Published in 1910.
Written by Lyman, Fenger and Belfield

I got this book from my dad for my birthday. It is by far the coolest birthday present I've ever received from him, even though he didn't realize its worth.

I found it on a bookshelf at his house. He keeps a pretty rustic decor, and this book was pretty much part of the ambience. He has no idea where he got it from. My father was never much of a reader, and as his eyesight is failing in his old age, he has no intention of starting now. So this book that I now hold (oh so carefully) in my hands was merely a decoration for his house. As soon as he realized that I found the contents to be of interest, he opted to give it to me as a early birthday present. Score.

And oh, what a piece of pulp it is. There's a certain warmth in the soul that you get from holding a book that's close to a century in age. It's in the way you hold your breath as you turn each dry, yellowing page, as if you're afraid that breathing wrong will cause this treasure to disintegrate. At nearly six inches thick, it even has the bonus of being able to be convincingly referred to as a "musty old tome".

Old books are beautiful, and this one is no exception. The cover is a faded brown, hard and sturdy. The book itself is built like a tank, especially the binding. If you look at it from the side, you can see scattered splotches of bluish-green from where mold had grown and died on it over the years. The only clue that I had inside the book to tell its age was a hand-scribbled note, written in pencil, on the very first page:

                Lela Hackler
                        June 4, 1928 on
I traced my finger lovingly over the pencil marks carelessly left inside the book over 75 years ago. I can't help but wonder who Lela Hackler was, and what happened on that day. Was it a doctor's appointment? A romantic liason of sorts? Maybe an anniversary? I'll never know.

I love old books.

An internet search revealed that the book was published in 1910, placing it quite squarely in the public domain. Hell, a publishing date like that means that this sucker has probably told Webster 1913 to get off of his lawn on a couple of occasions.

But enough of the booklust. The truly interesting part of this musty old tome is the fact that in 1910, to be frank, we knew fuck-all about medicine. Seriously. The medical knowledge presented is sometimes hilarious, sometimes shocking, and sometimes just sad. Let's take a little look...

Wounds and shock

Of particular note is the entry on gunshot wounds, and the shock that can result from them. Aside from the fact that there is a section describing the types of wounds administered by a cannon, the suggested treatment for a wounded patient who goes into shock is utterly scary.

First, however, a line that would make PETA go crazy:

Many interesting experiments upon animals illustrate the mechanism of shock in the human subject. Thus we may expose the heart of a frog and observe that it continues to beat regularly and quietly. If, however, a leg of the frog be crushed with a hammer, the motion of the heart is arrested at once.

What a waste of good frog's legs.

Treatment: The prime object of treatment is to strengthen the beating of the heart. If the shock be caused by a bodily injury, the strength of the heart's action can be increased by the use of two remedies -- ammonia and alcohol... ... Alcohol should be given in the shape of whisky, brandy or wine ; a tablespoonful of one of these liquors may be administered in water or milk every twenty minutes until the pulse becomes stronger and the patient shows some sign of reviving. If vomiting occur, the whisky or brandy should be mixed with an equal bulk of milk and injected into the rectum. In severe cases, the stimulating effect of these remedies can be most rapidly obtained by injecting whisky or ether under the skin with a hypodermic syringe.

Oh, it gets better. There's even another line to make PETA members cringe.

In desperate cases, extraordinary measures are sometimes required to tide the patient over... ...It is a general principle that the heart is stimulated to contraction by the presence of blood within it; this can be readily shown by removing the heart from a dog, for instance, and laying it upon the table, where it will continue to beat for a number of minutes, but finally become quiet. If we now inject some warm blood into the cavity of the heart, the organ begins to beat again with renewed vigor. This principle can be applied in various ways to stimulate the failing part of a patient suffering from a shock. One of these ways is the injection of warm blood into the vessels of the patient -- an operation known as transfusion... ...To perform it, fresh blood is drawn from a bystander or from an animal, and briskly whipped with a bunch of clean straws until all the stringy part -- the fibrine -- has been seperated from the rest of the blood and adheres to the straw. The part of the blood which remains liquid is then introduced into the arm of the patient.

I can't help but imagine some guy standing over a gunshot victim. "Bill? You're ok, Bill. I know you've been shot, but we're going to shoot you up with some Jack Daniel's and ether, and you'll be just--hold up. BOB! GET THAT GOAT OVER HERE, WE'RE GONNA LOSE THIS GUY!!!"

Stone in the Bladder

Men, you may want to look away from this part. After a discussion about how kidney stones can lodge in the bladder and build up deposits to form a stone up to the size of a walnut, we're treated to this little gem:

Although this is the way in which most stones are formed in the bladder, yet any foreign object may serve as a nucleus around which layers of crystalline matter will be deposited, so as to form a bladder-stone. Thus straws, hairpins, pipestems and similiar objects which have been used by the patient in the unnatural gratification of the sexual appetite, sometimes slip into the bladder and remain there, constituting the nucleus around which a stone is subsequently formed.


Treatment-- ...Until recently, stones were removed from the bladder by a cutting operation, called lithotomy, whereby the bladder was opened and the stone removed by a strong forceps-pincers. This was a serious operation, sometimes causing the death of the patient, and always confining him to the bed for several weeks. One of the greatest advancements in modern surgery consists in the introduction of an operation whereby the stones can be, in most cases, removed from the bladder without the use of the knife, and without injuring the parts concerned. This operation is called lithotrity -- stone crushing -- and is accomplished by the introduction of a pair of strong forceps into the bladder through the urethra. The stone is crushed as it lies in the bladder, and the fragments are washed out through a large catheter.

I have one thing to say to this: I am very glad that I don't live in a time where one of "the greatest advancements in modern surgery" involves having a pair of strong forceps "introduced" to my urethra.


This is a serious, usually a fatal, affliction... ...Up to the present time, we are in ignorance as to what part of the body is at fault in this disease.

Yep. Diabetes was a mystery in 1910, and if you developed it, you had naught but a very painful death to look forward to. They knew enough then to exclude sugars and starches from the diet, but there was precious little treatment available. They do, however, suggest the following:

Opium - - - - - - - 10 grains
Tannic Acid - - - - 3 drachms
Tincture of Ergot - 6 ounces
Mix, take a teaspoonful four times a day.

This is only a few examples of the fun things that can be found in this book. I've had fun thinking about the idea that ninety-five years from now, people will think of the medical technology we have today as being just as hilariously quaint as we do of the medical technology of 1910.

I wanted to share in the fun of this book, but I don't trust any delivery services enough to mail it about. So I came up with a different kind of game. If anyone wants to know what the medical professionals of 1910 thought about a disease or affliction, /msg me, and I'll do my best to look it up and update this node with the requested information.

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