dogs, Hiccups in History, research, Uncategorized, US history

Old Medicine, Unfortunate Animals, and the Evils of the AMA

Hiccups in HistoryFor a recent freelance project, I found myself reading through scores of old articles about medical advancements. It’s been fascinating to see the discoveries of the latter half of the 19th century, and how the discovery of antiseptics, vaccines, and anesthesia wiped out so many of mankind’s scourges, causing the life expectancy to skyrocket. In fact, from 1900 through 1930, the death rate in the United States was slashed by half. Tuberculosis, Diptheria, and Cholera were some of the greatest killers, and to have them reduced by vaccinations was truly a Godsend.

Just as with today’s medicine, animals were the unfortunate recipients of many procedures that would later be tested on humans. While a necessity, it is still sad. And, in some cases, a bit ridiculous. After all, sometimes you just have to laugh in order not to cry.

One such account was relayed by an old doctor, Lewis A. Sayre, upon his retirement in 1897. In the days before X-rays, rather more inventive methods were employed to determine what was going on in someone’s insides. The good Dr. Sayre spoke of witnessing a remarkable demonstration by a famous surgeon, Dr. Senn, at a meeting of the American Medical Association.

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Image from page 315 of “Yours with all my heart : her own story, as told by the beautiful Italian gazelle-hound Fairy” (1904): https://flic.kr/p/otrPd3.

With colleagues gathered all around, Dr. Senn proceeded to pull out a gun and shoot a dog. Then he placed a tube into the animal’s rectum, and inflated the dog’s intestines by pumping hydrogen gas into them. Hurrying to the other end of the dog, the doctor held up a lit match to the dog’s lips. The gas ignited the match, and thus demonstrated that the dog’s intestines had not been perforated.

Whereupon Dr. Senn pulled out his gun and shot another dog. Once again, he pumped the creature’s abdomen full of hydrogen gas, and held a match to the dog’s lips. Since no flame resulted from the lit match, it became clear that this dog’s intestines had been perforated. Then,

“Instantly performing laparotomy on both dogs, Dr. Senn demonstrated that his deductions had been correct and that the test could be used by the profession throughout the country as a test of whether laparotomy ought to be performed when men and women are shot through the abdomen.”

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Image from page 151 of “First-year nursing : a text-book for pupils during their first year of hospital work” (1916): https://flic.kr/p/oeRmQA.

So, I suppose that in addition to being shot, victims of gun violence in the abdomen had also to withstand the ignominy of having a tube of gas pumped into them through their rectums.

Lest you think that meetings of the American Medical Association were seldom this scandalous, then consider another tidbit I came across from the 1938 proceedings of the AMA. One of the scientific reports given involved “the effect of politics on the intestinal tract.”

If today’s politics are any indication, the intestinal tract is quite distressed indeed.

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general wackiness, Hiccups in History, history, reblogged, Uncategorized

Turkeys on the Trail: a Reblog

Hiccups in History

It’s been a while since I regaled you with weird, true tales. What could be more interesting than the history of English turkeys?! Nothing, I daresay! The post is by penandpension.com, the link below.

Turkeys in Boots

No, this is not a bizarre idea for a new Christmas panto! Just a plain, factual statement of what took place in Norfolk in Georgian times.

From the late 16th century, thousands of geese and turkeys were walked the hundred miles from Norfolk to Leadenhall market in London each year. The journey would take three months and the birds wore special leather boots to protect their feet. Geese wouldn’t allow themselves to be shod (hence the contemporary phrase “to shoe a goose” for something difficult), so their feet were dipped in tar and covered with sand.

Read On

general wackiness, Hiccups in History, travel, Uncategorized

The Magic of Spain, Now with Added Babies!

Hiccups in HistoryIn six short weeks I will be returning to Spain, a country I have visited the most in my European travels (just three times, but hopefully more in future years). What better time could there be for reflection and daydreaming?

Think of it … Spain. The very name brings to mind exotic ancient lands and the far-away echo of guitar music. And more, following on the warm, orange-scented breezes.

Whirling flamenco dancers. Sunsets over the ocean. Tapas in picturesque cafes. Baby-jumping in the plaza.

Wait. What?

Yes, it is so. Jumping over babies is apparently a thing in a certain part of Spain. Which brings it squarely into Hiccups in History territory. This series of blog posts celebrates weirdness throughout history. Because my spirit animal is some sort of weird turkey/horse/panther hybrid. Or something.

el_colacho_saltando

By Celestebombin (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

Anyhow. This bizarre–dare I say infantile–event takes place in mid-June each year, just after the Feast of Corpus Christi (the blood of Christ). In the north, near Burgos, lies the village of Castrillo de Murcia. The festival of El Colacho dates back to the early 17th century, when good and evil come alive in what may have its roots in the fusion of Christianity and earlier pagan traditions.

