History of Medicine Blog
The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2019-2020 travel grants. If you are a researcher, artist, or activist who would like to use sources from the Rubenstein Library’s research centers for your work, this means you!
The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, the History of Medicine Collections, the Human Rights Archive, and the Archive of Documentary Arts, will each award up to $1,500 per recipient ($2,000 for international applicants to the Human Rights Archive) to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein Library also awards up to $1,500 for individuals who would benefit from access to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history collections through the Harry H. Harkins, Jr. T’73 Travel Grant.
The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, North Carolina, and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers listed above.
More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 31, 2019. Recipients will be announced in March 2019.
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Please join us on November 1 and 2 for Arabic Medicine Conquers Latin Europe, 1050-1300: Methods and Motives, a symposium held at Duke University.
Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, 5:00pm
Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library Room 153
5:00PM: Exhibit tour
With curators Sean Swanick and Rachel Ingold
5:30PM: Keynote lecture
Cristina Alvarez Millán of the UNED (Madrid), “Arabic Medicine in the World of Classical Islam: Growth & Achievement”
Reception to follow
Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.,
Carpenter Conference Room, Rubenstein Library Room 249
10AM-3PM Symposium featuring:
Eliza Glaze (Coastal Carolina University)
Francis Newton (Duke)
Michael McVaugh (UNC – Chapel Hill)
Joseph Shatzmiller (Duke)
The event coincides with an exhibit, Translation and Transmission an Intellectual Pursuit in the Middle Ages: Selections from the History of Medicine Collection on display in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room from October 16, 2018 – February 2, 2019.Avicenna. Libri V. canonis medicinae … Arabice nunc primum impressi. Romae : Typ. Medica, 1593.
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Post contributed by Wenrui Zhao, a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Columbia University and a History of Medicine Collections travel grant recipient
What did people know about the anatomy of our eyes and the causes of eye diseases in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? How did they understand vision and think about the sense of sight? My dissertation “Dissecting Sight: Eye Surgery and Vision in Early Modern Europe” tries to answer these questions. Thanks to a generous History of Medicine travel grant, I could consult the wonderful collections at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to support my project.
The absolute highlight of my visit is the book Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst by the German surgeon Georg Bartisch, published in 1583 in Dresden. It is one of the earliest publications on eye diseases and eye surgery, and is written in vernacular German. Bartisch was a man of modest upbringing who never received university medical training, yet he was appointed oculist to the Elector of Saxony late in his life.
Bartisch’s treatise is about the mechanism of seeing, but also enacts an experience of seeing. The most striking feature of this book is the great number of finely-executed illustrations alongside the texts. These woodcuts depict various subjects related to ocular disorders and surgical techniques. The Rubenstein Library has one of the very few hand-colored copies of this treatise. While I have already seen this edition in black and white elsewhere, examining this beautiful hand-colored copy was a very different experience and brought new insights.
Two sets of the illustrations are movable flaps, representing the internal structure of the head and the anatomy of the eye respectively. The red blood vessels, light brown iris, and the meticulous shading and cross-hatching help distinguish different parts of the eye. They evoke the ocular surgical procedure, and prompt the readers to ponder their own faculty of vision when they lift these sheets layer by layer.
Some of the images representing surgical tools were even heightened by gold and silver, such as this pair of scissors, thereby accentuating their intricate and elegant design.
Bartisch’s Ophthalmodouleia represents an emergent interest in the anatomy and physiology of the eye from the late sixteenth century. It also serves as a great example of how medical knowledge could be visualized and communicated at that time.
What is that rash? What should you do if you have a snakebite? Are carrots really good for one’s health? What does chicken pox look like?
Long before WebMD and other online tools existed, popular medicine guides were created and consulted to answer such questions. In the United States, there is a long tradition of such home health guides designed to help the common person diagnose and treat illnesses. These guides, often physician-approved and authored, included ways to prevent illness and injury while offering instructions and remedies.
Home health guides offered laypeople (assuming they could read) information on a range of topics: basic anatomy, symptoms of illnesses, exercises for good health, “cures” by water or electricity, sexual education, and much more. These popular medicine guides continued well into the twentieth century with works like Our Bodies, Our Selves. Such works are still printed today in the digital age.
An exhibit featuring a sample of these popular medicine guides from our History of Medicine Collections is currently on display. You can visit the exhibit What You Can Do Yourself: Home Health Guides in the History of Medicine in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room from July 24 – October 13, 2018.Health Knowledge : A Thorough and Concise Knowledge of the Prevention, Causes, and Treatments of Disease, Simplified for Home Use, vol. 2, (1921).
