Katherine Anne Porter: An Account of the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 in Denver

In this third installment on the Influenza Epidemic of 1918, Paul Andrews takes a closer look at author Katherine Anne Porter, one of the epidemic’s many victims and a fortunate survivor.


Katherine Anne Porter was born in Indian Creek, Texas in 1890.  She moved to Chicago in 1914, and began working as an actress.  She returned to Texas in 1915, where she spent two years in a sanitarium while suffering from severe bronchitis.  While she was in the sanitarium, Katherine Anne Porter began to write, doing a gossip column and theatrical criticism for The Fort Worth Critic.  At the time of the Influenza Epidemic of 1918, Porter was living in Denver and writing for the Rocky Mountain News.

Katherine Anne Porter
before the epidemic

Katherine Anne Porter was one of the epidemic’s millions of victims.  She was cared for by her fiancé, a young Army lieutenant whose name remains a mystery.  She was ill for months, her fever so severe that her hair turned white, and eventually fell out.  She also suffered a broken arm when she fell, trying to get out of bed.  She developed phlebitis and was told she was never going to walk again.  When Katherine Anne Porter was finally moved to the hospital, she was so ill that the Rocky Mountain News wrote and type-set her obituary.  The young Army officer stayed by her side the entire time.  She spent six month in the hospital, but eventually her fever broke, her lungs cleared, and her arm and leg mended. She eventually returned to full health, although her hair remained white for the rest of her life. Tragically, her fiancé died.

The first edition of
Pale Horse, Pale Rider

After her recovery, Katherine Anne Porter moved to New York City, and began to write fiction.  She turned her experience of the epidemic into a short novel in 1939.  In Pale Horse, Pale Rider Porter tells the tale of Miranda, a newspaper writer in Denver, and her fiancé Adam, an Army officer.  As in her life, both become ill and Miranda lived, while Adam died.  It was perhaps a way for Porter to excise the memory of the epidemic.  She said the titles Pale Horse represented Death, who ‘takes away an entire era.’ Historian Alfred Crosby stated that Pale Horse, Pale Rider was such an excellent depiction of the epidemic that he dedicated his 1989 book America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918 to Porter.  Additionally, literary critic Paul Russel observed that Katherine Anne Porter is the only great American writer of the early 20th Century to depict the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.   It is still considered one of the finest works of medical fiction.

A US stamp was issued to honor Katherine Anne Porter in 2006

Katherine Anne Porter died in 1980 at the age of 90.


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Phrenology – Mid 19th to early 20th century

From the 1840s to the 1920s, the popular medical movement of Phrenology took hold in the U.S. During this time phrenology was similar to pop-psychology. Phrenology was the pseudo-science that claimed to be able to identify a person’s character by the bumps on their skull. The ‘evidence’ was the belief that the brain was made up of 37 unique organs that each controlled a behavior or personality trait. Many practitioners of Phrenology, including most famously the Fowler family, believed that the organs could be exercised and a person could have a better and happier life. It also had contemporary critics and a sinister side.

The Health Science Library has several distinctive artifacts from the mid-19th to early 20th Century practice of Phrenology on exhibit. Please visit the second floor rotunda to experience the past of Phrenology.

Paul Andrews, MA
Collection Development

Rare Book Profile: John Evelyn’s Fumifugium, or, The Inconveniencie of the Aer and Smoak of London Dissipated.

John Evelyn’s Fumifugium, or, The Inconveniencie of the Aer and Smoak of London Dissipated. (London: W. Godbid for Gabriel Bedel and Thomas Collins, 1661) is one of the first works ever written on the problem of air pollution.

John Evelyn (1620-1706) was an English country gentleman who wrote over 30 books on a wide variety of topics. He is best known for his diary, which was published a century after his death. He also wrote Sculptura, on engraving and etching, which introduced the process of mezzotint to England.  One of his major works, Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest-trees, and the Propagation of Timber, a work on forestry, timber, fruit trees, and cider making, was written for the Royal Society.

Educated in the Middle Temple, London and at Balliol College, Oxford, Evelyn left England in 1643 to avoid involvement in the English Civil War, and traveled in France and Italy. He returned to England in 1652, and published two Royalist pamphlets in 1659. After the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, he served on several commissions, including London street improvement, the Royal Mint, repair of old St. Paul’s, and a commission for sick and wounded mariners and prisoners of war in England’s Dutch Wars (1665-74).  He was a founding member of the Royal Society, and was appointed to its council by its first and second charters in 1662 and 1663.

