Being sick, English style

The congested head, the hacking cough, the sore, sore throat … we have all suffered through the common cold.  May I suggest Syrup of Squills?  Or perhaps Dr. King’s Pectoral Balsam?  We recently acquired a collection of English pharmaceutical labels from four chemist shops all located at 32 High Street, in Emsworth, England, which operated from the 1890s to the 1930s.  The August 24, 1895 Chemist and Druggist reports that Alfred Mumford purchased Mr. Edwin Stubb’s business at High Street, in Emsworth; in 1904, Mumford retired, selling his business to H.J. Carr and Co.; in 1924, Harry J. Carr died; and by 1925, W.T. Slatter was in business at 32 High Street.  It is unclear how long Slatter was in possession of the business before H. Densem became the owner.

Carr and Slatter both sold solutions for the common cold.  If you were suffering when Harry J. Carr was the pharmaceutical chemist, he probably would have sold you Syrup of Squills which was used for easing a cough.  By the time that Slatter was in business, you would have been sold “Dr. King’s Pectoral Balsam,” which was described as “A safe and speedy cure for Coughs, Colds, Bronchitis, Asthma, Pleurisy, Shortness of Breath, Hoarseness, Sore Throat, and all Affections of the Chest and Lungs.”  Around the same time period, chemist shops sold “The Ruby Cough Mixture” for coughs, colds and sore throats.  The list of ingredients (which includes vinegar of squills) scarily lists “tinct. of Camphor (Poison).”

If you had a kid and were worried about “Wind, Griping, or Stomach-ache,” you might have given them H. Densem’s “Children’s Soothing Mixture, which you will be relieved to know was free of opium or, for that matter, “anything injurious.”  Whew. According to my research for this collection, and specifically Ray Church, the number of chemists and druggists increased “from something over 10,000 to more than 40,000,” from 1865 to 1905, as a result of a variety of factors including national advertising for patent or proprietary medicines, increased transportation, and “the growing number of wholesaler-manufacturers who, by expanding the supply and range of ingredients, facilitated retailers’ ability to make up their own preparations,” (Church, Roy. “The British Market for Medicine in the late Nineteenth Century: The Innovative Impact of S M Burrows & Co.,” Medical History. Volume 49, Pages 281-298, 2005).

Douleur ou pas de douleur–it was your choice!

One of the things that I love about archival collections (and if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that there are many) is how connected I am to the history that shaped our lives today.  Occasionally, I am nostalgic (until I remember the lack of plumbing), but I am NEVER nostalgic when I work with medical collections and especially dental collections.  I recently worked with a small collection of French dental ephemera and was, as always, surprised by how much the field of dentistry has advanced over the last 100 years.

This collections consists largely of advertisements for dental offices (or cabinets dentaire) in France.  Most of the them advertised American dentists or American methods and bragged about all sort of new methods and drugs.  I was most entertained by the ones that offered patients the choice between pain-free and, presumably, pain-filled procedures. The real question was how much was a pain-free experience worth?  Because one did have to pay extra for it!

What sorts of services were available for a patient?  Just a few are nettoyage de la bouche (cleaning the mouth), extractions sans douleur (painless extractions), reconstitution des dents cassés (fixing broken teeth), obturations (fillings), disparition de la carie (removing decay), aurifications & opérations métalliques (capping teeth), soins préventifs (preventive care), plombage (sealing), and couronnes dentaires artificielles (crowns).  Gold caps could be made quickly and without any suffering!   Painless extractions by a very effective and inoffensive procedure! Teeth filled by a new procedure!

Be aware that beauty WAS important … not just the science and medicine behind these awesome new and if, you were willing to shell out the extra francs, painless procedures.  The Union Dentaire chose to highlight Les Dents Odontalines (possibly a brand of denture?) which were advertised as the most beautiful and the most solid that exist as well as being useful for health and beauty.  A few other dental offices used a fair and smiling lady on their brochures, no doubt as a little extra incentive.

Come explore this fun collection and perhaps next time you go to the dentist, you can inquire as to how much less your procedure will cost if you go for the pain-filled experience!

SAVE THE DATE: Kislak Center’s Annual Archives Month Philly Event : October 16

Defying Convention: Audacious Women in the Kislak Center Collections

Dorothy Searle photograph album, 1914-1917, Ms. Coll. 848

Women have always challenged the world’s expectations of them and the Kislak Center’s Special Collections Processing Center has the proof. Meet the adventurous, globetrotting women who have explored continents, settled in new lands, and made history. From the 15th century to the present, our collections show women as scientists, activists, teachers, explorers, writers, patriots, and healers whose efforts to change the world have inspired countless generations of women. 

