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Frontier Medicine: From the Atlantic to the Pacific, 1492-1941by David Dary
Synopses & Reviews
In his new book, David Dary, one of our leading social historians, gives us a fascinating, informative account of American frontier medicine from our Indian past to the beginning of World War II, as the frontier moved steadily westward from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific Ocean.
He begins with the early arrivals to our shores and explains how their combined European-taught medical skills and the Indians’ well-developed knowledge of local herbal remedies and psychic healing formed the foundation of early American medicine.
We then follow white settlement west, learning how, in the 1720s, seventy-five years before Edward Jenner’s experiments with smallpox vaccine, a Boston doctor learned from an African slave how to vaccinate against the disease; how, in 1809, a backwoods Kentucky doctor performed the first successful abdominal surgery; how, around 1820, a Missouri doctor realized quinine could prevent as well as cure malaria and made a fortune from the resulting pills he invented.
Using diaries, journals, newspapers, letters, advertisements, medical records, and pharmacological writings, Dary gives us firsthand accounts of Indian cures; the ingenious self-healings of mountain men; home remedies settlers carried across the plains; an early “HMO” formed by Wyoming ranchers and cowboys to provide themselves with medical care; the indispensable role of country doctors and midwives; the fortunes made from patent medicines and quack cures; the contributions of army medicine; Chinese herbalists; the formation of the American Medical Association; the first black doctors; the first women doctors; and finally the early-twentieth-century shift to a formal scientific approach to medicine that by the postwar period had for the most part eliminated the trial-and-error practical methods that were at the center of frontier medicine.
A wonderful—often entertaining—overview of the complexity, energy, and inventiveness of the ways in which our forebears were doctored and how our medical system came into being.
From the era of exploration to the beginning of World War II, a compelling study of the evolution of American medicine draws on diaries, newspapers, letters, advertisements, and medical records to detail traditional Indian medical practices, home remedies of early settlers, the role of country doctors and midwives, army medicine, the formation of the AMA, and beyond. 20,000 first printing.
In this intriguing narrative, David Dary charts how American medicine has evolved since 1492, when New World settlers first began combining European remedies with the traditional practices of the native populations. It’s a story filled with colorful characters, from quacks and con artists to heroic healers and ingenious medicine men, and Dary tells it with an engaging style and an eye for the telling detail. Dary also charts the evolution of American medicine from these trial-and-error roots to its contemporary high-tech, high-cost pharmaceutical and medical industry.
Packed with fascinating facts about our medical past, Frontier Medicine is an engaging and illuminating history of how our modern medical system came into being.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
\David Dary is the author of more than a dozen previous books including The Buffalo
Book, Cowboy Culture, Entrepreneurs of the Old West, Seeking Pleasure in the Old West, Red Blood and Black Ink, The Santa Fe Trail, The Oregon Trail, and True Tales of the Prairies and Plains. He is the recipient of two Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, two Western Writers of America Spur Awards, the WWA’s Wister Owen Award for lifetime achievement, the Westerners International Best Nonfiction Book Award, and the Oklahoma Center for the Book 2008 Arrell Gibson Award for lifetime achievement. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Indian Medicine
Chapter Two: Early American Medicine
Chapter Three: Over the Appalachians
Chapter Four: Beyond the Mississippi
Chapter Five: Fur Traders and Trappers
Chapter Six: On the Oregon Trail
Chapter Seven: Among the Soldiers
Chapter Eight: On Homestead and Ranch
Chapter Nine: In Western Towns
Chapter Ten: Going West for Your Health
Chapter Eleven: Midwives and Women Doctors
Chapter Twelve: Patent Medicines
Chapter Thirteen: Quacks
Chapter Fourteen: Into the Twentieth Century
Appendix: Epidemics in North America, 1616–1950
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