Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

“if as usual your Stomack abounds with acid”

ABIGAIL ADAMS wrote to her son John Quincy Adams on the day she believed he was graduating from Harvard. Her letter, of course, is full of advice. She includes her recipe to counter an acid stomach—no Tums back then—and notes that she has sent him fabric for a waistcoat and some “very tasty buttons.”

London july 18 1787my Dear Son
I give you joy of the day, as I presume it is commencment with you at Cambridge, and as it is about 4 oclock in the afternoon, I imagine you have past through your performance, I hope with approbation of the hearers, and reputation to yourself, pray favour me with a sight of it by the next opportunity and now I Suppose you will be deliberating with yourself what is next to be done? . . . you proposed, should we return next Spring, perhaps you might chuse to persue your Studies with your Father, that we shall return then if our Lives are Spaired I have no doubt, but till that time you would not chuse to be Idle your Aunt mentiond that you had thoughts of going to mr Dana your pappa would leave you intirly to your own choice, & to mr Dana he can have no objection, and I do not wonder that you should give him the preference on many accounts. it is a very agreeable family if you could get to Board in it. I have a sincere Friendship for Mrs Dana. be sure you give my Love to her; & tell her I hope to Spend many more Sociable Evenings with her, when I return to America. . . .

your Aunt Cranch wrote me that you had been unwell, and I heard from others that you had lost your Flesh. the latter I should not regreet, if ill Health and too close application did not occasion it. I have so frequently admonished you that I would not tire you by a repetition. light food is necessary for a student. if as usual your Stomack abounds with acid, Lime water mixd with milk, which takes away the dissagreeable taste you would find the best antidote, one pound of stone Lime, upon which pour a Gallon of Boiling water Let it stand till clear then pour it of & bottle it, take it twice a day, a large tea cup full mixd with milk—now you need not laugh, for if your food sours, it is impossible it should digest, & from thence arise your complaints. . . .

I have sent you by Captain Barnard Cloth for a coat, it is a fashionable coulour, & the buttons very tasty. you will find a waistcoat pattern with it, and I have given to mrs Wentworth a Boston woman who is a passenger Sattin for a pr of Breeches, which she will leave at uncle Smiths for you; she has been a good deal in the family with me, and I have every reason to believe her a trust worthy woman you have not acknowledg the receipt of your shirts, or told me if they fitted you.

Mr Hollis was in Town to day . . . and dined with us. he has left in my care the works of Dr Jebb*, to be sent to Harvard college. I will Send you a Set as soon as I can get them bound. he was one of the choise ones of the Earth.—I shall direct them to be left at uncle Smiths—

our Good Friends the Dutch are in a dissagreeable situation, as you will see by the publick papers. England and France are arming at all points, what will be the result, time only can devellope. . . .

adieu most affectionately yours—
Abigail Adamsinclosed you find a Louis d’or

*John Disney, The Works, Theological, Medical, Political, and Miscellaneous, of John Jebb: With Memoirs of the Life of the Author, London, 1787.

Source: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2016.

posted August 29th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John Quincy,Clothes,Education,Harvard,Health,Illness

“for the first time in my life, I tried the experiment”

ABIGAIL ADAMS continues her letter to her sister Mary Cranch describing the trip she and her husband took to the West Country of England in 1787. In Southampton Abigail took a dip. During the 1780s bathing in the sea began to be considered healthful.

“Machines,” such as the one illustrated, allowed a woman to change into her bathing costume and slip into the sea in a protected environment away from prying eyes. It is not clear whether Abigail used one of these but it does sound like it. The woman who assisted the bather was called a “dipper.”

Proceeding to Weymouth, Abigail was distressed by the poverty she witnessed and the inability of the ordinary folk to better themselves given the circumstances in which they lived. She was proud that in America, in addition to its other advantages, it was relatively easy to acquire property.

