“How Many Stamens Has Your Flower?” The Botanical Education of Emily Dickinson

By Anne Garner, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts

So unsuspected violets
Within the fields lie low,
Too late for striving fingers
That passed, an hour ago.

Emily Dickinson (1858)1

Daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson, from the collection of Amherst College.

Daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson, from the collection of Amherst College.

Emily Dickinson fell early and fast for flowers. Her poetry is full of the blooms and buds that signal the awakening of spring. There’s her crocus, “Spring’s first conviction” (Letter 891) “stir[ring] its lids,” (J10) her May-Flower, “pink small and punctual,” (J 3) and her “chubby” daffodil with its “yellow bonnet” (J 10 and J4), among an army of many other blossoms that decorate her pages.

As her biographer Alfred Habegger has noted, the poet spent hours as a girl in the 1840s roaming the woods and fields near her Amherst, Massachusetts home, looking for flowers. In many cases, these were sent to friends, but the poet also kept some for herself. Her first assembled collection was not, as one might expect, a collection of writing, but a collection of plant specimens.2

Dickinson likely began her herbarium when she was 14, in 1845.3 It has been fully digitized by Harvard’s Houghton Library (all 66 pages can be viewed here). Several of the texts that influenced Dickinson’s flower collection are available in our library.

A page of Dickinson's herbarium, courtesy of Harvard University's Houghton Library.

A page of Dickinson’s herbarium, courtesy of Harvard University’s Houghton Library, including specimens of Liriodendron tulipfera and of the rare Chenopodium capitatum (strawberry blite).

In 1845, Dickinson was enrolled in both botany and Latin at Amherst Academy. Coursework in both subjects was instrumental in her identification and labeling of plants.

In use at Amherst during Dickinson’s time was Almira Lincoln Phelps’ textbook, Familiar Lectures on Botany, first published in 1829.4 Phelps, a pioneer educator and only the second woman elected a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was the sister of the American education reformer Emma Willard.5 Phelps probably taught at Amherst Academy for at least one term, using the Familiar Lectures. Her textbook was certainly known and used by Dickinson.6

Our copy of Phelps’ Lectures on Botany contains a sweet floral treasure pressed within, with the ghost of its outline visible on its pages. If you can identify the flower, please let us know.

Our copy of Phelps’ Familiar Lectures on Botany (1838) contains a sweet floral treasure pressed within, with the ghost of its outline visible on its pages. If you can identify the flower, please let us know. Click to enlarge

In the prefatory note to Familiar Lectures, Phelps describes how as a teacher of botany she struggled to find suitable textbooks, and composed the lessons within to fill this gap.7 Benjamin Smith Barton’s The Elements of Botany, while beautifully illustrated, was very out of date by the late 1820s, and written in an archaic language unsuitable for young students.8

Plate VI from Phelps, Familiar Lectures on Botany, 1838. Click to enlarge.

Plate VI from Phelps, Familiar Lectures on Botany, 1838. Click to enlarge.

Familiar Lectures, sometimes called Mrs. Lincoln’s Botany, became the standard textbook for young students, and went through at least 39 editions. The volume contains a prefatory note directed at teachers that tells us about Phelps’ pedagogical style, and what Dickinson may have experienced in her classroom:

Each member is presented with a flower for analysis….The names of the different parts of the flower are then explained; each pupil being directed to dissect and examine her flower as we proceed. ..After noticing the parts…the pupils are prepared to understand the principles on which the artificial classes are founded, and to trace the plant to its proper class, sorter, & c. At each step, they are required to examine their floors, and to answer simultaneously the questions proposed; as, how many stamens has your flower?9

Phelps taught her students the Linnaean system of identifying specimens: the number of stamens in a flower would determine its class, and the number of pistils, its order. Successive editions of Phelps’ text acknowledged the new “natural” system of classification, a system that moved away from stamen and pistil counting, but discarded the new method as too complex for students.10

"Of leaves." In Phelps' Familiar Lectures on Botany, 1838. Click to enlarge.

“Of leaves.” In Phelps’ Familiar Lectures on Botany, 1838. Click to enlarge.

Dickinson’s biographer Alfred Habegger emphasizes Phelps’ belief that botany was a subject well-suited to females, and that Dickinson herself characterized plants most frequently as female, and, by extension, as central to the role of playing female:

That the poet thought of flowers as female suggests her love of plants owed more to culture than science….Pressed between the pages of a letter, they became a medium of exchange between her and her friends, those of her own sex especially. Cultivated indoors, especially after a conservatory was added to the Dickinson Homestead, they became a consuming avocation.11

Emily Dickinson seems to have consulted another book for the organization of her specimens. That book was Amos Eaton’s Manual of Botany, for the Northern and Middle States of America.

Title page of Eaton, Manual of Botany, 1822.

Title page of Eaton, Manual of Botany, 1822.

