I scoured the guide to the Parapsychology Lab Records for the letter that I was sure accompanied this photo.

I soon found this to be much more difficult than anticipated. Although the correspondence folders have been kindly indexed, I saw no entry under Harry Houdini or under his other names (Erik Weisz, Ehrich Weiss, or Harry Weiss). It seemed that The Handcuff King had found his way out of our records.

This is an item that I immediately wanted to share, but I wanted to share it with some context so I expanded my search. As it turns out, Houdini was a great admirer of President Lincoln (you can read more about the quirks of his personality here) and the Harry Ransom Center in Texas has some proof of this in their collection of Houdini’s personal papers. Wondering if perhaps staff had some answers to my question of how this photo came to be at Duke, I sent an email to what I thought was the reference librarian for this collection.

That email address was no longer operational. I then tried to email someone in an admin position in the center to ask them to refer me to the right person, and I await a response.

Even though I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for in time to write this post, I think the things I found during my search are just as valuable. As a long-time fan of Houdini, I had heard stories of his passion for debunking fraudulent soothsayers and mystics but I didn’t realize just how deep his fascination went.

In addition to the collection of personal papers at the Ransom Center, I discovered that throughout his life, Houdini had also been an avid collector of books- to the point that his collection is considered to be one of the largest in the world on the topics of magic, witchcraft, demonology, psychic phenomena, and spiritualism (this post has some great links to see what some of those are).

It’s the biggest collection I’ve never heard of, and it’s remarkable to think that someone who lived on the road like Houdini did had the time, space, and motivation to hunt all of these down- I can only imagine the shock on librarians’ faces when, after his death, the collection was delivered to the Library of Congress.

While I was digging through the Library of Congress’ holdings, I found a digital copy of the photo that started this whole adventure: Houdini and the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. As it turns out, the photo was a result of one of Houdini’s many efforts to debunk a mystical fraud. As the Library of Congress describes, the photograph was created to illustrate “how a photographer could produce fraudulent ‘spirit photographs’ that purportedly documented the apparition and social interaction of figures from beyond. Demonstrating the company he could keep if the right technique were employed, Houdini had himself photographed with the ghost of Abraham Lincoln.”

To tie this back to J.B. Rhine, Houdini’s efforts with the Lincoln photo were published in the read Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, a publication that later declined to publish one of J.B. Rhine’s own papers debunking a medium named Mina Crandon.

Thank you for reading this long post about the beginning of my journey down this rabbit hole, and I hope you’ve found something in it that piques your interest. Houdini and J.B. Rhine were pioneers in the study of psychic phenomena and we’re very fortunate in the Rubenstein to have a wealth of materials on the topic because of the Rhine Center- who knows what might still be waiting to be found in one of those boxes?

Correction: An earlier version of this post had the incorrect name for the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Reserach. Thanks to an astute reader for alerting us.

Applications Now Accepted for the 2020-2021 Travel Grant Program

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2020-2021 travel grants. If you are a researcher, artist, or activist who would like to use sources from the Rubenstein Library’s research centers for your work, this means you!Black and white, undated, but vintage seeming United Airlines ad. The headline reads "Compare these Travel Costs." It has an illustration of a female flight attendant holding a chart showing the cost of travel to various destinations by train in comparison to fare on United Airlines.

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, the History of Medicine Collections, and the Human Rights Archive will each award up to $1,500 per recipient ($2,000 for international applicants to the Human Rights Archive) to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein Library also awards up to $1,500 for individuals who would benefit from access to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history collections through the Harry H. Harkins, Jr. T’73 Travel Grant.

The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, North Carolina, and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers listed above.

More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 31, 2020. Recipients will be announced in March 2020.

Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series Event, Nov. 19: Education of American Surgeons, 1900-1960

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

Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Time: Noon (12 p.m.)
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room (Room 153), Rubenstein Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold, rachel.ingold@duke.edu, (919)684-8549

Please join us Tuesday, November 19 at noon for our next Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series. Justin Barr, M.D., Ph.D., will present Creating a Profession: The Education of American Surgeons, 1900-1960.