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Post contributed by Erin Rutherford, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern, 2017-2018
In early 1900s America, an individual seeking relief from myriad ailments could choose from myriad purported treatments. When looking to cure “indigestion, bad breath, loss of appetite, sick headache, and rheumatism,” one could turn to an array of syrups, lozenges, tonics, or tablets. One such product, extremely popular for several decades, was Nature’s Remedy.
The man behind Nature’s Remedy, Augustus Henry Lewis, began his pharmaceutical career as a pharmacist in Bolivar, Missouri. Teaming up with his nephew James Howe, Lewis moved his company to St. Louis in 1901, soon becoming the A.H. Lewis Medicine Co.Nature’s Remedy patent medicine tin. History of Medicine Artifacts Collection, 1550-1980s. Beyer Family Collection Artifacts, 18th century-circa 1935. Received from Dr. and Mrs. Emil C. Beyer. Box 8, Item hbeyer0031.
Tin boxes filled with Nature’s Remedy churned out of the factory. By 1906, the business had grown so much that it moved into “a handsome new building at the corner of Fourth and Spruce Streets.”
Identifier MM0227 Mother Nature – as Health’s Guardian. 1923. Medicine and Madison Avenue, Digital Collection. John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
Advertising campaigns described Nature’s Remedy as “Mother Nature in a pleasant, helpful form – all vegetable and a skillful blend of her own plan of insuring health.” Slightly more descriptive circulars referred to the product as a vegetable preparation that “act[ed] on the stomach, liver, kidneys, and bowels.” Marketing was so rigorous that the company enlisted a composer to produce a tune to popularize Nature’s Remedy. The first chorus from the 1928 sheet music, purchased to be played at home on a ukulele or banjo, reads as follows: “No matter whether you have wealth, Just as long as you have health, You ‘feel like a million!’ If you just wear a great big smile, You are in the latest style, You ‘feel like a million’ But when you wear a frown, And your health is run down, You feel bad, you look sad, At the whole world you are mad! And then you follow nature’s course, Banish all of that remorse, You ‘feel like a million!’”
Item ID AAA7481, Nature’s Remedy digestive aid tablets, Dentyne gum, Doran’s Coffee, Loveland (4 advertisements). Foster & Keisler (Placement Company). Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Archives, 1885-1990s. [1900s-1910s].Item ID BBB4564, Wheat, Cigarettes, Gasene Naphita Soap, Natures Remedy Tablets, Fatima Cigarettes, Fatima Cigarettes, Adams Black Jack Chewing Gum, unknown, Holsum Bread (9 advertisements). Foster & Keisler (Placement Company). Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Archives, 1885-1990s. Undated.
What ingredients did these tablets contain? A chemical analysis conducted on the product in 1923 by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed the presence of burdock, juniper berries, sarsaparilla, mandrake, rhubarb, dandelion, prickly ash, aloes, cascara, and Belladonna root. A write up in JAMA went on to delicately allude to its effects: “The manufacturers of these tablets direct the purchaser to take one every night for a week. They very kindly allow the sufferer (from the effect of the tablets) a few days to recuperate and then suggest that the week of torment be repeated and if this is survived, another few days of rest is allowed before another round of torture and so on ‘until the bowels become strong enough to do their work.’”
Whether of the belief that the product was a nostrum, a placebo, a bonafide cure, or a temporary comfort, the list of contents – and Mr. Clark’s description – make the purpose of the pill clear: It was a cathartic mixture, a purgative, a laxative.
Although some may read the remedy itself as cause for a sour stomach, there is something rather kismet in this tale. Under the full leadership of Mr. Howe, the same “handsome” factory went on to manufacture one of America’s leading brands of antacid tablets.
 A.H. Clark, “Nature’s Remedy Tablets,” JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, March 1919. Quoted in American Medical Association, Propaganda Department, Miscellaneous Nostrums, 5th edition (Chicago: American Medical Association, 1923), 63.
 “A. H. Lewis Medicine Co. Outgrew Its Building,” The Pharmaceutical Era (35), 6 (1906), 639.
 Identifier MM0227 Mother Nature – as Health’s Guardian. 1923. Medicine and Madison Avenue, Digital Collection, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History. Retrieved from https://repository.duke.edu/dc/mma/MM0227
 American Medical Association, Propaganda Department, Miscellaneous Nostrums, 63.
 Waldon, W. Feel Like a Million. St. Louis, Mo.: A. H. Lewis Medicine Co., 1928. Print.
 American Medical Association, Propaganda Department, Miscellaneous Nostrums, 64.
 Ibid., 65.
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Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine CollectionsIvory maniken in the History of Medicine Collection.
An engineer, conservator, and curator walk into a small space; a small space with a micro CT chamber surrounded by rooms that glow red with biohazards signs. What are they doing? Where could they be?