Eaton, a botanist and geologist, had mentored Phelps during her time at Emma Willard’s Female Seminary in Troy. It was Eaton who had first encouraged the publication of Familiar Lectures.12 Dickinson likely used Eaton’s manual to identify the specimens she gathered on walks in the woods. She labelled her specimens in accordance with Eaton’s Linnaean numbering system, in which the class and order correspond to number of stamens and pistils, probably unaware that by this time, the method had been largely discounted.13

Dickinson also consulted Edward Hitchcock’s Catalogue of Plants growing without cultivation within thirty miles of Amherst College in the creation of her herbarium. The text Dickinson used was published in 1829, but our copy, revised by Edward Tuckerman, dates to 1875. Hitchcock was president at nearby Amherst College, and the area’s most eminent naturalist. He’s especially remembered for his geological contributions (Hitchcock led the first geological survey in Massachusetts after studying dinosaur footprints). “Hitchcock’s guide includes many rare plants native to Massachusetts also collected by Dickinson, including the very rare strawberry blite, cancer root (found near Mt. Holyoke), and verbena (found in South Hadley).14

Title page of Tuckerman and Frost's A Catalogue of Plants, 1875.

Title page of Tuckerman and Frost’s A Catalogue of Plants, 1875.

Dickinson refers to Hitchcock in an 1877 letter to T.W. Higginson:

When Flowers annually died and I was a child, I used to read Dr Hitchcock’s Book on the Flowers of North America. This comforted their Absence–assuring me they lived.” (Letter 488)15

Dickinson seems to have confused the authorship of the book she mentions above; here, too, she’s likely referring to Eaton’s Manual of Botany for North America.

Phelps, Eaton, and Hitchcock’s texts all influenced Dickinson’s impressions of the natural world in girlhood. As a mature poet, as her physical reach and exploration of the natural world became more and more limited, the plants familiar to her from girlhood stuck, fixing their roots all the more deeply in her mind.

Perhaps you’d like to buy a flower?
But I could never sell.
If you would like to borrow
Until the daffodil

Unties her yellow bonnet
Beneath the village door,
Until the bees, from clover rows
Their hock and sherry draw,

Why, I will lend until just then,
But not an hour more!16

References

1. Johnson, Thomas ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Boston: Little, Brown, 1960. 7; Johnson, Thomas and Theodora Van Wagenen Ward, eds., The Letters of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge: Harvard, 1958.

2. Habegger, Alfred. My Wars are Laid Away In Books The Life of Emily Dickinson. New York: Random House, 2001.

3. Habegger, 154.

4. Habegger, 155.

5. Rudolph, Emanuel. “Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps (1793-1884) and the Spread of Botany in Nineteenth Century America.” American Journal of Botany, Vol. 71, No. 8 (Sep. 1984), pp. 1161-1167.

6. Habegger, 155.

7. Phelps, Almira Hart Lincoln. Familiar Lectures of Botany. New York: Huntington, 1839. Pp.8-9.

8. Rudolph, 1162.

9. Phelps, 8-9.

10. Rudolph, 1163-1164.

11. Habegger, 156.

12. Rudolph, 1163.

13. Habegger, 158.

14. Habegger, 158-159.

15. Johnson, Thomas and Theodora Van Wagenen Ward, eds., The Letters of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge: Harvard, 1958.

16. Johnson, Thomas ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Boston: Little, Brown, 1960. 4.

From Central Park to the Front Lines: Frederick Law Olmsted and the Sanitary Commission

By Paul Theerman, Associate Director, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

We are fortunate at the Academy to look out over Central Park—one of the jewels of the city of New York. The park got its start in the 1850s, and took shape due to the visionary efforts of two men, landscape architects Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903). In the 1860s Olmsted—whose birthday we celebrate today—was instrumental in one of the great medical and public health efforts of the 19th century: the organization of relief to Union soldiers in the Civil War. As executive secretary of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, he coordinated voluntary efforts to support the Army’s medical department in the war effort.1

Olmsted was a restless person, continually trying on new roles. He first made his mark in journalism, publishing his observations of life in the South after three tours through the region in 1850s.2 He offered a scathing depiction of slavery, the resistance of southern society to change, and the degrading effects of the institution on society as a whole. Olmsted became an abolitionist when that was still a minority position, and a reformer throughout his life.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Olmsted’s superintendence of the Central Park project was limited due to disputes with the city, and he contacted Henry W. Bellows, a New York Unitarian minister, for help in securing a position. Bellows drafted him to head up, as executive secretary, a newly chartered private institution, the U.S. Sanitary Commission, of which Bellows was a founding Commissioner. Broadly modeled on the British example in the Crimean War, the Sanitary Commission addressed two persistent needs in the delivery of medical services in wartime. The first was that the standing army of the United States was relatively minuscule, and its medical department equally so. At the outbreak of the war, the army had some 16,000 men at arms, a portion of whom defected to the Southern cause. Through volunteers and conscription, the number of men serving eventually reached 2.5 million over the four years of the war, with perhaps half a million in uniform at the height of the conflict. As the volunteer army geared up so did the medical corps, but by any measure the medical service of the army was largely inadequate for the task.

