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Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Cure for Your Face

Reader, Are You Annoyed,

And oftentimes embarrassed by imperfections in your complexion? Have you been placed in positions where you envied those of your sex whose complexions were more presentable than your own? Have you felt chagrined because of facial defects, or at compliments bestowed upon companions, in your presence, to your utter neglect? is your face sallow, murky, blotched or freckled? Is their roughness, redness in spots, or undue paleness of the skin? Is your complexion tanned, through exposure, or chapped and abraded by the wind or change of weather? Are you annoyed with wrinkles or threatened with them? Is your face, or any part of it, afflicted with black-heads or flesh-worms, spots, or discolorations? Is your skin flabby, and sometimes greasy, and your complexion bad generally? Is your face coarse, or dry and parched, and does it present an unhealthy appearance? Do you feel nervous and irritable at times, especially in company, from the knowledge of a bad complexion or skin defects of one kind or another? Are you using powders, cosmetics, etc., which are gradually ruining your complexion, and which serve only to "make up" a false face for the time being? Why tolerate a bad complexion, or any imperfection of the skin, when a simple appliance like the Toilet Mask, or Face Glove, will in a short time secure to you a complexion almost as pure and faultless as an infant's?

If you looked in the book of masks, somewhere between bank robbers and trick-or-treaters, you would find Madame Rowley's Toilet Mask. This lovely little number was just the thing to wear at bedtime, just in time to make your spouse feel lucky to have married you. But if it would get rid of flesh worms, wasn't it worth it?

The mask was promoted as soft and flexible, no more uncomfortable than wearing a silken glove. Little was revealed about its medicinal components other than it was "composed entirely of the purest natural material brought from forests of Para[guay] and Guiana, which, when scientifically treated, and incoroporated with healing agents, is moulded to the form of the face." Take that, you flesh worms.

It also removed freckles and tan to make the skin alabaster white. In the early 1880s "refined" women wanted to look as little like the immigrant races as possible. Darker features, like a tan, were associated with the hired help who were tasked with such outdoor chores as putting out the laundry on clothes lines and beating rugs. Proper ladies didn't have to do such things, so pure, white skin was a must to be perceived as a woman perched high on the social ladder.

The product booklet shares several testimonials of satisfied masked women from all over the country, and a list of twenty "Prominent Artistes" is also listed, including Sara Bernhardt, Mary Anderson, and Anna Louisa Cary, but it was probably a carefully engineered mask of illusion because it never states that any of these women actually used or endorsed the mask. The mask makers had probably sent a mask to each of the listed stars of stage, just so they could list their names in their booklet to make it sound like the most popular starlets of the day owed their beauty and radiance to Madame Rowley's Toilet Mask:

Below we give the names of some PROMINENT ARTISTES Who have the Mask (and whose experience has made them familiar with the best means for beautifying purposes), which should be ample evidence of its marvelous virtues ...

The makers proudly pointed out that, while it was ideal to use during sleep, it was also perfectly fine to wear th mask at any time: around the house, reading a book, writing a letter, or whatever. I wonder how often these found their way onto the kiddies to score some candy at Halloween.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

... and Chocolate Cures Everything

Interesting reading from the Lynn (Massachusetts) Transcript, 21 January 1871:

"Dr. Hall relates the case of a man who was cured of biliousness by going without his supper and drinking feely of lemonade. Every morning, says the doctor, this patient rose with a wonderful sense of rest, refreshment, and a feeling as though the blood had been literally washed and cooled by the lemonade and the fast. His theory is that food can be used as a remedy for any diseases successfully. For example, he instances cures of spitting blood by the use of salt; epilepsy and yellow fever, watermellons; kidney affections, celery; poison, olive or sweet oil; erysipelas, pounded cranberries applied to the parts affected; hydrophobia, onions, &c."

If only.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My Daughter is Healed & Home

Just a quick note to all my friends. My daughter has recovered and is now home. She was in the hospital for a week. The only lingering effect is a rash all over her body that is an allergic reaction to one of the medicines they gave her. She's very itchy, but glad to be home.

My mind is now clear and my heart unburdened, and I will be able to get going with this blog again. Thanks for your patience. I have some great, unusual stuff lined up to post over the next few days, so please stay tuned.

Thanks for all of your kind words and prayers on my daughter's behalf.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thankful for my daughter and modern health care

All of my research and study about health and medicine has come full circle. The subject is now a member of my own family: my sweet daughter.

As I type this entry, I am sitting in the ICU, watching my daughter Gwen sleep and live through the benefit of a respirator and version of morphine. She has been here for three days, the victim of a particularly nasty bacterial infection in her mouth. She went to the dentist at the beginning of the week because of some pain and discomfort that she thought was just a cavity. He prescribed an antibiotic and a pain killer and said the pain should subside in about 48 hours. It didn't - it got worse.

