Friday, July 31, 2015

Zephyr Bosom Pads and other trivia from 1875 @JacquieRogers #western

First of all, I'm in fine fettle today because I just found out that the third book in my Hearts of Owyhee series, Much Ado About Miners, won a Laramie Award for Western Romance/Comedy Novel.  I attribute that directly to Dr. VonSouter's Medicine Show.  So thank you, Keith.  The Laramie Contest is sponsored by Chanticleer Book Reviews, and I'll be attending the conference in September, so if you're in Bellingham, WA, stop by and say hi.

Now it's time to get back to the newspapers--the 1870s newspapers, that is.  These articles are all from The Owyhee Avalanche, the oldest newspaper in Idaho, and currently based in my hometown, Homedale.  They have a good sense of humor there, and since I'm in good humor (the award and all), I picked out a few articles that show the Silver City residents' lighter side.

We might as well start with fashion.  In the old days, fellows liked their ladies a bit on the plump side, as evidenced by this article published July 24, 1875.

I'm not sure what zephyr bosom pads are, but I know that the online dictionary said "bosom," meaning a woman's breasts, wasn't in use until the 1920s.  Well here it is.  1875.  Take that, dictionary.

It seems like no matter where you go, someone wants to make off with someone else's stuff.  This report was also printed in the July 24, 1875 issue.  I'd say Mr. Lord robbed the wrong person, and definitely stayed in town too long.

Speaking of Dr. Souter, here's a report of a bullet extraction in the July 17, 1875 issue.  I don't know many men these days whose first name is Patsey.  That would get you shot right there.  Maybe Keith will tell us why Dr. Peters left the bullet in Patsey's leg for three months before removing it.

This next article is about a saloon brawl, which isn't funny at all, but the wording in the July 3, 1875, article made me laugh.

I don't think I've ever read a newspaper from any era that didn't complain about the state of the roads.  It appears the ruts were impeding their fun.  This is from July 17, 1875.

And I learned a whole new term: caterer.  I don't think they're talking about serving cute little sandwiches at parties in this next article.

So that's what happened in Silver City, Idaho Territory, in July of 1875.  The people weren't so different, but the reporting was a lot more interesting!

May your saddle never slip.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Vanished Arizona – the trip

In his foreword to Martha Summerhayes’s Vanished Arizona, Dan L. Trapp, well-known expert on things Apache, had this to say about the book.

Vanished Arizona has won a secure place among the essential primary records of the frontier-military West, a status it is unlikely to lose.”

With this in mind, I hope to take our Western Fictioneers on a trip into and around Arizona, as seem through the eyes of an officer’s wife.

Returning from a sojourn in Germany, Martha tells us how it all got started. “As the vessel had been about given up for lost, her arrival was somewhat of an agreeable surprise to all our friends, and to none more so that my old friend Jack, a second lieutenant of the United States army, who seemed so glad to have me back in America, that I concluded the only thing to do was join the army myself.

Fort Russel 1925
“A quiet wedding in the country soon followed my decision, and we set out early in April of the year 1874 to join his regiment, which was stationed at Fort Russell, Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory.”

At Fort Russell, Martha’s first experience in an army post, she learned of the pecking order among officers.

“Fort Russell was a large post, and the garrison consisted of many companies of cavalry and infantry. It was all new and strange to me.

“Soon after luncheon, Jack said to Major Wilhelm, ‘Well, now, I must go and look for quarters: what’s the prospect?’

“’You will have to turn someone out,’ said the Major, as they left the house together.

“About an hour afterwards they returned, and Jack said, ‘Well, I have turned out Lynch; but,’ he added, ‘as his wife and child are away, I do not believe he’ll care very much.’”

Martha Summerhayes
Martha expressed her sympathies, saying she didn’t really want to turn people out of their quarters, and the major told her how things were.

“The Major and his wife smiled, and the former remarked, ‘You must not have too much sympathy: it’s the custom of the service—it’s always done—by virtue of rank. They’ll hate you for doing it, but if you don’t do it they’ll not respect you. After you’ve been turned out once yourself, you will not mind turning others out.’”

Martha also got an introduction to army use of alcohol. “The Major insisted upon making me acquainted with the ‘real old-fashioned army toddy’ several times a day—a new beverage for me, brought up in a blue-ribbon community, where wine-bibbing and whiskey drinking were rated as belonging to only the lowest classes. . . . Is it to be wondered at that I and Adams (the enlisted man assigned to the officer) prepared the most atrocious meals that ever a new husband had to eat?”

Talking about setting up house, Martha said, “We were obliged to be very economical, as Jack was a second lieutenant, the pay was small and a little in arrears, after the wedding trip and the long journey out.”