The Special Collections Processing Center reveals written and visual accounts of extraordinary, independent women who were determined to forge their own paths.  We welcome you for a one evening show-and-tell during Archives Month to see our rare books and manuscripts chronicling the exploits, adventures and mishaps of these extraordinary women. Join us on Tuesday, October 16th from 5 to 6:30 at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books & Manuscripts in the Class of 78 Pavilion (6th floor of the Van Pelt Library).

Please bring photo ID to enter the Van Pelt Library!

Ma, Mama, Mother, Mumsie, Mrs. Biddle, and Cousin Maria

Despite the prominence of the Biddle men in Philadelphia history, the Biddle family papers are dominated by the Biddle women, and in particular, Biddle mothers.  In typical mother fashion, these mamas kept track of their families, had enough clout that their teenage sons (and grown-up sons) wrote daily letters, and demanded ever more news!  What was extremely fun about this collection was glimpsing the relationships between mothers, their children, their own mothers, and their in-laws.

Biddle Family Tree

This collections seems to be anchored by the marriage of Julia Biddle and Arthur Biddle–yes, two Biddles–in 1880.  The resulting family tree is a sight to behold.  Arthur and Julia shared great-grandparents (Clement (1740-1814) and Rebekah Cornell (1755-1831) Biddle) and their grandfathers were brothers.  As with many old families, there were lots more discoveries of “close family relations” to find.

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Far from home … and mail at the pace of a snail

In November of 1897, Lieutenant Sidney Veale Byland shipped out from London to India where he spent the last year of his short life. Without telephone service, emails, text messages, etc., he communicated with his father, a physician in England, by frequently writing letters which included extremely candid descriptions of the world around him and which grew increasingly cranky, as time went on. The letters are quite fun to read today–but I wonder what it must have been like for his father to read while living some 4,000 miles away, knowing that his son was struggling and that he was essentially unreachable.

At the beginning of his time away, Byland’s unique style is evident: he describes an acquaintance as “puffed with pride being the son of his father and the most standoffish haw haw of a little owl that I have ever had the misfortune to meet,” (February 2, 1898). He describes his work and the difficulties of working with accounts that have been mismanaged, but for the most part, he is good humored, even while acknowledging that his work is “hopeless,” (April 30, 1898). In one of his letters, he mentions to his father that “as you know, I have always been of a slap-dash, happy-go-luck disposition” (December 12, 1898).

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Marriage: a most dire institution

In the Veale family papers, 1872-1899, Dr. Henry Veale, a British Army physician, received a series of letters from two individuals, both of whom described their decidedly gloomy take on marriage.

The first letter, written on April 28, 1884, by William Aitken (probably a patient), states:

I wish myself to be the first to tell you of my intention to marry a wife.  She is a very old friend who shared (with my sister) in the dismal watches of the day and night during the long illness and the recovery from which I have so much to be grateful to you.  Since my sister left, this dear friend has continued to take care of me and of my household.  Hence she has become a necessity for the valetudinarian life I am now condemned to pass; and so for my own comfort and peace of mind as well as for the sake of propriety, I have resolved to take this course. (box 1, folder 2)

Roughly fifteen years later, Henry Veale received a letter from his twenty-five year old son, Sidney Veale Byland, a lieutenant in the India Staff Corps, who, after discussing the difficulties of army life states:

The only alternative is to marry  and live unhappily on alternate days so as to get a little change.  It makes one almost wish to have someone to squabble with with so as to get through a few odd hours. (box 1, folder 4, letter dated June 23, 1898).

The full set of letters from each correspondent shows that these two writers shared more than just their dismal views on marriage: they both suffered from indigestion. So, was marriage really such a dreadful thing?  Or were these two simply grumpy because of all their discomfort?  This Valentine’s day, may I suggest adding some prettily packaged antacids to the thoughtful and loving gift for your special someone, just to be safe!

 

Beyond the human cost–World War I’s financial implications

Box 2, Folder 8When it comes to archival collections, I almost always fall in love because I am forced to look at something in an entirely new way … the Paul Schrecker collection of Austrian World War I ephemera is no exception.  This collection documents a Viennese man’s experience on the home front during World War I. I have not really had the opportunity to work with primary sources from the Central Powers’ perspective.  The American perspective, sure!  And with some frequency, the British and French perspective too!  This collection was an absolute treasure trove of stuff folded up and squashed into an old scrapbook called Kriegserinnerungen 1914 (War Memories).