From Winchester we proceeded to Southampton, which is a very pretty seaport town, and much frequented during the summer months as a bathingplace; and here, for the first time in my life, I tried the experiment. It would be delightful in our warm weather, as well as very salubrious, if such conveniences were erected in Boston, Braintree, and Weymouth, which they might be, with little expense. The places are under cover. You have a woman for a guide, a small dressing-room to yourself, an oil-cloth cap, a flannel gown, and socks for the feet.

We tarried only two days at Southampton, and went ten miles out of our way in order to visit Weymouth, merely for its name. This, like my native town, is a hilly country, a small seaport, with very little business, and wholly supported by the resort of company during the summer months. For those persons, who have not country-houses of their own, resort to the watering-places, as they are called, during the summer months, it being too vulgar and unfashionable to remain in London. But where the object of one is health, that of fifty is pleasure, however far they fall short of the object.

This whole town is the property of a widow lady. Houses are built by the tenants, and taken at liferents, which, upon the decease of the lessees, revert back again to the owner of the soil. Thus is the landed property of this country vested in lordships and in the hands of the rich altogether. The peasantry are but slaves to the lord, notwithstanding the mighty boast they make of liberty. Sixpence and sevenpence per day is the usual wages given to laborers, who are to feed themselves out of the pittance. In travelling through a country, fertile as the garden of Eden, loaded with a golden harvest, plenty smiling on every side, one would imagine that the voice of Poverty was rarely heard, and that she was seldom seen, but in the abodes of indolence or vice. But it is far otherwise. The money earned by the sweat of the brow must go to feed the pampered lord and fatten the greedy bishop, whilst the miserable, shattered, thatched-roof cottage crumbles to the dust for want of repair. To hundreds and hundreds of these abodes have I been a witness in my late journey. The cheering rays of the sun are totally excluded, unless they find admittance through the decayed roof, equally exposed to cold and the inclement season. A few rags for a bed and a jointstool comprise the chief of their furniture, whilst their own appearance is more wretched than one can well conceive. During the season of hay and harvest, men, women, and children are to be seen laboring in the fields: but, as this is a very small part of the year, the little they then acquire is soon expended; and how they keep soul and body together the remainder of the year is very hard to tell. It must be owing to this very unequal distribution of property, that the poor-rate is become such an intolerable burden. The inhabitants are very thinly scattered through the country, though large towns are well peopled.

To reside in and near London, and to judge of the country from what one sees here, would be forming a very erroneous opinion. How little cause of complaint have the inhabitants of the United States, when they compare their situation, not with despotic monarchies, but with this land of freedom ! The ease with which honest industry may acquire property in America, the equal distribution of justice to the poor as well as the rich, and the personal liberty they enjoy, all, all call upon them to support their government and laws, to respect their rulers, and gratefully acknowledge their superior blessings. . . .

Abigail’s letter is from the volume Letters of Mrs. Adams, The Wife of John Adams With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume II, 1840. The image of the bathing machine was taken from this SITE.

posted August 8th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Americans Abroad,Amusements,Britain,Health

“Flying from Home”

MARY WHITE MORRIS (1749-1827) was the daughter of Thomas White, a lawyer and surveyor, and Esther Hewlings Newman White. Her brother, William White, became the bishop of the American Episcopal Church. In 1769, Mary married Robert Morris (1734-1806), the Philadelphia merchant and financier, who almost single-handedly arranged the financing of the Revolutionary War, his own firm profiting handsomely in the process. With many others, in the winter of 1776, Mary had left the city in expectation of the arrival of British troops. She sought refuge with her stepsister Sophia Hall near Aberdeen, Maryland, her distress heightened by the medical needs of her son Thomas. Members of the Continental Congress moved their deliberations to Baltimore but left Robert Morris to oversee affairs in Philadelphia. At the time of this letter, the Morris children included Robert, Thomas, Esther “Hetty”, and William. Charles (b. 1777), Maria, and Henry would follow.