And, talking of her housekeeping skills, “Of course, like all New England girls of that period, I knew how to make quince jelly and floating islands, but of the actual, practical side of cooking, and the management of a range, I knew nothing.”

Then Jack and Mattie, as Martha Summerhayes was called, were assigned to a post in Arizona. The trip to their new assignment is worth taking a look at, I think. Said Martha: “For it must be remembered that in 1874 there were no railroads in Arizona, and all troops which were sent to that distant territory either marched overland through New Mexico, or were transported by steamer from San Francisco down the coast, and up the Gulf of California to Fort Yuma, from which point they marched up the valley of the Gila to the southern posts, or continued up the Colorado River by steamer, to other points of disembarkation, whence they marched to the posts in the interior, or the northern part of the territory.”

Martha and Jack sailed from San Francisco on the steamship “Newbern” under command of Captain Metzger. Six companies crowded the old ship, under command of a Lieutenant Colonel named Wilkins.

At Cabo San Lucas, where the boat took on cattle (to eat, it seems), Martha had this to say: “It was now the middle of August and the weather had become insufferably hot, but we were out of the long swell of the Pacific Ocean; we had rounded Cape St. Lucas, and were steaming up the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), towards the mouth of the Great Colorado, whose red and turbulent waters empty themselves into this gulf, at its head.

The Gila
After 13 days at sea, the steamship anchored a mile off Port Isabel, where passengers were transferred to flat-bottomed river boats if they were officers and barges towed by the river boats if they were enlisted men. August is hurricane season, and the winds in the Gulf of California were stiff, and the steamship had to lay off Port Isabel for three days until the winds died down a bit. Martha writes: “This was excessively disagreeable. The wind was like a breath from a furnace; it seemed as though the days would never end, and the wind would never stop blowing. Jack’s official diary says: One soldier died today.

Finally, on the fourth day, the wind abated, and the transfer was begun. We boarded the river steamboat Cocopah, towing a barge loaded with soldiers, and steamed away for the slue (a deep area in the river). I must say that we welcomed the change with delight. Towards the end of the afternoon, the Cocopah put her nose to shore and tied up.

“The soldiers went into camp on shore. The heat down in that low, flat place was intense. Another man died that night.

“Jack’s diary records: ‘Aug. 23rd. Heat awful. Pringle died today.’ He was the third soldier to succumb.

“Jack said, ‘You mustn’t cry, Mattie; it’s a soldier’s life, and when a man enlists, he must take his chances.’”

Martha saw the army wives transferring to the boat for the return trip to San Francisco. She remarked: “The women’s clothes looked ridiculously old-fashioned, and I wondered if I should look that way when my time came to leave Arizona.”

Summerhayes's book
Riverboat steamers often had it tough. Martha explained: “We spent seven days in and out of that slue. Finally, on August the 26th, the wind subsided and we started up river. . . . At the end of two more days the river had begun to narrow, and we arrived at Fort Yuma, which was at that time the post best known to, and most talked about by army officers of any in Arizona. No one except old campaigners knew much about any other post in the territory.”

They got a bit of reprise at Fort Yuma. “It fell to our lot to go to breakfast with Major and Mrs. Wells, and Miss Wilkins. . . . I can never forget the taste of the oatmeal with fresh milk, the eggs and butter, and delicious tomatoes, which were served us in his latticed dining room. . . . After twenty-three days of heat and glare, and scorching winds, and stale food, Fort Yuma and Mr. Haskell’s dining-room seemed like Paradise.”

They proceeded on up the Colorado on the steamboat Gila. She observed, “There was no ice, and consequently no fresh produce. A Chinaman served as steward and cook, and at the ringing of a bell we all went into a small saloon back of the pilothouse, where the meals were served. . . . the awful heat destroyed both our good looks and our tempers.”

She goes on about the meager fare, and then says: “Chinamen, as we all know, can make pies under conditions that would stagger most chefs.”

Unlike the clear water in the Colorado River today, when Martha Summerhayes made her trip, the sandbars along the way moved and grew and disappeared regularly. She wrote: “On one occasion, I said, ‘Oh! Captain, do you think we shall get off this bar today?’ ‘Well, you can’t tell,” he said with a twinkle in his eye; ‘one trip, I lay fifty-two days on a bar,’ and then after a short pause, ‘but that don’t happen very often; we sometimes lay a week, though: there is no telling; the bars change all the time.’”

Martha also tells us about Indian maidens. “Sometimes the low trees and brushwood on the banks parted, and a young squaw would peer out at us. . . . They wore very short skirts made of stripped bark, and as they held back the branches of the low willows, and looked at us with curiosity, they made pictures so pretty that I have never forgotten them.”