In 1900, anyone with a medical degree could declare themselves a surgeon and operate on patients.  By 1960, American surgeons had to complete rigorous, uniform, and regulated training called residency.  Influenced by war, supported by the federal government, and driven by professional organizations, the transformation of residencies over these decades from extraordinary, unique experiences to mandated, standardized education helped create a unified profession of surgery that continues to influence health care in this country.

Dr. Barr is currently a general surgery resident and an instructor in the Department of History at Duke University.

All are welcome to attend. Light lunch will be served.

Sponsored by the History of Medicine Collections in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Medicine and Magic in North Carolina

Post contributed by Steph Crowell, Trent History of Medicine Intern.

Frank Clyde Brown was an English professor at Trinity College in 1909. Although, to call him just an English professor is a bit of a disservice- he was also the chairman of the English department, the University Marshal, the Comptroller of the University… he wore many hats while he was here. But, most importantly for today, he was an avid folklorist throughout his career.

He was so interested in North Carolina and Appalachian folklore that he helped to begin the North Carolina Folklore Society. Although busy with his many university roles, he still found the time to roam about North Carolina (or send his students to do so) and collect people’s stories and beliefs. The resulting collection of all these research materials, the Frank Clyde Brown Papers, 1912-1974, is absolutely massive. Alongside the huge print collection, there is a digitized collection of audio performances Brown collected during the course of his research- the physical wax cylinders and discs that they come from are still in the collection to be seen, but the only way to listen to them is through Duke’s Digital Repository.

But, in the spirit of the season, I took a look at box 45 of the print collection. Folk medicine is a wonderful and often strange portion of the history of medicine, and I quickly found that this collection reflected that idea. In this particular box are folders full of small pieces of paper that have bits of folk knowledge printed on them, as well as the source of that knowledge, be it a person or a book.

Four pieces of paper with folk remedies Brown collected. 1 is binding a frog to your head to cure a headache. 2 is washing your face in a stream of water that runs north to cure a headache. 3 is using beetle blood to cure a earache and 4 is putting ground pepper in your ear to cure a earache.
3:B:Z(8)-3:B:Z(16), Frank Clyde Brown papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Click to enlarge.

As you can see, some of these cures may not be quite what you expect. You couldn’t expect that washing your face with cool water may help alleviate a headache, but water that runs north? Why is that significant? Do beetles really only have two drops of blood in their bodies?

The thing that’s most interesting about this box is how the materials transition from folk medicine cures of diseases and insect bites into the supernatural. Some of these cures could arguably be called magical, but conceptually they still have to do with curing something wrong with the body- but what about spiritual health? What bad omens are out there that could impact my health? How do I know if he loves me or not? How can I get an edge on my exam tomorrow?

Four slips of paper describing various folk charms Brown collected.
4:A-4:C, Frank Clyde Brown papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Click to enlarge.

In a context where the supernatural is accepted and has an effect on one’s personal health, it also stands to reason that one should be afraid of witches. Someone who has the power to bedevil you against your will, curse you with bad luck, make you sick? Because of this fear, the next few folders that follow the common sense cures and the charms are things to directly deal with witches. There are counter-spells, ways of identifying witches, and, most importantly, ways to keep them as far away from you as possible.

Four slips of paper describing signs that someone is a witch or can practice magic, as well as charms to keep witches away.
4:A-4:C, Frank Clyde Brown papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Click to enlarge.

It can be difficult these days to think that medicine can or should be magical, but in the spirit of the season I would invite you to try. These materials are available to you to look at with many more cures and curses, all you have to do is register and request and we’ll be happy to retrieve them for you.

A note about the collection: if you’re looking at the collection, just keep in mind that these papers directly quote real people; as such, there are a handful of these items that contain racial slurs and some other outdated language that we find offensive today.

Staff recommendations from the collection:

If you’re someone who’s more into stories, we would recommend checking out this paper on Witches in Old Salem, this one on vampires, or this one about werewolves.

