Jacksonian Miscellanies, #54

March 24, 1998

1833 Cholera Broadside

Copyright by the editor, Hal Morris, Secaucus, NJ 1997. Permission is granted to copy, but not for sale, nor in multiple copies, except by permission.

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The following is from a broadside shown facing p212 in The Diary of Calvin Fletcher, vol 1, 1817-1838, edited by Gayle Thornbrough, (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1972).

It reflects the fear caused by the reappearance of cholera after the devastation it caused in the previous year, and public attempts to meet it.

As a preventative, it recommends "a strict course of temperance ... spare use of meats, vegetables and fruit, and more particularly if the bowels be in any degree disordered, avoiding especially fresh pork, spiritous liquors, green corn, cucumbers and melons".

Should you actually come down with the disease, you should "live chiefly on bread and butter, toast crackers rice, gruel or light soups, and the table drinks above named, and above all do not overload the stomach with any thing".

There follows much advice about inducing vomiting, when to take calomel and laudenum, largely based on the consistency of what comes out of the bowels, accompanied with assurances of safety if the procedures are followed in time. I wonder how to account for this confidence, or whether it is feigned. Did some of it at least, like the purging and keeping warm help fight the illness? or was it all at best an uncomfortable and dangerous (esp. the bleeding) placebo?

Finally, the Board of Health promises to take care of everyone in the community -- free of charge to those unable to pay, prescribes a certain amount of each medicine for each family to procure, and most interestingly:

Report of the Board of Health in reference
to the approach of CHOLERA

At a meeting of the Board of Health of Indianapolis on Friday, July 19, A. D. 1833, with reference to the duties assigned them by their fellow-citizens in anticipation the Epidemic Cholera, Dr. Cox, from the Medical Committee, made the following Report, which, after being somewhat modified, is unanimously adopted, to wit:

The Medical Committee appointed for that purpose, respectfully report the following advice to the inhabitants of our town and County:

1st. That in anticipation that we as well as others may be visited with the cholera, they would recommend at present as a preparatory preventive, a strict course of temperance and regularity in diet, drinks and exercise, the spare use of meats, vegetables and fruit, and more particularly if the bowels be in any degree disordered, avoiding especially fresh pork, spiritous liquors, green corn, cucumbers and melons, excessive fatigue, wet and night exposure, and the keeping comfortably clothed especially during sleep. Of meats they would recommend ham or bacon, chickens and mutton as best; of vegetables, good ripe potatoes, boiled onions and cooked tomatoes; of table drinks, sage, tea, store tea, sweet milk, chocolate and coffee.

2d. Should Cholera appear, Be still more careful in observing. the above directions, use no fruit, no vegetables except potatoes. onions and tomatoes as above and little or no meats, live chiefly on bread and butter, toast crackers rice, gruel or light soups, and the table drinks above named, and above all do not overload the stomach with any thing.

3d. Should any looseness of the bowels or sickness of the stomach occur while the disease is prevailing; consider it the commencement of a disease which may then easily be cured, but if neglected will certainly kill. Go to bed between blankets and be pretty warmly covered, and if you have lately taken a hearty meal or eaten fruits or vegetables, or if there is much sickness at the stomach, take a tablespoon full of salt in half pint of warm water, and repeat it every five minutes until it vomits, then immediately take from 20 to 30 grains of calomel, mixed with dry sugar and wash it down with water or tea, and if purging with watery and thin stools continues, repeat it every two hours adding half a tea spoonful of laudanum to each dose, until the discharges are checked or billious ones take place, and if after this it does not operate in 6 or 8 hours take two or three table spoonfulls of castor oil every two. hours, until it does, and, immediately after giving the first dose of calomel, if there be fever or a strong pulse, bleed and let the drinks be warm sage or other herb teas and take no food but gruel. This course has in other places been sufficient to cure in almost all cases when early commenced.

4th. When the cholera decidedly attacks, producing frequent and copious stools resembling rice water or soap suds, and which is generally followed spasms, take the salt and water emetic if the stomach is loaded or very much sickness is present as above directed, and after it calomel, but if not, begin with the calomel and laudanum, and take from 40 to 60 grains of calomel and a teaspoonful of laudanum every two hours until this purging is stopped and the spasms, if occurring, checked and then in six or eight hours after the medicine does not operate and bring away billious discharges from the bowels, give castor oil as before until it operates.

Apply a large mustard plaster over the stomach, and if coldness occurs, apply mustard also to the soles of the feet and inside of the thighs as hot as it can be borne, if spasms occur, rub the places well with the hands; and if the pulse is strong or there is fever, bleed as before directed, but if the pulse is weak, bleed only under the direction of a physician, and depend chiefly on calomel and laudanum; and in all cases call in a physician as soon as one can be got, not forgetting that wherever the disease has prevailed it has usually been easily checked at the first moment of attack, but delay is dangerous and often death.

5th: Every family should be supplied with calomel in ten and -twenty grain doses; an ounce or more laudanum; a vial or bottle of castor oil, and some ground mustard, and fire and candle should at night always be ready to be lit. The above doses are for adults For a child 8 years old, 10 grains of calomel and 5 drops of laudanum in diarrhoea, and 20 grains of calomel and 10 or 12 drops of laudanum in cholera. One year old, 5 gr. Calomel and two or three drops laudanum in the diarrhoea, and 10 or 15 gr. calomel and 5 or six drops of laudanum in the cholera. And for other ages, proportionally to the stage and severity of the attack, but but in giving laudanum, much -will depend on the child being accustomed to its use.

In conclusion, the committee would remark that after full consideration of the subject, they believe, by making due preparation our citizens will be exposed to less danger by calmly remaining, should the. cholera appear, than by flying from their homes, and would recommend that families now take care to secure female and other family help who will not desert them and flee in the hour of need; and that as there are abundant funds, that the Board of Health assure all such persons acting as domestic assistants that they shall be well attended in case of sickness from cholera, without charge.

All which is respectfully submitted.

In furtherance of the above suggestions, the Board of Health pledge themselves to every resident of this place or wayfaring person here, if the Cholera prevails that our efforts and the liberal means furnished by the citizens shall be promptly used for their comfort and aid, which shall be extended without charge to all such as are unable to pay.

It is recommended to every family to supply themselves with the Medicines above recommended, within a week from this time; and all families in this place, unable to procure them, will be furnished by the Ward committees.

It is recommended to the citizens to form into associations of five, ten or more families, according to their own discretion, without reference to wards; who will pledge themselves to remain with, take care of, and nurse each other, in case of Cholera, under the direction of a Superintendent chosen by themselves; and that the names of those belonging to each association be furnished by its Superintendent to the Committee of the Ward in which he resides.

B. F. MORRIS, President Teste,
J. M. RAY, Sec'y_

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