And the medicine of the army seemed inadequate as well. The Sanitary Commission as he organized it had a paid professional staff and a corps of medical inspectors to review military camp conditions and advise military physicians. The inspectors also relayed requests for supplies back to the Commission’s offices in Washington, where central office staff would work to fill requests from donations.

Olmsted also lobbied to induce Congress and Cabinet officials for assistance through reformed laws and sympathetic appointments. He put his work into the overall context of reform for the good of the nation: “service on the Commission was part of his patriotic duty. It would strengthen the fighting power of the nation by assuring the health of the soldiers and by making the best use of goods and money contributed by the public.”3

“The Sanitary Commission used the side-wheel steamboat Wilson Small as its headquarters for much of the Peninsula campaign.” Olmsted Papers, 4:331, n1. This drawing, from the collections of the Library of Congress, portrays the ship at harbor in Aquia Creek, Virginia, March 12, 1863.

“The Sanitary Commission used the side-wheel steamboat Wilson Small as its headquarters for much of the Peninsula campaign.” Olmsted Papers, 4:331, n1. This drawing, from the collections of the Library of Congress, portrays the ship at harbor in Aquia Creek, Virginia, March 12, 1863.

Though Olmsted thought his service—and the war for that matter—would last a matter of weeks, it did not. Several times he was called to the field. During the series of battles that constituted the Peninsula Campaign—Union General George B. McClellan facing Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston in the spring and summer of 1862—Olmsted found himself organizing the evacuation of wounded Union troops to ships, amid a chaos of competing orders and information. During this period, he wrote a series of letters back to the Commission, and over the next year he took his letters and those of another unnamed Commission member and edited them into Hospital Transports: A Memoir of the Embarkation of the Sick and Wounded from the Peninsula of Virginia in the Summer of 1862. Designed to lay out the work of the Commission and solicit donations, the book also provided a gripping account of life just behind the front lines. The Academy’s copy was donated from the English branch of the U.S. Sanitary Commission—set up in London to coordinate donations from Americans abroad and sympathetic Britons—and is inscribed by Edmund Crisp Fisher, the Secretary of the branch.4

Title page of Olmsted's Hospital Transports. Our copy is inscribed by Edmund Crisp Fisher, the Secretary of the English branch of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, whose cancelled stamp is also on the page.

Title page of Olmsted’s Hospital Transports, 1863. Our copy is inscribed by Edmund Crisp Fisher, secretary of the English branch of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, whose cancelled stamp is also on the page.

Olmsted’s work with the Commission ended in the fall of 1863. He was not able to maneuver among the competing factions, especially between eastern and western branches of the Commission, nor readily subject himself to the control of the Commission’s executive committee. He went to California to manage a ranch caught up in the confusion of competing gold rush claims; when he returned to the East two years later, he devoted himself to landscape architecture. But as he left, he knew that he had tried, and at times succeeded, in providing a trained professional cadre of medical doctors and reformers to coordinate care to wounded soldiers and to better their conditions under arms. His work prefigured broader efforts leading into World War I—in such organizations as the Red Cross—in the scope of their ambition and in the vision of their success.5

References

1. I acknowledge the excellent introduction to The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, Volume 4: Defending the Union: The Civil War and the U.S. Sanitary Commission, 1861–1863, ed. Jane Turner Censer, with Charles Capon McLaughlin, editor in chief, and Charles E. Beveridge, series editor (The John Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 1–69, which is a major source for this account.

2. Olmsted published his accounts as A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States, with Remarks on Their Economy (1856), A Journey Through Texas (1857) and A Journey in the Back Country (1860) and then reissued them as a two-volume work titled The Cotton Kingdom: A Traveller’s Observations on Cotton and Slavery in the American Slaves States (1861).

3. Olmsted Papers, 4:7.

4. A copy is available online, and the book has been recently edited by Laura L. Behling and re-released.

5. There are many excellent books on Frederick Law Olmsted: for further reading, consider Witold Rybczynski, A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century (1999), and Justin Martin, Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted (2012).

Medical Rhymes

By Danielle Aloia, Special Projects Librarian

Cree, WJ. In memoriam: Hugo Erichsen M.D. Detroit Medical News. 1944;36(12):9.

Cree, WJ. In memoriam: Hugo Erichsen M.D. Detroit Medical News. 1944;36(12):9.