December the 20 [1776]Dear Mr. Morris
I had not time by Joseph [a servant] to acknowledge the Receipt of your Letter by Mr. Hudson, we were at Suscohanah Ferry, I was Sorry the House was so crowded, tho with Delegates, he could not get Lodging, Else should have had more of His Company, He took an Oppertunity of telling me his House in Baltimore, was at our Service, my answer was, I should be Governd by You intirely, in my Future place off Aboad; I long to give You an Account, of the many Difficulties, and uneasyiness we have Experienced in this journey Indeed my Spirits, were very Unable to the task, after that greatest Conflict, Flying from Home, the Sufferings of our poor little Tom, distress’d us all, and without the Affectionate assistance of Mr. Hall, and the Skillfulness of Doctor Cole, whose Services I shall never forget, I don’t know what might have been the Consequence, as it was a boil of an uncommon Nature, and Required the Surgeons Hand; we had reason to Apprehend too, we should lose our goods, the many Circumstances, of this Affair, I must leave till I see you, as neither my Patience, nor Paper will hold out, Only that Mr. Hall. . . . Invited me to Lodge at His House, which when I declined, he politely Offerd me any Services in his power, and finding I had goods to be Carted Down he Immediately Offerd his Teems, which as soon as they arrived at the Bridge, were press’d for the Publick, but after all the Dangers, Ive the Pleasure to inform you, they are safely housed in this Hospitable Mansion. . . .
Joseph has returnd to Town for His Cloaths, I lent him our White Horse, he will wait on you for my nedles that are in a White nedle book in our tea table Draw[er] in the back Parlor, if they are not there Hero must apply to Anna for She must find them, Excuse me for troubleing you for what youll call trifling but indeed they are very necessary to me. . . .
I was Upstairs with my Children, when my mother Deliverd me your first Letter, you never Saw greater joy Sparkell in the Eye, then did Bobs, when he found it was from his Pappa, Read it out loud, mamma, will you, do mamma, till he was observed, which put a Stop to his Pleaseing Curiosity, your Darling Daughter is very Hearty and Saucier than ever, Bil is as stout as Ussiall, but Tom looks very thin, and will while his Sore Discharges as it does at Present, do give me the Pleasure of Hearing from you by every Oppertunity
your Affectionate M. Morris

The letter is in the Robert Morris Collection: Henry E. Huntington Library, Lists No. 5, pages 53-55, transcribed by Louise North. [Microfilm, courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Nuxoll]. The portrait is by Charles Willson Peale.

posted June 1st, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Children,Health,Money,Morris, Mary White,Morris, Robert,Philadelphia

“I suppose thare will be a change soon”

As there are so few letters from the correspondence between Martha and George Washington—only three letters from George survive; two were discovered in the personal desk she left to her granddaughter Martha Custis Peter; she destroyed the others—I thought I would post this letter written from Boston by Martha to her sister.

Cambridge January the 31, 1776My dear Sister
I have wrote to you several times, in hopes it would put you in mind of me, but I find it has not had its intended affect. I am really very uneasy at not hearing from you and have made all the excuses for you that I can think of but it will not doe much longer. If I doe not get a letter by this nights post I shall think myself quite forgot by all my Freinds. The distance is long yet the post comes in regularly every week—
The General, myself, and Jack are very well. Nelly Custis is I hope getting well again, and I beleive is with child. I hope noe accident will happen to her in going back [to Virginia]. I have not thought much about it yet god know whare we shall be; I suppose thare will be a change soon but how I cannot pretend to say—A few days agoe Gen [Henry] Clinton, with several companyes Sailed out of Boston Harbor to what place distant for, we cannot find out. Some think it is to Virginia he is gon, others to New York—they have been keept in Boston so long that I suppose they will be glad to seek for a place where they may have more room as they cannot get out anywhere here but by water—our navey has been very successful in taking thair vessels; two was taken last week loded with coles and potatoes wines & several other articles for the use of the troops—If General Clinton is gon to New York,—General Lee is there before him and I hope will give him a very warm reception,—he was sent thare some time a goe to have matters put in proper order in case any disturbances should happen, as thare are many Tories in that part of the world, or at least many are susspected thare to be unfreindly to our cause at this time—winter hear has been so remarkable mild the Rivers has never been frozen hard enough to walk upon the Ice since I came heer. My Dear sister be so good as to remember me to all enquireing friends. . . .
I am my Dear Nancy your ever effectionate sister
Martha Washington

