Monday, October 13, 2014

Manuscript Monday—Gold Rush correspondence, Part 4: Mountain dentistry

Working with nineteenth-century manuscripts gives one a new-found appreciation for the wonders of modern medicine and dentistry. Scared of getting a flu shot? Consider the plight of this poor 49er, his rotting tooth in the clutches of an untrained mountain dentist. At least they had whiskey.

Excuse me for trying your patience, for I want to tell you about an operation which I passed through a few days since. In the first place, imagine yourself seated on an old soup box, in what is termed a Doctor's Office, here in the mountains, and the Dentist so called, a very raw boned Pike Countryman with both hands full of the old fashioned instruments and singing out at the same time, open your mouth as wide as you can, then comes the tug of war. I tell you I have never passed through or experienced anything that gets me like it does to have a tooth extracted by a mountain Dentist, with the tools they use. I think the instruments if I may call them by that name, are better adapted to use in a mining claim, than on a person's tooth.

William H. Brown letter: North Branch, Calif., to P.D. Irish : ALS, 1851 Mar. 29, MS 238, California Historical Society.

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian
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