Historical letters to a Virginia doctor
December 23, 2005 8:23 PM   Subscribe

I send you some of the urine I pass in the morning: A large, interesting, well-presented archive of notes and letters (includes facsimiles) written by ordinary Virginians in the early 19th century to a country doctor, William Carmichael of Fredericksburg. Also includes medical instruments and pharmaceuticals of the time, and browse a facsimile of the doctor's daybook. Carmichael also tended to the health of slaves.
posted by Rumple (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Absolutely fascinating. This is just the kind of primary source that really adds dimension to our picture of the past, helping to balance the ideas we get from costume parlor dramas. The frank, intimate nature of most of these writings makes it so much easier to grasp the humanity of these people. Check out the account of hermaphroditism.

Also noted: When a woman has a complaint, nine times out of ten it is a man who writes on her behalf., describing her symptoms, etc. There could be many reasons for this, (women's level of literacy, men being designated to deal with the doctor) but God, I'm thankful I can be my own medical agent.
posted by Miko at 10:23 PM on December 23, 2005

Now this is a Metafilter FPP! Before the News/BushFilter incursion really got legs, it was this kind of hard-to-find, intellectually stimulating, and just plain interesting material that was the hallmark of this site.

Bravo, Rumple. Great read!
posted by symphonik at 11:21 PM on December 23, 2005

The discussions of various tonics and remedies, that's the best. I love seeing advertisements and labels and whatnot from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and this gives a personal touch to some of those early tries at medicine.

I am in want of Some more of
the tincture of Bark tincture of Gum goacum

posted by symphonik at 11:26 PM on December 23, 2005

This is a fantastic find. For once the kind of FPP where potentially little discussion means it was good.
posted by keijo at 12:16 AM on December 24, 2005

Excellent find! Thanks for sharing, Rumple.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:07 AM on December 24, 2005

Really first rate -- let me join the chorus of thanks!
posted by melissa may at 9:50 AM on December 24, 2005

awesome, thanks : )
posted by suni at 3:33 PM on December 24, 2005

Very nice -- I read through a good deal of the letters this AM. The analysis paper is a great read that touches on a number interesting observations about the life & times of this doctor.

On a sidenote, I might be related to the "Waller" family that shows up in some of the letters! Gonna have to dig out my family tree :)

Great post!
posted by benATthelocust at 8:55 PM on December 24, 2005

People said the same thing about Clinton! Er, I mean, thanks for the post.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:01 PM on December 24, 2005

Fascinating stuff, thanks for this.
posted by blendor at 9:06 AM on December 26, 2005

Very interesting link; I couldn't resist passing it on.
posted by moira at 1:46 PM on December 27, 2005

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