No Spice More Superior: Pepper

By Emily Miranker, Events & Projects Manager

The marvelous thing about libraries (well, one on an infinite list of marvels…) are the remarkable rabbit holes of investigation and imagination you fall into. Recently,  I ran into a kitchen staple in an old medicine book:

Black Pepper is a remedy I value very highly. As a gastric stimulant it certainly has no superior…

Black pepper as a cure for anything, except perhaps bland food, was news to me. The above passage comes from the 19th century John Milton Scudder’s 1870 book Specific medication and specific medicines. In the 19th century “specific medicine” referred to a branch of American medicine, eclectic medicine, that relied on noninvasive practices such as botanical remedies or physical therapy.[i] As an eclectic practitioner, Scudder’s work was not mainstream, regular medicine, so I wondered if perhaps that was why pepper should come up as a remedy. Surely, pepper only belongs in the pantry not the medicine cabinet. But doing more research, it turns out that black pepper, Piper nigrum, originally from India, has been used by people for medicinal purposes for centuries.

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A member of the Piperaceae family of plants, black pepper is a tropical vine. Its berries (the dried berries are the peppercorns we’re familiar with from the kitchen), were known to the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans long before it became one of the most sought-after spices in Europe during the Age of Exploration, the 15th-18th centuries. Depending on when it’s harvested, a vine produces four kinds of peppercorn. Green peppercorns are unripe berries that are freeze-dried. White pepper is almost ripened, the berries are harvested and soaked in water which washes off the husk leaving the gray-white seed. Red peppercorns are fresh, ripe berries. Black peppercorns are harvested when the spike of berries is midway ripe; these unripe berries are actually more flavorful than a fully ripe berry. The black peppercorns are blanched or left to ferment a few days and then dried in the sun. The drying process turns the husk black.[ii]

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A detail of a page of recipes calling for pepper by the Roman gourmand Apicius, the oldest cookbook in West. Author’s favorite: #31 Oenogarum in Tubera, a wine sauce for truffle mushrooms calling for pepper, lovage, coriander, rue, broth, honey and oil.

Pepper came to the tables and pharmacies of Europe via trade from the west coast of India. It was coveted enough to be part of the ransom demand Alaric the Goth made of Rome when he invaded in 408 C.E.[iii] With its strategic location on the Adriatic, Venice dominated the spice trade in Europe in the Middle Ages. The Portuguese were the first to break the Venetian hold by finding an all-ocean route to India. By the 17th century the Dutch and English were players in the spice trade. Innocuous-seeming dark grains in shakers on tabletops now, pepper was once more valuable than silver and gold. Sailors were paid in pepper. The spice was also used for paying taxes, custom duties, and dowries.[iv] In their quest for pepper, among other spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, the Europeans brutally pursued spice monopolies regardless of the upheaval and violence they wrought on the peoples of India, Sumatra and Java.

 

Dating back to 6,000 B.C.E. the Materia medica of Ayurveda advocates using pepper for a number of different maladies, especially those of the gastrointestinal tract.[v] To this day in India, a mixture of black pepper, long pepper, and ginger, known as trikatu, is a common Ayurvedic medicinal prescription. Trikatu is a Sanskrit word meaning “three acrids.” In the Ayurvedic tradition “the three acrids collectively act as ‘kapha-vatta-pitta-haratwam’ which means ‘correctors of the three doshas of the human.’”[vi] Doshas are energy centers in the body in the Ayurvedic tradition.

Pepper figured in Western medicine from antiquity onwards as well. Writing in the 7th century, Byzantine Greek physician Paul of Aegina quotes the 2nd-century Greek Galen on pepper’s’ medical properties, “it is strongly calefacient and desiccative.”[vii] Warming and drying, thus very good for stomach problems in his estimation. Side note: Galen’s office was in the spice quarter of Rome, underscoring the connections between health, spices, and food. Peppers’ use as a “gastric stimulant” persisted through the centuries. In our collection’s The elements of materia medica and therapeutics (1872), Jonathan Pereira states pepper “is a useful addition to difficult-to-digest foods, as fatty and mucilaginous matters, especially in persons subject to stomach complaints.” The illustrations of pepper plants in this post come from Robert Bentley’s Medicinal Plants (1880) which includes their medical properties and uses along with descriptions of habitats and composition.

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Scientific studies on pepper coalesce around its compound piperine. The stronger—more pungent—the pepper, the more piperine it contains. The argument of studies on pepper’s properties is that adding pepper to a concoction increases its efficacy and digestibility. Research suggests “this bioavailability enhancing property of pepper to its main alkaloid, piperine…. The proposed mechanism for the increased bioavailability of drugs co-administered with piperine is attributed to the interaction of piperine with enzymes that participate in drug metabolism.”[viii]

I hadn’t looked to black pepper for any health benefits. I look to it for that delicious heat and spicy pungency it brings to my meals. But that’s the great thing about researching in our library; you always find delights beyond what you’re looking for.

References
[i] Eclectic Medicine. https://lloydlibrary.org/research/archives/eclectic-medicine/ Copyright 2008. Accessed August 30, 2018.
[ii] Sarah Lohman. Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016.
[iii] Majorie Schaffer. Pepper: A History of the World’s Most Influential Spice. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013.
[iv] Schaffer. Pepper. 2013.
[v] Muhammed Majeed and L. Prakash. “The Medicinal Uses of Pepper.” International Pepper News. 2000. Vol. 25, pp. 23-31.
[vi] Majeed & Prakash. 26.
[vii] Paulus Aegineta. La Chirurgie. Lyons: 1542.
[viii] Majeed & Prakash. 28.

 

The Red Cross Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men and the “Gospel of Rehabilitation”

Today we have a guest post written by Ms. Julie M. Powell, 2018 recipient of the Audrey and William H. Helfand Fellowship in the History of Medicine and Public Health. Ms. Powell is a PhD candidate at The Ohio State University, her dissertation topic explores the growth of wartime rehabilitation initiatives for disabled soldiers and the rhetoric that accompanied and facilitated this expansion. 

In May 1917, one month after the United States joined the First World War, the American Red Cross created the Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men to “build up re-educational facilities which might be of value to the crippled soldiers and sailors of the American forces.”[1] To this end, Director Douglas McMurtrie (1888–1944) collected approximately 3,500 separate books, pamphlets, reports, and articles from the European continent, North America, and the United Kingdom and its Dominions. He and his research staff pored over the documents, authoring reports, news articles, and lectures that were subsequently fed back into circulation both in the United States and abroad. A look at the collection and the work of the Institute provides a window into the development of rehabilitative care in the early twentieth century, demonstrating that transnational medical networks operated and expanded throughout the war and that the transmission of information and ideology often went hand in hand.

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The Red Cross Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men, 1918.

