Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3

Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3

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Why Your Poor Head Aches, published in Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, Nebraska on December 4, 1893 comprises the main portion of today’s article: Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3. This good doctor introduces the 1888 to 1893 astounding use of the first most powerful anti-opioid pain killer.

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“Discourse of a San Francisco Doctor” illustrates another medical viewpoint of headaches. Why do so many suffer? This physician gives sound medical reasoning, in harmony with his contemporaries in Part 1 and Part 2. Part 3 rounds out the “opinions of the day,” imparting various reasons, causes, good health practices, and categories. He includes the grand new discovery of the age– analgesics and antipyretics. (This means Parts 4 through 11 will address the rest of the juicy content: patent medicine, home remedies, Sunday’s curse, the history of headaches, and so much more.)

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Vintage Wisdom

Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3

“Most of us have headaches much of the time. It has almost come to be a national vice with us.”

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~ Discourse of a San Francisco Doctor, Why Your Poor Head Aches, Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3, Why Your Poor Head Aches from Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893. Part 1 of 6.

1 of 6) Why Your Poor Head Aches from Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893.

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Stop Calling ’em ‘Nervous’

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Listen to the good doctor in his righteous tirade. He claims “everyone” lumps together their prize headaches into the “Nervous” category. “Duh!,” he yells from his soapbox. “All headaches are ‘nervous,’ as all afflict the brain and therefore are nerve-related.”

Just do what the good doctor did while in training when he met the Polish woman. In her native tongue, which the doc understood not a word, she explained her ailments and he immediately knew the cause and earned a gold star for his forehead. No, wait. That’s the location for one type of legitimate nervous headache: forehead, top of head (crown), and base of the brain (occipital). Most easily explained.

I don’t mean to be (too) sarcastic about the doctor’s practice of medicine. Frankly, I’m astounded how much doctors could achieve given the resources at their disposal. I have only the greatest of respect for this man’s knowledge and experience. I simply must mock, gently, his explanations…

Especially since he promised us (in the title, for pete’s sake!) 1893 prevention methods. Read on!

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3, Why Your Poor Head Aches from Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893. Part 2 of 6.

2 of 6) Why Your Poor Head Aches from Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893.

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Wear Your Spectacles

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By the end of this doctor’s soap-box tirade you’ll understand one thing gets his goat faster than anything else: ignoring the doctor’s wisdom.

Whether that doctor is a physician or an optician, if that doctor tells you to wear the glasses you need to correct your vision, by golly, you’d better do it. Or when you come to him, complaining of a headache, he’ll lecture you about those spectacles and your wearing habits.

#19thCenturyProblems #My19thCenturyCareerSucks #MamasDon’tLetYourBabiesGrowUpToBeDoctors

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3. Wear Your Spectacles.

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Don’t Wear Your Corset

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Especially if it’s tightly laced. This doctor said so. Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3

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Kristin Holt | Corsets: Tight Lacing! (1879)

Kristin Holt | Defect in Form: Evils of Tight Lacing, a.k.a. corsets." Chicago Daily Tribune, 1897.

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Protect the Baby

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Mothers! Nursemaids! Babies everywhere curiously seek the light and stare at its source. In your haste, ensure your location of the lamp is such that the infant doesn’t twist and turn until he will at last be able to see the light with one eye, perhaps both. Protect the lad from strabismus and from the terrible headaches that follow.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3. Vintage photograph (19th century) of a small child, crying.

Vintage photograph (Victorian): crying child. Courtesy of Pinterest.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3, Why Your Poor Head Aches from Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893. Part 3 of 6.

3 of 6) Why Your Poor Head Aches from Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893.

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Time Out for The Doctor’s List

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Headache Types:

  1.  Nervous headache in the forehead, on top of the head, or base of the brain (occipital)
  2.  Eyestrain headache
  3.  True Neuralgic (with sharp, stabbing pains)
  4.  Like the faceache of a decaying tooth
  5.  Hemicrania (on one side)
  6.  Migraine (with trouble in the eyes)
  7.  True “sick headache”
  8.  Vertical Headache of Cerebral Anæmia (very common among women)
  9.  Vertical Headache of Pelvic Trouble (in women)
  10.  Congestive Headache (or Catarrhal Headache) (Hangover)
  11.  Headache in the forehead (refers to stomach and liver)
  12.  Headache “at the base of the brain” (due to disturbance of circulation)
  13.  “The Grip” Headache (may have been one reason doctors treated the pandemic disease with antipyrin) [definition coming! keep reading…]
  14.  Forehead headache (relates to the stomach and liver)

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Find other doctors’ Lists of Headache Types Here.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3, Why Your Poor Head Aches from Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893. Part 4 of 6.

4 of 6) Why Your Poor Head Aches from Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893.

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“A Specific”

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Did you notice the good doctor mentioned a true-to-history and credible headache “management” technique? This one medicinal? We’ll address that whoo-hooo! moment in, well, a moment.

First– “a headache specific,” worded like this by the newspaper columnist quoting the doctor. “Nearly every victim of headache has some specific for his or her particular affection. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it is some form of antipyrin. This remedy, which was added to the materia medica a matter of eight or nine years ago, at once took a greater hold upon the popular fancy than any other remedy, not even excepting quinine.”

