First, I just want to thank Delilah for having me on her blog. I went to the RT Booklover’s Convention in May in Kansas City. Not only did I get to hear Delilah present on a panel, I got to eat some great BBQ.
My first three historical romances are about people in the 1880s. It just sort of happened that way. When I started writing, I didn’t find modern times to be all that romantic (I’ve changed my mind since then). However, in choosing a historical setting, I wanted a time period when folks were modern enough that I could identify with them, while getting to dress my characters in lovely and dashing clothing. Corsets, stockings, and waistcoats, oh my!
Then, I got to know Americans in the second half of the nineteenth century. Let me tell you, they were as nutty as peanut brittle, despite masquerading as genteel, thoughtful, refined Victorians. Their ideas on medicine and health would be funny if some of them hadn’t been so harmful. OK, they’re funny anyway. Let’s start with the truly clueless.
You’ve probably all heard about “female hysterics” and the weekly “pelvic massages” that doctors gave their patients. Haven’t you? Step right up and let the good doctor charge your husband his hard-earned money to bring you to hysterical paroxysm (orgasm). Dr. Swift in California made convenient home visits, rather than making suffering ladies take a trip to the office :
((This work has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights. Published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US.)
For this affliction—classified by too many symptoms to note here—women could also be put away in a mental asylum against their will by well-meaning family members. I’d take the pelvic massages over the asylum. In 1883, British Dr. Granville developed the “perceteur” or mechanical vibrator, and the rest, as they say, is history.
For something more serious, take a look at these incredibly effective drops for instantly curing toothache:
(This work has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights. Published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US.)
I bet people started having toothaches quite often and decided to skip a trip to the dentist in favor of a trip to the drug store, or “druggist.” Speaking of which, Bayer had a Heroin brand of cough medicine, containing diacetylmorphine as suppressant. By the turn of the century, Bayer was producing a ton of heroin per year, as well as a ton of heroin addicts. Those crazy fun nineteenth-century people!
(Public domain image)
Mrs. Winslow was purportedly somehow in the medical profession when she created her Soothing Syrup, good for animals and people. Good for what, I’m not sure, as it contained morphine and ammonia (which we now commonly use as a cleaning agent), among other delicious ingredients. For decades, moms gave it to their babies to soothe colic and teething. By 1911, in the U.S., the AMA labeled Mrs. Winslow’s syrup as a baby killer, not a soother. Pity because the scene in one advertisement sure looks all “Norman Rockwell” with the mom and kids in bed reading together. You can find the ad image all over the Internet by searching for Mrs. Winslow’s syrup; it’s owned by the National Library of Medicine/Science Photo Library, but here’s an image of a surviving bottle:
Someone had fun licking the opiate out of that bottle.
Anyway, I love these people. The late nineteenth-century was a time of great invention, along with, as you can tell, a lot of quackery. While they were busy drugging each other, they also created typewriters, telephones, and cross-country trains, all featured in my books, An Improper Situation, An Irresistible Temptation, and the third story that is still stuck in my PC at 55,000 words. We’ll leave a discussion of the benefits of lobotomies and tobacco smoke, along with the interesting uses of electricity (“Ow,” said the man with the electric belt strapped to his, um, privates) until next time.
It’s been great visiting with you. Please stop by my site to learn more about my other books and a bit of history at http://www.sydneyjanebaily.com.
An Improper Situation by Sydney Jane Baily
Charlotte should be the catch of Spring City, CO. But she cloaks her identity behind her male pen name. She won’t risk heartbreak, then a stranger arrives. Boston lawyer Reed Malloy has a mission—deliver two orphaned children to their cousin. He’s not prepared for Charlotte’s irresistibility, or her flat-out refusal to raise her kin. Sinister forces and scorned women conspire to keep them apart.
It’s available in print and ebook from Amazon, and in digital form everywhere else ebooks are sold.
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