In 1884, Dr. Hugo Erichsen (1860-1944) published Medical Rhymes, a collection of rhymes and illustrations from a variety of sources. The subtitle speaks volumes of the books contents: “A collection of rhymes of ye Ancient Time, and Rhymes of the Modern Day ; Rhymes  Grave and Rhymes Mirthful ; Rhymes Anatomical, Therapeutical and Surgical, all sorts of Rhymes to Interest, Amuse and Edify all Sorts of Followers of Esculapius.”

Erichsen wrote in his preface that “The purpose of my book is to amuse the busy doctor in leisure hours. Some of the serious poems will no doubt furnish food for reflection.”1 Erichsen, was a busy doctor himself, working as a Detroit physician, a prolific writer, and proponent of cremation.2

In the introduction of Medical Rhymes, Willis P. King, M.D., writes, “There are a thousand and one things in the life of every doctor which are calculated to cause him to ’break out’ with violent attacks of rhyming.”3 Poetry was one area of life where normally stoic doctors could break free of societal expectations.

Erichsen divided his book into seven chapters: Anatomical Lore, For Ye Student Men, The Doctor Himself, Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics, and Miscellaneous Poems. All poems are given attribution, where available, and some include illustrations.

This selected poem includes a little anecdote as to its origins:

"Lines to a Skeleteon." In Erichsen, Medical Rhymes, 1884. Click to enlarge.

“Lines to a Skeleteon.” In Erichsen, Medical Rhymes, 1884. Click to enlarge.

This next poem is attributed to a London medical student and is quite telling of the time, where K is for kreosote and O is for opium. This one even has a little repeating chorus!

"The Student's Alphabet." In Erichsen, Medical Rhymes, 1884. Click to enlarge.

“The Student’s Alphabet.” In Erichsen, Medical Rhymes, 1884. Click to enlarge.

Let’s not forget the book’s compiler. Erichsen included a poem of his own, “The Physician,” in which he pays tribute to all the good a doctor does to “save another life.”

"The Physician." In Erichsen, Medical Rhymes, 1884. Click to enlarge.

“The Physician.” In Erichsen, Medical Rhymes, 1884. Click to enlarge.

The image below accompanies a 12-page poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes, M.D. The poem, “Rip Van Winkle, M.D.,” recounts the story of young Rip as a doctor who took a “vigorous pull” of “Elixir Pro,” then fell off his horse fast asleep. For 30 years he lay, until the sounds of Civil War battle woke him. But his doctoring was no use, as his methods were 30 years out of date. When he consulted with the modern day doctors, they cried murder and suggested he go back to sleep. Today, he can be found by his mildew-y air.

Rip van Winkle, M.D. illustration. In Erichsen, Medical Rhymes, 1884. Click to enlarge.

Rip van Winkle, M.D. illustration. In Erichsen, Medical Rhymes, 1884. Click to enlarge.

Want more Medical Rhymes? You’re in luck: The book is available in full online.

References

1. Erichsen, H. Medical Rhymes. St. Louis, MO: J.H. Chambers. 1884.

2. Cree, WJ. In memoriam: Hugo Erichsen M.D. Detroit Medical News. 1944;36(12):9.

3. Ibid.

Presenting Grey Literature at the 13th International Conference on Urban Health

By Danielle Aloia, Special Projects Librarian, and Robin Naughton, Digital Systems Manager

Danielle Aloia, Special Projects Librarian, and Robin Naughton, Digital Systems Manager, presented Hidden Urban Health: Exploring the Possibilities of Grey Literature on the Academy’s Grey Literature Report (GreyLit Report) in two sessions at the recent International Conference on Urban Health in San Francisco, April 1-4, 2016. The conference focused on Place and Health and included a joint program with the American Association of Geographers. Combining data from geography with health data is one way to develop better models for urban and population health, and those involved in fields as diverse as urban planning, transportation, housing, and education all need to be at the table.

Themes of the ICUH 2016 opening ceremony. Photo by Danielle Aloia.

Themes of the ICUH 2016 opening ceremony. Photo by Danielle Aloia.

During the conference, two themes particularly relevant to the GreyLit Report emerged: the need for a better definition of urban health and the importance of interdisciplinary research. These are important concepts for the GreyLit Report when collecting and providing access to urban health resources, helping us to identify and understand topics that cross disciplines.

We had an opportunity to appeal to the cross-disciplinary audience of researchers during two conference sessions, providing a brief explanation of what grey literature is and ways to search for it beyond traditional databases. In brief, grey literature is produced by think tanks, university centers, government agencies, and other organizations. It can be published as reports, fact sheets, data sets, white papers, and more. It provides current research on trending topics and is used to communicate findings to stakeholders and policy-makers.

Robin Naughton and Danielle Aloia before the Hidden Urban Health: Exploring the Possibilities of Grey Literature session. Photo courtesy of ICUH.

Robin Naughton and Danielle Aloia before a Hidden Urban Health: Exploring the Possibilities of Grey Literature session. Photo courtesy of ICUH.