Isn’t that fascinating? The doctor continues, shedding brilliant light on history:

“Men, women and children alike took to it with avidity, and the medical fraternity seized upon it as a panacea for almost all affections… then the grip swept over the world, and the doctors began to fight it with antipyrin… Its consumption in this country in the last four years [1888 to 1893] has been enormous. As might be suspected of a remedy that produces such rapid and great fall in the temperature of the body, antipyrin is a terrible depressant…” [range of years added for clarification]

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Contemporary photograph used as inspiration for a fictional character, Oscar Harris, by USA Today Bestselling Author Kristin Holt.

Contemporary photograph used as inspiration for a fictional character, Oscar Harris, by USA Today Bestselling Author Kristin Holt.

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I can easily picture my trained pharmacist, secondary hero Oscar Harris, preparing a headache powder in Mountain Home, Colorado. He’s a man with secrets, and readers adore him. See pics and much more when I shared a character profile about Oscar Harris and the one woman he can’t live without.

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What is Antipyrin?

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Interestingly enough, Victorian doctors asked the same question. In 1885. By 1888, Antipyrin use had grown from mil to enormous (see prior paragraph).

Antipyrine: an analgesic and antipyretic formerly widely used but now largely replaced in oral use by less toxic substances.

Note: Antipyrine with the -e appears to be the modern spelling, whereas antipyrin (no -e) is the consistent nineteenth-century spelling.

Late nineteenth century scientists experimented with synthesized drugs. Their work led to the discovery of three important (and familiar) non-opioid pain and fever reducers: acetaminophen (acetanilide), aspirin and salicylic acid, and phenazone.

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What is “The Grip”?

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The Grip: A common term for influenza.

Influenza is far more than “the flu,” an illness much like a bad common cold. Influenza outbreaks occur frequently, suddenly, and spread rapidly. Epidemics and pandemics have spotted history with marked losses of life. Twelve serious outbreaks occurred during the nineteenth century, two of which were pandemics. Avian influenza (originally known as Fowl Plague) was recorded for the first time in Italy, 1878.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3, Why Your Poor Head Aches from Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893. Part 5 of 6.

5 of 6) Why Your Poor Head Aches from Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893.

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Prevention

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Doctor’s Good Wisdom to Prevent Headaches:

Prevention, however, is always better than cure, and most of our headaches are preventable by attention to the ordinary rules of life. When these, systematically followed, fail to work an improvement in the case, then the thing to do is to call in a physician. There is no crank so utterly without reason in his crankiness as he who professes to scorn the doctor and who “never takes medicine.” He usually means he never takes prescriptions, for as a general thing this type of human being is an inveterate “doper,” who pins his faith on whisky, quinine and antipyrin. It will be years before this world can spare the physician.” (emphasis added)

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Kristin Holt | Victorian American Rules of Life

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Nineteenth Century “Rules of Life”

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Did the good physician mean these Rules of Life?

Let modesty and kind feeling govern your conversation, as other rules of life.

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~ The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, by Florence Hartley. Published in Boston, 1860.

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Victorian-era Americans (middle- and upper-class Euro-Americans) were as caught up in the “morals” and social mores of the day as their British counterparts. When we think of the set of social rules that governed good behavior, instructed young people in the school room, and directed business dealings, the term “Victorian” says it all.

American Passages: A History of the United States (2009, by Ayers, Gould, Oshinsky, and Soderlund) explains “The Rules of Life” in a Victorian Society. The text elaborates on them. Essentially, good conduct was expected and delivered. Morality– the sense of what is right and what is wrong– directed social behavior, private choices, and every form of decision-making.

This Victorian-America Moral Code included:

  1.  Honesty
  2.  Fidelity to spouse
  3.  Gracious social conduct
  4.  Sexual control and moderation
  5.  No vulgarity
  6.  and more…. (please scroll down and add more to the Victorian moral code in the comments)

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Do you suppose this type of Rules of Life fit with our good doctor’s definition?

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Kristin Holt | Rules for Eating, from The Ever-day Cook-Book and Encyclopedia of Practical Recipes, 1889. Part 1 of 2.

Rules for Eating, from The Every-day Cook-Book and Encyclopedia of Practical Recipes, 1889. Part 1 of 2.

Kristin Holt | Rules for Eating, from The Ever-day Cook-Book and Encyclopedia of Practical Recipes, 1889. Part 2 of 2.

Rules for Eating, from The Every-day Cook-Book and Encyclopedia of Practical Recipes, 1889. Part 2 of 2.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 3, Why Your Poor Head Aches from Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893. Part 6 of 6.

6 of 6) Why Your Poor Head Aches from Omaha Daily Bee of Omaha, NE on December 4, 1893.

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Stand Erect

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But don’t expect too much. Did you read that closing argument?

Please, if you skimmed. Go back. My jaw remains slack.

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Invitation

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Do you know more about nineteenth Century headaches? Or other comments to share? Please scroll down and reply.

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Up Next

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Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4 ~ Medications for Headache
Including Patent Medicines (Part 1 of 2 articles strictly about Victorian-American medicines)

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 4

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The Series Continues —

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Kristin Holt | 11-Part Blog Article Series: Victorian-American Headaches

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Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Headaches: Part 6

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Copyright © 2019 Kristin Holt LC