Honorable mentions for Halloween:

The inspiration for the movie Poltergeist, Ruysch’s dancing skeletons and anatomical sketches, and some of our materials about the famous Lizzie Borden Case, which you can read about here.

The Minor Horrors of War (1915)

Post contributed by Steph Crowell, Trent Intern for the History of Medicine Collections.

In the spirit of the season, and in preparation for Screamfest VI here at the Rubenstein, we’ve been combing through our collections for all things creepy and unsettling. The History of Medicine has plenty of these things to go around, from medical instruments and artifacts to anatomical flap books to scary stories submitted to Duke’s old parapsychology lab (which includes the original material for the movie Poltergeist!), and much more. Being so spoiled for choice, we thought it best to ease into the festivities with some small, humble, yet significant contributors to the history of medicine: insects.

One might expect something called The Minor Horrors of War to contain stories related to the horrors of battle, the horrors of field medicine, or something equally gruesome, but this little volume takes a different direction: it talks about the how different arthropods and annelids may cause and treat illnesses for soldiers in the field. It covers lice, bedbugs, flies, mites, moths, and, leeches.

Two page spread of book showing title page and frontispiece. The frontispiece is an enlarged illustration showing a fly.
Frontispiece and title page

 

The wonderful thing about this book is the author’s ability to break up the technical entomological information he provides with easy-to-understand and frequently witty prose. For example, in the flies section of the book there is a particularly gruesome section on the impact of the Congo-floor-maggot, blow-flies, and others responsible for myiasis (“the presence of… larvae in the living body… as well as the disorders… caused thereby.” pp. 81). He ends this section a kind of silver lining to the discussion and says that we have “at least discovered the reason why Beelzebub was called the ‘Lord of the Flies’” (86).

Left page shows an overhead view of a fly, the right page a side view of the fly

Throughout the book, as you can probably tell by the images so far, are figures depicting many of the creatures being discussed. Throughout, you can see all these different kinds of creatures in varying degrees of magnification depending on the needs of the author. As shown below with a couple pictures of mites, this magnification can range from birds-eye views of different phases of an insect’s development to an incredible zoom-in that can more clearly show the reader each individual extremity and wrinkly that may be found on the insect’s body.

Finally, onto leeching. Leeching is perhaps one of the most famous uses of invertebrates in medicine (you can read a little about why that is the case here), and leeches are the creature that this author spends the most time describing. Unfortunately, you won’t find many images of a leeching session in progress but, just like in the rest of the book, there are many illustrations on the fine details of the leech itself. Despite the author’s claim that leeches are “undoubtedly degenerate earth worms” (124), he spends a great deal of time describing both medicinal leeches and exotic leeches (pictured below).

If you have some time, particularly this month, we would highly recommend stopping by for a little while and taking a look at this book. You can find the catalog record here. It’s as easy as hitting the green request button on the page- just remember to give us a couple of days’ notice of your visit so we can be sure we have time to get it ready for you.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for news and announcements related to Screamfest VI. It’s on the 30th this year, so be sure to leave some room in your schedule to come take a break with us! If you have any questions, as always feel free to drop by or contact us any time.

Suggested readings:

The insect folk– a more pleasant depiction of various kinds of insects. Dating back to 1903, this book was created to appeal to children and depicts friendlier versions of friendlier insects, such as dragonflies and crickets.

A natural history of the most remarkable quadrupeds– Like the previous book, this is more of juvenile-friendly account of certain creatures. It extends beyond insects to cover other animals like birds, reptiles, and more.

A short discourse concerning pestilential contagion– this could be a drier bit of reading, but if you’re interested in how insects who spread disease such as the plague were dealt with in the public health sphere, this could be a book for you.

Why Do We Trust Doctors?

Post contributed by Laura Smith, a Doctoral Candidate, History Department at the University of Arkansas. She is a 2019-2020 History of Medicine Collections travel grant recipient. 