John Parke Custis was the son of Martha Washington by her first husband Daniel Custis. Jacky, as he was called when he was young, and his sister Patsy were adopted by George Washington when he married Martha. It’s fair to say that Jacky was a disappointment to his mother and stepfather. He resisted all attempts to acquire the classical education necessary for college entrance and was disinclined to acquire the skills necessary to manage the plantation which he would inherit if Martha and George had no children of their own. Washington remarked to Jacky’s schoolmaster that he was interested in “Dogs Horses & Guns.” Briefly enrolled in King’s College (now Columbia), Jack dropped out to marry Elizabeth Calvert of Maryland in 1774. His stepfather disapproved of the marriage because he thought Jack too young and ill-equipped to support a family. Jack and his wife, had four children in quick succession. Sensing that a decisive battle was about to take place in 1781 at Yorktown, Jacky had himself appointed civilian aide-de-camp to General Washington in order to participate. Unfortunately he contracted “camp fever” (epidemic typhus) and died in November. A sad blow for the Washingtons as they had lost Patsy to a seizure in 1773 at the age of 17. Martha and George adopted Jacky’s two youngest children while their mother raised the older two. The families remained close and visited often.

The letter appears on pages 41-42 of In the Words of Women.

“Jack was so scared”

Mary Cary Ambler (1733-1781) was the daughter of Wilson Cary of Virginia. She married Edward Ambler and the couple had two children, John and Sarah. In 1770, Mary traveled from Fauquier County, Virginia, to Baltimore to have herself and her children inoculated against smallpox. She stayed with a Mrs. Chilton and, in the third person, she described the experience in her diary. The first attempts to inoculate failed and the doctor had to send for more serum to Philadelphia.

September 1770

[She] happened to meet with Mrs. Douglas returning from Baltimore in Maryland where She had been with her three children to be Inoculated for the Small Pox. . . . M Ambler inquired how far it was to Baltimore Town . . . she almost determined to carry her Chil[dre]n to that place to be Inoculated by Dr. Stephenson who she was told had Inoc[ulate]d 7000 People with the greatest Success imaginable. . . .

Monday [Sept. 8] This Morng Mrs. Brook, Mr. Lawson, M. Ambler & children went to Balte Town . . . The Dr. came & inoc. M. Ambler & Sally immediat[el]y but Jack was so scared it could not be done effect[ivel]y. . . .

Wednesday [10th] This day Dr. Stephenson came to Examine our arms & found Jacks so little affectd that he Inoculd him again & he manfully bore it. We all still find ourselves very well. . . .

Thursday [11th] This day M Ambler & Sally took Purges which made them very Sick but Jack was at liberty to run about as he took no Pill the preceding night nor any Physick this day. . . .

Sunday [14th] M. Ambler took a purge very sick with it . . . Dear Jack held out his arm for the 3d. Inoculon & never winched. . . .

Wednesday . . . The children very well still & very cheerful. This aftern The Dr. sent his Mr. Hazzlet to inocl us all again. . . .

Monday [Oct 6th]. . . . Jackey had a very high Fever all Night which continues very Smart tho he goes out of one Room into another. . . .

Tuesday [7th] A good day Jackey’s Fever very High . . . his Mother watched him all night. God be thanked several Pocks appears this morning the Fever still High but the greatest Struggle thought to be over. . . .

Saturday [11th] M. Amblers Fever exceedg smart all night but has begun to decline this day a good many Pock out, the pain in the Head has now abated. . . .

Monday [13th] M. Ambler recovers fast has about 25 pock Sally has about 10 & Jack about 17 or 18. Sally and he quite happy & lively.

It took considerable bravery and patience to endure the inoculation procedure as it existed at that time. Happily, the Amblers were counted among the doctor’s successes.

The passage is taken from In the Words of Women, pages 178-79.

posted May 14th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Ambler, Mary Cary,Children,Health,Inoculation

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