Much more pain, accompanied by a swollen tongue. She couldn't swallow. She was quickly becoming miserable. I called the dentist the next morning for her (she could no longer talk) and he sent us down to an oral surgeon. The oral surgeon said she needed to go right to the emergency room for a cat scan. After the scan she was admitted to the hospital. The next morning a team of surgeons operated on her. Two teeth were removed but much more important was making incisions under her tongue and getting out the infection that had mushroomed out of control. She was intubated and put on a respirator.

The surgeon said that she was on the borderline of having Ludwig's Angina (for all the conditions and diseases I've studied, naturally my daughter would get something I never heard of!); that her infection was dangerous and life threatening. This all happened so quickly our heads (me and my wife) are spinning.

But what we're going through doesn't matter; only what my little cupcake is going through matters. Tubes down her throat, spitting up blood and mucus. Tears; eyes full of fear, hurt, and confusion. How did this happen? Why now? Why her? She had auditions set up to get accepted at various universities' music schools. She has a lead in her community college's first opera.

I am so grateful for such great knowledge, equipment, and medical professionals that we have in this country and in this part of history. The staff has been SUPER. My daughter is slowly getting better. We just hope that none of this will affect her incredible ability to sing. But its great that she's still with us - in the not too distant past she wouldn't have made it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Everything EXCEPT Rose-Colored Glasses

These days, tinted glasses are associated with glitz and glamour or mystery and intrigue. Tom Cruise made one style of sunglasses the rage when he wore them in Top Gun. Movie stars wear them when they walk down the red carpet at awards shows and athletes wear them during post-game interviews; they're as much a fashion statement as eye protection from the bright lights of the paparazzi. Eyewear has long been available in tints to protect light-sensitive eyes, but in the 19th century the color of the tint promised to see people through all kinds of problems under the sun:
  • LIGHT GREEN spectacles were believed to have a soothing influence on the stomach and therefore soothe a tummy suffering from heartburn or ulcers.
  • DARK GREEN had a far different purpose from its lighter cousin - it was often used by people suffering from syphilis under the belief that their abnormally contracted pupils could relax and dilate more if less light hit them; BROWN lenses might also have been used for the same purpose.
  • DARK BLUE was sometimes used by those who had been bled, having a calming effect on the eyes and equilibrium that had become dizzy and faint from the loss of blood.

  • LIGHT BLUE spectacles were used by women when they sewed on linen. Linen has a sheen and the light blue tinted lenses helped remove the glare, making it easier for them to do their needlework on the reflective fabric.

  • AMBER glasses were used to sharpen vision, especially outside in the sunlight. Sharpshooters used them during the Civil War; they were also used by hunters and bicycle riders and others trying to enjoy the scenery, as well as those whose vision had dimmed.
The origins and use of ROSE-COLORED glasses are just as hard to pin down as literature on the other colors I've listed above - in fact, I believe it falls into the realm of being the unicorn of tinted eyewear, existing only as an idiom on ancient tongues but not as spectacles on ancient noses. Some believe that rose-colored spectacles refers to those used by ancient mapmakers. Required to work with a map's minute details, it is believed that they cleaned their spectacles with soft, gentle rose petals to keep their spectacles crystal clear, but the roses accreted a rose-colored residue. The mapmaker connection also hints at the idiomatic meaning, since the mapmakers were focused on a miniature world, oblivious to the real world around them. It also may be that seeing through rose-colored glasses refer not eyewear at all, but to the bottom of a glass of wine or claret. Somebody who has looked through a few of those glasses in succession often sees a "rosier" world than is actually out there.

We still dabble in different color tints in our eyewear today. Over thirty years ago, the big buzz was BluBlocker sunglasses, which are orangey-amber. Dark green glasses are still the most popular and, although all the shades I've reviewed are still available and used, most people think of them simply as sunglasses or as a means of making themselves look cool. And as for rose-colored glasses, well, many of us still look through them from time to time, but even those seem to get scratches in the lenses before too long.
I want to express my appreciation to Ed & Marilyn Welch of for their support and information about the health connotations of tinted spectacles. They are a treasury of knowledge and operate a treasury of wonderful antique eyewear. I have added their website address,, to my sidebar, "More Fascinating Quackery."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New AQUA Winner!!

I thought I'd start off the new year and new decade with a new AQUA award winner, so please do a drumroll on your laptop or your desk top please as I introduce the first AQUA winner of 2010 ...


You might have seen it coming, as you puffed your way through my three-part series on Searching for a Good Smoke. When it comes to smoke, CO, there is no such thing. Amazing how that one molecule of oxygen makes such a big difference: carbon dioxide we exhale normally with every breath; carbon monoxide will kill you, sooner or later ...

Since the beginning of the year is always full of resolutions, I thought I'd start with one that smokers may want to consider one more time. I'm going to quote some facts I got from the AMA about smoking in the U.S., but before I do, I want to share a few personal facts about smoking in my family.

My grandfather started smoking in the old country (in his case, that was the island of St. Michael in the Azores Islands, about a 1,000 miles west of Portugal and 2,000 miles east of New York City) when he was just a boy, at 10 years old. Unable to afford or to be allowed cigarettes, he curled up dried potato skins and smoked them. Of course, he eventually switched brands, from Yukon Gold to Pall Mall, and smoked most of his adult life. He died of bone cancer, but not until he was an old man.