Fumifugium is a slender pamphlet, dedicated to King Charles II. The first section discusses the nature of air and its effect on health and longevity. Evelyn then describes the smoke in London, especially industrial smoke from burning coal, and how it damaged people’s health, buildings, and even water. In the second section, he proposes solutions, including making fuel wood more available, and requiring the worst-polluting industries to relocate several miles outside the city. In the third section, he proposes improving the air by establishing gardens all over the city, with sweet-smelling blooming trees and shrubs as well as flower beds and even some food crops (but not cabbage, “whose rotten and perishing stalks have a very noisome and unhealthy smell”)

The Health Sciences Library’s copy of Fumifugium is the first edition. It was given to the library by Dr. James J. Waring, with his bookplate inside the front cover. It was once bound with other works in a larger volume, as evidenced by handwritten page numbers above the printed ones. It was rebound in brown calfskin with simple gilt tooling on the inner turndowns. A previous owner made corrections to the text by hand. A description typed from a bookseller’s catalog is affixed inside the back cover, as is an envelope containing a description of the book cut from a supplement to the journal Nature.

Rare materials are available to individuals or groups by appointment on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, or at other times by arrangement. To schedule an appointment, contact Emily Epstein, emily.epstein@ucdenver.edu or 303-724-2119.

[Emily Epstein, Cataloging Librarian]

EvelynFumifugium tp

Rare Book Profile: Arthur Hill Hassall’s Adulterations Detected, or, Plain Instructions for the Discovery of Frauds in Food and Medicine.

Arthur Hill Hassall’s Adulterations Detected, or, Plain Instructions for the Discovery of Frauds in Food and Medicine (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1857) brought the problem of food and drug adulteration in London to public attention and led to major public health reforms.

Arthur Hill Hassall (1817-1894) was an English physician, microscopist, chemist, and pioneer in public health and food safety. He made major contributions in botany and histology, conducted some of the earliest research in what would become the field of phytopathology and wrote the first English text on histology. His research and activism improved the safety of the English food and water supply, and he was a pioneer in the sanatorium treatment of tuberculosis in Europe.

The youngest son of a physician in Middlesex, Hassall left home in 1834 to study at the Dublin Medical School and apprentice with his uncle, Sir James Murray, and became interested in microscopy and botany. In 1845, he moved to London, where he established a medical practice and continued his botanical studies. His research resulted in books on freshwater algae (1845) and the quality of London’s water supply (1850).

Hassall then turned to the problem of food quality. In 1850, he tested several samples of coffee, demonstrating that, contrary to popular belief, it was possible to detect adulteration microscopically and chemically. Publication of these results in The Lancet led to his becoming the chief analyst of the Analytical Sanitary Commission. From 1851 through 1854, Hassall analyzed over 2500 samples of food and drink from various London vendors. Chemical tests identified alum in bread, iron, lead, and mercury compounds in cayenne pepper, and copper salts in bottled foods. Vendors of both adulterated and pure products were named in the resulting reports, which were published in The Lancet. In 1855, Hassall published revised and expanded versions of his reports in a book, Food and Its Adulterations, followed two years later by a new work, Adulterations Detected. His work raised public awareness of how common adulteration was, which led to the Food Adulteration Act of 1860. In 1874 Hassall became the founding president of the Society of Public Analysts, and gained fame giving expert testimony in support of further reforms and legislation.

In addition to his investigative work, Hassall maintained a private medical practice in London. He was also elected to the staff of the Royal Free Hospital in 1853, where he served for fifteen years. In 1866, flare-up of pulmonary tuberculosis, which he had contracted as a student in Dublin, interrupted his career for several months while he sought treatment in different places, finally ending up in Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight. A Ventnor, he devised an innovative design for sanatorium living quarters, and the following year organized fundraising and construction of the facility. The Royal National Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest opened in Ventnor in 1868. In 1877 Hassall retired from his position as Chief Physician of the hospital and moved his family to San Remo, Italy, where he continued to treat patients and write on climatic treatment of tuberculosis until his death.

The Health Sciences Library’s copy of Adulterations Detected is the first edition. It was rebound in gray linen ca. 1970 by the Head of Denison Library, Frank B. Rogers, with a gilt-tooled black leather label from the original binding on the spine, and a former owner’s armorial bookplate affixed inside the front cover.

Rare materials are available to individuals or groups by appointment on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, or at other times by arrangement. To schedule an appointment, contact Emily Epstein, emily.epstein@ucdenver.edu or 303-724-2119.