This question was the starting point for my dissertation research, and it has guided every research trip I have taken in my quest to understand how medical education functioned in the 1800s.  The answer?  It depends on the time period.  In the 19th century, this wasn’t a question easy to answer.  People didn’t always trust doctors, and they didn’t really start until medical schools began to provide enough clinical experience for their graduates to consistently produce better health outcomes for patients.  I came to Duke to better understand the evolution of clinical experience in medical schools of the 1800s.  These pictures trace that history.

Frederick Augustus Davisson went to Lexington, KY in the 1830s on his journey to becoming a physician.  He took classes at Transylvania medical school from its most notable professors, Drs. Caldwell and Dudley, men whose publications and work in their communities initially gave Transylvania a decent reputation as far as medical schools went in this era.  Davisson took good notes.  He recorded the books that were suggested for him to read, books popular at the time.

Page from Davisson's handwritten notebook. At the top he has written "Medical Books" and the rest of the page lists various titles.
Davisson’s entry of medical books recommended to him.

His notes also reflect that medical knowledge in the 1800s was experimental, controversial, and personal as his writings reflect the differing opinions of his professors.  “Dr. Dudley thinks his own plan better than any” for treating the retention of fluid in the genitals as it is “far more certain less painful and greatly more expeditious.”  Dudley used a knife to drain fluid as opposed to a needle, explaining the benefits of each to his students.

Two open pages of Davisson's notebook. Each page is filled with Davisson's handwritten cursive notes
Davisson’s notes describing Dr. Dudley’s approach to a procedure.

The idea that medical knowledge was not solidified but debated in this era hints that a major challenge to the authority of doctors was surprisingly the slander of other physicians and schools.  When Dr. James Conquest Cross, a professor at Transylvania, released a pamphlet on why Louisville, KY needed a medical school, many wondered how another school could be necessary when Lexington already had Transylvania so nearby.  In the pamphlet, Cross argued that Transylvania’s school offered no actual experience in hospitals, no dissections, and therefore practiced antiquated medicine.  Students improved with the advice of practicing physician-instructors, but nothing compared with the experience of practicing medicine themselves.  Questioning the merit of Transylvania, Cross asked, “Who has ever seen a human body opened before the medical class, for pathological purposes?  Which of her numerous alumni ever made, a pathological dissection under the eyes of one of her teachers?  Of that individual we confess, we are just as ignorant as we are of the inhabitants of the moon.”  Until Transylvania aligned with a teaching hospital like a school at Louisville would, it could not graduate credible physicians.  The Rubenstein Library’s collections show rebuttal from Transylvania, however.  The medical class of 1834 defended their professors, argued they had dissecting experience, and claimed Cross invented lies because of disappointment about being refused a higher position on the faculty.  If it’s difficult for us to know who to believe in this debate, it was even more difficult for the public watching this conflict unfold.

Large newspaper clipping from the March 6, 1834 edition of the Lexington Intelligencer.
Statement from the medical students at Transylvania University defending their professors.

In the end, Louisville did build a medical school.  Louisville Medical Institute wooed students with the promise of study in a working hospital, and Duke’s papers from Courtney J. Clark give a rare glimpse into what that early clinical experience looked like.  Clark traveled from Alabama to take courses at the Louisville Medical Institute in the same era that Davisson went to Kentucky, and while Clark had similar lecture experience from Kentucky physicians, he also had notes from real cases he studied that Davisson did not.  As Clark observed patients in the Louisville Marine Hospital, he learned from his practice, but his work and the work of the LMI faculty also benefitted the poor of the community who could receive low-cost medical care.  Clark recorded the prescriptions and health plans of other physicians while closely monitoring the success of patients.  When most medical history books praise the progressive teaching methods of Northern schools, these notes show that the medical schools of the US South made clear attempts to give experience while attempting to foster positive relationships with their communities.

Page of handwritten notes in a notebook.
Clark’s notes describing his examination of a patient.

This comparison between two Kentucky medical schools through the notebooks of students shed light on how division within the medical community hurt physician trust.  Rifts between schools like that between the cities of Lexington and Kentucky turned into ugly and public spectacles partly because for-profit schools competed so intensely for students and prestige.  Ironically, long-lasting feuds between schools presented the public with a feeling that doctors could not be trusted as they could not even come to agreement among themselves, and in this way, doctors in the 1800s eroded their own medical authority.