The proliferation of literature on rehabilitation (including surgical amputation, orthopaedics, prosthetic design, physical therapy, and vocational re-education) can be attributed both to a sense of urgency—20 million men were wounded in the war—and to the relative newness of the field. The first orthopaedic institute was created in Munich in 1832 and the next in Copenhagen in 1872 but these, and others that followed, focused exclusively on care for disabled children. The first significant moves toward the retraining of adults were taken up in the two decades before the war. In 1897, in Saint Petersburg, disabled men began to be trained in the manufacture of orthopaedic devices and in 1908, with the founding of a school in Charleroi, Belgium, the industrially maimed were taught bookbinding, shoe repair, basket making, and more. The first retraining school for invalided soldiers was created in December 1914 in Lyon, France, four months after the outbreak of hostilities. The school provided the inspiration for over 100 similar schools throughout France. The period 1915–1917 saw a proliferation of orthopaedic and re-education institutions throughout Europe and the western world. It was on these models that the Red Cross Institute was founded.

The first institution of its kind in the United States, the Red Cross Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men resided at 311 Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue South) in New York. Disabled men, either funded by the U.S. Army or attending through no-interest loans, trained in four trades: welding, mechanical drafting, printing, and the manufacture of artificial limbs. McMurtrie and his staff hosted meetings of disabled men—punctuated by cake and ice cream—wherein testimonials from the recently rehabilitated served as recruitment tools for the Institute.

But the broadest impact of the Institute came from its crusade to spread what McMurtrie referred to as the “gospel of rehabilitation”—an insistence on returning the disabled man to independence and self-sufficiency that he might eschew charity and compete fairly in the labor marketplace. Such notions were deeply rooted in classical liberalism, a foil to large-scale social welfare programs that would only emerge in the wake of the Second World War. In The Disabled Soldier, McMurtrie wrote plainly:

When the crippled soldier returns from the front, the government will provide for him, in addition to medical care, special training for self-support. But whether this will really put him back on his feet depends on what the public does to help or hinder, on whether the community morally backs up the national program to put the disabled soldier beyond the need of charity… In light of results already obtained abroad in the training of disabled soldiers, the complete elimination of the dependent cripple has become a constructive and inspiring possibility. Idleness is the great calamity. Your service to the crippled man, therefore, is to find for him a good busy job, and encourage him to tackle it. Demand of the cripple that he get back in the work of the world, and you will find him only too ready to do so.[2]

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A reproduction (right) of part of McMurtrie’s poster exhibit for the Institute featuring the liberal “gospel of rehabilitation”: self-sufficiency, competition, and independence from charity.

McMurtrie’s gospel sounded the same notes as the works of U.S. Allies across the pond, whose material he’d spent years collecting. In 1918, famed novelist, advocate of the war wounded, and editor for the rehabilitation journal Reveille, John Galsworthy warned against the perils of charity, of “drown[ing] the disabled in tea and lip gratitude” and thereby “unsteel[ing] his soul.” Rather, he wrote:

We shall so re-create and fortify…[the disabled soldier] that he shall leave hospital ready for a new career. Then we shall teach him how to tread the road of it, so that he fits again into the national life, becomes once more a workman with pride in his work, a stake in the country, and the consciousness that, handicapped though he be, he runs the race level with his fellows, and is by that so much the better man than they.[3]

Such rhetoric was of a piece with appeals from British Minister of Pensions, John Hodge, for the restoration of men to “industrial independence,” that they might “hold their own in the industrial race.”[4]

When McMurtrie invited the world’s newly-minted experts in rehabilitation to New York in 1919, they shared—as they had through pamphlets, pictures, and films—not just information but ideology. Discussions on war surgery and the organization of rehabilitation schemes unfolded side-by-side with talks on public education and encouragement of the disabled to train.

Such propaganda efforts were critical. According to McMurtrie: “The self-respect of self-support or the ignominy of dependence—which shall the future hold for our disabled soldiers?” The credit or blame, he held, would rest with a public that either demanded self-sufficiency or patronized its men with charity.

References:
[1] Douglas C. McMurtrie, The Organization, Work and Method of the Red Cross Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men (New York: The Red Cross Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men, 1918).
[2] Douglas McMurtrie, The Disabled Soldier (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1919), 37.
[3] John Galsworthy, “Foreword,” The Inter-allied Conference on the After-Care of Disabled Men: Reports Presented to the Conference (London: His Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1918): 13–17. Reprinted in his book of essays Another Sheaf (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1919).
[4] John Hodge, “The Training of Disabled Men: How We Are Restoring Them to Industrial Independence,” Windsor Magazine no. 281 (1918): 569–571.
[5] McMurtrie, The Disabled Soldier, 75.

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Summer Reading Suggestions – Part I

“There is a narrative power to epidemics … these events typically unfold dramatically and contain elements of discovery, reaction, suspense, conflict, illness, perhaps death, and one hopes, resolution.” -Howard Markel, When Germs Travel

 

This September we open an exhibition with our partners (and next door neighbor) The Museum of the City of New York; Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the influenza pandemic of 1918 which infected an estimated quarter of the world’s population and caused the death of more people than the First World War.

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Prompted by this centenary, the exhibition and its related programs are the New York City site of the exploration of germs living in people the way people live in cities, along with sister sites in Hong Kong and Geneva. This international collaboration, Contagious Cities, was developed by the Wellcome Trust. Inspired by the Reading Room at the Wellcome Trust’s home in London, our exhibition will include a reading room of books and articles visitors can read.

If you just can’t wait till September to dig deeper into tales of cities’ roles in causing and controlling disease or the stories of human ingenuity, fear, and compassion in the face of sickness; pick among these titles for not-your-usual summer reading. Please bear in mind titles suggested below may not be in the exhibition’s reading room, but that’s where your local library steps in: find yours here.

Hear them Here: Authors Speaking at our Programs

  • The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, John M. Barry
  • Silent Travelers: Germs, Genes, and the Immigrant Menace, Alan M. Kraut
  • Infectious Fear: Politics, Disease, and the Health Effects of Segregation, Samuel Kelton Roberts
  • After Silence: A History of AIDS Through its Images, Avram Finkelstein
  • Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, Sonia Shah

Many people aren’t aware of the 1918 influenza pandemic or how widespread and deadly it was in New York, the United States, and globally; so John Barry’s account of the pandemic’s history in The Great Influenza and connecting it to current day challenges like avian flu is a good foundation read. Readers can attend on Sept. 27th [coming soon to our events page] to hear Barry in panel discussion on the legacy of the 1918 flu and how surviving future pandemics may be as much a political issue as a medical one. Moderating that conversation will be Alan Kraut, author of Silent Travelers, a look at the medicalized prejudice that so often targets immigrants.

Infectious Fear Cover_RobertsGerms themselves may be blind when it comes to who infect; but outbreaks don’t strike populations with equity. We tackle the fraught intersection of disease and disparity in a discussion on Nov. 28th  [coming soon to our events page] and give the thumbs-up to our moderator Professor Samuel Roberts’ thought-provoking book Infectious Fear. For a closer look at the lived experiences of disease and how those infected are remembered or all too often forgotten join us in February 2019  [coming soon to our events page] for Remembering the Dead; you’ll have plenty of time to check out panelist Avram Finkelstein’s unflinching look at the AIDS crisis and the responses of artist-activists; After Silence. We face our future with infectious diseases in a discussion in April 2019 lead by journalist Sonia Shah. She weaves an amazing story with history, reportage and personal narrative in Pandemic: Tracking Contagions about how we are making predictions about the next major pandemic.

