Friday, November 4, 2011

Historical Overview of 19th Century Medicine

I ran across these guest posts by Eleanor Sullivan over at The Writer's Forensic Blog which were excellent and a good resource for the historical authors that follow here. They are must read as I learned a lot of fascinating facts.

To supplement, I thought I'd add a few words to her list of terms that were used then and what they mean. These are referenced from Frontier Medicine by David Dary which is another excellent resource.

Acute Indigestion: listed as a cause of death. Probably a heart attack. This is interesting as in modern medicine, women can present quite differently from their male counterparts when they are suffering from heart attack. One of these symptoms can be indigestion.

Bad Blood: syphilis

Barber's Itch: infection of the hair follicles of the face.

Black Fever: Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Camp Colic: appendicitis

Domestic Illness: polite label for mental breakdown, depression, or the aftereffects of a stroke where a person was housebound and in need of regular nursing.

Dry Bellyache: lead poisoning

Grip/Gripe: influenza

Quinsy: tonsillitis

Scrivener's Palsy: writer's cramp

For an outstanding generalized overview of 19th century medicine, check out these links to Eleanor's Guest Posts:




  1. Thanks for sharing Jordyn. Nice articles. I also have a link on my blog to a nice resource I found online for historical illnesses and treatments. Its the last link on the right hand side of my blog link list. Plus, I use an 19th century medical book I picked up at an antique store as my primary resources for my current WIP, Lena's Courage. My heroine is a doctor in northern Wisconsin, 1894.

  2. Anne-- Thanks for your comment! I've missed you! How is that book coming along? By the way, I'm very jealous of that book you found. I asked my brother-in-law who's a book fiend to keep an eye out for books like this but he said they went for hundreds of dollars! Did you pay that much?

    Here's the link Anne spoke of from her blog for others that might be interested in this resource.

    I'm thankful for modern medicine though I do shudder to think what future health care professionals will think about our current treatments.

  3. Scrivener's Palsy: writer's cramp

    I didn't know there was a name for this. I have had problems with my writing hand even in my youth. That's why I took to the typewriter and especially the computer.

    I am going to have to play this one up!!! LOL.

  4. Sharon,

    When I saw that, I wondered if that's why the people who developed the Scrivener writing program named it that. Curious minds want to know!!

  5. Jordyn, I guess I lucked out on the price of the book! I paid about $35!!
    It is titled Dr. Chase's Last Complete Work, pubbed in 1903. However, it is a Memorial Edition, 3rd edition with the first pubbed in 1884, the second in 1887. It was intended to be available for every household, for the "practical knowledge of the people." It states in the dedication that over 120,000 people throughout the US and Canada had purchased the first 2 editions.Including the index, it is 865 pages long. It is in very good condition. I really think it was a God thing that I stumbled upon it among stacks and stacks of antique books at this antique store. I really wasn't going there for that sole purpose either! :o)
    I'd be happy to do lookups for anyone who has historical medical questions.

  6. Hey Jordyn, I just posted a direct link on my blog page. You can read Dr. Chase's works online. Apparently there are also editions as early as 1870's. So cool. Also, worth noting, there are many other recipes for non-medical things used in the typical household during those time periods. It really gives good insight into the times!

  7. For more info, I just posted a blogpost about Dr. Chase today. Visit my blog and have fun!

  8. Thanks, Anne! Here is the link for her blog...

  9. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  10. Melanie,

    I'm so glad you found my blog and are finding it a useful resource. I post every Mon, Wed, Fri so hope to see you back.

    Thanks for leaving a comment.