An Old-Fashioned Expedition into the Vault

This is a guest post by Kristin Daniel, UCSF Archives and Special Collections Intern.

Dear Reader, you may not be aware of the fact that most—if not all—archives must deal with the looming specter of unprocessed legacy collections haunting their vaults.  Hark, what’s that I hear?  The sound of researchers gnashing their teeth at the thought of virgin cartons, brimming with knowledge, just beyond their reach?  In the name of Science and History, what can be done?

Inside the UCSF Archives vault.

I’ll tell you good Reader!  An expedition is being undertaken at this very moment to survey those hidden but not forgotten boxes of lore that reside in the vault of the UCSF Archives. Possessing the requisite skills and patience, archivist David Uhlich and myself (your plucky and adroit, intern) are making our way through shelf after shelf of material – opening boxes, checking contents, and conferring with the notes of archivists gone by.

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Sometimes we find what’s on the shelf matches what information we have, but sometimes we come across half-created records or material lacking adequate description.  Despite these setbacks, we roll up our sleeves and soldier on, updating existing records with new information about content and location, or creating shiny new records of our own.

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It’s a long process, but it is important work.  Fear not, gentle Reader, for although the task seems Sisyphean in magnitude, the brave souls of the Archives and Special Collections are determined to succeed!

Highlights from the State Medical Society Journals digitization project

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We’ve become somewhat accustomed to seeing “smoking doctor” pictures, typically the product of tobacco advertising cynically appealing to authority. The above image comes from a naturalistic setting however, depicting pathologist Dr. Harrison Martland (see table of contents below) at work.

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Dr. Martland is featured on the cover of the January 1984 edition of the Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey (Vol. 81 no. 1), digitized by the Internet Archive as part of the NEH grant-funded project to digitize many of our state medical society journals.

The journal lacks any commentary on the smoking but does lead us to an article on the analysis of Dr. Martland’s historical autopsy records performed at Newark City Hospital from 1908 to 1911.

The author draws some interesting conclusions about the safety and violence of Newark from Dr. Martland’s records, but perhaps one of the most interesting details is his attempt to record all his findings in Latin! He gave up eventually, doubtless making the author’s analysis that little bit easier.

Check out this and many other journals from our collection and four other libraries at the Internet Archive’s State Medical Society Journals project page. Expect continued updates to the collection throughout the year.

Baunscheidt’s Lebenswecker: The 19th-Century “Life-Awakener”

Another installment in our blog series that explores artifacts related to health practices now considered inaccurate or fraudulent. Check out Carl Baunscheidt’s Lebenswecker.

Baunscheidt's Lebenswecker, circa 1850. Item 436, UCSF Archives Artifact Collection.

Baunscheidt’s Lebenswecker, circa 1850. Instrument pictured with cap on and off. Item 436, UCSF Archives Artifact Collection.

The Lebenswecker, translated as the “Life-Awakener” or the “Resuscitator,” was developed by German inventor Carl Baunscheidt in the mid-19th century. The small instrument included over 30 thin, spring-loaded needles concentrated at the end of an ebony staff.

Detail of Lebenswecker.

Detail of Lebenswecker. Item 436, UCSF Archives Artifact Collection.

Carl Baunscheidt. From According to Baunscheidt, the Lebenswecker was designed to quickly puncture the skin, creating “artificial pores.” The “pores,” i.e. puncture wounds, were then covered with a proprietary irritating oil called “Oleum Baunscheidtii” that produced blisters. As another option, the practitioner could dip the needles in the oil before application, thus creating a more concentrated injection. As the blisters formed and drained, Baunscheidt claimed, the “health-destroying morbid matter” in the body naturally escaped.

Illustration of Adonis and Aphrodite with "most generally appropriate" areas of the body on which to use the Lebenswecker.

Illustration of Adonis and Aphrodite with “most generally appropriate” areas of the body on which to use the Lebenswecker. From Baunscheidtism, or a New Method of Cure, 1865.

 

 

Baunscheidt developed a health philosophy around the Lebenswecker known as Baunscheidtism. His inspiration, as detailed in his book Baunscheidtism, or a New Method of Cure, came from his experience watching mosquitoes bite his rheumatic hand. As he writes, “it seemed as if the pains he had suffered, had fled with the flies…the inflicted sting caused an opening in the epidermis just large enough for the fine, volatile, but pathogenic substances lodged in the skin to exude.”

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Detail of illustration from Baunscheidtism, or a New Method of Cure, 1865.

Baunscheidt claimed that the Lebenswecker could cure everything from sleeplessness to measles to epilepsy. Baunscheidtism practitioners, like John Linden, made similarly broad claims. As Linden noted in his work, Manual of the Exanthematic Method of Cure, the Lebenswecker could eliminate a tapeworm because, after repeated applications, “the unwelcome guest will soon become disgusted with his quarters, and be compelled to vacate.”

Order sheet fixed inside John Linden's Manual of the Exanthematic Method of Cure, 1882.

Order sheet fixed inside John Linden’s Manual of the Exanthematic Method of Cure, 1882.

Baunscheidt’s philosophy, backed by personal testimonies included in his publications, achieved a measure of popularity in the 19th and early 20th century, especially in Germany and the United States. Today, his treatment is widely discredited.

Two differnt designs of Lebenswecker avaiable for research in the UCSF Archvies and Special Collection. Items 436, 242, Artifact Collection.

Two different designs of Lebenswecker. Items 436 and 242, UCSF Archives Artifact Collection.

We house two different “Life-Awakeners” in the UCSF Archives and Special Collections and a similar instrument developed by Baunscheidt called an artificial leech. Please contact us if you would like to come in and see the artifacts! We also have editions of John Linden and Carl Baunscheidt’s writings or you can read Baunscheidtism, or a New Method of Cure online in our digital collection.