If you’d like a nonfiction read for a younger audience pick up Jim Murphy’s An American Plague. This is a dramatic retelling of the yellow fever epidemic in 1793 Philadelphia, a survival challenge to the city’s inhabitants as well as the young nation itself with a good spotlight on the incredible role of the Free African Society in caring for the sick. An American Plague pairs nicely with Laurie Halse Anderson’s fictional Fever 1793, also intended for the middle-school reader but from the point of view of its 15-year old heroine Mattie.

Which brings us to works of fiction more generally …

Fiction: Disease as a way to Explore the Body and Self; the Individual and Society

  • Fever: A Novel, Mary Beth Keane
  • The Last Man, Mary Shelley
  • Blue Pills a Postive Love Story, Frederik Peeters
  • The Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton

For a change of pace from incisive facts and socio-scientific trends, delve into the highly personal story of Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant to the United States better known as ‘Typhoid Mary,’ in Mary Beth Keane’s Fever. From Mary Shelley of Frankenstein fame, there’s an apocalyptic story of humankind brought face to face with its own destruction due to plague in The Last Man complete with thinly veiled versions of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and herself. Most of the English Romantics were deceased by the time Shelley wrote this, so an undercurrent of eulogizing comes through in her tone as she explores the failure of imagination to save society.

Translated from the French by Anjali Singh is Frederik Peeters’ graphic novel, Blue Pills – A Positive Love Story, the story of a man’s relationship with his girlfriend and her son who are both HIV+. The black and white artwork allows for an arresting depiction of what is literally happening to the protagonist and simultaneously what he is perceiving and coping with in the moment.

You didn’t think there wouldn’t be a Michael Crichton, did you? The Andromeda Strain is the kick-off novel of bio-tech thrillers with its deadly microbe brought back from space on a military satellite.

Bonus book:

Eleven Blue Men and Other Narratives of Medical Detection, Berton Roueché

One of the best writers from The New Yorker, Roueché’s short stories are superbly written vignettes of medical mystery solving.

Facendo Il Libro: The Making of the Book (and a digital collection and exhibit)

By Anne Garner, Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts, and Robin Naughton, Head of Digital

The Academy Library is thrilled to announce “Facendo Il Libro: The Making of Fasciculus Medicinae, an Early Printed Anatomy.”  This online exhibit, focused on an astonishing and influential medical book first published in Italy in 1491, was made possible through the generous support of the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

Originally collected in manuscript form, the Fasciculus Medicinae (the “little bundle of medicine”) is a richly illustrated collection of medical treatises on uroscopy, phlebotomy, anatomy, surgery, and gynecology.  The Fasciculus Medicinae was first published in 1491, but demand for it made it a favorite text for printers. By 1522, it had been issued more than twenty times.  Variations in the text and the illustrations through time show the early modern tension between medieval medical ideas and advances in medical understanding forged at the beginning of the 16th century.  The exhibit allows visitors to browse full-text scans of all five editions (1495–1522) in The New York Academy of Medicine’s collections; to investigate each edition’s exquisitely illustrated woodcuts and to explore their cultural and medical meanings; and to compare the books’ illustrations in different editions over time.  The site includes contributed essays from Dr. Taylor McCall, art historian of material culture and medieval medicine at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and from Dr. Natalie Lussey Seale of the University of Edinburgh, whose work focuses on early modern Venetian print culture.  Dr. McCall’s essay looks at the creation of the text and its accompanying illustrations, while Dr. Seale’s essay offers a window into Venetian printing processes in the 16th century and describes the making of a book in early modern Italy.

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Frontispiece, 1495.

The illustrations of the Fasciculus Medicinae offer an intriguing glimpse of medical practice in the 16th century.  The book’s woodcuts include narrative scenes depicting the earliest Western depiction of dissection in print, an early illustration of a diagnostic consultation showing a professor analyzing a urine flask, and a physician, holding an aromatic sponge to his nose to avoid infection, attending a sick plague patient confined to his bed.  Other woodcuts help us to understand early modern conceptions of health and illness.  The Fasciculus Medicinae’s female anatomical figure captures late medieval ideas about women’s bodies, reproduction, and pregnancy.  A “Wound Figure” graphically depicts the various threats to the body, from blows to the head down to the prick of a thorn on the feet.  Perhaps most surprising of all, the Fasciculus Medicinae’s “Zodiac Figure,” who balances all twelve zodiac signs on his body, conveys the powerful role the stars and planets played in health in the medieval imagination.  This figure, who dates to earlier manuscripts from the medieval period, survives well into the twentieth century, appearing alongside horoscopes in a modified form in print in American almanacs produced by pharmaceutical companies.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Delmas Homepage imageThe Facendo Il Libro website has a simple design, but a complex structure.  It is both a standalone digital collection and an online exhibit built using Islandora, an open-source digital repository framework.  Representing the first full-text internal digitization project for the Academy Library, the five editions of the Fasciculus Medicinae were digitized in the Library’s Digital Lab. The online exhibit was built using an Islandora multi-site to leverage the digital collection repository (Fedora), Drupal Book module, and the current Library branding theme.

The ability to draw from the common repository made it possible to store content once and use it in multiple ways.  Thus, the five digitized editions are available in two different places using a single source.  The built-in navigational structure for the exhibit makes it easy for users to explore the collection in a linear fashion or by sections.

First images of the 1500 edition

Replicating the physical experience of touching the text is still a challenge for digital projects.  Thus, it was important to create a digital experience that provides the user with some sense of the materiality of the object. For example, the 1500 edition was bound with another text (Savonarola’s Practica medicinae), which is evident from the first digital image of the book. The image shows the thickness of the text and the fact that the 1500 edition begins in middle of the physical object. It shows the user exactly what will be encountered when using the physical item.  It also highlights a significant piece of information that could have been lost due to cropping.

Another important aspect of the online exhibit is the illustrations page, where users can see all the illustrations from all editions in one place.  When a user clicks on an illustration, the user is immediately taken to a page with descriptions of each illustration as it appears in each edition.  To explore the images, users can click on an image and zoom in to see the intricate details.

Facendo Il Libro: The Making of Fasciculus Medicinae, an Early Printed Anatomy” offers a great opportunity for users to learn and explore the Library’s five editions of Fasciculus Medicinae in context.

Explore Facendo Il Libro Online Exhibit.

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Explore the Academy Library Timeline

By Robin Naughton, Head of Digital 

The New York Academy of Medicine Library began in 1847 with the intention of serving the Academy fellows, but in 1878, after the collection had expanded to include over 6,000 volumes, Academy President Samuel Purple and the Council voted to open the Library to the public.  It continues to serve both the Academy fellows and the general public, providing an unprecedented level of access to a private medical collection.  Today, the Academy Library is one of the most significant historical libraries in the history of medicine and public health in the world.

The Academy Library’s history spans almost 170 years and a glimpse into this history is documented in this interactive timeline. While the timeline does not represent everything that has occurred in the Library, notable milestones can be seen here. The story starts with the founding of the Library on January 13,1847, with a gift from Isaac Wood of Martyn Payne’s Medical and Physiological Commentaries and continues forward to the recent renovation and naming of the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room.