Scene from Fort Mojave
When the captain said they would soon reach Ehrenberg, Martha was excited because she thought a city was just around the bend. Imagine her disappointment. She wrote, “I did not go ashore. Of all the dreary, miserable-looking settlements that one could possibly imagine, that was the worst. An unfriendly, dirty, and Heaven-forsaken place, inhabited by a poor class of Mexicans and half-breeds. . . . We left Ehrenberg with no regrets, and pushed on up river.” She also said the scenery was grand, but who could enjoy scenery in temperatures ranging from 107 to 122 in the shade.

Martha and Jack and their companies disembarked at Fort Mojave. When next we meet, we’ll read how Martha Summerhayes saw Arizona while crossing the Mojave Desert.

The Snake Den is set in Yuma Prison ca. 1882
when 14-year-old Shawn Brodie was
sentenced to 3 years for something
he didn't do.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Pack your saddlebags and shine up your boots for the first ever WESTERN FICTIONEERS CONVENTION! We’ll be rendezvousing near beautiful historic St. Louis, Missouri––the Gateway to the West––on October 30, 31, and November 1, 2015. Many WF members will be meeting each other for the first time and we have crammed as many fascinating workshops, panels and meet-and-greets as two and a half days will possibly hold!

Here’s a peek at the schedule (tentative):
FRIDAY             MUSTERING THE TROOPS: Introducing the Western Fictioneers!
2-9 PM              WHAP! BAM! POW! Punching Up Your Fight Scenes
                         WRITE ‘EM UP, MOVE ‘EM OUT: Tips for Selling Your Story
                         THE “RIGHTS” SIDE OF THE LAW: Legal Labyrinths
                         WELCOME RECEPTION AND DINNER

                         BUILDING A FRANCHISE: Serial Novel Tips and Tricks
                         ROMANCING THE WEST
                         BADGES & BAYONETS: Lawmen, Rangers and the Cavalry

1-9 PM              PUBLISHERS PANEL: What We Want from Writers
                         THE DOCTOR’S BAG: Medicine and Surgery of Yesteryear
                         DECONSTRUCTING CUSTER
                         HOLLYWOOD WEST: The Scoop on Screenplays
                         TAMING SOCIAL MEDIA: Marketing and Other Necessary Evils
                         THE CIVIL WAR AND THE WEST
                         DINNER (Wear your over-the-top cowboy & cowgirl duds for 

8-11 AM            THE WOLF CREEK SERIES: Behind the Scenes
                         COWBOY CHURCH

You’ll get to meet and visit with many legendary (and up-and-coming) Western Fictioneers like Robert Randisi, James Reasoner, Dusty Richards, Robert Vaughan, Frank Roderus, Jacquie Rogers, Keith Souter, Tom Rizzo, Cheryl Pierson, Troy D. Smith, L.J. Martin, James J. Griffin, Chuck Tyrell, Kathleen Rice Adams..and many more! They'll be happy to hand out autographs at the Western Fictioneer Book Store! 
AND...there'll be special entertainment provided at
Friday and Saturday dinners.



You may reserve rooms at our special convention rate of $109 per night by:

Clicking HERE to book online or... 
Calling the hotel at (314) 878-1500. 

Be sure to mention that you are with WESTERN FICTIONEERS.

REGISTRATION FEES (includes all workshops, panels, two continental breakfasts, one welcome reception, and two dinners)

                                                       Early Registration Sept. 1-30
                                                       (Through Aug. 31)




There are TWO WAYS to pay registration fees.
  1. ONLINE VIA PAYPAL (choose “Send Money” option and enter this email address:
  2. MAIL CHECK PAYABLE TO: Micki Fuhrman (WF Convention Chair)  P.O. Box 59463   Nashville, TN 37205
You’ll be hearing more about the convention between now and October. For now, RESERVE your room and REGISTER for what may be the best convention you’ve ever attended!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fandango 'til the cows come home with Prairie Rose Publications' Christmas in July book event

Put on your dancing shoes
break out your party duds,
 Prairie Rose Publications
is throwing a party!!!

Follow this link to “Join” the Facebook Fandango fun:

24 stories - 24 great reads

Christmas in July 2015

For more information
 regarding purchase links and book teasers,
click HERE

then click the BOOKS  tab & click on Christmas in July 2015.

 My short story contribution for this event is
A Gift of Christmas Hope,
which was originally published in the 2014
Wild Texas Christmas anthology.

Until next time,


Friday, July 24, 2015


Looking back on history, it's amazing to see how fashions have changed so fast and so drastically in a hundred years. What was it like as a young girl in Victorian times? They dressed similar to their mothers, except for hair allowed to flow freely, in braids, or held a la Alice in Wonderland with a headband. And skirts were only to the knee. They were educated to various degrees depending on their social class, learning flower arranging, dancing, embroidery, or cooking, sewing, and keeping house depending on social class.

