Little or no is documented about drugs in Schenectady County throughout the Nineteenth century. There are few hospital data to evaluate; Ellis Hospital was not based till 1885; and the Schenectady County Medical Society didn’t meet between 1843 and 1869.
We are able to nevertheless, glean some perception into this era from previous newspapers, a beautiful guide on the 134th NY Volunteer Infantry, minutes of the Schenectady Widespread Council, and previous tales from the Efner Middle and the Schenectady County Historic Society library.
Many Nineteenth century People by no means visited physicians. Once they obtained sick they turned to self-help books equivalent to Home Medication: ; or, The household doctor: being an try and render the medical artwork extra usually helpful, by shewing folks what’s in their very own energy each with respect to the prevention and treatment of ailments. Mainly calculated to advocate a correct consideration to routine and easy medicines, which was so fashionable it went via 30 editions.
Newspapers carried ads for every kind of patent medicines promising cures for all kinds of ailments. One was Moffit’s Little Drugs which handled dyspepsia, flatulence, fever, dropsy (edema), and piles. This concoction was ready on Broadway in Schenectady. To its credit score, the Medical Society forbade its members from utilizing nostrums whose elements have been secret, and disciplined two medical doctors whose names appeared on a label endorsing a patent drugs.
The 1860 inhabitants of Schenectady County was 20,000, of whom 9,000 lived within the Metropolis. Twenty per cent have been German and Irish immigrants. There have been 4,500 farms. The Schenectady Locomotive Works employed 600 males. On this pre-automobile period, medical doctors practiced in Mariaville, Scotia, Duanesburgh, Pattersonville, Quaker Road, Sloansville, Esperance, Rexford Flats, West Charlton, and Schenectady.
The primary sickness in Schenectady was tuberculosis, inflicting multiple fifth of all deaths. TB was the most typical explanation for discharge from the Union Military throughout the Civil Struggle, after gunshot wounds. It was not till 1904 that Governor Theodore Roosevelt signed the general public well being regulation that led to the opening of Glenridge Sanitarium in 1907, which began as a summer season camp on Altamont Avenue. The second main explanation for demise was cholera.
Since 1818 a Metropolis Doctor had been chosen by the Widespread Council, to offer medical and surgical take care of all indigent individuals, study canal boat crews for cholera, present small pox vaccinations, and seek the advice of on public well being. Schenectadians appear to have loved higher medical care than the typical American of the time. In his 1858 report back to the Metropolis Widespread Council, the Metropolis Doctor said that “epidemics have not often visited us, besides in a kind a lot much less malignant than in different places.”
There have been a number of elements that contributed to comparatively good well being, together with geographic location, a municipal authorities involved about public well being, proximity to Union Faculty and Albany Medical Faculty, and a few extremely certified physicians. Native authorities was conscious of public well being issues. The Mayor saved a “Ebook of Complaints.”
Residents have been requested to report nuisances deemed to be prejudicial to the well being of the Metropolis. Earlier than the invention of germs by Anton van Leeuwenhook in 1676, and for a substantial time thereafter, it was thought that illness was attributable to “miasma,” noxious exhalation of toxic air from putrid natural matter.
In 1700, French doctor Andry Nicolas (1658-1742) wrote that microorganisms brought on smallpox, however his principle took a long time to achieve credence. The progressive Schenectady Metropolis Council of the Nineteenth century, by cleansing up the filth, undoubtedly improved the general public well being by eliminating breeding websites for mosquitoes, which might unfold yellow fever and malaria, and houseflies, which might carry many infections. This was a long time earlier than flying bugs have been related to illness.
The Civil Struggle was dangerous for the well being of our troopers, twice as many dying from illness than from their wounds. In September, 1862, Schenectady troopers of the 134th New York Volunteer Infantry have been mustered in at Camp Veeder alongside the Schoharie Creek. The primary demise occurred even earlier than the regiment left camp, a 21-year-old recruit. Fifteen extra died on the best way south and 32 died earlier than the primary battle. The reason for demise for many of them was listed as typhoid fever, an infectious illness attributable to the salmonella bacterium. The signs are fever, belly ache, diarrhea, and demise.
New York State was one of many first to require medical licensing, which turned the first goal of the Schenectady County Medical Society. At its founding in 1810, the Society established the Board of Censors, which examined potential candidates on Anatomy, Physiology, Surgical procedure, Midwifery, Materia Medica, Pharmacy, Idea and Observe of Physic, and Chemistry. Some states and territories don’t have any necessities by any means, and anybody may name himself a doctor. Right here, nevertheless, many native physicians have been graduates of Union Faculty, which had departments of chemistry and physics, and with the institution of Albany Medical Faculty in 1838, that they had the chance for a proper medical training.
Nevertheless neither a school diploma nor a medical diploma was required to obtain a license. As late as 1870, Schenectady County was licensing members who had not graduated from a medical faculty, however slightly on the premise of the examination of the Society’s Broad of Censors.
