The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 134
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Southwestern Historzcal Quarterly
poorly understood afflictions. Medicines were heavily flavored with
opium, alcohol, quinine, and toxic metals like lead, zinc, and mercury.
Bleeding was popular. The "fleeming" knife gave way to the spring lan-
cet for opening arteries or veins, sharper than a scalpel and quicker but
no less painful. By 1850 an elegant polished brass block from Germany
had appeared, containing rows of spring-loaded, razor-sharp blades
that sprang together, lancing the flesh with many parallel wounds.
Cupping was hardly necessary; the wonder, of course, is that the
patient ever stopped bleeding at all. Yet patients requested bleeding,
which left them dizzy and light-headed though often "relieved." Phre-
nology, the pseudo-science of reading personality by feeling and study-
ing the conformation of the skull, had its ascendency by the mid-nine-
teenth century, and the exhibit has a lovely ceramic skull that belonged
to one of Sam Houston's relatives. Phrenology was given an air of legit-
imacy by the findings of Dr. John Hunter Herndon who, in 1838, ac-
companied by two Houston physicians, dug up two recently executed
murderers to examine their skulls. Herndon noted that one individual
in particular had "a very bad head, all moral powers very deficient, the
bumps of distinctiveness and firmness very large. No reverence, vener-
ation, and but little perception with no comparison or ideality. His ani-
mal organs well developed."' Dentistry is represented by a hook-like
"toothkey," the use of which required both strength and courage, per-
haps explaining why blacksmiths, barbers, and medical students were
proficient in its use. Calomel, a popular mercury compound of wide
application and limited effectiveness, had a way of destroying the bone
around the tooth; in such cases extractions were seldom necessary since
the teeth simply fell out. By the time of the Civil War, surgeons had
learned that delay in amputation of an infected limb was fatal. The ex-
hibit has a marvelous group of artificial, often homemade limbs, such
as a hand with articulated fingers over which a glove could be worn and
the fingers realistically shaped. The bite of a rabid animal could be
cured by removal of the toxins; for this purpose a "madstone" (a con-
cretion from the stomach of a deer) was used to absorb the poison. As
late as 1870o there are stories of Texans who had ridden for days in an
attempt to reach someone who owned a madstone.
'Quoted in "Wond'rous Cures Performed". Medicine in Nineteenth-Century Texas exhibi-
tion brochure. This brochure is a valuable document in itself. Illustrated and accompanied by
text, it reflects careful research. The title of the exhibition is taken from Dr. Richard Carter's
advertisement for his nostrum:
My medicine, though made of herbs,
Doth Wond'rous cures perform
And yet each one may practice it
Without producing harm
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/m1/160/: accessed May 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.