 

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Figure 1:  The New York Academy of Medicine Library Timeline (Created using Northwestern University’s Knight Lab Timeline JS).

 

Timeline Highlights


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New York Academy of Medicine, Archives.

 

 

 

Academy’s First Permanent Home: In 1875, the Academy purchased and moved into its first permanent home at 12 west 31st Street. This image of the Academy’s first building will take you back to a different time.

 

 

 

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New York Academy of Medicine, Archives.

 

 

 

 

Academy’s Current Home: In 1926, the Academy moved to its current location on 103rd Street and 5th Avenue. The architectural firm York & Sawyer designed the building.  A 1932 expansion added three new floors on the northeast side of the original structure above the existing floors.  Today, you can visit the Academy at this location and explore the historic building.

 

 

 

 

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Apicius’ de re culinaria, 830 A.D. 

 

 

Cookery Collection: In 1929, Margaret Barclay Wilson gave the Academy her collection of books on food and cookery, which includes a 9th-century manuscript (De re culinaria) attributed to Apicius, and sometimes referred to as the oldest cookbook in the West.

 

 

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George Washington’s lower denture, 1789.

 

 

George Washington’s Teeth:  Yes, that’s right!  In the spring of 1937, the descendants of John Greenwood gave the Academy the lower denture created by New York dentist John Greenwood for Washington in 1789. The denture is just one of the artifacts that the Library owns.

 

 

 

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Librarians Gertrude L. Annan and Janet Doe, both in The Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine., vol. 50, no. 10, 1974.

 

 

Honored Librarians: In 1974, the Academy honored Gertrude L. Annan and Janet Doe, long-time librarians for their contributions to the Library.

 

 

 

 

There are many more highlights in the timeline so click through and enjoy.

The Tech


The Academy Library timeline was created using Northwestern University’s Knight Lab open-source timeline tool called TimelineJS. The tool was released under the Mozilla Public License (MPL), making it possible for anyone to create timelines to embed and share publicly.

TimelineJS is an easy tool to create a timeline with just a few steps. Here are some things to keep in mind when creating a timeline:

Content: Have content ready prior to creating

It’s important to have content ready prior to creating the timeline.  For the Academy Library timeline, there was already a text version of the timeline that could be used to create the interactive timeline. Together Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian and I edited, updated and added images to the timeline. Starting with some content allowed us to devote time to enhancing the timeline by finding and adding associated images.

Media:  Make media publicly available

It is important that the media resources used in the timeline are publicly available.  TimelineJS uses URLs to access and display the media files (images, videos, maps, Wikipedia entries, Twitter, etc.). Thus, items behind firewalls or logins will not be accessible to the public. Make sure to upload images to a publicly available server and use that URL for the timeline.

Google Sheets: Add all content and links into spreadsheet and publish

Google Sheets is the data source for the timeline and this means that all data for the timeline is managed in Google Sheets. Once the Google Sheets file is published, the URL is used by TimelineJS to create the timeline, link to the timeline and embed code for websites.

If you’re familiar with Google Sheets or have used any spreadsheet program, then you know the process of adding content to the spreadsheet. If you haven’t used any spreadsheet program before, think of Google Sheets as a table with multiple columns and rows where you’ll input data for the timeline.

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Figure 2:  TimelineJS Google Sheets Template

To get started, the TimelineJS template and directions provide a good guide to the parameters of the timeline with each row representing a screen and each column a component of that screen. For example, the date structures are very flexible and the timeline can include a full date and time or just a year. Also, in the background column, adding a hex number for color can change the background color or including a link to image will show a background image.

 

Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee: Civil Rights Pioneer

Today’s guest post is written by the Honorable Diane Kiesel, an acting justice of the New York State Supreme Court. She is the author of She Can Bring us Home (2015), a biography of Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee. On Wednesday, September 21st at 6pm, Kiesel will give a lecture, “Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee:  Civil Rights Pioneer.” There is no charge, but please register in advance here.   

Today, when social security and Medicare address the needs of the elderly, health care programs are in place to take care of the sick and a myriad of government agencies exist to help the poor, it is hard to imagine a time when the hungry, the elderly, the sick and the poverty stricken – particularly if they were people of color – were largely forgotten.

Diane Kiesel's She Can Bring Us Home, a biography of Dorothy Boulding Ferebee.

Diane Kiesel’s She Can Bring Us Home, a biography of Dorothy Boulding Ferebee.

Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee (1898-1980), was a well-known African American physician in her day who focused on the health needs of the destitute early in the 20th century, providing a private safety net where none was yet put in place by the government. For seven summers during the Great Depression, Dr. Ferebee, who came from privilege and whose Washington, D.C. medical practice catered to the upper class of her race, led what came to be known as the Mississippi Health Project.  She and a team of all-volunteer doctors, nurses, schoolteachers and social workers traveled to the Mississippi Delta to bring health care to tenant farmers and sharecroppers. The women who made up the health project were graduates of some of the nation’s finest historic black colleges and members of the elite Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. They left their comfortable homes to drive thousands of miles of unpaved roads through the Deep South to swelter in the cotton fields for their cause.

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Photo of Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, ca. 1958. Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington D.C.

It was a daunting task. Their sharecropper patients earned about $50 a year; they worked the most fertile ground on earth but their diets contained almost no fruits or vegetables because the landowners refused to let them use valuable cotton acreage for gardens. They suffered from diseases that had not, and should not, have been seen in the United States since the 19th century – even though it was 1935. Pellagra and rickets were common, as were outbreaks of smallpox. Tuberculosis deaths were rampant. Thirty percent of the black men in the region suffered from untreated syphilis. Dr. Ferebee’s health team not only had to face disease, but ignorance. Some mothers had no idea how old their own children were. They thought if they put tea bags on their children’s eyes, they would cure their colds and feared cutting their hair lest their children be unable to speak.  Some of them had never seen a physician and others had never used a toothbrush.

In the Jim Crow South, Dr. Ferebee’s motives were suspect – some plantation owners feared she was a Communist union organizer or civil rights agitator. But she persevered, and before World War II gasoline and rubber rationing helped put an end to the project, she and her team provided inoculations, medical and dental care as well as nutrition and hygiene lessons to 15,000 of the poorest of the poor. To this day the United States Public Health Service calls it the best volunteer health effort in history.

Ferebee Scrapbook, Box 183-30.

Dorothy and her medical team stuck in the mud in Mississippi. Photo Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington D.C.  From the Ferebee Scrapbook, Box 183-30.

The Mississippi Health Project propelled Dorothy Ferebee into the national spotlight. She became president of Alpha Kappa Alpha and followed the iconic Mary McLeod Bethune as the leader of the National Council of Negro Women. In that role she met with presidents and testified before Congress on major civil rights issues. She became a consultant to the State Department where she traveled to Third World countries to bring best health care practices to emerging nations.

Fifty years after the Mississippi Health Project ended one of the participants described it as the inspiration for the next generation of civil rights activists who participated in Freedom Summer and the voting rights struggles of the early 1960s.