First a bit of background. The History of Medicine Collections here in the Rubenstein Library has a large collection of ivory anatomical manikins. In total, we have 22 ivory manikins, part of the Josiah Charles Trent Collection that was gifted to the University in 1956.Scan of ivory maniken produced by Duke’s Micro CT scanner.
To say these ivory anatomical manikins are cool is an understatement. They are truly fascinating and beautiful. And a bit mysterious. Scholars are not entirely clear on why they were created or their intent, which likely evolved over time. The delicate figures in our holdings average about eight inches in length and were probably initially used for instructional purposes, to help medical students learn human anatomy. But how easy were they to use? Did the didactic intent fall by the wayside as these turned into collectibles? We speculate these were carved in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, but we’re not entirely sure.
With so much interest in the ivory anatomical manikins and so much to learn, we considered what it would take to digitize these to share with a wider audience. Last April, we began to scan these items using Micro CT scanning in Duke’s Shared Materials Imaging Facility (SMiF) – a magical space with lots of heavy equipment (and some rooms that glow red – although not the room where these are scanned).
Scanning the ivory manikins has been a true team effort with much assistance from our friends in Conservation and Justin Gladman, an engineer working in SMiF. We hope to complete scanning by the summer and turn to focusing on processing and uploading files to a site for the world to see. And yes, once this is done, they can be 3D printed. !!!! Stay tuned as we continue to move forward with our project. You can read more on Duke Today and the Preservation Underground Blog.Scan of ivory maniken.
Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Time: 3:00pm to 4:30pm
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library 153
Contact: Rachel Ingold, email@example.com,
RSVP or share via Facebook (optional)
You are cordially invited to a dramatic reading of excerpts from pertinent texts that will bring to life the voices of women and men, past and present, whose perspectives on menopause range from “the historical to the hysterical.” In addition to the readings, individuals are also encouraged to share their own stories and experiences of “the change.”
The reading complements an exhibit, The Change of Life: Menopause and Our Changing Perspectives, on display through July 14 in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room.
Co-sponsored by the History of Medicine Collections and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.
Date: Monday, April 30, 2018
Time: Noon (12 p.m.)
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Room 153, Rubenstein Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold, firstname.lastname@example.org, (919)684-8549
Please join us Monday, April 30th at noon for our next Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series. Raul Necochea, Ph.D., will present Contraception Crossroads: Health Workers Encounter Family Planning in Mid-20th Century Latin America.
Between the 1930s and the 1970s, health workers of different types began to embrace, slowly and selectively, the value of smaller families for all people in the region as well as to become used to new types of contraceptive technologies. What were the circumstances under which physicians, nurses, midwives, and social workers first encountered the use of birth control in Latin America? What they did do to advance and limit the use of contraception? How did they interact with birth control users? The answers to these questions help us better understand the context and the mindsets of people on the forefront of a momentous development: the normalization of family planning in the so-called Third World.
Dr. Nechochea is Associate Professor in the Department of Social Medicine & Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of History at the University North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
All are welcome to attend. Light lunch will be served.
Sponsored by the History of Medicine Collections in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
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This post is contributed by Erin Rutherford, Josiah Charles Trent Intern, History of Medicine Collections.Essays on physiognomy : designed to promote the knowledge and the love of mankind. Johann Caspar Lavater. London: Printed for Thomas Tegg, 1840, pg. 181.
“…there is no limit to the marvelous powers attributed to females” (Pliny, NH, 28.23).
When Pliny the Elder spoke of female powers in his Natural History, he attributed the most marvelous among them to menstrual blood. A menstruating woman could sour crops, tarnish mirrors, blunt razors, kill bees, drive dogs insane, and stave off hailstorms.
How unfortunate that the same womb which, in a woman’s younger years was blamed for such chaos, could be even more problematic in her later life.Glass lantern slide for teaching obstetrics, late nineteenth to early twentieth century. Philadelphia, PA: N.H. Edgerton; Received from George D. Wilbanks, MD and Evelyn R. Wilbanks, Ph.D. History of Medicine artifacts collection, 1550-1980s.
For centuries it was believed that the menses were a means to cleanse poisons from a woman’s blood. When a woman’s menstrual period came to a permanent end, toxins could accumulate and stimulate disease (in addition to a slew of physical and mental conditions). “The Change of Life,” as the cessation was referred to, was the harbinger of both barrenness and wildness, sullenness and excitability, lethargy and hysteria, volubility and melancholy. Pathologized and medicalized, this physiological transition was viewed as anything but a natural, biological process.