John George Brown - 1888
In the Victorian age, hourglass figures were all the rage. Mothers put their girls in corsets even during early childhood to train their posture; once they reached puberty, the waist was trained further. Why all the hoopla over a woman's "figure"? What better way to establish her future marriage eligibility? It was an outward physical sign of readiness. When teen girls put their hair up and lowered their skirts, the game was on - and heaven help a spinster.

Teenage Girl in Massachusetts
Ladies in the upper and middle classes had nothing else to hope for except as a wife to a prosperous husband. Even after the turn of the twentieth century, middle class women who worked as typists or office girls stopped working (outside the home, of course!) after marriage. Becoming a wife meant raising children and keeping house for middle class women, and upper class women had the luxury of servants - nannies, maids, etc. Lucky them. For some women, their "figure" became their "fortune" - for those depending on their beauty to gain a stage career. Voluptuousness in the right places meant a lot.

One case in point - Anna Held.

Anna's 18-inch waist
Helene Anna Held, aka Anna Held, was born in 1872 in Warsaw, Poland - which was at the time part of the Russian Empire. Her parents, a German-Jewish glove maker and a French-Jewish wife, fled to Paris nine years later in 1881. Of their eleven children, only Anna survived - and began singing on the streets to make a few pennies. When her father died, Anna and her mother moved to England. Anna soon chose to go on stage.

15-year-old Anna and her mother
She returned to Paris as a young woman. Her popularity rose due to her beauty, boldness, willingness to show her legs, flirtatious manners, and suggestive songs. Anna is counted among the top of the Victorian beauties of her day,  including Lily Langtry, Lillian Russell, and Lotta Crabtree.

Anna showing a shapely leg
Anna was also one of the first women to ride a bicycle, and ooh-la-la! did she make a splash.

Showing a little more leg
While Anna appeared on stage in 1896, at London's Palace Music Hall, Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., saw her perform and offered her an exorbitant salary of $1500 a week, enormous for the era. Anna floated off to Broadway, leaving behind an older husband and a daughter. "Flo" kept her in the public eye and popular with audiences by clever promotional schemes - that Anna bathed in milk and had several ribs removed to achieve that incredibly tiny waist.

Anna and Flo in happier times, 1905
Anna and Flo became common-law spouses during this time. She could not perform in his new 1909 Follies show due to pregnancy, but had an abortion. Ziegfeld soon left Anna for another actress and then ended up marrying the actress Billie Burke in 1914 (Glinda the good witch in The Wizard of Oz.) But both Anna and Flo benefited by their partnership in New York City.

Anna and her famous figure
By the time Word War I began, Anna's fortune had added up to the millions. During the war, fashions and figures changed and the slim silhouette dominated. Just look at the difference in the corsets from 1870 to 1920.

Thirty Year Change in Corsets

Also bringing about change - the suffrage movement, the war's demands for fabric and food, and the 1920s flapper era. But ladies never truly tossed out their "foundations" until the late 1960s.

Flappers in 1920s

With a few exceptions, such as Marilyn Monroe and the Barbie doll, so much for the hourglass figure!

Reference Sources:

Famous People Profiles - Anna Held
The Cabinet Card Gallery
John George Brown - American Painter
Fashion News for 1905
Flappers on Pinterest
Undergarments on Pinterest

Mystery author Meg Mims earned a Spur Award from WWA and also a Laramie award for her western historical mystery series, Double Crossing (still 99c!) and Double or Nothing. Meg -- also one-half of the writing team of D.E. Ireland for Agatha-Award nominated mystery series featuring Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins for Minotaur books -- lives in Southeastern Michigan with her husband and a sweet Malti-poo. She loves reading and writing novels, novellas and short stories, both contemporary and historical.
Meg's novellas - Santa Paws  Santa Claws  Home for the Holidays

Love My Fair Lady? Click here for the Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins series!

Thursday, July 23, 2015



the blog about 19th century Medicine and Surgery

Keith Souter  aka Clay More

Heroic medicine
I have mentioned heroic medicine in several of the posts over the past two years. It is the name given to the practice of medicine that involved using very aggressive treatments that almost seemed to 'kill or cure.' It was a towering edifice of medical practice that had its roots back in the humoural theory of Hippocrates. It was essentially the orthodox practice of medicine until the end of the Civil War.

In England in the 18th century Dr John Lettsom (1744-1815) was one of the foremost physicians of the day. He was born in the British virgin Islands t a Quaker family and trained in medicine at Edinburgh University in Scotland. He became a distinguished physician and abolitionist. Among his achievements he was the founder of The London Medical Society, which is the oldest medical society in the UK.