My father also smoked most of his life. Lucy Strikes. He used to drive me down to the local convenience store and have me run in to get him his next pack; I was embarassed and nervous about doing so every time, being sure I would get in trouble because I was just a young kid. Never got challenged or stopped for doing so, but I hated the experience so much, I'm sure that psychologically measured in to my decision not to smoke. Dad died of congestive heart failure triggered in part by pulmonary edema.

My 32-year-old son has been smoking since he was a teenager, too. He told me he snuck his first puffs under our porch; at this point, I don't even want to know where he got the cigarettes. He has tried several times to stop: the patch; special filters and devices; cold turkey - but the weed always gets him back. I still have a hard time looking in his direction when I know he's smoking a cigarette. It breaks my heart and I'm convinced it's killing his. Maybe he'll live to be an old man or maybe he's going to experience terrible suffering and agony; none of us know. And yes, yes, I know we all die someday, but he wishes he could stop and he hasn't been able to so far.

So I am dedicating this AQUA Award to cigarettes. The miserable product does not seem to bring joy into life - it just sucks it out. I found an interesting "bookmark" in one of the old books I bought the other day - it was a tiny eight-panel brochure from Philip Morris USA; probably designed to fit in a pack of cigarettes, but spread wide open it was doing service as a bookmark. It said such things as,

"There is no such thing as a safe cigarette, including this one."

"If you are concerned about the health effects of smoking, you should quit."

I know you smoking advocates out there will be grimacing at this whole post, but it's my blog, so I'm now going to share just a few key points I found on the American Heart Association website; just consider them some points to ponder as you start of your new year:

  • In 2005, the prevalence for smoking (age 18+) was 47,100,000.

  • In 2007, 1 million people started smoking cigarettes daily in the United States within the prior 12 months.

  • About 80 percent of people who use tobacco begin before age 18.

  • On average, male smokers die 13.2 years earlier than male nonsmokers and female smokers die 14.5 years earlier than female nonsmokers.

  • Cigarettte smokers are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers.

  • Cigarette smoking approximately doubles a person's risk for stroke.

  • Cigarette smokers are more than 10 times as likely as nonsmokers to develop peripheral vascular disease.

  • Direct medical costs ($96 billion) and lost productivity costs associated with smoking ($97 billion) total an estimated $193 billion last year (1908).

This post is offered in loving memory of my grandfather, my father, and in hopes that my son will someday soon be able to conquer his addiction to cigarettes.

Peace out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Searching for a Good Smoke - Part 3

Inhaling was exactly what Edwin C. Kirkwood ordered. While there were many different inhaling devices on the market in the 1870s for the treatment of catarrh, asthma, cough, and disease of the throat, lungs and nasal passages, Kirkwood's unit had the look of a portable scientific laboratory. A clear, thick glass goblet was to be filled half way with water while a second smaller interior receptacle held muriatic acid and a third held ammonia. The fumes of the two chemicals were drawn into the water by the siphoning pressure of inhaling. The resulting mixture of the ammonium chloride fumes were sucked by the sufferer of throat, sinus, or lung problems through a long gutta percha tube that was connected to the goblet through its lid. Then, like Taurus the bull and smokers of Dr. Perrin's cigarettes, exhale through the nose: "If the inhalations are for diseases of the nasal passages, the fumes should be ejected through the nostrils by closing the mouth." The illustration on the product advertising shows a well-dressed gentleman demonstrating the decorous medical snort.

The instruction manual also advised when to use the inhaler, which was almost anytime and at lest four times a day (like many of our medicines today, once every four hours): "Inhalations should always be taken before retiring, immediately after rising, and midway between meals, but never immediately after eating."

Kirkwood was the clerk of the U.S. Naval Bureau of Medicine and Surgery and with his great connections there was able to garner a lot of well-placed endorsements that included the Ex-Surgeon General, the Medical Inspector-General of Hospitals and Fleets, hospital directors, surgeons, and doctors, but easily the most notable testimonial was for and in behalf of King David Kalakaua of the Sandwich Islands. He had become king of that archipelago, later known as the Hawaiian Islands, in February 1874 and in November of that year he traveled to Washington, D.C. to visit U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. He became afflicted with a cough and acute bronchial trouble during his visit, so Dr. T. J. Turner, Medical Inspector with the U.S. Navy, got the ailing King Kalakaua to use Kirkwood's Inhaler "with the most successful result," and the relieved monarch took another of the inhalers back with him to his home among the Sandwiches. Hope he didn't use it immediately after eating.

Postscript: King Kalakaua died in 1891 of kidney disease, probably caused by diabetes - but his lungs and throat were fine.

Post Postscript: In doing research for this blog post, I came across another wonderful website with great images and information about medical inhalers from the 19th and other centuries. It is called Inhalatorium; I have added it to my sidebar, "More Fascinating Quackery"; it's well worth the visit.
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