The term now widely used to describe this phase – menopause – comes from the Greek words men (“month”) and pausis (“cessation”). Since French physician Charles-Pierre-Louis de Gardanne coined the term in 1821, knowledge about what menopause denotes has grown significantly.The Viavi gynecological plates : designed to educate mothers and daughters concerning diseases of the uterine organs constructed under the supervision of Hartland Law, M.D.; Herbert E. Law. San Francisco : The Viavi Press, 1891
The items in this exhibit trace changing perspectives on menopause – from early proponents who labelled it a debilitating disease to the women who have reclaimed it as an empowering transition. The exhibit aims to make visible the experience of menopause, dispel myths, and encourage public conversation about a topic that has, for too long, been considered taboo. Its curation was inspired by the words of feminist Rosetta Reitz:
“I’m going to pull menopause out into the open, remove the cobwebs, clean it off, and look at it.” 
Curated by Erin Rutherford, Josiah Charles Trent Intern, The Change of Life: Menopause and our Changing Perspectives, runs from March 20 – July 14, 2018, and is on display in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room.
 Menopause: A Positive Approach. Rosetta Reitz (1924-2008). New York: Penguin Books, 1979, c1977, pg. 1.
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Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Room 153, Rubenstein Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold, email@example.com, (919)684-8549
Please join the History of Medicine Collections for our next Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series event. Gerrit Bos, Ph.D., will present
“Moses Maimonides, medical doctor and author: Aspects of his work, medical training, theory, and practice.”
Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, most commonly known as Maimonides, was a 12th century philosopher and physician. Maimonides authored numerous philosophical and medical treatises. In his talk, Professor Bos will cover a short survey of Maimonides’ medical works, his training as a doctor, and some central aspects of his medical theory and practice such as proper regimen, including the sex res non-naturales (six things non-natural), the role of one’s nature, and his wariness to apply bloodletting.
Dr. Bos is Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Martin Buber Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Cologne. His main fields of research are medieval Jewish-Islamic science, especially medicine, medieval Hebrew, and Judeo-Arabic studies.
The event is free and open to the public.
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This post is contributed by Erin Rutherford, Josiah Charles Trent Intern, History of Medicine CollectionsPurified talcum powder, 20th century
Morganton, NC: Spake Pharmacy
Warren Bird Collection Artifacts
History of Medicine artifacts collection, 1550-1980s
There are many extraordinary items in the History of Medicine artifacts collection: Bloodletting fleams, trepanation kits, bone saws, and ivory handled dental tools. But for me, the most magic dwells in the unassuming items that ask us to tell their stories, such as a diminutive paper cylinder measuring 3 ¼ inches in height and 2 inches in diameter. This Kraft brown tube is capped on each side by scalloped-edge paper in dark blue. I fall in love with the simplicity and utility of this object – its design, its size, its weight in my hands. A small amount of its contents, Purified Talcum Powder, remains inside. A label emblazoned across the front declares that the product was dispensed at Spake Pharmacy in Morganton, North Carolina.
The January 1937 edition of The Carolina Journal of Pharmacy heralds the opening of the Mimosa City’s newest drug store: “The Spake Pharmacy is the name of a new drug store which was formally opened in Morganton on Dec. 9 (1936) by Mr. Y. E. Spake. The new proprietor has spent fourteen years in drug work in Morganton, coming to that town from Kings Mountain where he was a partner in the wholesale drug firm of the Mauney Drug Co. The prescriptionist will be Mr. W. P. Phillips, originally from Morehead City, who goes to Morganton from Charlotte where he was connected with J. P. Stowe and Co. The new store, Mr. Spake says, ‘will offer complete prescription service, in addition to maintaining a modern fountain and a complete line of other medical supplies, cosmetics, and other goods.’” At the time of the store’s opening, purified talcum powder could be obtained from a wholesale druggist for approximately 20 to 40 cents per pound.Freeman’s Violet Talcum, 1900s-1910s
Freeman Perfume Co., Cincinnati. Text on reverse explains difference between talcum and face powders. Offer for a sample of Freeman’s Face Powder. For sale by G.E.B. Fairbanks Druggist, Providence, R.I.
Cosmetics Trade Samples and Sachet collection, 1890s-1930s
Talcum powder is a refined powder form of the mineral talc, which rose to commercial popularity during the 19th and 20th centuries. Advertised as ‘thoroughly antiseptic’ and intended for use by the young and old alike, it was generally applied after bathing, shaving, or partaking in outdoor activities. Talcum powder was thought to cool the skin on hot days, sooth irritation, and keep the skin ‘comfortable.’ On babies, it was used to prevent chafing and ‘nappy’ soreness. Adults dusted the powder on their bodies to absorb dampness and neutralize body odors. Advertisements aimed specifically at women promoted its scented quality, proclaiming that talcum powder would keep them ‘dainty’ and fragrant ‘like a newly opened flower’ when essential oils were added to the product – typically rose, lavender or violet. Given its myriad uses, powder-filled tin canisters, glass bottles, and paper cylinders like the one dispensed at Spake Pharmacy, would have been a common sight within the medicine cabinets and on the dressing tables of many American households.Ross, M. (1944). The 1944 Cat’s Tale, Vol. II. Morganton, NC: Morganton High School, 79.
