Medicine in the Old West: A History, 1850-1900 by Jeremy Agnew

By Jeremy Agnew

The therapeutic arts as practiced within the previous West frequently intended the adaptation among existence and dying for American pioneers. even if the problem was once disease, an Indian arrow, a gunshot wound, or a fall from a horse, a pioneer within the western territories required take care of scientific emergencies, yet usually needed to make do till a physician can be came upon. This ancient evaluate addresses the perils to well-being that have been current in the course of the enlargement of the yankee frontier, and the equipment utilized by medical professionals to regard and triumph over them. a variety of black and white pictures are supplied, in addition to a thesaurus of clinical phrases. Appendices record medicines generic from 1850-1900 and surgical tools present in a regular doctor's package of the period.

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Patients expected doctors to achieve cures that might be impossible, but, by the same token, doctors sometimes promised more than they could deliver. One factor that often played a part in the outcome of treatment was that victims of disease or an accident did not go to the doctor until it was too late for a cure. In all fairness, many diseases had insidious beginnings and did not show any distressing symptoms until the disease was well-advanced. In such cases, any minor symptoms were often ignored until too late.

Traveling thirty miles by horse and buggy to a distant ranch to treat a sick patient or deliver a baby was not unusual. A few doctors in large cities limited themselves to specific diseases and ailments, but the age of the specialist did not really start until the early 1900s. Veterinarians were even scarcer in the Old West than doctors. A doctor might be asked to treat a family cow or a horse, if no veterinarian was available, because a healthy horse was important to a farmer or rancher. Many doctors also owned drugstores and served as pharmacists.

About 70 percent of those with typhoid fever eventually recovered. Hospitals were not common in the Old West until the 1890s. Before that time, the only hospitals might be army hospitals. Fort Garland, a military installation established in Colorado in 1858, had a hospital with twelve beds, a dispensary, a kitchen, and a dining room. Toilet facilities were primitive, consisting of a pit toilet located outside the hospital building. Fort Union, in New Mexico, had a hospital that was considered to be one of the best in the West.

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