He was a great advocate of heroic medicine and even wrote humorously about himself:

I, John Lettsome,
Blisters, bleeds and sweats 'em.
If, after that, they please to die,

I, John Lettsome.

John Coakley Lettsom (1744-1815)

Essentially, he advocated bleeding, blistering, emesis and purgation. Throughout his career he had a running battle with several practitioners who were considered quacks and charlatans. This is interesting, since nowadays bleeding, blistering and purgation would all be placed firmly in the area of quackery as they have been replaced by scientific medicine. Such is the way that science progresses.

On the either side of the Pond heroic medicine found its greatest advocate in Dr Benjamin Rush (1745-1813). As we saw in an earlier post (On the Trail with Dr Rush's Bilious Pills), he advised Lewis and Clark to take copious medical supplies of calomel as a purgative to treat anyone who fell ill on their expedition. Calomel was a mercuric medication that produced a profuse evacuation of the bowels. Recently, archaeologists have been able to trace the latrines used during their expedition across the land, because the ground is still contaminated with mercury from Dr Rush's bilious pills. Yet it has to be said that the two year expedition lost only one man, and that was from appendicitis.

Dr Benjamin Rush (1745-1813)

George Washington was the victim of heroic medicine. He died at Mount Vernon on 14th December 1799, aged 67 years. The illness that ended in him to have aggressive heroic medicine started with  a chill after getting soaked to the skin when he was taking measurements of the front of Mount Vernon. He rapidly fell ill with fever and inflammation of the throat, which may have been peritonsillar abscess or even epiglottitis.

The methods of Dr Rush were highly influential on the doctors of the day. When the president fell ill three doctors were sent for. These were, his own physician, Dr James Craig, Dr Gustavus Brown, a physician with a good diagnostic reputation, and Dr Elisha Dick. He was treated with blistering, enemas and four blood-lettings. Dr Dick was against the excessive blood-letting and advised performing a tracheotomy (an operation to make an opening in the throat to by-pass the obstruction to his breathing), but the other two over-ruled him. He was given further blistering poultices and purged with Calomel. 

Realising that he was going to die, George Washington thanked all three doctors before lapsing into coma and death.

The components of heroic medicine
The aim of the heroic approach was to remove the excessive bad humours that were causing illness. 
These humours were thought to be the four vital fluids that were associated with the four major organs of the body. They were also associated with the four elements of earth, air, fire and water, and the four qualities of cold, hot, dry and wet. These also made up the four temperaments of sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic.

The diagram shows the inter-relationships that were taught. So you can see that sanguine people had an excessive amount of blood, which was wet and hot. Choleric types had excessive yellow bile and were angry. Melancholic types had too much black bile and tended to be depressed and gloomy. And phlegmatic types mad excess phlegm and had respiratory troubles, which they phlegmatically put up with. 

The interrelationship between the elements, the qualities and the humours

The four temperaments

blood was associated with the heart and circulation
phlegm was associated with the lungs and respiratory passages
yellow bile was associated with the liver
black bile was associated with the spleen

to treat these excessive humours the following treatments were used:

  • bleeding to remove blood. The word exsanguinate, meaning to drain of blood comes from this concept.
  • emesis to cause vomiting to get rid of yellow bile. It would be observed that when vomiting was induced bile would often come up.
  • purgation to cause evacuation of the bowels, to get rid of black bile. This would be done with purgatives (laxatives) and enemas.
  • blistering with poultices to get rid of phlegm
  • diaphoresis or the inducement of a perspiration reaction to get rid of phlegm

In practice, however, patients were often given a mix of treatments to get rid of all humours. Thus they could be bled, blistered, purged and made to vomit. If that didn't bring improvement blistering or diaphoresis could be added. It is likely that different doctors and their own favoured approaches and combination of treatments.

Virtually any condition was considered treatable with these methods. In days when people died from all manner of infections heroic treatment would probably hasten many people to an early grave, yet since these methods were advocated and practiced by the medical profession, death of a patient would have been attributed to the virulence of the bad humours causing the illness and not the ministrations of the heroic doctor.

Phlebotomy, the art of Bleeding
Over the centuries a whole art of phlebotomy  developed. The word comes from the Greek phlebo, meaning blood vessel and -tomy, meaning incision or cutting into. A whole series of different points of the body were delineated, specifically so that bleeding certain veins could drain a part that was causing pains.

In general it would be a vein that was opened, not an artery. A vein is a blood vessel that returns blood from the body to the heart. Opening a vein would result in blood flowing out to be collected in a cup of dish. An eatery is a blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to the tissues, so that opening one would result in blood spurting out forcefully with every beat of the heart. The patient could quickly bleed to death if an artery was opened. 

