[Source: Syringe and Case, 1850- 1900, glass & metal, Bytown Museum, I199.]
Syringe and Case
Treatment options for diseases present on the canal were limited and generally ineffective. Doctors had few medical supplies at their disposal and in many cases treatments were inadequate due to the lack of knowledge about the root cause. Many doctors experimented with bleeding, the use of lead or mercury, and, when all else failed, prayer. Shown here is a syringe and case, which would have been one of the basic tools doctors were equipped with. In most cases, however, treatment was simply a matter of letting the illness run its course while trying to alleviate the symptoms of the victims.
[Source: Library and Archives Canada, MG24-I9, volume 37]
Duration: 34 seconds
Download "Other Illnesses"
(.mp4 19 MB)
View the transcript of this video.
As documented in the notes of self-taught resident physician Dr. A. J. Christie, venereal disease (most often gonorrhea) was quite common in the promiscuous context of frontier society. In fact, it was the most frequently treated ailment after fever and bowel disorders.
[Source: Rhind, William. The History of the Vegetable Kingdom. Glasgow: Blackie, 1855. Carleton University Archives and Research Collection, RAR QK 45 R45 1855.]
Quinine (shown here; also known as Cinchona condaminea, Jesuit root, or Peruvian bark) was the only effective treatment option for malaria. Malaria victim William Bell’s diary entry from March 1827 provides a telling account of the scarcity and exorbitant cost of quinine:
“On Monday being my well day, I was not quite so bad; but on Tuesday, O what I suffered! The shivering fit lasted all the afternoon, and was the severest I had ever experienced. Next day I was fortunate enough to get some quinine, for at this time it was so scarce that, when an ounce could be procured at Montreal, it was sent by post, and long before it arrived it was all bespoke, and even paid for. It was sometimes as high as 16 Dollars an ounce, but such was the scramble to get it, that no one complained about the price. To me, from 6 to 10 grains always producing a certain cure. Taking this quantity, it stopped the ague, and I got better every day.”