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W2466 TO DR. CALVIN BROOKS MCQUESTEN from his brother Isaac McQuesten
Nov 9 1875 [corrected date]1
To: Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten [New York]
From: Hamilton, Ontario

My dear Brother,

Mrs. Baker has been trying your suggestion of applying blisters to her side for her trouble. She has gone over the whole surface where there appears to be pain, and she wishes to know how long the operation is to be carried on. Is she as soon as the skin has fairly grown over the spot to apply fresh blisters? Or is it to cease with this one application? As it not a pleasant piece of business, she would be glad to know as soon as possible what course to pursue, since she would like to be finished with the thing as soon as possible. You've had several billet doux3 from me of late, so fancy you do not want to hear any more than pertain to facts.

Let me hear soon & believe me.

As ever yours

I.B. McQuesten

1 The Calendar states that this letter is dated September 11, 1875; however we have corrected this to read November 4, 1875. The date on this letter is written 9/11/75, so if Isaac is consistent here with his dating in W2458 where he writes the date as 4/11/75 (meaning, Nov. 4, 1875), then this letter also should be dated as Nov.

2 Mrs. Baker is Mary Baker McQuesten's mother and Isaac's mother-in-law. She died of diabetes in 1882. "Blistering" is a medical treatment that was used in the 19th C. The University of Toledo web site states: "As the 19th century began, Americans had witnessed many revolutionary changes in their lives, but medicine had not kept pace. Medical practices differed little from those of the 18th century. The foremost practitioner of the time was Benjamin Rush, a believer in the Enlightenment era's philosophy of natural law. In this rational system, the body was a machine, and all disease was one disease--an overstimulation of nerves and blood. The cure for overstimulation was "heroic" medicine: bleeding, blistering, purging, and vomiting to restore the natural balance.

"Bleeding was usually the initial treatment. It consisted of venesection (opening up a vein), scarification (using a spring-loaded instrument to produce a series of small cuts), or cupping (placing a warmed glass cup over a cut which filled with blood as the pressure inside dropped). Blistering involved placing hot plasters onto the skin to raise blisters, which were then drained. The most common purgative was Calomel, a form of mercuric chloride which worked as a laxative in small doses, but usually was prescribed in large doses to purge the system.

"Rush wrote extensively on heroic medicine and his work influenced many physicians who continued to practice heroic medicine despite its unpopularity with patients.

"The French Clinical School, emphasized both clinical and pathological observations to determine treatments. Doctors collected statistical evidence like temperatures and pulse rates. Diagnostics were stressed over heroics. Some 700 of the best U.S. doctors traveled to France to study between 1820 and 1860. Despite the opposition of those who returned from abroad, heroic medicine continued to be practiced and eventually the public developed a deep skepticism of doctors and an increased interest in quackery."

"Blistering medical treatment 1860."
Jan. 6, 2004.

Some of Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten's friends traveled to Europe to study medicine and surgical techniques, which are described in their letters, seeW1333, W1336, W1337, W1341, W1343, W1344, W1348, W1354, W1358, W1362, W1367.

3 A French phrase which literally means "sweet letter."

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The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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