                                Points for blood-letting, Field book of wound medicine, 1517

A range of instruments were used for phlebotomy.

The lancet
One of the foremost medical journals in the world is the British journal The Lancet, which was founded in 1823 by Thomas Wakley, and English surgeon. It is named after this instrument used for bleeding a patient.

A lancet is a double edged surgical instrument with a sharp point. They usually had wood or ebony handles. They were used to nick and cut into a vein. 

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries physicians and surgeons used spring lancets. These were little gadgets that were spring-loaded so that the blade could be released quickly to slash along the vein.

Doctors prided themselves on the skill with which they performed their phlebotomy. It was considered good practice to open a vein along its length for a half inch, rather than cutting across it. The reason is that if the vessel was cut along it would bleed, but it would after a time, with pressure applied, sea itself. A cut across vein would continue to bleed and would not seal itself off. It would be harder for the cut across vein to heal and the dressings used would have to be bulkier. essentially, a physician who could control the bleeding by skilful phlebotomy would garner a good reputation while the clumsy phlebotomist would accrue a less favourable reputation and would be much less sought after.

One of only three known photographs of blood-letting. Taken c 1860, from The Burns Archive

The fleam
This was an instrument used by both veterinary surgeons and doctors, for many treated both humans and animals. It consisted of several blades of different sizes and of different shapes. They often had a thumb plate so that the blade could be controlled by it. 

A three bladed fleam

This was a technique using a device called a scarification. These were much in vogue at the turn of the 19th century. Many were English in design and consisted of a brass box containing a dries of spring loaded blades which could be released to slice through the skin and veins. The depth of the cut could be controlled. The lever was pulled back to lock the springs, then the box was placed on the skin and at a push of the button the blades were released.

This 'scientific' looking device made bleeding an easy matter, since it would be bound to produce blood. It could be used on younger people with the blades not cutting too deeply.

French designed scarifications were much more elegant looking, contained in ornate circular boxes. 

Bleeding receptacles
Most doctors carried their own bleeding bowls, usually pewter ones which were measurable in ounces, so that a half pint, a pint or however many were to be taken, could be easy measured. 
When a scarification was used a cup of glass, metal or horn  would be placed over the bleeding points to accumulate the blood. Sometimes a cup would be used with a bulb at one end so that suction could be applied to draw the blood out to accumulate in the cup.

In days gone by doctors were somewhat derogatorily referred to as leeches. This is a good example of the way that names become changed and slip into common parlance. In fact in Anglo-Saxon England the Anglo-Saxon word for a physician was Laece, which became leche. Later i was assumed to be leech.

King Alfred the Great (849-899 AD) ordered all medical texts to be translated from Latin into English. As a result the medical textbooks came to be called leech books. Further, physicians were by law entitled to claim a leech fee for professional services.

Most doctors would have a covered leech jar in their office

The application of leeches to reduce bruising has been practiced since antiquity. The writers Theocritus advocate them in the second century BC, Nicander wrote about them a century later, as did Horace in the first century BC.

Doctors kept a supply of leeches in a jar or bottle. They would be applied to a fresh bruise and would suck up to a drachm of blood. The results around bruises to the eyes were remarkable. 

The leech is basically a tubular creature that looks the same at both ends. The head end, however, has teeth which it fastens onto the skin with. Doctors would use a leech-glass to apply them. A leech would be held delicately by the tail and inserted into the glass tube or leech-glass. The skin would be cleansed as well as possible then the glass applied to encourage the leech onto the exact site. They were not always keen to bite and latch on, so the skin was often moistened with some milk or cream. A healthy leech would remove about a fluid drachm of blood. 

This comes from the Greek for vomiting. These were given when there was ingestion of poison of any sort. Indeed, this is still done today in cases after deliberate or accidental overdoses. 

Simple remedies to provoke vomiting include mustard or salt water. A doctor would preside ipecacuanha or tartar emetic. 

Tartar emetic was a salt derived from tartaric acid with potash and antimony. It could be grandly known as tartrate of antimony and potash. It would come in the form of colourless crystals that dissolve rapidly in water to produce an odourless liquid that tasted sweet and metallic.

It could also be given as 'antimony wine,' produced by dissolving forty grains of tartar emetic in a pint of sherry. 

The dose given was two grains of tartaric emetic dissolved in water. If the wine was given, then the dose was a fluid ounce. A vomiting reaction would occur in twenty minutes to half an hour.

Tartar emetic was also given in lower doses, insufficient to produce vomiting, in cases of chest infection and pneumonia. Five drops of the antimony wine would be given together with effervescing ammonia mixture. 