Join us to learn more about Dr. Ferebee, this Wednesday night, at The New York Academy of Medicine (103rd St. and Fifth Avenue) for a lecture and book signing (books will be available for purchase on site). Register here; we look forward to seeing you!

Pirates, Poison, and Professors: A Look at the Skull and Crossbones Symbol

By Emily Miranker, Project Coordinator

Ahoy mateys, greetings on September 19th–National Talk Like A Pirrrrrate Day!

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Detail of student lecture ticket, for the lectures of Dr. William Darling, University of New York.  1878-1879.

Popularized in particular by Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel Treasure Island, pirates became a part of popular culture and parody pop culture beginning in the late 19th-century.  For me, more than eye patches, peg legs, parrots and treasure maps, the ultimate emblem of pirates is the skull and crossbones symbol.

I see this symbol every so often at work here in the library–which, incidentally, seldom gets attacked by pirates. As a fairly universally fearsome warning symbol, the skull and crossbones meant poison in many pharmacy books.

Take this example on a pamphlet issued by the New York City Health Department in the early 20th century on the danger of wood alcohol poisoning:

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Title page of The Serious Menace of Wood Alcohol. Warning! published by the New York City Health Department ca. 1920.

The symbol has roots in Europe in the early Christian tradition. Biblical legend holds that the bones of Adam rested at the base of Christ on the cross and so the pairing of skull and bone or skull and crossed bones was associated with funerary customs.1 Skull and crossbones decorate many catacombs and cemeteries from the Middle Ages. And you can often spot the skull and a bone or crossed bones at the bottom of Crucifixion scenes in Renaissance paintings:

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Tempera painting by Fran Angelico, c. 1420-23 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collections.

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Two companion oil paintings by Netherlandish Rogier van der Weyden from the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collections, depict The Crucifixion and St. John c. 1460.

The symbol took to the seas as a form of shorthand for captains, who noted the sailors who died with a little skull and crossbones next to their name in the ship’s log.  In this way, seafaring folks came to associate the symbol with death–perhaps what inspired pirates to use it to terrify ships in the 18th century. Around the same time, the Catholic Church prohibited use of the symbol, now tarnished by its piratical associations.2 Not all pirates used the skull and crossbones; other flags featured hourglasses, skeletons, spears, crossed swords, and bleeding hearts. The 1720 trial of pirate Calico Jack Rackham made the symbol and its link to piracy–and by extension death–famous (funnily, his actual flag was in fact a skull and crossed swords).3

The skull and crossbones came to be associated with poisonous substances in the mid-19th century. In 1829, New York State passed a law requiring all containers with poisonous substances to be labeled. The skull and crossbones start appearing on these labels around the 1850s. The symbol was not always considered enough: bottles themselves were sometimes designed in the shape of coffins, in bright, noticeable colors, and even with raised bumps that could be felt by hand if details couldn’t be seen to alert the user.4

In the 1970s, health officials in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, realized that children there ingested poison far more than the national average. They surmised it was because the skull and crossbones image wasn’t a scary deterrent to them (they knew it simply as the logo for the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team).This led to the introduction of Mr. Yuk as a poison warning icon, though he was voted out in 2001 by the American Association of Poison Control in favor of the skull and crossbones. The skull and crossbones also had the advantage of being in the public domain, while Mr. Yuk is trademarked.

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The American Association of Poison Control’s current logo, featuring a skull and crossbones on a prescription bottle. The emoticon-like Mr. Yuk symbol, originally created by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Back here in the library, the skull and crossbones adorns the cover of A Treatise on adulterations of food and culinary posions. The book was published in 1820 when food adulteration was a very serious problem in London (hence the ominous warning on the cover, “There is Death in the Pot.”) Furthermore, the government would not pass regulations for nearly four more decades. For good measure, the book cover also includes two venomous creatures to warn you off suspect food substances: a spider and snakes.

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Friedrich Christian Accum’s Treatise on adulterations of food and culinary poisons, published in 1820.

Our Abellof stamp collection has a group of stamps and envelopes related to anti-smoking campaigns in the 1980s.  Several of them feature artwork with a modified skull and crossbones design, converting crossbones into dangling cigarettes:

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On the left, a design by the U.N. WHO Anti-Smoking Campaign for Ethiopia, 1980. On the right, a postmark of a WHO Anti-Smoking campaign first day cover from 1986. Both from the Abeloff Stamp Collection.

Here’s an ad from a 1900 issue of American Druggist for cube morphine. There is something of a mixed message here with the finger pointing your way to pain relief as well as “poison, deadly, beware!”

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Ad published in American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record, volume 36, number 6, March 25, 1900.

Below, the symbol is featured on a medical student lecture ticket. In the days before online registration and student ID swipe cards, students were issued a matriculation card upon paying their matriculation fees.6 Presenting that to various professors, they could then purchase a ticket or card to the professor’s class.

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A student of the Scottish-born Dr. William Darling, George Noble Kreider was originally from Ohio, and set up practice in Illinois where he presided over the establishment of the Illinois State Medical Journal as president of the State Medical Society.

Kill you or cure you, the skull and crossbones has a checkered past and sometimes sends us mixed messages. If you do get poisoned during a pirate attack today, hurry on over to our library: we have a bezoar to cure you!

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Bezoar, ca. 1862, from our collections.  More details to come!

What is a bezoar, and how might it counter poison? Stay tuned for your answers in a future post.

References

  1. “Evolution of the Poison Label: From Skull and Crossbones to Mr. Yuk.” Meg Farmer, School of Visual Art. Accessed July 13, 2016.
  2. “Evolution of the Poison Label: From Skull and Crossbones to Mr. Yuk.” Meg Farmer, School of Visual Art. Accessed July 13, 2016.
  3.  “Calico Jack.” Wikipedia. Accessed August 1, 2016.
  4.  Griffenhagen and Bogard. History of Drug Containers and Their Labels. The American Institute of the History of Pharmacology. 1999. P 93.
  5. McCarrick and Ziaukas. Still Scary After All These Years: Mr. Yuk Nears 40. Western Pennsylvania History. Fall 2009. P 20.
  6. “Tickets to the Healing Arts.” Penn University Archives and Records Center. Accessed August, 19, 2016. 

Ambroise Paré on gunshot wounds (Item of the Month)

By Lisa O’Sullivan, Director, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

The August item of the month is Ambroise Paré’s (1510 –1590) Les Oeuvres, or Works. Published in 1575 in 26 sections or books, the folio volume has 295 illustrations and includes Paré’s writings on anatomy, surgery, obstetrics, instrumentation, and monsters. This post focuses on Paré’s military surgery and is the first in a series of occasional posts looking at the relationship between medicine and war.

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Frontispiece of the first (1575) edition of Les Oeuvres, dedicated to King Henri III. Click to enlarge.