Box 1, Folder 6Nearly every item in this collection is illuminating, but what struck me over and over again was the cost of war … not just in lives (around 40 million), which goes without saying, but the financial cost of war and the efforts Austria made to afford such a catastrophic event.  It appears to me that Schrecker, in addition to recognizing the monumental effect the Great War would have on history, was supporting his country and the war effort by purchasing items produced for those purposes.  It appears that his brother was a civilian prisoner of war held at the Alexandra Palace in London, so the need to support the war effort was not only patriotic, but also personal.

Box 1, Folder 5As I began working with the collection, I noticed that a number of items were issued by Rotes Kreuz, Kriegshilfsbüro, Kriegsfürsorgeamt) (the Red Cross, the War Support Office, and the War Welfare Office).  According to my research online, the War Welfare Office was established in 1914 to “alleviate the plight of war victims – soldiers and surviving families,” (Wikiversity).  The organization sold postcards (between 2000 and 2500) a few of which are in this collection among a larger selection of postcards.  The War Welfare Office postcards in this collection (numbers 9, 10, 11, 143, 145, 149, 150, 234, 502, 542, 547, and two unnumbered) document battle scenes, military leaders, Franz Joseph, and patriotic images.

Box 1, Folder 9This collection also contains some absolutely amazing bookplates and a book mark issued by the Red Cross, the War Support Office, and the War Welfare Office.  We have fifteen bookplates, but none of my research comes up with more than two in any one other collection, so I cannot be certain if we have a full set.  Artists Karl Sterrer, Alfred Offner, Hans Maria Glatz, and Richard Moser created dramatic and sometimes disturbing images.

Box 1, Folder 7In addition to publications memorializing World War I that were published before the war was over (probably sold to bolster funds) and numerous subscription documents and requests for donations, the collection contains ration cards dating from 1915 until 1922.  Bread and flour, milk, sugar, and coffee were rationed throughout the war, but tobacco appears to have been rationed even after the war with one card from 1919 and another from 1922.  A fascinating (and confusing) document shows the hoops jumped through to claim a pair of shoes!

Despite his loyalty to his country during the Great War and its aftermath, with the passing of the Nuremberg Laws, Schrecker, a Jewish professor and a philosopher, was dismissed from his position at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin and fled to Paris where he taught at the University of Paris from 1933 to 1940. He moved to the United States after the German occupation of France in 1940.  He taught in New York and at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore before coming to Penn in 1950 where he remained until his retirement in 1960.

 

 

Behind the Scenes–in person and virtually

On October 17, 2017, the catalogers of the Special Collections Processing Center had the chance to show off some of their favorite items! This year we offered tours of SCPC so that visitors could learn what happens to a book or collection “behind the scenes”–from the time that it is purchased or gifted, right up until it is publicly available.

The Behind the Scenes tours were in-person only, but in case you didn’t make it to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, you can discover online the invisible sights and unheard sounds of the moments before the big moments … before the counter-attack is launched, the play performed, an execution ordered, a new bestseller published.  And you might just discover why the catalogers in SCPC love their jobs so much!

 

Save the Date for Behind the Scenes: Archives Month 2017

The hurried scratching of pencil on paper as a code-breaker races against time…
The nervous pacing of an actress…
Sibilant whispers of advice into the ears of the powerful…
The crumpled publisher’s rejection letter, together with an annotated and crossed out draft…

These are the invisible sights and unheard sounds of the moments before the big moments … before the counter-attack is launched, the play performed, an execution ordered, a new bestseller published.

Catalogers are always behind the scenes, where they delight in finding previously lost or hidden secrets and making them available to the public.  Join the catalogers of the Kislak Center to learn about their favorite behind-the-scenes moments found between the covers of rare books and deep in the folders of archival collections.

Linger over our selections on October 17, 2017 from 5:30 to 7 pm at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, located on the 6th floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center at 3420 Walnut Street.

Free and open to the public (bring photo id to get into the library)!

Janeites unite to remember an amazing woman!

Almost every day as I drag myself out of bed (I am not a morning person), I wish that I could spend the day curled up with a book and a lovely cup of coffee. Today, however, I am recommending that we all take at least a few moments, select our favorite Jane Austen novel (everyone should have at least one!!!), and drink a cup of tea to celebrate and remember this extraordinary woman who is still so very much alive 200 years after her death on July 18, 1817.

From films, tv shows, to new novels based on or inspired by her originals, the lovely Jane is very much present in our world.  You can join a society and you don’t even have to live in the UK to do so … the Jane Austen Society of North America even has an Eastern Pennsylvania Region chapter.

Here is a watercolor portrait, presumably of Jane Austen … we don’t know who painted it or when, but it was found in Volume I of a three-volume edition of Emma (London: J. Murray, 1816), held by the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. (call number: PR4034.E5 1816).  The watercolor can be found in box 1, folder 35 in our Miscellaneous Manuscripts collection.