Given the primitive stage of medical information in New York State within the 1860s, what distinction did it make to the flexibility of physicians to follow successfully? And what affect did the Civil Struggle have on American drugs typically? Even at the moment there have been sure medicine that have been efficient for particular situations, equivalent to colchicine for gout, quinine for malaria, opium for diarrhea, and morphine for ache. All besides opium are nonetheless in use at this time (though different opiates derived from the pure alkaloids discovered within the resin of the opium poppy stay in use).
One other instance of the advance of medication throughout the Civil Struggle was the tip of “heroic remedy.” This age previous remedy concerned bleeding or purging the affected person. This was widespread follow earlier than the Struggle.
George Washington was bled on his demise mattress when he was affected by issues of streptococcal pharyngitis, a remedy that hastened his demise. Bleeding was additionally used regionally. In 1834 the Schenectady Cupboard really useful bleeding for cholera. And Union Faculty Worthy Jonathan Pearson (an early advocate for the formation of a Schenectady Historic Society) wrote in his diary that his doctor bled him.
In 1847, fourteen years earlier than the arrival of the Civil Struggle, Hungarian doctor Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818-1865) started an intensive marketing campaign to persuade surgeons to clean their fingers vigorously previous to surgical procedure, but it surely was many a long time earlier than the world took discover. The Struggle resulted in 1865, the yr of his demise, and by no matter coincidence, it was that very yr that Sir Joseph Lister (1827-1912) of England revealed a paper that careworn the significance of antiseptic surgical environments, and the yr that Abraham Lincoln could have died for lack of awareness of correct medical remedy. Lister’s recommendation unfold all through Europe pretty shortly, however far more slowly in the USA. (Listerine is called for Lister).
For much too lengthy in mid-Nineteenth century Schenectady, the follow of “homeopathy” was rife. The time period was coined within the early 1800s by its founder, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) of Germany. A primary tenet of homeopathy is “like cures like.” For instance, a tiny quantity of espresso may supposedly treatment insomnia.
One other tenet was that the extra dilute an alleged treatment, the stronger impact it’s going to have on the physique. Hahnemann’s college students introduced homeopathy to the USA the place it prospered and competed with conventional drugs. A whole bunch of homeopathics volunteered to serve within the Medical Corp throughout the Civil Struggle, however their provide was declined by President Lincoln. In 1900, there have been a whole lot of homeopathic hospitals and 22 homeopathic medical colleges.
For a few years, homeopathic physicians could have had higher outcomes with their dilute cures, which most likely may at the very least do much less hurt, than conventional physicians with their “bleed, em and purge, em” therapies. In 1862 the Schenectady Night Star and Occasions carried an commercial from Homeopathic Doctor Dr John V. Riggs “giving particular consideration to personal and power illness together with the quite a few class requiring the usage of electrical energy for a speedy treatment.” However when the Medical Society reorganized in 1870, its by-laws said that “none however common physicians could also be members.”
Schenectady was lucky in having a number of distinguished physicians throughout the Nineteenth century. One was Dr. James Van Ingen, Union Faculty Class of 1840. He went to France for superior coaching and have become an skilled at orthopedics, and his scientific articles have been cited in medical textual content books. He served with the 18th Infantry, New York Volunteers throughout the Civil Struggle, and likewise served a number of years as Metropolis Doctor. His grandfather, Dr. Dirck Van Ingen, born in Holland, was the Commander of the Continental Military Hospital on Lafayette Road and was a founding father of Union Faculty.
Van Ingen, the grandson, was a big man, 6-foot, 3 inches tall, who weighed over 300 kilos. He was mentioned to be an eccentric with a nasty mood and had quite a few squabbles, a number of of which led to fist fights. He was a well-recognized determine round city, carrying a beard, cape, and broad-brimmed hat, and infrequently carried a whip or a gun.
Dr. Van Ingen would generally be referred to as for a second opinion by the household of a affected person present process homeopathic remedy from a sure Dr. Swit. Dr. Van Ingen would name for all homeopathic medicines prescribed by Dr. Swit, drink them down on the spot, and declare to the affected person and his household “there you might be, not a little bit of efficiency in all that drugs.” Dr. Swit obtained his revenge nevertheless; he gave all of his sufferers an unlabeled, undiluted bottle of ipecac (an emetic, which induces vomiting), with the instruction to take one drop in water as soon as weekly.
The following time Dr. Van Ingen consulted on a affected person of Dr. Swit he swallowed all of his competitor’s supposedly “impotent” drugs, turned violently ailing, and misplaced portion of his 300 kilos.
Pictures, from above: Joseph Lister requires an antiseptic spray previous to surgical procedure courtesy Bettmann/CORBIS; Surgical suite, mid-Eighties; and Medical devices, mid-Eighties.
James M. Strosberg, M.D. wrote this essay for the Schenectady County Historic Society Publication, Quantity 54. Develop into a member of the Society on-line at schenectadyhistorical.org.