Occupying a small space on North Sterling Street, Spake Pharmacy first operated under the catchphrase, “The little store with the big heart.” In addition to dispensing and delivering prescriptions, they sold fountain drinks, Blue Ridge Ice Cream, and Martha Washington candies. In the early 1940s, Yates Ellis Spake moved his business to a prominent location at the corner Union and Sterling Streets and adopted the iconic slogan, “On the Square.” While the talcum powder cylinder is undated, the presence of this simple slogan on the label indicates that it was dispensed sometime after the move.
Between 1936 and January of 1953, Spake and his team filled over 300,000 prescriptions. A set of these were captured in small 1950s feature, entitled ‘Rx Oddity’: “Yates E. Spake of Morganton sends us a list of three prescriptions filled for a customer recently: (1) 1 bottle of Cortone Tablets, $30; (2) 1 Rx for Terramycin Caps., $14.40; and (3) 1 Rx for an ice cream cone, 5c. ‘I have never experienced anything like this during all my years in the drug business,’ says Yates.”
(September 1946). The Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XXVII(9), 378.
Y.E. Spake appears as the first standing from left.
Under the leadership of J.A. Hurt, Spake Pharmacy moved locations for a third and final time in 1966 to 307 West Union Street. Spake Pharmacy last appears in the Carolina Journal of Pharmacy’s ‘List of Drug Stores’ for Morganton in 1970 with J. A. Hurt, Jr. certified as pharmacist in charge. By 1971, the address was assumed by Burke Pharmacy, Inc.
Happenings of Interest. (January 1937). The Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XVIII(1), 8.Named Manager of Spake Pharmacy. (March 1953). The Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XXXIV(3), 94.
Named Manager of Spake Pharmacy. (March 1953). The Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XXXIV(3), 94
Rx Oddity. (December 1951). The Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XXXII(12), 581.
Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator, History of Medicine Collections
Currently on display in the Josiah C. Trent History of Medicine Room are six engravings from Clemens Kohl, a prolific illustrator and engraver from the eighteenth century. The engravings on display can be found in the work Die Welt in Bildern: vorzüglich zum Vergnügen und Unterricht der Jugend (The World in Pictures: Especially for the Pleasure and Instruction of the Youth) by Joseph Edlem von Baumeister. Published in Vienna in the late eighteenth century, the six-volume set was intended to give a younger audience a sense of the world through realistic images, which were designed by Johann Sollerer and engraved by Kohl.
While the Rubenstein Library does not retain the multivolume work of von Baumeister, we do have six engravings from Die Welt in Bildern that are medically themed and housed as part of the History of Medicine Picture File. The engravings depict different scenarios: Medicine/Physician, Afflictions/Disabilities, Diseases, the Pharmacy, the Hospital, and Death. Perhaps framed at one point, these hand-colored copperplate engravings would have made a stunning conversation piece.
And while you’re visiting the Trent History of Medicine Room, take some time to check out a new rotation of medical instruments and artifacts. From cupping glasses to glass slides with specimens as well as an apothecary boiler and pill roller, hopefully you’ll find an item, or two, to pique your interest.
Post contributed by Sierra Moore, Library Assistant for Research Services
Date: Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Time: 1:30-3:30 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room
Contact: Rubenstein Library front desk, 919-660-5822
As all Hallows’ Eve draws near there are a multitude of reasons why you might traipse through all places dark, gloomy, and strange. Here at the Rubenstein Library your travels will be far less perilous. Nonetheless, we have compiled samples from collections containing chilling texts and photographs certain to both entertain, enchant, and imbibe the type of intrigue you seek. Here is a brief preview of what we have in store:
An early version of our very own Blue Devil mascot lingers before the Chapel.
A copy of Stephen King’s IT, ca. 1986.
From our Postcard Collection, a selection of Halloween postcards.
Black and white images of puppets from Puppets and the Puppet Theater.
Please join us on Tuesday, October 31st from 1:30-3:30 PM for a most festive open house certain to rouse the spirits!
Date: Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Time: 5:00 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, 153 Rubenstein Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold, firstname.lastname@example.org, (919) 684-8549
Please join the History of Medicine Collections for our next Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series event. Todd Savitt, Ph.D. will present Race, Medicine, Authorship and the ‘Discovery’ of Sickle Cell Disease in 1910-1911.
The first two case histories of sickle cell disease (SCD) appeared in the medical literature within three months of each other in 1910 and 1911. The very divergent stories of the first two sickle-cell patients and their physicians are told against the backdrop of a racially divided America and of a highly competitive scientific community. Dr. Savitt’s talk will discuss how race and class affected the discovery of SCD and how credit for the two discoveries were apportioned. Dr. Savitt will also talk about his own “adventures” in tracking down the identities and backgrounds of these first two SCD patients.
