History from
the Bottom Up

Ad(s) Absurdum

I’m deep into image research for an upcoming book, and have been trawling old periodicals for advertisements. Here are some of my favorites–probably none of which I can use in my book, but I felt they deserved honorable mention here.

I love her come hither look.

I love her come hither look.

From 1928, during Prohibition. Implied here is that whiskey was the go-to medication for colds and flu

From 1928, during Prohibition. Implied here is that whiskey was the go-to medication for colds and flu

From 1892: Look at the suggestions for who might need a loud whistle: ladies in the country, gold diggers, emigrants, cyclists

From 1892: Look at the suggestions for who might need a loud whistle: ladies in the country, gold diggers, emigrants, cyclists

This and the next one remind me of that carnival scene in Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang

This and the next one remind me of that carnival scene in Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang

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Well, no-duh that Coca-Cola is marketed to the weary and despondent and people with mental exhaustion--it used to contain cocaine (which was legal)

Well, no-duh that Coca-Cola is marketed to the weary and despondent and people with mental exhaustion–it used to contain cocaine (which was legal)

Picture 5

A Powerful Punch

In 1863 a French chemist and patent medicine maker named Angelo Mariani combined wine and coca and called it Vin Mariani. The combination of cocaine and alcohol must have packed a powerful wallop. The “tonic wine” became extremely popular for “overworked men, delicate women,” and even “sickly children.”

Ulysses S. Grant drank the cocaine-enhanced tonic. So did President William McKinley and Queen Victoria.

Mariani sent cases of his health tonic to celebrities, asking in return only that they send him a picture of themselves along with a … Read more

The Dreaded Sweate (A Re-posting)

Henry, Duke of Suffolk, who died of the Sweats

Last week while I was watching the PBS miniseries Wolf Hall, my son happened to wander in during a particularly sad scene and, immediately intrigued, asked me what was going on. Without spoiling it for you if you haven’t seen it, or read the book, I’ll just say that I explained to him that someone had died of sweating sickness. He had never heard of it. I thought I’d re-post this blog that I wrote four years ago, in case there are others who might be interested in learning more about this awful and mysterious disease.

[caption … Read more

New England Swing

This past Friday and Saturday I had two days of fun-time author stuff. On Friday I was on an author panel at the School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI) annual conference. Here’s our panel in action:

From left to right, Marc Tyler Nobleman, Erin Dionne, Melissa Stewart, Sarah Brannen, Meghan McCarthy, and me.

Here … Read more

Authorizing

Tomorrow, April 10th, I’m going to be on an author panel in Providence, Rhode Island at the annual conference of SLRI–School Librarians of Rhode Island. My fellow panelists include Melissa Stewart, Sarah Brannen, Erin Dionne, Meghan McCarthy, and Marc Tyler Nobleman, and our moderator is Susannah Richards. Our panel is called “Finding the ARC in Facts and Fiction.”

And on Saturday, April 11th, I’ll be in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, signing books at the  … Read more

Hey, Doll

Wellcome Images

In my last couple of posts, I discussed how the Christian church used to forbid physicians from cutting into bodies, which left them with few diagnostic tools besides examining urine and feeling pulses. Traditional Chinese medicine took it a step further. From about the 1700s to the 1950s, aristocratic ladies (or their servants) remained hidden behind a curtain. The doctor would hand over a “diagnostic doll” and the woman, revealing just her hands through the curtain, would point to the place on the … Read more

Author Visit

Last week I spent the day at West Rock Author’s Academy School in New Haven, CT. Here’s what greeted me in the entryway:

and along my way to the library:

I did three presentations, to groups from pre-K through fourth grade. The kids were so interested and enthusiastic, and well prepared with questions. We talked about research, the revision process, and where a writer gets her ideas, and, with the younger kids, I enlisted volunteers who donned costumes and performed the roles … Read more

A Hand on the Pulse

In my last post, I discussed the limited diagnostic options that were available to physicians, who spent a lot of time examining urine and taking pulses. As a follow up to the examining urine series, here is a series showing patients having their pulses taken. Part of me wishes doctors still dressed like this.

 … Read more

The Flask at Hand

Medieval and Renaissance-era physicians were forbidden by the Church to cut into a body, living or dead. That distasteful work was left to the barber surgeons. So in order to diagnose a patient’s problem, physicians couldn’t do much besides checking the patient’s pulse and examining the person’s “output,” i.e., his urine (and, occasionally, poop).

I’ve been doing image research for a book, and it’s extraordinary how many pictures you stumble across of physicians examining urine. Have a look:  … Read more

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