Dedicated to Henri III, Paré presents Les Oeuvres as an accumulation of his life’s studies and experience, and it incorporates many of his earlier publications. The French barber surgeon spent much of his life at war, serving in over 40 campaigns, and published numerous highly influential books, many of them directly based on his practice of military surgery.i Paré’s career was a prestigious one, progressing from working as an apprentice barber surgeon to great prominence as surgeon to Henry II, and subsequently his successors Francois II, King Charles IX, and Henry III.

Like his contemporary Andreas Vesalius, Paré is now celebrated as an emblematic figure of Renaissance thinking, willing to look beyond the established authorities and instead rely on the evidence of his own experience. In the Oeuvres, for instance, he mocks the use of “mummy” or “mummia,” a popular remedy ostensibly created from Egyptian mummies and used extensively by physicians.ii Such a position was particularly provocative given Paré’s identity as a surgeon, rather than a university trained physician with a formal education and knowledge of Greek and Latin.

Despite Paré’s close connections with many of its members, the Parisian Faculty of Medicine attempted to block the publication of the Oeuvres, arguing that the Faculty needed to approve all publications relating to medicine and surgery. In addition, they objected to Paré’s use of French, as he was among a small but increasing number of practitioners writing in the vernacular rather than the more scholarly Latin, making such works vastly more accessible to students of surgery operating outside the universities and the lay public.iii

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Reminiscent of a “wound man,” this illustration demonstrates techniques for extracting broken arrows from the body. Click to enlarge.

Much of Paré’s renown was based on his early work in the military context. Throughout the Oeuvres, he returns to examples of treating soldiers wounded during conflict. Perhaps the most famous vignette describes how, during his first campaign in 1536, Paré found that he had insufficient boiling oil to use in cauterizing gunshot wounds, and instead used a liniment made of egg yolk, rose oil, and turpentine. The following day, he discovered that those soldiers treated with the liniment were in a better condition than those whose wounds had been treated according to the prescribed manner. He subsequently argued for the treatment of gunshot wounds with liniments and bandaging, as well as removing affected tissue from the wound.iv

Gunpowder, whether projected from cannons or shot from firearms, had become a significant factor on European battlefields in the late 14th century. The use of gunpowder dramatically changed the practice of warfare. Increasingly numerous and accurate firearms contributed to the number of soldiers killed and wounded. These weapons produced new types of wounds that penetrated into the body, carrying foreign materials with them and leading to gangrene, while also deafening and blinding those near blasts.v

Descriptions of surgical tools, including a variety of tools for extracting bullets from wounds. On the top left, "crane bill" forceps for fragmented bullets; on right a shorter "duck bill" instrument designed for extracting whole bullets. At bottom, "lizard noses" for drawing out flattened bullets.

A variety of tools for extracting bullets from wounds. On the top left, “crane bill” forceps for fragmented bullets; on right a shorter “duck bill” instrument designed for extracting whole bullets. At bottom, “lizard noses” for drawing out flattened bullets. Click to enlarge.

Surgeons based their treatment of gunshot wounds on the belief that the gunpowder carried into the body by the bullets brought poison with it. This idea came from Giovanni da Vigo (1450–1525), an Italian surgeon whose 1514 Practica in arte chirurgica copiosa and 1517 Pratica in professione chirurgica were highly influential surgical texts. Rapidly translated into multiple European languages, these books include da Vigo’s suggestion to cauterize (burn) the wound with boiling oil in order to counteract the poisonous traces of gunpowder and to seal any severed arteries. This procedure became considered standard practice.viParé, after his experience with liniment rather than oil, experimented further, and recounts seeking advice from other surgeons and testing a folk remedy for onion poultices for burns suggested by an older local woman. Concluding that they were effective against blistering offered Paré another rhetorical opportunity to emphasize his commitment to observation and experimentation.vii

The evidence found in earlier surgical manuals suggests that medieval surgeons had made similar experiments, and that it was the popularity of the more recent ideas promulgated by da Vigo that led to treatments with cauterization and oil.viii While he was not the only surgeon to be working towards more humane and effective treatment of gunshot wounds, Paré became the most well-known and is often celebrated today as the “father” of modern military surgery.ix This reputation rests on not only his work around gunshot wounds but his broad interests, influence, and innovation. A future post will explore other aspects of Paré’s Oeuvres and its long-term impact on military surgery.

References

i.  A full bibliography of his works was produced by Academy librarian Janet Doe in 1937. See Janet Doe, A Bibliography of the Works of Ambroise Pare; Premier Chirurgien et Conseiller du Roy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937).

ii. Ambroise Paré, Les Oeuvres de m. Ambroise Paré … Avec les figures & portraicts tant de l’anatomie que des instruments de chirurgie, & de plusieurs monstres. Le tout diuisé en vingt six livres … (Paris : Chez G. Buon, 1575), p399.

iii. Paré defended his publication with a written defense and in the Parisian courts. While the verdict was not recorded, the book went on sale and sold out almost immediately. See Wallace B Hamby, Ambroise Paré, Surgeon of the Renaissance (St. Louis: W.H. Green, 1967), pp153-156.

iv. Ambroise Paré, Les Oeuvres de m. Ambroise Paré, pp357-359.

v. John Pearn, “Gunpowder, the Prince of Wales’s Feathers and the Origins of Modern Military Surgery,” ANZ Journal of Surgery 82 (2012): 240–244, 241; Kelly R DeVries, “Military Surgical Practice and the Advent of Gunpowder Weaponry,” The Canadian Bulletin of Medical History / Bulletin canadien d’histoire de la médecine 7(2) (1990):131-46, p135.

vi. DeVries, “Military Surgical Practice and the Advent of Gunpowder Weaponry,” pp141-142.

vii. Ambroise Paré, Les Oeuvres de m. Ambroise Paré, p359.

viii. DeVries, “Military Surgical Practice and the Advent of Gunpowder Weaponry,” p142.

ix. Frank Tallett, War in Context: War and Society in Early Modern Europe : 1495-1715 (London, US: Routledge, 2010), pp108-110.

The Origins of Automated Ice

By Danielle Aloia. Special Projects Librarian

This August, for most of us, ice is a second thought:  easily obtained for cooling drinks and chilling food, and usually only a few steps away.   An 1844 title in our collections offers an intriguing snapshot of a time when this was not always the case.

In 1844, a Londoner with a shop on Regent Street and an inventive mind published The Ice Book: Being a Compendious and Concise History of Everything Connected with Ice.  His name was Thomas Masters.   In this publication, Masters enumerates the practical uses–both culinary and medical– of his own patented ice machine.  In his introduction, Masters describes his obsession with the process of freezing:

The transformations narrated in the “Arabian Nights,” those gorgeous repositories of Eastern legendary lore, are not more marvelous or more speedy than the change of a liquid body to a block of solid ice.1

During the course of The Ice Book, Masters introduces his invention and its applications and takes readers on a whirlwind tour of ice through space and time.  Along the way, he also supplies some delectable frozen recipes–sign us up for the maraschino ice cream, the nectar ice and the punch a la Victoria, stat.

Masters reports that the Greeks and Romans were known to use snow from the surrounding mountains to cool their wine.2 Nero’s cooks flavored snow with “honey, juices, and pulp of fruits,” creating a precursor to the flavored ice of today, and eventually ice cream.3

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Depiction of a runner delivering snow from the mountains to Nero. Published in the National Dairy Council’s Ice Cream Through the Years, 1946.