Dr. Savitt is a medical historian and professor in the Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.
All are welcome to attend.
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Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator, History of Medicine Collections
In the sixteenth century, printed works depicting early museums and personal collections of physical objects began to emerge. Such collections were curated overwhelmingly by men of a certain standing in society, including a number of physicians. Personal collections included items such as shells, gems and minerals, coins, sculptures, fossils and animals, and more. Rooms showcasing such objects were stuffed with as much as could be displayed, including mounting crocodiles on ceilings and finding a place for the unicorn horn (or rather, the tooth of the narwhal, an arctic whale).
These cabinets of curiosities, or wunderkammer, provided a space for visitors to see objects from the world within one room – objects that were both natural as well as man-made. In many ways, these cabinets of curiosities were precursors to modern day museums, and printed works from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries provide text as well as stunning images of the legacy of wunderkammer.
The History of Medicine Collections has recently acquired a magnificent work of wunderkammer, a work by German physician Michael Bernhard Valentini (1657-1729), titled Museum Museorum, printed in 1714. This three volume set, printed in two volumes, includes catalogs from other such curiosity collections as well as a list of all known museums at the time (of which he notes are around 159). Numerous copper engravings are found throughout the text, including six extra-illustrated engravings printed on blue paper. Along with providing a survey of museums and details on collecting, Valentini also covers topics including animals, plants, minerals, and their medicinal use, along with shells, fossils, physics, and natural philosophy.
These volumes and other printed books related to cabinets of curiosities are available for researchers in the Rubenstein Library.
By the age of 26, John Armstrong Chaloner (1862-1935)—or to his friends, Archie—had amassed a fortune of $4 million and seemed poised to live the privileged life the wealthy elite of New York City enjoyed in the late nineteenth century. In 1897, however, his family had him involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. Chaloner spent the next 22 years fighting to prove his sanity. His papers, a mixture of correspondence, legal documents, and writings by Chaloner himself, offer not only a fascinating portrait of Chaloner but also a snapshot of attitudes toward mental health in the early twentieth century.
In the 1890s, Chaloner became interested in psychological experiments. He believed that he possessed a new sense, which he termed the “X-Faculty.” Among many claims, Chaloner stated that the faculty provided him a profitable stock market tip, would turn his brown eyes gray, allowed him to carry hot coals in his hands unharmed, and caused him to resemble Napoleon.Milwaukee Free Press, Oct. 1911
Chaloner’s family regarded his claims—in addition to his blasé attitude toward the scandal of his divorced wife, the novelist Amélie Rives—as evidence of insanity. Chaloner continued to live near Rives’ estate in Albemarle County, VA, and even befriended her second husband. Chaloner’s brother reportedly labeled him as “looney.” In response, Chaloner’s family had him committed to the Bloomingdale Hospital in White Plains. On 12 June 1899, a New York court declared him insane and ruled that he be permanently institutionalized.Letter from Chaloner to attorney, 1897 July 3
But Chaloner had other plans. He believed his family had him committed to seize his fortune and stop his experiments. Bitter sonnets composed during his time at the asylum reflect his anger and desire to clear his name. In November of 1900, he managed to escape to a private clinic, whose doctors declared him able to function in society. Thereafter, Chaloner plotted strategies to both overturn the New York verdict and change lunacy laws in America.
During his legal challenges, Chaloner became immortalized by the phrase “Who’s looney now?.” In the summer of 1910, Chaloner’s brother married the opera singer Lina Cavalieri and signed over control of his property to her. The marriage soon broke down, and Chaloner wired his brother the pithy catchphrase. Four years later Chaloner even titled one of his many books The Swan-Song of “Who’s Looney Now?” (1914), drawing on the phrase’s subsequent popularity.New York City Evening Mail, 1910 Oct. 4
Chaloner’s correspondence, copious notes, and book drafts speak to his dedication in clearing his name. Filled with legal strategy and instructions to attorneys in New York, North Carolina, and Virginia, his letters trace his maneuvering within the legal system, reaching even the U. S. Supreme Court in 1916. In Chaloner v. Thomas T. Sherman, Chaloner sought damages for the withholding of his estate and fortune. Chaloner argued that because he was a resident of Virginia, New York had no jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court affirmed the U. S. Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision.U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals legal brief, 1914
Yet the courts of Virginia and North Carolina had declared Chaloner sane in 1901, allowing him to live and maintain business interests in both states. New York continued to declare him legally insane until 1919, when his family no longer challenged the petition and reconciled with Chaloner.Letter congratulating Chaloner on his legal victory, 1919 July 8
Like his dogged legal challenges, Chaloner’s book drafts, including Four Years Behind the Bars of “Bloomingdale,” or, The Bankruptcy of Law in New York (1906) and The Lunacy Law of the World: Being That of Each of the Forty-Eight States and Territories of the United States, with an Examination Thereof and Leading Cases Thereon; Together with That of the Six Great Powers of Europe—Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia (1906), are also filled with annotations and revisions that fill every bit of available white space. Not even a calendar from the University of Virginia escaped unscathed.Calendar with Chaloner’s notes, 1906
Chaloner’s papers offer a fascinating portrait into the mind of a determined, if eccentric, man, while also simultaneously portending the burgeoning changes toward psychiatry in both medicine and the law that developed throughout the twentieth century.
