Medical Remedies


Tracy Smith

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Apr 20, 2012
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I can't possibly imagine a surgery with rats! A Crew Surgery is supposed to be clean!

Yep.....and rat poison might have been just the thing to ensure this cleanliness, too.
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May 8, 2001
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Well, the general thought about it being rat poison is that it would be something placed for safe keeping, and monitored by a doctor. Since the crew surgery was so low in the ship, (near 3rd class) it would be a logical place to keep it stored. One has to wonder though, as it has been said that the bottle seen is one of the largest in the series. It could have been the industrial bottle from which others were refilled from, or a frequently used item on board.
I have wondered if it was a type of burn ointment, but the neck is small. Like I said, the banter is still being volleyed. What would be helpful is a doctors manifest, and could break down what they actually ordered for the ship. Does anyone know if something like this exists for the Olympic, and where to find it?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I can't possibly imagine a surgery with rats! A Crew Surgery is supposed to be clean!<<

So's the rest of the ship. The problem is that rats are pretty good at finding ways of getting aboard, often by scurrying up mooring lines. This is the reason that you see mooring lines with those big metal shields secured around them. Their purpose is to keep the little buggers off.

Unfortunately, the safegaurds that exist today either didn't exist in 1912, or were not in widespread use. If rat poison was kept aboard, it was likely for the explicit purpose of pest control.
 

Bob Godfrey

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The Board of Trade issued regulations on what medicines were required and how they should be packaged. A green fluted bottle was specified for medicaments which were not to be taken internally.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Further to Bob's post, green and fluted was a belt-and-braces approach to seeing and feeling poisons, and the BoT issued standard packaging methods for various compounds, some being photodegradable and/or poisonous (dark and fluted etc). Unless there was a pharmacy and dispenser on board, the doctors would have made up a lot of their own medicines, using a large array of (basically toxic) ingredients and a Pharmacopoeia of recipes. Anyone who wants to know what an alarming place a dispensary used to be can browse the 1911 Encyclodaedia (below) which might be of general interest to ET members anyway.
http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/
My father, when indented as an apprentice pharmacist in the 1930s, had to learn all this stuff - making pills, rolling them in gold leaf (?)etc. I still have his 1934 Pharmacopoeia which is full of fascinating instructions on making medicines, cosmetics, and a great sounding thing for blocked drains - the Drain Rocket - based on gunpowder.
Incidentally, Bob, since we are of an age - did you get the liberty bodice and codliver oil-and-malt treatment as a child?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Monica, I certainly was dosed with cod liver oil (and castor oil, senna pods etc) as a kid, but my experience with liberty bodices came later :)
Better change the subject, so here's a list of the basic collection of medicines required to meet BOT shipping regulations in 1912 :

Spirits of ammonia - as a stimulant and for stomach pain or headache
Potassium bromide - mild sedative
Laudanum - for pain reliever and as a sedative
Bicarbonate of soda - for indigestion and heartburn
Black Draught (Mistura Seance Composite), castor oil and Epsom Salts - all for constipation
Elixir of Vitriol - for diarrhoea
Lead and Opium Pill - for diarrhoea or internal bleeding
Spirit of Chloroform - for stomach pain and flatulence
Camphor - for flatulence
Blue Pill (Pilula Hydrargyri) - for bilious attacks
Sulphur - for piles
Creosote - for vomiting or toothache
Dover's Powder (Ipecacuanha) - for pain, restlessness, dysentery and diarrhoea
Cough Pill (Ipecacuanha, Squill & Ammoniacum) - for dry coughs
Aspirin and salicylate of soda - for fevers
Sweet Spirits of Nitre - for palpitations, flatulence, feverish colds, kidney complaints and dropsy
Saltpetre - for fevers and as a diuretic
Paregoric - for colds, coughs, bronchitis and TB
Compound Tincture of Chloroform and Morphine - depressant for severe headaches, fever, coughs and diarrhoea
Tincture digitalis - heart stimulant
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Hmm, Bob. Not sure if we are of an age actually, if your experience with liberty bodices came later. Mine, mercifully, ended at about aged 4... which makes you fairly precocious
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Most of those medicines you listed would have been in the fluted bottles. Of course, we laugh, but so many of our medicines are merely chemical substitutes for those - and I bet a lot of them actually worked, unlike the OTC stuff you pay a fortune for now. Let me know if you ever need a Drain Rocket!
 

Bob Godfrey

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Thanks for the offer, Monica, but I rarely need a Drain Rocket as I am, like the BOT, a strong believer in the medicinal value of a regular intake of Black Draught. Murphys preferred, but Guinness equally effective.
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Tracy Smith

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Sounds like the cures were worse than the original problems!

I have no earthly idea what a "liberty bodice" is, btw. And, mercifully, I was never dosed with castor oil or anything remotely similar.

I'm thinking I'm a bit younger than the two of you, as my father was a kid during the 1930s.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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In the days of sail, medicines were kept by the captain in numbered containers and dished out to sick sailors in accordance with the The Ship Captain's Medical Guide, which I think still exists in modern form.

Legend has it that if the book prescribed so much of say, number 12, but the number 12 had run out, the captain would substitute a mixture of 5 and 7, or whatever else added up.

Similar schemes have been used elsewhere, such as by Australia's Royal Flying Doctor Service, which radios instructions to those caring for distant patients. Explorers had neat little cases for medicines, sometimes numbered.

I certainly remember the cod liver oil but I'll have to look up the liberty bodice. (so to speak!).
 