Masters also describes Indian methods of making artificial ice, reporting that during the winter months, ice was created by filling rows of small earthen pans with boiled water, which was then cooled and left overnight.  The thin ice was gathered up, thrown in a pit that was lined with straw and layered with blankets, and pressed into a solid mass.  The pit was closed up with straw, blankets and a thatched roof.

Masters devotes a significant portion of his narrative to the promotion of his portable “patent freezing machine.”  In his introduction he writes:

The preparation of one of the most delectable refections known to this advanced era of modern culinary civilization, has been hitherto left to the experienced confectioner, on whose skill, not always within reach, depended the supply.  By attending to the instructions contained in the following pages, ices may now be procured from the machine within five minutes.4

A review of the book in The Patent Journal and Inventors’ Magazine offers this glowing endorsement of The Ice Book:

The specification of Mr. Masters’ patent appeared in #53 of our journal…it will be seen that he invented a number of very ingenious apparatus, by means of which, the luxury of cold liquors, &c. may be the most readily supplied; his Ice safes and well are excellent, and his ready mode of freezing, astonishing.  It is really a disgrace to buttermen and other shopkeepers to vend their edibles in the nasty state they frequently do, and the public should demand the use by tradesmen of these safes…5

The benefits of Masters’ machine were not limited to food and drink preparation.  Ice was used in medicine to relieve headaches, fever, hemorrhaging, and, believe it or not, symptoms of rabies.6 Masters includes testimonials from MDs.  One Dr. John Ryan writes that Masters’ machine will “enable [doctors] at all seasons, whether in the crowded fever wards of the hospital, or in private practice, to obtain for the patient a necessary adjunct to medical treatment.”7

An elevation of a double-motion machine with pails (B), a2 (machinery), and P (flapdoor).  Some were made with a drawer underneath, which serves as a wine-cooler.  Plate 1 published in Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, published in 1844.

An elevation of a double-motion machine with pails (B), a2 (machinery), and P (flapdoor).  Some were made with a drawer underneath, which serves as a wine-cooler.  Plate 1 published in Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, published in 1844.

A single-motion machine with a freezer that is rotated by turning the crank handle at the top.  Plate 3, published in Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

A single-motion machine with a freezer that is rotated by turning the crank handle at the top.  Plate 3, published in Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

The machine had various interchangeable parts and could be setup for private use to make blocks of ice, flavored ice and ice cream, and to cool wine and drinks. In plate 6 below, Figures 1-3 depict the special churns needed to get the fineness and smoothness necessary to keep the flavored ice or ice cream from separating; “a proper beating-up, a process which never can be accomplished by the hand.”8 Figures 4-5, depict separate ice preserving containers for game, fish, butter, etc. Figures 6-8, depict the cold storage for beverages, such as wine and beer.

Plate 6 published in Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Plate 6 published in Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

Below, we’ve included a few tantalizing recipes from the book.  Masters supplies instructions for making plain and flavored ice creams:

Recipes for plain, pistachio, biscuit, maraschino, "nouveau" and cinnamon ice creams, from Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Recipes for plain, pistachio, biscuit, maraschino, “nouveau” and cinnamon ice creams, from Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

Recipes for pine-apple, ginger, and apricot ice cream, from Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Recipes for pine-apple, ginger, and apricot ice cream, from Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

Other recipes instruct on making flavored ices.

Wine ices, from Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Wine ices, from Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

Raspberry water ice et al., published in Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Raspberry water ice et al., published in Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

Apple water ice et al., published in Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Apple water ice et al., published in Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

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How to clarify sugar, from Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book 1844.

We found this errata slip laid in amusing:

Errata slip, Thomas Masters' The Ice Book, 1844.

Errata slip, Thomas Masters’ The Ice Book, 1844.

Another peculiar aspect of this work is the Appendix. Masters delights in supplying real-life anecdotes about ice.  Among the highlights are an ice storm in 1672 that destroyed numerous trees; an ice market in 19th-century St. Petersburg containing the bodies of thousands of frozen animals, captured inside ice; and in that same city, the Ice Palace of St. Petersburg built near the banks of the River Neva in 1739, which began to give way under its own weight before the last ice blocks were placed.9  We’ll be returning to this book again for these fascinating stories, and for the recipes within…particularly on hot summer days.

References

1.   Masters, Thomas. The Ice Book. London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., 1844.

2.  Masters, 6.

3.  National Dairy Council. Ice Cream through the Years.  Chicago: National Dairy Council, 1946.

4.  Masters, x.

5.  “Thomas Masters’ Ice Book:  The Ice Book: Being a Compendious and Concise History of Everything Connected with Ice.”  Patent Journal and Inventors’ Magazine, June 5, 1847, accessed online.

6.  Masters, pp. 180-187.

7.  Masters, pp. 185-187.

8.  Masters, pp. 194-196.

9. Masters, pp. 134-146.

 

Historical Advice on Breastfeeding in Honor of World Breastfeeding Week

By Becky Filner, Head of Cataloging

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“Mother nursing twins simultaneously.”  From Reginald Charles Jewesbury’s Mothercraft, antenatal and postnatal.

World Breastfeeding Week – August 1-7, 2016 – seeks to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding. How was breastfeeding regarded in the past? To answer this question, I consulted books on child rearing from the early 19th century to the mid-20th century.

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Title page, William Buchan’s 1804 Advice to Mothers.

The earliest book I looked at, Dr. William Buchan’s 1804 Advice to Mothers, on the Subject of Their Own Health; and on the Means of Promoting the Health, Strength, and Beauty, of Their Offspring, is extremely critical of women who do not breastfeed:

Unless the milk….finds the proper vent, it will not only distend and inflame the breasts, but excite a great degree of fever in the whole system… It may be said, that there are instances without number, of mothers who enjoy perfect health, though they never suckled their children. I positively deny the assertion; and maintain, on the contrary, that a mother, who is not prevented by any particular weakness or disease from discharging that duty, cannot neglect it without material injury to her constitution.1

At the end of the 19th century, Dr. Genevieve Tucker’s Mother, Baby, and Nursery: A Manual for Mothers (1896) also strongly advocates breastfeeding:

Every mother who has health sufficient to mature a living child ought, if possible, to nurse it from her own breast. Her own health requires it, as the efforts of the child to draw the milk causes the uterus to contract, and nothing else will take its place to her infant.2

Much of her other advice seems outdated now, including her claim that “nursing babies suffer from too frequent nursing” and her suggestion to nurse “as seldom as possible at night.” Perhaps strangest to modern ears is her analysis of a woman’s ability to nurse based on her physical and emotional state:

Different temperaments and constitutions in women have great influence in the quantity and quality of milk. The richest milk is secreted by brunettes with well developed muscles, fresh complexions, and moderate plumpness. Nervous, lymphatic, and fair-complexioned women, with light or auburn hair, flabby muscles, and sluggish movements, as a rule, secrete poor milk. Rheumatic women secrete acid milk, which causes colic, diarrhea, and marasmus in the child.3

Tucker also suggests that a nursing mother should be producing a whopping forty-four ounces of breast milk every twenty-four hours.