Men dressed in red, with yellow masks, dash through the streets impersonating the devil. They insult villagers and whip them with horsehair. All is fun and games terror and hysteria until the sounds of drums herald the arrival of black-clad good guys–atabalero–who drive out the evil.

cofradia_minerva_03220

By Jtspotau (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

But first babies born the previous year are laid out on mattresses in the street. As the “devils” leap over them they are thought to absorb the infants’ sins, an act which protects them from future misfortune. The villagers hurl invectives at the devils, thus securing for themselves a reprieve from bad luck.

colacho_salto_danzantes_03250

By Jtspotau (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

After a quick spritzer with rose water, the babies are rescued from the mattresses and all is right with the world again. The Catholic Church frowns on the festival, but it continues nevertheless, drawing a growing number of curiosity seekers.

Alas, I will not be around for any baby-jumping festivals when I next travel to Spain. But unusual places appear on the Camino de Santiago as well. During my 2015 trip I came across a village that honors sacred chickens.

Who knows what I will encounter this next time?

 


Sources:

“The Baby Jumping Festival.” Atlas Obscura. Retrieved January 22, 2018. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-baby-jumping-festival.

Khan, Gulaz. “Look Inside Spain’s Bizarre Baby Jumping Festival.” NationalGeographic.com, June 16, 2017. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/europe/spain/el-colacho-baby-jumping-festival-murcia-spain/.

ancient history, books, cats, general wackiness, Hiccups in History, literature, nonfiction, research, review, Uncategorized, US history, writing

Cats in History

Hiccups in HistoryAlthough Reddit can be, in the immortal words of Obi Wan Kenobi “a wretched hive of scum and villainy,” it is also the source of historical amusement, if you are selective about the subreddits you follow. One of my favorite is Old News, which shares interesting old newspaper articles on various and sundry subjects. A couple cat-related ones I discovered lately earn the Hiccups in History designation.

Forgive the yellow highlights, which I can’t seem to get rid of. These items are from the California Digital Newspaper collection, which lists sources from 1846 to the present.

Capture

Since I have a currently untitled Icebound tale in the works that is set in 1910’s Alaska, this one caught my eye. I wonder about how H.J. Coleman’s cat scheme turned out. It is rather ingenious, though how in the world did warmth-loving cats fare in Alaska?

Capture2

And then there is this one, in which cats are meant to combat “great armies of gophers.” Did they put on armor and sally forth with tiny little swords, guns, and tanks? I’m reminded of this infamous gif:

giphy

Currently, I’m almost finished reading a wonderful nonfiction history of cats. I haven’t been able to find much in the way of real history about animals so I was thrilled to find Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat by L.A. Vocelle of http://www.thegreatcat.org. The book relies on artwork and literature primarily to fill in the historical gaps, primarily in the ancient time periods, and even through the Middle Ages. Artwork and literature are useful in that they demonstrate the presence of cats and how they were conceived of, at least by the social class that is depicted, and they are particularly pleasant to examine–not always the case with books, unfortunately!

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The author also makes use of some older histories of domestic animals published in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s always a bit perilous to write a complete history of anything because an author opens herself up to claims of “but you forgot this and that” which I suppose I am super sensitive to, but this book seems to carry it off with confidence.

It is written in engaging language and focuses on particularly interesting–and sometimes tragic–instances and individuals important to feline history. It proceeds chronologically and while it is well-written, it is also largely unbiased, another important feature of historical writing. Relevant photos and pictures are provided, a timeline, lists of tombs and cemeteries in Egypt to do with cats, and a voluminous references section. In short, this book is a giant YES and will be included in my future historical writings.

If you have any other references for me to check out please feel free to leave them in the comments.

 

general wackiness, Hiccups in History, history, humor, reblogged, Uncategorized, US history

Hiccups in History, the Drunken Cow Edition

Behold, gentle reader! Here you witness the start of an intermittent series of blog posts designed to feature those subjects that are dear to my writerly heart. Namely, the quirks of history, which is called, descriptively enough, Hiccups in History.

Hiccups in History

The very first of such posts is a reblog by TwistedSifter. It’s just too good to pass up. More hiccups to come soon!

Photograph via Library of Congress In this old law enforcement photo from 1924, we see a police officer trying on a ‘cow shoe’ used by moonshiners to disguise their footprints. In the United States alcohol was banned from 1920-1933 in an era known as Prohibition. Moonshine (a type of strong, homemade whiskey) was often…

via Cow Shoes Used by Moonshiners During Prohibition to Disguise Their Footprints — TwistedSifter