Some forms of grey literature can be found in traditional databases, such as PubMed or Web of Science, but the majority is not indexed or organized in systematic ways. To help solve this problem, the Academy Library developed the GreyLit Report in 1999 to collect these reports and make them accessible. During the presentations, we emphasized the importance the GreyLit Report places on interdisciplinary research. We collect reports related to public health in all sectors, to truly make a one-stop-shop for urban health.

During the presentation, participants learned about Google Custom Search (using Google to search specific websites and document types), Twitter, and the GreyLit Report as three resources relevant to finding grey literature. Still, depending on the resource used for search, altering keywords may be necessary to get relevant results. What terms one discipline uses may be defined differently in another. For example, the word mobility can have multiple meanings. In urban health, it usually means how people get from place to place, but when searching Google or Twitter one can get results for mobile technologies and physical disabilities. We clarified that the terms used in searching are very important to the relevance of the results. Often, searches in Google and Twitter need to be weeded through to find relevant results. We also presented some criteria for evaluating such results: authority, credibility, affiliation, purpose, and conflict of interest.

Danielle Aloia presenting at ICUH. Photo by Robin Naughton.

Danielle Aloia presenting at ICUH. Photo by Robin Naughton.

The GreyLit Report is much easier to search than Google or Twitter. Because we collect, archive, and index reports from all sectors, its focus limits irrelevant results. Users do not have to wade through millions of results, but have a credible, authoritative selection from which to choose.

At the end of each session, we opened up a conversation with participants to see what their concerns were in regard to grey literature and how the GreyLit Report may help them in their research. This produced an intimate, lively discussion. Participant concerns about grey literature included how to promote their own grey literature and ideas to enhance the Report. One idea is to add canned (one-click) searches on specific urban health topics.  Another idea is to add the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals with links to reports in those areas so that users can easily find grey literature for specific sustainable development goals in urban health. We will work on enhancing the GreyLit Report website, and more importantly, we will think about ways to help promote this growing body of research for users.

A Thousand Ways to Please

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we are sharing poems from our collection throughout April.

Two of my favorite books in the library’s collection have, by all accounts, not aged well.

Novelized household and cooking guides, A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband (1917) and its sequel, A Thousand Ways to Please a Family (1922), present the life of Bettina, her husband Bob, their oft-visiting friends and family, and in the sequel, their son Robin and daughter Sue. Bettina constantly doles out advice to her friends (who, as this is fiction, are always happy to receive it), including this look back on how to select a refrigerator in the 1910s:

Bettina's refrigerator-buying tips. Pages 84-85 of Weaver, A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, 1917.

Bettina’s refrigerator-buying tips. Pages 84-85 of Weaver, A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, 1917. Click to enlarge.

That Bettina sure knows everything.

Both books span the course of a year, and each month begins with a poem. Here are the poems for April from both volumes:

April poem from Weaver, A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, 1917.

April poem from Weaver, A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, 1917.

April poem from Weaver, A Thousand Ways to Please a Family, 1922.

April poem from Weaver, A Thousand Ways to Please a Family, 1922.

And from May:

May poem from Weaver, A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, 1917.

May poem from Weaver, A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, 1917.

May poem from Weaver, A Thousand Ways to Please a Family, 1922.

May poem from Weaver, A Thousand Ways to Please a Family, 1922.

Though the gender politics are dated, the household advice based on nearly 100-year-old technologies and trends, and the food not always tempting to the modern palate, these books (both available in full online) remain fascinating looks into an idealized home life in the 1910s and early 1920s.

Cupid Out of Sorts—Is Advised to Take a Turkish Bath

By Anne Garner, Curator, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

Near Çemberlitas Square in Istanbul, a stone’s throw away from the Grand Bazaar, stands the ethereal Çemberlitas hammam, built in 1584. At first glance, one might think the frontispiece of David Urquhart’s Manual of the Turkish Bath depicts this famous Turkish bath, with its domed vaults and cut-away star windows in the ceiling.

The Hammam. In: Urquhart, Manual of the Turkish Bath, 1865.

It does not. Instead, the engraving depicts a proposed new construction in 19th-century London.

By the 1870s, these baths, modeled on Turkish hammams, were scattered across England and America, largely through the efforts of Scotsman David Urquhart.

In the mid-19th century, Urquhart, an antiquarian and diplomat who had travelled widely in Spain, Morocco, and Turkey, ignited a wave of enthusiasm for public baths in Britain. He wrote about the dry hot-air bath, or hammam, he visited in Turkey in his travelogue, The Pillars of Hercules.