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Breastfeeding baby, from Stella B. Applebaum’s Baby, A Mother’s Manual, published ca. 1946.

Dr. Charles Gilmore Kerley in his Short Talks with Young Mothers: On the Management of Infants and Young Children  wrote in the early 19th century that contemporary pressures on women hinder their breastfeeding abilities:

A mother, to nurse her child successfully, must be a happy, contented woman… The American women of our large cities assume the cares and responsibilities of life equally with men. Among the so-called higher classes, — those who have all that wealth and position can give, — there is a constant struggle for social pre-eminence. Among the majority of the so-called middle classes the contest for wealth and place never ceases from the moment the school days begin until death or infirmity closes the scene. Among the poor there are the ceaseless toil, the struggle for food and shelter, the care of the sick, and the frequent deaths of little ones in the family whom they are unable properly to care for. In all classes, therefore, the conditions of life are such as seriously to interfere with the normal function of nursing, no matter how excellent may be the mother’s physical condition.4

This emphasis on a woman’s mind being at rest is repeated in much of the early 20th- century literature on breastfeeding.

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“Hungry!” from Myrtle M. Eldred and Helen Cowles Le Cron’s For the Young Mother, 1921. p. 31.

Most of the books from the first few decades of the 20th century contain a passage about keeping the breasts and nipples clean. Kerley and others recommend washing the nipples (and even the child’s mouth!) with a solution of boracic (boric) acid. Myrtle M. Eldred and Helen Cowles Le Cron write in For the Young Mother (1921) that “the breasts are tender and easily infected at first, so that the boric acid acts as a cleanser to protect the baby from possible germs and as a preventive of abscessed breasts.5”Boric acid, though it is sometimes used as an antiseptic, is toxic to humans if taken internally or inhaled in large quantities. Other books recommend rinsing the breasts with hot water prior to nursing.6

Many books also contain lists of foods the nursing mother should and should not eat. Dr. Anne Newton, in her Mother and Baby: Helpful Suggestions Concerning Motherhood and the Care of Children (1912), advises mothers to practice “sacrifice and self-denial” in eating meals, and to avoid rich and seasoned foods altogether.7 Newton specifies that mothers should eat “nothing about which there is any question of fermentation. Such vegetables as cabbage, turnips, cauliflower, and tomatoes should not be given until the baby is four months old at least, and even then certain things may cause discomfort and cannot be indulged until the child is weaned.8” Dr. Thomas Gray, in Common Sense and the Baby: A Book for Mothers, notes that the breastfeeding mother should “eat an abundance of wholesome, nutritious food; avoid indigestible pastries and salads. Take sparingly of tea and coffee. Drink freely cocoa and milk. Eat fruits – not acid.9”  Some more recent books are much less rigid about the mother’s diet. Dr. Dorothy Whipple, writing in 1944, is less cautious, and argues that there’s very little a mother can eat that harms a nursing baby, mentioning only certain foods like onions that may, in breast milk, deter babies with its “unusual taste.10

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A mother breastfeeding and a selection of foods recommended for the breastfeeding mother, taken from Stella B. Applebaum’s Baby:  A Mother’s Manual (1946).

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Front cover of the New York City Health Department’s The Care of Baby, 1932.

None of the books I consulted recommended breastfeeding to two years or beyond, the WHO’s current recommendation on breastfeeding. Most books recommend weaning the baby between eight and fourteen months of age.  The New York City Department of Health warns against weaning in summer because of the risk of spoiled cow’s milk:

If possible, do not wean your baby during the hot summer months…. If you are well, it will not harm you to nurse your child until the dangerous, hot weather is over. This precaution may mean saving your child’s life.”11

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“One of life’s richest experiences,” from Dorothy Whipple’s Our American Babies, published in 1944.

Another common thread in the literature about breastfeeding is an emphasis on the pleasure and health benefits experienced by the nursing mother.  According to Tucker, “under the right conditions of lactation, … the mother should thrive and even grow stout.12” Others emphasize that breastfeeding will help the mother “get her ‘good figure’ back much more quickly than the mother who doesn’t nurse” because “nursing causes the uterus or womb to contract.13” Stella Applebaum provides this summary of the mother-baby nursing relationship:

Mother’s milk is the perfect baby food. From a healthy mother’s clean nipples, this pure, fresh, warm, nourishing, digestible food is delivered, germ-free, directly into the baby’s mouth. At the same time mother’s milk protects him against certain diseases. Suckling at the breast makes the baby feel close to his mother, happy, and secure.

Nursing benefits you, too. It stimulates the uterus to contract to normal size and contributes to your personal enjoyment and contentment. Propped in a comfortable chair or bed, you share a uniquely satisfying experience with your baby.14

Other writers underscore the vital role nursing plays in strengthening the emotional bonds between mother and child.   Buchan writes in 1804 that “the act itself is attended with sweet, thrilling, and delightful sensations of which those only who have felt them can form any idea.15” Dorothy Whipple has the last word:

…to sit in a comfortable chair and hold a little snuggling baby in your arms, to watch him grab that nipple with all the fury of his tiny might and suck and work away until he reaches that complete satisfaction that comes to a baby with a full stomach is one of the pleasantest sensations in life.16

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A mother and her baby breastfeeding while lying down, from Louise Zabriskie’s Mother and Baby Care in Pictures, published in 1941.

References

1.  Buchan, William. Advice to Mothers, on the Subject of Their Own Health; and on the Means of Promoting the Health, Strength, and Beauty, of Their Offspring. Philadelphia: John Bioren, 1804, p. 75-76.

2-3. Tucker, Genevieve. Mother, Baby, and Nursery: A Manual for Mothers. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1896, p. 85-87.

4. Kerley, Chalres Gilmore. Short Talks with Young Mothers: On the Management of Infants and Young Children. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, p. 13-15.

5.  Eldred, Myrtle M. For the Young Mother. Chicago: The Reilly & Lee Co., 1921, p. 37.

6.  Kenyon, Josephine Hemenway. Healthy Babies Are Happy Babies: A Complete Handbook for Modern Mothers. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1934, p. 55-56; Zabriskie, Louise. Mother and Baby Care In Pictures. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1941, p. 131.

7.  Newton, Anne B. Mother and Baby: Helpful Suggestions Concerning Motherhood and the Care of Children. Boston: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., 1912, p. 74.

8.  Ibid., p. 78.

9.  Gray, Thomas N. Common Sense and the Baby: A Book for Mothers. New York: the Bewick Press, 1907, p. 39.

10. Whipple, Dorothy V. Our American Babies: The Art of Baby Care. New York: M. Barrows and Company, Inc., 1944, p. 139.

11.  New York City Department of Health. The Care of Baby. New York: Department of Health, 1932, p. 10.

12. Tucker, p. 86.

13. NYC Dept. of Health. The Care of Baby, p. 5.

14. Applebaum, Stella B. Baby: A Mother’s Manual. Chicago and New York: Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, 1946.

15. Buchan, p. 79.

16. Whipple, p. 122.