The John Armstrong Chaloner Papers are available for research.
Post contributed by Dr. Paul Sommerfeld, Rubenstein Graduate Intern for Manuscripts Processing and one of Duke’s newest PhDs in the Dept. of Music.
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Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Location: Rubenstein Library Room 153 (Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room)
Join the Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series for our next talk by Jeff Baker, M.D., Ph.D., on Technology, Hope, and Motherhood: What We Can Learn from the History of the Infant Incubator. At the turn of the last century, a new medical invention known as the infant incubator captured the imagination of physicians and the public. The device became a public sensation and appeared in settings ranging from hospitals to world fairs midway side-shows (complete with live infants). But in the process it set off a great controversy regarding whether so-called premature and weak infants should be rescued in the first place, and whether their care should be entrusted to mothers, physicians, or scientifically-trained nurses.
Dr. Baker is the Director of the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine at Duke University. He is the author of The machine in the nursery : incubator technology and the origins of newborn intensive care (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996) and a leading authority on the history of neonatal medicine.
The talk will be held in the Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Room 153, of the Rubenstein Library at Duke University. All are welcome to attend. Sponsored by the History of Medicine Collections.
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“It is an old complaint,” wrote the eighteenth-century Swiss physician Samuel-André-Auguste-David Tissot, “that study, though essentially necessary to the mind, is hurtful to the body.” Student health is the subject of a new exhibit entitled “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body: Health Advice for Scholars and Students,” now on display in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room.Title page to Thomas Cogan. The Haven of Health… London, 1612.
Since antiquity, scholars and students have been bombarded with warnings about the potential health hazards associated with a life of sedentary study, the medical side effects of which have been said to range from a loss of vision, cramped posture, and consumption to melancholia, bad digestion, and even hemorrhoids. Heeding these warnings, scholars and students have for centuries turned to medical guides for advice on how best to counteract the effects of “hard study.” While such guides often vary as to specifics, all commend some form of attention to diet, exercise, and regimen as means to a long and healthy life, urging adherence to an ancient ideal: mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body.“Health and Strength,” Wilbur Wade Card Papers, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
The items in the exhibit trace the history of medical advice written specifically for scholars and students and reflect the wide range of approaches to scholarly health. The exhibit, on display in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room, runs through July 16, 2017.
A Sound Mind in a Sound Body is curated by Thomas Gillan, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern
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Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections
Brains are really neat
Not just for zombies to eat
Come, give books a peek!
Charles Bell. The anatomy of the brain: explained in a series of engravings. London : T.N. Longman and O. Rees [etc.] 1802. Johann Dryander. Anatomiae, hoc est, corporis humani dissectionis pars prior. Marpurgi : Apud Eucharium Cervicornum, 1537.
The Society for Neuroscience states that while Brain Awareness Week is officially March 13-19, there are ways to be involved throughout the year. Similarly, we invite you to visit our History of Medicine Collections and other collections in the Rubenstein Library all year long, not just this week.
Post contributed by Thomas Gillan, the Josiah Charles Trent Intern in the History of Medicine Collections.
Given its designation as the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, you might assume, correctly, that the library’s History of Medicine Collections consist primarily of books and manuscripts, but did you know that they also boast a large collection of historical medical instruments and artifacts? Some of these objects are reassuringly familiar. Others, however, can seem somewhat more baffling.Perkins’s Tractors. History of Medicine artifacts collection, 1550-1980s. History of Medicine Collections.
Take, for instance, the objects identified in the collection guide as “Perkins’s tractors.” At first glance, they are often mistaken for horseshoe nails. Historian James Delbourgo, who has written extensively about these so-called tractors, notes that they “were disarmingly simple things. A set consisted of two three-inch metallic rods made of brass and iron, and they sold for twenty-five continental dollars in North America, five guineas in Britain.” According to Delbourgo, their very simplicity was what made the tractors so appealing. At a time when doctors regularly resorted to such “heroic” measures as bleeding, blistering, vomiting, and purging, Perkins’s tractors offered a painless alternative, one that was less invasive but no less controversial.
