Nineteenth-Century Disability:  Cultures & Contexts

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  • Tags: Medicine

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Charles Manby Smith (1804–80) was a writer fascinated by and deeply concerned with the position of “cripples” in Victorian society. In the second edition of his most famous work Curiosities of London Life: Or, Phases, Physiological and Social, of the…

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In this advertisement for a variety of what we would now call “wheelchairs” or “lounge chairs,” J. Alderman offers “comfort for invalids” in his newly patented “Imperceptibly Graduating, Mechanical, and…

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The story of Joseph Carey Merrick began in 1862, when he was born to Mary Jane and Joseph Merrick of Leicester, but the story of the Elephant Man did not start until several years later. It was when he was a toddler that tumours first appeared on…

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Orthopaedic medicine began as a general practice of child rearing in France with Nicolas Andry’s Orthopaedia (1741).  (Andry’s work was translated into English in 1743.)  In the mid-nineteenth century, orthopaedic medicine became a specialized branch…

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Invalidism may seem to limit mobility, confining one to the four walls of the sickroom. But, for those who were well enough and wealthy enough, the Victorians actually made an industry of travelling for the sake of one’s health. Thus, far from being…

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On September 1879, Richard Silas Rhodes (1842-1902), president of a publishing company in Chicago, received a patent for his “Audiphone for the Deaf” his various improvements to the device. (U.S. Patent No. 319,828). Rhodes had conductive hearing…

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Hydropathy, or “the water cure” was a common treatment for ailments ranging from depression to gastro-intestinal disorders in the nineteenth-century, as well as a form of recreation. It was especially popular in the mid-nineteenth century. Patients…

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“Under Chloroform,” an unsigned article on amputation written by surgeon Henry Thompson, was published in the first volume of the popular literary magazine, The Cornhill. At the time, Thompson, a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England,…
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