The Medical Heritage Library recently passed a milestone: we uploaded our 50,000th item, the wonderfully titled The doctor’s advice : or how, when, and what to eat and drink, how to secure good health and long life, how to prevent and treat disease, what mothers and nurses ought to know : how to care for the baby, and give to our boys and girls the best moral, mental, and physical culture, when and whom to marry, how to choose a wife or husband, and how to be happy from 1898.
The reader might think that any one of the topics mentioned above might be more than enough for a book, but Dr. Alvarado Middleditch thought they were best treated as a single, all-encompassing subject. His philosophy is more or less summed up in his opening sentence: “The home is the Church and State in embryo.” (iii) Going further, the reader finds thta Dr. Middleditch proposes to cover not only physical wellbeing but education, plans for business, how to get along as a merchant, alcoholism, the care of the pregnant mother, what personal qualifications are best for a maternity nurse, and what amusements are most likely to suit and improve children.
Dr. Middleditch’s work sits squarely in the family advice manual tradition, offering up suggestions and philosophy on a wide range of subjects. Clearly Dr. Middleditch envisioned his book being the kind of thing that might be gifted to young married couples and then handed down to their children, having enlightened the original couple throughout their productive married life.
Some of the advice seems ridiculous if not outrageous, such as that telling parents that a “piece of salt pork dipped in hot vinegar, and sprinkled over with black pepper” should be worn around the child’s neck as part of the treatment for diphtheria. The only likely result of this would seem to be to have a patient with a distinctive bodily odor! Other snippets seem more familiar, including the injunction that children should not kiss or share toys or clothing with ill children or adults, the home should be kept clean and well-ventilated, and family drinking water should be away from any possible source of contamination.
Perhaps Dr. Middleditch’s text can work almost as well to point out what has not changed as it does to indicate trends that have long since disappeared.
As always, for more from the Medical Heritage Library, please visit our full collection!