Dave Gittins

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Here's the dinkum oil on the liberty bodice in modern guise.

http://www.woods-online.co.uk/trolleyed/138/253/

From other sources I find that it originated in 1908 and was mostly worn by children of both sexes. It sometimes included suspenders in those days. It was called "liberty" because it was free from boning and tight bands. The buttons were originally made of rubber. It seems to be designed on the theory that it was important to keep the chest warm. There are quite a few references to it on the Internet. One woman remembers freezing her legs while keeping her upper body warm behind her liberty bodice and other underwear.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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How you take me back, Dave. Not that I originated in 1908, I would hasten to add. As you say, 'liberty' implied freedom from corsets, at least until you reached puberty. (see Bob's and my posts re corsets for men, I can't find the URL). Liberty bodices, padded vests, actually survived until the 1950s in the chilly UK, no need for them in the Southern States of USA or Oz, but here we did. No central heating, and ice forming beautiful patterns on the inside of the windows here. No suspenders on mine, I was far too young. But doing up those rubber buttons in a freezing bathroom - well, I defy Bob Godfrey to elaborate on his later experiences ..... but they did keep you warmer. I don't think I wore one after the age of about 5 - probably because heating system in our house had changed. Odd really, as they were a hang-over from a much earlier period. The children on the Titanic would have all have had a Liberty Bodice, except maybe the 3rd class ...
How's the Christmas blow-out been? I can't think of a way to cause offence - I muist have put on --oooh -- an ounce or two ?
happy.gif

yours - stick insect ....
 
May 8, 2001
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Bob. WOW! Thanks for the breakdown of BOT regulations. That is a really good place to start!
Monica. Thank you for all the links, and certainly the additional comments! Bells being places on poison bottles I had never heard of.
Who would have thought they made so many designs?!
You probably know allot more than I do, with your dad "in the business." I am still learning, but it is really an interesting subject. My husband is a little suspicious though.... He frequently asks me if being married is so bad? :)
When you see a large collection displayed, you can't help but be utterly amazed, and then really ~scared~ when they proudly point out the rare ones they finally managed to get in their collection, and the aprox value. (Especially when they are ugly, like olive green.)

I did not see any remedy for lice. I know 3rd class had to be checked, but what would have been kept on hand, in case?

Thanks again! Have a Safe New Years everyone, and prosperous 2004!
 

Dave Gittins

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Melissa, I'm sorry I'm so late, and I hope you haven't thrown yourself overboard in despair, but I now have some 'cures' for seasickness.

"The Sway of the Grand Saloon" devotes quite a bit of space to them. I'll just list a few. The whole glorious collection is on pages 514-515. I've no idea what some of them are, so I'll give those I recognise.

Bismuth, soluble camphor, opium, soup with cayenne, morphine with atropine, fat pork fried with garlic, patience and a good walk on shore, phenacetin with caffein, tomato sauce, tincture of iodine, mustard pickles, lemon and ginger, caviar, cannabis indica, sodium phenobarbital. Bisset's dose of seawater is also suggested.

The patent medicine was Mothersill's Seasick Remedy. The was free from cocaine, opium etc and was still in use when American troops left for WWI. It cost $1 per box.

Brinnin's chapter about seasickness is hilarious, but it accurately portrays the misery that was often the passenger's lot at sea. The passengers on Titanic had the unusual experience of enjoying their voyage, right up to 11-40 p.m. on 14 April. One unpublicised reason for building the Olympic class ships was that they were intended to reduce seasickness by their sheer size.
 

Dennis Smith

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Aug 24, 2002
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Hi All,

The remedies for seasickness brought back a very unpleasant memory for me. I was seventeen, I left home to sail on the Icelandic trawlers sailing from Hull (Yorkshire) and joined a ship called the "Ross Howe" - yes Ross fish fingers and fish cakes- and off we sailed to the far north. Five days steaming to get to the fishing grounds and I died a little more every day. The weather never relented, it wasn't particularly bad - but it was bad enough. I could not,would not eat anything, but the lads brought me some sandwiches and said I had to eat them, -"To get something in my stomach"- and me being a trusting 17 year old complied. Whoops, what a mistake - the sandwiches were of pure pork fat - slid down well, then slid right back up again. Took me a couple of days to settle down but I was never seasick again in about 17 years of sea time.


Best Wishes and Rgs

Dennis
 
May 8, 2001
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seasickness... bleehhh!!!

For what it's worth, I just located a similar green bottle yesterday, and its contents were strychnine. This happens to be the first one I've found with contents labeled, and not just the manufacturers name. The search continues!
 
May 8, 2001
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Constipation obsession has just reached new levels.
It would be logical, if strychnine was an antiseptic, (as well as a rat poison) that it was kept on hand in the crew surgery. Anyhow, here is what was said.
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Strychnine is an extremely poisonous white crystaline alkaloid extract, (C21H22O2N2) obtained from the dried ripe seeds of Strychnos nux vomica, a small tree of the East Indies. In the past strychnine has been used as an antiseptic, stomach tonic, circulatory stimulant, central nervous system stimulant, and as a medication for the relief of constipation. Strychnine is still in limited use today as a bird, mammal, and insect control agent.
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Dave Gittins

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In those days, strychnine was used with gay abandon. It was used in the Olympic Games marathon, in conjunction with brandy as a stimulant. It was still used in the 1950s, when athletes tried every drug they could lay hands on.
 

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