Urquhart’s ideas gelled when he met Irish physician Richard Barter. In 1843, Barter opened the first public bath facility of its kind in the UK designed for medical benefits and fitted with Russian-style baths. In 1856, Barter invited Urquhart to visit, and the two devised a new “improved Turkish bath,” using dry heat to maximize the medical benefits.1

In 1861, Urquhart spoke to the Medical Society of London, arguing that the Turkish bath could alleviate a long list of illnesses. Urquhart believed that visiting the Turkish bath was beneficial to pregnant women and could aid digestion. He also championed its potency as a remedy for bronchitis, asthma, fever, diabetes, syphilis, baldness, and a handful of other maladies, including dementia and insanity.2

By the following decade, Urquhart’s bath at his Riverside home in England was well known, and served as an early model for other baths, including the first bath in London, on Bell Street in 1860. The celebrated Victorian dermatologist Erasmus Wilson describes his visit to Riverside in the 1850s:

We arrive at the door of the Frigidarium; we loosen the latchets of our shoes, and we leave them behind the lintel; the portal opens and we enter. The apartment is small, but it is sunny and bright; throughout the glass doors we see a balcony festooned with the tendrils of the rose…3

The Riverside bath was comprised of a hot room, built directly over the part of the floor with the hottest air underneath (240-250 F); followed by a second hot room, kept at 170F; and, down a set of marble steps, a third area with a divan, kept at 150F. Soft pillows were available for comfortable reclining in each space.

The Bath at Riverside. In Wilson, The Eastern or Turkish Bath, 1861.

The Bath at Riverside. In Wilson, The Eastern or Turkish Bath, 1861.

Wilson describes an adjacent washing area enclosed by a curtain:

We seat ourselves on the clean marble at the edge of the Lavaterina; our host plays the soft pad of gazul4 over the head, the back, the sides; we complete the operation on the limbs and feet ourselves; Basin after basin of warm water rinses the gazul and the loosened epidermis from the surface, and we rise…

After this scrub-down, Wilson visited the piscina, a square pool, for a cold water plunge. Wilson explains that typically this might be followed by a second washing, a warm Turkish towel, and a period of relaxation.

In 1862, Urquhart supervised the construction of another London bath at 76 Jermyn Street (the hammam depicted in the first image of this post). After several decades of popularity with Londoners it closed because of disuse. A bomb destroyed the facility in April 1941.

Section of the Hammam, Jermyn Street. In Urquhart, Manual of the Turkish Bath, 1865.

Plan of the Hammam, Jermyn Street. In Urquhart, Manual of the Turkish Bath, 1865.

Manual of the Turkish Bath presents many of Urquhart’s arguments for the health benefits of the Turkish bath in Socratic dialogue form. It is also notable for its case histories. A paper by Arthur Leared, “Treatment of Consumption by the Turkish Bath” notes the improved health of several patients he treated at 76 Jermyn Street. Leared reports that a 17-year-old wood engraver whose sister and mother died of phthisis and suffered from the same disease improved markedly with treatment:

April 16th—Twenty-first week of Bath treatment; has had about fifty baths in all. Is now in all respects going on well. Sleeps well, and has no night-sweats; appetite good; bowels regular; cough almost gone. Has worked ten hours a day for last two months, except on days when he takes a bath.

By the 1860s, Urquhart’s new Turkish bath had caught the notice of the Brooklyn physician Dr. Charles Shepard. Shepard’s 1873 pamphlet praised Urquhart’s revival of the bath, and promoted a new bath established by Shepard in Brooklyn Heights.

The pamphlet takes as its conceit the suggestion that even Cupid needs a pick-me-up sometimes:

Introduction to Shepard, The Turkish Bath, 1873.

The narrative unfolds with charming illustrations:

The pamphlet includes Shepard’s plan for his Brooklyn Heights bath. New Yorkers were encouraged to visit 9am to 9 pm, all days of the week except for Sundays. It remained open until 1913.

Plan and prices of the Turkish Baths in Brooklyn Heights. In Shepard, The Turkish Bath, 1873.

View of Brooklyn, showing the location of the Hammam. In Shepard, The Turkish Bath, 1873. Click to enlarge.

The Bath’s exterior. In Shepard, The Turkish Bath, 1873.

Whether in London or Brooklyn, these 19th and early 20th century baths provided centers of calm in a bustling city. As David Urquart said:

Well can I recall the Hammam doors which I have entered, scarcely able to drag one limb after the other, and from which I have sprung into my saddle again, elastic as a sinew and light as a feather.5

References

1. This was the Hydropathic Establishment of St. Anne’s in Cork. In many parts of Europe today, the “Turkish bath” is known as the “Irish-Roman bath.” See victorianturkishbath.org.

2. Urquhart, David. Manual of the Turkish Bath. John Fife (Ed.). London: John Churchill & Sons, 1865.

3. Wilson, Erasmus. The Eastern, or Turkish Bath: Its History, Revival in Britain, and Application to the Purposes of Health. London: John Churchill, 1861.

4. Soap.

5. Shepard, Charles H. The Turkish Bath. Brooklyn, NY: S.W. Green, 1873. P.30.

Beyond “The Yellow Wallpaper”: Silas Weir Mitchell, Doctor and Poet

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we are sharing poems from our collection throughout April.