Laxatives are drugs or fruits that produce a fairly gentle evacuation of the bowel. Purgatives have the same effect, but are much more aggressive.

Calomel, a mercury based drug was a multi-purpose purgative. For more information, see the posts on Dr Rush's Bilious Pills and A Primer about some of the drugs a doctor could make up.

These are methods of administering a fluid into the rectum. There were various types of enema used, depending upon the purpose they were intended for.

If the aim was to introduce a medicine into the body - almost invariably opium - then a small quantity of fluid was to be used, otherwise it would not be retained. Firstly, starch or arrowroot would be mixed to produce a thick fluid. About two to three ounces would be the amount. To this the opium would be added and mixed thoroughly. When it was cooled it would be taken up into a glass syringe with a rounded nozzle. This would be gentle introduced into the back passage and slowly injected from the syringe. Some doctors would use an India rubber syringe in which an air ball could be used to pump the fluid inside. 

More commonly the enema was given with the purpose of opening the bowels. The enema simplex usually consisted of soap and water or gruel. Te patient was usually lying on the left side. About a pint or a pint and a half would be used. The patient was then advised to attempt to retain the enema for as long as possible in order to get the maximum effect. 

If it was needed to get a vigorous evacuation then a purgative would be mixed with the fluid used. Olive oil or castor oil would be appropriate. Turpentine would have a much greater purgative effect, as would substances like asafoetida or Epsom salts. 

Poultices and Blistering
Poultices were often used on the skin to relieve pain. It was basically a efficient way of applying heat or cold to the intact skin.

The action of a poultice is to produce hyperaemia, that is, redness of the skin  by producing dilation of the skin blood vessels. Often it would produce a very mild counter-irritation and would relieve pain. That basically means you produce one type of discomfort over a wide area which will over-ride pain from another source under the skin. Hot poultices were applied for abdominal colic and for chest complaints like pneumonia, pleurisy and bronchitis.

Various poultices were made - linseed, bread, charcoal, yeast, hemlock, potato or ice.  A sort of porridge consistency paste was made of whichever poultice was used, which was then spread on a piece of calico or linen, leaving an inch edge all round. Anther piece of calico or linen was spread on top of it and this was applied to the part and bandaged in place. It would be left until it completely cooled and replaced after several hours.

Blistering was a far more aggressive treatment made to the skin. This involved using one of the so-called blistering agents to produce first hyperaemia, then damage to the skin in the form of blisters to appear. These were done to produce very powerful counter-irritation, so that the pain of the blisters would over-ride the painful condition being treated. They could be applied in rheumatic and muscular conditions, sciatica, neuralgia, but in true heroic treatment were in fact applied in all sorts of inflammatory conditions of the deeper organs. Thus it could be used for pneumonia, liver problems, diabetes and even heart trouble. 

Mustard plasters were used for mildly painful conditions. At its most basic, mustard paste was applied to brown paper or a piece of linen and then applied to the body and bandaged on. This was used for chills or to reduce swelling on inflamed joints. 

More extreme treatments required the use of the 'blistering fluids,' which were called vesicants, meaning of course, that they produced blisters. Capsicum, made from chilli peppers was commonly used.  Capsicum could be applied directly as a tincture, liniment or ointment. The latter was referred to as chilli paste. It would produce a marked redness and slightly raised area, but not a blister. It was also commonly applied as a blister patch and several of them could be used over an area, such as over a joint.

Blister patches applied to the knee to reduce swelling

If a blister was actually wanted, then but the vesicant that saw most service was the famous Spanish Fly! This was a preparation made from dried, powdered Spanish fly, one of the blistering beetles. It was wrongly classified as Cantharis vesicatorum, but is now  correctly named as  Lytta vesicatioria.

When an area was to be blistered it would be surrounded by vaseline to limit the area. Then it would be painted with the blistering fluid, usually Spanish fly. 

Surrounding skin would be protected with vaseline before applying Spanish fly

As soon as the blistering occurs the area was cleansed gently, trying not to break the blister, because the blistering fluid would really hurt raw tissue under the blister. This could result in the development of an ulcer of the tissue. A clean dry dressing would be applied and changed later. 

Large blisters could be snipped to let the blister fluid out, but then had to be carefully tended to prevent excess friction of the separated skin on the delicate lower tissue. If the treatment was more aggressive, as it often was in heroic medicine, then poultices or warm fomentations might be applied to produce further fluid release into the blistered areas. 

From ancient Rome to modern day medicine
This treatment may sound barbaric, yet nowadays rubefacient treatments are still used to help inflammatory and painful musculoskeletal problems. 