So why do we trust doctors now? We trust doctors because most of us have agreed to trust science and evidence-based conclusions.  We trust doctors when they time and again heal us.  But perhaps, we also trust doctors because they appear unified, a surprisingly recent development in medical history offering a cautionary tale useful in our own professional and public divisions.  Yes, even in 2019.

Tobacco Ephemera: The Effects of Public Health Education on Tobacco Advertising

Post contributed by Steph Crowell, Trent History of Medicine Intern.

In 2019, it can be difficult to imagine living in a world where people were allowed to smoke on airplanes, in restaurants, or even in hospitals. Duke itself is doing its part to participate in the history of tobacco regulation these days, declaring that on July 1, 2020, Duke will be one among many universities to finally be a smoke-free campus. If this is news to you, I’m happy to say that the folks at Duke Health have put together an FAQ (and a countdown to July 1).

Because this is such a significant event in Duke’s own history of medicine, we decided to take a look in the Rubenstein’s stacks to see exactly what we had on the subject of tobacco. Below is one of our findings: trading cards.

Yes, trading cards. This set of champion dog trading cards from Ardath Tobacco Company in Great Britain dates back to 1934 and contains twenty-five unique, award-winning dogs. Each card has a colored picture of the featured dog on the front, as well as text telling the avid collector the name of the dog, the breed, and the owners.

Scan showing six trading cards each illustrated with a different breed of dog
Champion Dogs, 1934, 1-5 (front), Terence Mitchell Collection of Tobacco-Related Ephemera, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

 

On the back are more detailed, informal anatomical diagrams of the dogs pointing out their trademark features. A favorite is No. 3, the cocker spaniel, whose eyes are described as “full, not prominent, bright and merry” (pictured below). Also included on the back are the card numbers and branding.

Reverse of trading cards show in the previous image, with a black and white outline of each dogs and text describing their features
Champion Dogs, 1934, 1-5 (back), Terence Mitchell Collection of Tobacco-Related Ephemera, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Champion Dogs, 1934, 1-5 (back), Terence Mitchell Collection of Tobacco-Related Ephemera, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

The collection that houses these cards is massive- it contains multiple sets of trading cards, collectible fabrics, pins, cartons and packs of cigarettes. If you’re curious about the specifics, check out the collection guide. It can be intimidating to look at given the volume of items listed, but Terence Mitchell, the collector, was conscious of this and organized everything by type and topic. As far as trading cards go, there are assorted animals, famous people, famous art pieces, pirates, pieces of architecture, and much more all from a variety of companies in the United States and Great Britain.

The cards served a functional purpose in both the packaging of cigarettes and their marketing. According to the Museum of Obsolete Media, packaging for cigarettes was a bit flimsy from the 19th to early 20th century so these cards were inserted to help it keep its shape. As time went on, however, and the cards began to diversify, people began to be drawn to them because they provided a unique way to see images from around the world that would have been impossible for the average person to afford to go see. It was exciting, enticing, and, most of all, cheap.

These days, because of regulations and public awareness of the negative health impact that tobacco products have on the human body, the age of tobacco trading cards has passed. Companies are forced to be clear about these dangers in their ads, on their packaging, anywhere they might be engaging the public. In a relatively short period of time, this has profoundly affected the way we view tobacco and evaluate the extent to which we will tolerate it in public spaces.

Less than a hundred years after these trading cards were printed, the FDA is still finding its legs in legislating what kinds of warnings should be included on tobacco products. Warnings have been mandatory for only a few years now (to check out all of the FDA’s requirements, check here) and are still in flux.

As these things continue to happen, it can be a comfort to be able to see for oneself exactly why these regulations and initiatives have to be put in place to begin with. This collection of ephemera is available for Researchers to view in the Rubenstein’s reading room. If you’re interested but not sure how that process works, here’s a link to our FAQ, or feel free to contact us to ask any questions you may have!