Today, Silas Weir Mitchell (1829–1914) is best known as the purveyor of the Rest Cure, made infamous by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” But while he was alive, he was renowned as a pioneering doctor of nervous diseases and a successful author.

Mitchell began his medical career researching rattlesnake venom. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he shifted focus, beginning work as a contract surgeon at Philadelphia’s Turner’s Lane Hospital, specializing in nervous diseases.

"Ward at the Civil War Hospital." In Burr, Weir Mitchell: His Life and Letters, 1929.

“Ward at the Civil War Hospital.” In Burr, Weir Mitchell: His Life and Letters, 1929.

Here, he treated and studied patients with nervous system injuries and syndromes, including one he named causalgia (a form of neuropathic pain). These studies informed his numerous pamphlets and books and helped establish his reputation as a father of American neurology.1–3 After the war, Mitchell continued his research at the Philadelphia Orthopaedic Hospital and Infirmary for Nervous Diseases. He determined that eyestrain could cause headache, and also discovered the rare vascular pain disorder erythromelalgia, or Weir Mitchell’s disease.1

Dr. Mitchell examining a Civil War veteran at the Clinic of the Orhopaedic Hospital, Philadelphia. In Burr, Weir Mitchell: His Life and Letters, 1929.

“Dr. Mitchell examining a Civil War veteran at the Clinic of the Orthopaedic Hospital, Philadelphia.” In Burr, Weir Mitchell: His Life and Letters, 1929.

More controversially, Mitchell also developed the Rest Cure, a treatment for the now passé diagnoses of neurasthenia (physical and mental exhaustion) and hysteria. Women most often received the Rest Cure, which typically involved six to eight weeks of isolation, bed rest, a high calorie diet, massage, and electrotherapy.4 Though the Rest Cure seems problematic to modern eyes, it was an accepted and popular practice for decades, seen as a valuable alternative to drug treatment.3

And what about men experiencing neurasthenia? For them, Mitchell developed the West Cure. Men—including Walt Whitman and Theodore Roosevelt—were sent West to “engage in vigorous physical activity … and to write about the experience.”5 The different treatments used for the same diagnosis—neurasthenia—speak volumes to how differently men and women can be viewed and medicalized.5

The Sargent portrait of Dr. Mitchell. In Burr, Weir Mitchell: His Life and Letters, 1929.

“The Sargent portrait of Dr. Mitchell.” In Burr, Weir Mitchell: His Life and Letters, 1929.

In addition to his medical research and private practice, Mitchell also enjoyed a career as an author. He published numerous short stories, 19 novels, a biography of George Washington, and 7 books of poetry.3 We have one of these poetry books, A Psalm of Deaths and Other Poems (available in full online), in our collection. We feature two poems from the volume here.

When Mitchell wrote “Of Those Remembered” in 1899, he was no stranger to loss: he had experienced the death of his father (1858), his first wife (1862), his mother (1872), and his sister (1874) in quick succession, along with the deaths of so many Civil War soldiers.2

Of Those Remembered

There is no moment when our dead lose power;
Unsignaled, unannounced they visit us.
Who calleth them I know not. Sorrowful,
They haunt reproachfully some venal hour
In days of joy, and when the world is near,
And for a moment scourge with memories
The money changers of the temple-soul.
In the dim space between two gulfs of sleep,
Or in the stillness of the lonely shore,
They rise for balm or torment, sweet or sad,
And most are mine where, in the kindly woods,
Beside the child like joy of summer streams,
The stately sweetness of the pine hath power
To call their kindred comforting anew.
Use well thy dead. They come to ask of thee
What thou hast done with all this buried love,
The seed of purer life? Or has it fallen unused
In stony ways and brought thy life no gain?
Wilt thou with gladness in another world
Say it has grown to forms of duty done
And ruled thee with a conscience not thine own?
Another world! How shall we find our dead?
What forceful law shall bring us face to face?
Another world! What yearnings there shall guide?
Will love souls twinned of love bring near again?
And that one common bond of duty held
This living and that dead, when life was theirs?
Or shall some stronger soul, in life revered,
Bring both to touch, with nature’s certainty,
As the pure crystal atoms of its kind
Draws into fellowship of loveliness?

The volume closes with a poem perfect for National Poetry Month: “Of a Poet” (1886).

Of a Poet
Written for a child

He sang of brooks, and trees, and flowers,
Of mountain tarns, of wood-wild bowers
The wisdom of the starry skies,
The mystery of childhood’s eyes,
The violet’s scent, the daisy’s dress
The timid breeze’s shy caress
Whilst England waged her fiery wars
He praised the silence of the stars,
And clear and sweet as upland rills
The gracious wisdom of her hills.
Save once when Clifford’s fate he sang,
And bugle-like his lyric rang,
He prized the ways of lowly men,
And trod, with them, the moor and fen.
Fair Nature to this lover dear
Bent low to whisper or to hear
The secrets of her sky and earth,
In gentle Words of golden Worth.