The process of inflammation was known about in antiquity. Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a Roman encyclopaedist writing in the first century AD described the four cardinal signs of inflammation in his book De Medicina. The book was written in Latin, of course, and the signs were - calor (warmth), dolor (pain), tumor (swelling) and rubor (heat). We recognise all of them even today.

Note the last one, rubor, meaning heat. It is from this word that we derive the term ‘rubefacient.’ It means an agent that produces heat. This seems to be the mechanism that many of these rubbing-on preparations work; they produce local heat or irritation of the skin over the area, which then over-rides pain signals from the deeper tissues. This is actually a quite legitimate mechanism of pain relief called ‘counter-irritation.  

Ancient Rome - OVDO - Olympic Victor’s Dark Ointment
Interestingly, an ancient medical treatise from the same epoch in history has recently been unearthed by the British Museum. It details how to make a remedy which in Latin was called ‘fuscum olympionico inscriptum.’ This translates as ‘Olympic Victor’s Dark Ointment.’ This was purportedly a liquid plaster which had cooling and pain-killing effects, and which reduced inflammation and bruising.
 This is a fascinating find, since it shows that sports medicine was alive and well in the ancient world. And an effective pain-killing, anti-inflammatory remedy would have been worth its weight in gold to treat injuries in the gladiatorial circus or in the athletics arena.
This particular treatise was written by the Greek physician Claudius Galenus of Pergamum (AD131-201), who is known to history as Galen. He worked in a gladiator school, later becoming physician to the emperor Marcus Aurelius. He was the first anatomist and the most influential medical writer for a thousand years. He wrote about OVDO and recommended it as being of great benefit for bruises and black eyes.
 Researchers from the British Museum and the University of Copenhagen have reproduced the remedy and tested its efficacy. It consisted of the following ingredients: antimony, cadmia, saffron, frankincense, myrrh, acacia, gummi, opium, pompholyx, aloe indica and raw egg. The various ingredients would help to soothe inflammation and pain, reduce swelling and promote healing, with the egg acting as a binding agent.
 The research team found that when they made it up it would have been too gritty to apply to the eye, but that it could have been applied to the face and other parts of the body. It was a semi-liquid which set like a modern spray-on flexible plaster. Amazingly, it was about 25 per cent as effective as a modern pain-relieving patch.  They also found that it delivered pain relief quite rapidly, but also had a slow-release effect, rather like present slow relief plasters. The antimony was a concern, since repeated use of it could result in toxic levels accumulating in the body, but used short term, it would have a cooling and anti-inflammatory effect.
I mention this here to illustrate that pain relief and anti-inflammation have been prime concerns of doctors across the centuries, and that even in antiquity they had medicines that were effective.

Modern day - chilli cream
We have rediscovered the benefit of capsicum, or chilli paste.Although the concentration used is less, nowadays doctors can prescribe capsaicin cream, a rubefacient which exerts its effect just the same way that it did in the 19th century. 

It is interesting the way that medicine sometimes progresses in circles.

Diaphoresis - make them sweat bullets 
This may sound an apt type of treatment for a frontier doctor of the Old West. The aim was to stimulate a perspiration reaciotn, whereby the person produced copious drops of sweat, like bullets.

In fact, a diaphoretic is any drug that induced mild perspiration. A drug that produced the most profuse perspiration reaction was called a sudorific.

Tartar emetic and Dover's powders were both commonly used diaphoretics. They would be given to reduce the temperature during a fever, because perspiration removes heat from the body. At the beginning of a fever 1/2 drachm of spirit of nitrous ether with 1/2 ounce of acetate of ammonia every three hours would be given to cool a fever. 

Dover's powder was given in feverish colds. 

Nicotine from tobacco and pilocarpine from the leaves of the South American  Jacorandi plant are sudorifics. Pilocarpine produces extensive salivation and perspiration. 

The leaves of the Jacorandi yields the rug pilocarpine

Diaphoretics are no longer given routinely. Indeed only pilocarpine would be used in conditions that have diminished saliva production, such as Sjogren's syndrome (a connective disorder that causes arthritis, dry eyes and dry mouth) sand in post-radiotherapy situations where the saliva production is lost. Pilocarpine also has a role to play in the treatment of glaucoma today. 


Some of Clay More's latest releases:

Redemption Trail published by Western Trail Blazer
- a novelette- novella

Sam Gibson used to be a lawman, until the day he made a terrible mistake that could never be taken back. Since then, he has alternated between wishing there were a way he could redeem himself and believing he deserved punishment. 

He’s about to get both… 


And his collection of short stories about Doc Marcus Quigley is published by High Noon Press

Available at

And his latest western  novel Dry Gulch Revenge was published by Hale on 29th August.