The man behind these seemingly strange instruments was one Elisha Perkins of Connecticut. Born in 1741, Perkins received his medical training from his father, a physician in Norwich, before establishing his own practice in Plainfield. There, in the course of his practice, Perkins “discovered that, by drawing over the parts [of the body] affected in particular directions certain instruments which he formed from metallic substances into certain shapes, he could remove . . . most kinds of painful topical affections, which came under his care and observation.”
Perkins, it turns out, was quite the salesman. In 1796, he patented his tractors. Thereafter, Perkins and his son took to promoting them. Together, they published a series of pamphlets touting the tractors’ efficacy. These pamphlets invariably included testimonials from satisfied clients. Prominent among them were Jedidiah Morse, a Congregational minister; John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court; and Josiah Meigs, professor of natural philosophy at Yale. Even George Washington himself is reputed to have owned a set.
Like other novel medical therapies, such as Galvanism and Mesmerism, Perkins’s were the subject of much popular attention, not all of it positive. Most regular physicians were skeptical of Perkins’s claims, so much so that in May of 1797, the Connecticut Medical Society expelled Perkins on grounds of quackery. Still other physicians sought to make sense of the tractors’ mysterious workings.
One such account can be found among the Benjamin Waterhouse papers. In a letter dated February 1, 1802, Abijah Richardson, a physician in Medway, Massachusetts, wrote to Benjamin Waterhouse, then a professor of medicine at Harvard, relating “an account of a Young Lady’s Case, who was relieved of a painful disorder by the use of a Metelic tractor.” In 1796, Richardson explained, he had been “called in to see Miss P.T. about eighteen years of age” who for several years “had been subjected to fits of the head-ach.” Having heard of Perkins’s tractors “being efficacious in relieving painful disorders,” Richardson decided to put the tractors to the test.Abijah Richardson to Benjamin Waterhouse. 1 February 1802. Box 1, Folder 2, Benjamin Waterhouse papers, 1782-1841. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. (Click image to enlarge!)
Without access, however, to a real set of tractors—he apparently did not have a set of his own—Richardson offered up “an artificial magnet which I supposed was of similar efficacy with the points.” After obtaining his patient’s consent, Richardson proceeded to draw “light parallel strokes from the temple & forehead above the right eye down to her neck & top of her shoulder.” Richardson here followed the method laid out by Perkins himself of “drawing the Points of the Tractors over the Parts affected, and continuing them along on the Skin to a considerable Distance from the Complaint, usually towards the Extremities.” Richardson went on to recount how, in the course of her treatment, his patient’s pain, following the strokes of the tractors, “gradually abated & left her.” From this, Richardson “was led to suppose that the tractors relieved pain by attracting & conveying heat from the pained part.”Title page to John Haygarth’s experiment involving Perkins’s tractors.
In 1800, John Haygarth, a physician in Bath, England, published the results of an experiment that cast doubt on the tractors’ efficacy. In 1799, having “contrived two wooden Tractors of nearly the same shape as the metallick, and paints to resemble them in colour,” Haygarth set out to test whether these “fictitious tractors” could produce the same effect as “the true metalliack Tractors of Perkins.”
Much to his surprise, both sets of tractors “were employed exactly in like manner, and with similar effects,” leading Haygarth to conclude that the “whole effect undoubtedly depends upon the impression which can be made upon the patient’s Imagination.” Haygarth’s experiment was one of the first documented demonstrations of what later came to be known as the placebo effect.
Despite their critics, Perkins’s tractors continued to be commercially successful, even after the death of their inventor in 1799. They even went on to become the subject of a poem satirizing the medical profession.
To explore these and other items from the History of Medicine Artifacts Collection, check out the collection guide, which contains descriptions and images for many of the items. Also, stop by the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room at the Rubenstein Library to see a rotating selection of items from the collection on permanent exhibit.Footnotes:
 James Delbourgo, A Most Amazing Scene of Wonders: Electricity and Enlightenment in Early America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 240.
 Ibid., 251.
 Benjamin Douglas Perkins, The Influence of Metallic Tractors on the Human Body (London, 1798), 5-6.
 Ibid., 69, 9, 37.
 Ibid., 9.
 Abijah Richardson to Benjamin Waterhouse, 1 February 1802, Box 1, Folder 2, Benjamin Waterhouse papers, 1782-1841, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
 Benjamin Perkins, Directions for Performing the Metallic Operation with Perkins’s Patent Tractors [London, 1798].
 Richardson to Waterhouse, 1 February 1802.
 John Haygarth, Of the Imagination, as a Cause and as a Cure of Disorders of the Body; Exemplified by Fictitious Tractors and Epidemical Convulsions (Bath, 1800), 3.
 Ibid., 3, 4.
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