References

1. Silas Weir Mitchell, Papers, 1788; 1850-1928; 1949. Available at: http://www.collegeofphysicians.org/FIND_AID/hist/histswm1.htm. Accessed April 7, 2016.

2. Bailey P. Silas Weir Mitchell, 1829-1914. National Academy of Sciences; 1958. Available at: http://www.nasonline.org/publications/biographical-memoirs/memoir-pdfs/mitchell-silas.pdf. Accessed April 7, 2016.

3. Todman DH. History of Neuroscience: Silas Weir Mitchell (1829-1914). IBRO Hist Neurosci. 2008. Available at: http://ibro.info/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Mitchell-Silas-Weir.pdf. Accessed April 7, 2016.

4. Science Museum, London. Rest cure. Brought to Life. Available at: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/techniques/restcure. Accessed April 7, 2016.

5. Stiles A. Go rest, young man. Monit Psychol. 2012;43(1):32. Available at: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/01/go-rest.aspx. Accessed April 7, 2016.

Stories and Heritage of Nursing in New York City

The Fellows Nursing Section at The New York Academy of Medicine and the Academy Library invite you to join us next Thursday, April 14, at 6:00 PM for an evening exploring the stories and heritage of nursing in New York City. Admission is free but advanced registration is required. Register online.

The evening’s presenters include:

Dr. Joanne Singleton, Professor at Pace University and author of White Beret: The Story of an Urban Nurse, her fictional account of life in a pediatric unit in a New York City hospital.

Lisa Mix, Head, Medical Center Archives, New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell Medical College.

Barbara Niss, Director, Archives & Records Management at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian, New York Academy of Medicine Library who will provide insights into the nursing heritage held in libraries and archives across the city.

Two tours of the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room will be held following the evenings speakers. Tours are limited to 15 people each; email culturalevents@nyam.org to register. Other nursing-related materials will be on display in the main meeting room.

ſociety for the Reſtoration of the ſ

As ſpecial collections librarians, we have an abiding intereſt in the hiſtory of printing, books, and manuſcripts. As ſuch, it pains us that ſ, the long s, has not only been ſwept into the waſtebin of hiſtory, but also has no ſuitable digital equivalent.

Logo for the Society for the Restoration of the Long STo this end, we have founded the ſociety for the Reſtoration of the ſ, a group dedicated to bringing back this neglected character. We invite you to join us by pledging the oath:

I, ________, ſolemnly ſwear to ſuſtain ſyſtematic uſe of the long ſ, in manuſcripts and print, on ſcreens and perſonal devices, for the ſake of myſelf and my ſociety.

The ſ has a ſtoried hiſtory. Before 1800, the lowercaſe letter s appeared in two forms, the one we uſe today and ſ, which typically looked like an f without the right half of its croſſbar. The italic form of ſ (ʃ) lacked the half-croſſbar.1 Our modern ſcreen equivalent also lacks this half-croſſbar, a development we deteſt and oppoſe!

Inaugural members of the ſociety for the Reſtoration of the ſ after pledging the oath of memberſhip.

Inaugural members of the ſociety for the Reſtoration of the ſ after pledging the oath of memberſhip.

The ſ goes back as far as Roman inſcriptions. By the 12th century, people uſed ſ at the beginning and middle of words, and s at the end of them. The ſ did not replace the capital letter s. Printers continued theſe conventions, as do we (with one exception: the capital S in our ſociety name).1

The ſ was on its way out beginning in 1782, when our ſociety’s menace, François-Ambroiſe Didot, cut a new “modern” typeface without the character. Other printers followed his lead.1 By the 19th century, the era of ſ in print (if not in handwriting) was over everywhere but Germany, where it remains today in the form of the Eſzett, or double s (ß).2,3

Join us! Petition Apple, Samſung, Microſoft, and other tech companies and printers to reinſtate the historic ſ! And ſhare your efforts on ſocial media.

Below we preſent a ſelection of collection items featuring ſ and ʃ, bolſtering our argument for the letter’s ſuſtained uſe. Click on an image to learn more.

References

1. Moſley J. The Long ſ. Print Hiʃt ʃoc Bull. 1991;31(Winter):32–33.

2. International Encyclopedia of Linguiʃtics, Volume 4. Oxford Univerſity Preſſ; 2003. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?id=sl_dDVctycgC&pgis=1. Acceſſed March 16, 2016.

3. Gilder Lehrman Inſtitute of American Hiſtory. Inſide the Vault: The “Long ſ.” 2016. Available at: http://www.gilderlehrman.org/community/blog/inside-vault-%E2%80%9Clong-s%E2%80%9D. Acceſſed March 16, 2016.