[Emily Epstein, Cataloging Librarian]

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For Your Enjoyment: Color Our Collections

Normally, altering pages of the library’s rare treasures is discouraged, but six images from books in the Health Sciences Library’s Rare Materials Collection are now available for coloring. Many printed illustrations, especially those published before 1800, were intended to be hand-colored, and we invite you to do that. The images have been uploaded to the library’s Facebook page.

These images were selected as part of the Color Our Collections event, February 1-5, 2016, led by the New York Academy of Medicine. Libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions from all over the world have made public domain images from their collections available on social media using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections.

You are invited to browse, download, and color any images you like, and if you are so inclined, please share your creation on social media with the hashtag..

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Rare materials are available to individuals or groups by appointment on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, or at other times by arrangement. To schedule an appointment, contact Emily Epstein, emily.Epstein@ucdenver.edu or 303-724-2119.

[Emily Epstein, Cataloging Librarian]

 

Rare Book Profile: Dell’anatomia, a facsimile of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook.

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Dell’anatomia by Leonardo da Vinci (Rome: TREC edizioni pregiate, 2005) is a compilation of anatomical studies that predate the great anatomy books of the sixteenth century.

In January 2015, the Health Sciences Library Rare Materials Collection acquired a facsimile of the anatomical drawings and notes of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), composed between 1485 and 1515, which are now housed in the Royal Library, Windsor.

Leonardo’s early training in the studio of the painter Verrocchio in Florence included study of the human figure. When he became court artist to Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan in the 1480s, he began work on drawings of human anatomy, but in the 1490s he turned his attention to other projects. As his stature as an artist, and inventor grew, so did his access to human corpses. In the early 1500s, he resumed intensive study of anatomy based on human dissection. His drawings were remarkably accurate, even by modern standards. Some of his observations, such as those on the function of the heart, were not recorded again until the 20th century. Had his work been published, as he seems to have intended, it would have been revolutionary.

At Leonardo’s death in 1519, his manuscripts and drawings were bequeathed to his student and secretary, Francesco Melzi. After Melzi died in 1579, the documents were dispersed, eventually making their way into various collections, where Leonardo’s scientific works remained unpublished until centuries after his death.

This edition, published in 2005, is based on earlier editions of 1898 and 1901. 1,999 copies were produced. The facsimile, containing 113 color plates with line drawing overlays and 380 pages of text, was printed on a special paper made in Verona, and hand-bound in gold-tooled leather. It was purchased with funds from the Charley Smyth Library Endowment, established with the Library by the Anschutz Medical Campus Retired Faculty Association, in memory of their colleague and friend Dr. Charley Smyth, founder and Head of the Division of Rheumatology in the Department of Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Rare materials are available to individuals or groups by appointment on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, or at other times by arrangement. To schedule an appointment, contact Emily Epstein, emily.epstein@ucdenver.edu or 303-724-2119.

[Emily Epstein, Cataloging Librarian]

 

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Rare Book Profile: Thomas Willis’ Cerebri Anatome cue Accessit Nervorum Descriptio et Usus.

Thomas Willis’s Cerebri Anatome cue Accessit Nervorum Descriptio et Usus (London: Thomas Roycroft, 1664) improved on existing descriptions of the brain, and was the first to attribute functions to different parts. It was considered the definitive description of the brain for the next two hundred years.

Thomas Willis (1621-1675) was an English physician best known for contributions to the fields of anatomy, neurology and psychiatry. He made major contributions to cardiology, endocrinology (especially the study of diabetes mellitus), and gastroenterology. He received a master’s degree from Christ Church, Oxford in 1642, fought for Charles I in the English Civil War, then returned to his studies, receiving the degree of bachelor of medicine in 1646.  He was part of a group of scholars devoted to experimentation in chemistry and fermentation, which included John Locke, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Christopher Wren, Isaac Newton, and others. De Fermentatione, published in 1656, and De Febribus, published in 1659, grew from this collaborative work as well as his medical practice. As a Royalist, Willis was barred from holding office until the Restoration. In 1660, he replaced a Commonwealth supporter as professor of natural philosophy at Oxford, where he explored the anatomy of the brain as a means to determine the nature of the soul. Later that year he became a doctor of medicine. He was one of the early fellows of the Royal Society (1661), and was elected an honorary fellow of the College of Physicians in 1664. In 1666, he moved to London and established a profitable medical practice, whose clientele included the Duke of York (later King James II).

Cerebri Anatome was a collaborative effort with physician Sir Thomas Millington and anatomist Richard Lower, with illustrations by Christopher Wren, combining knowledge received from earlier anatomists with their own experimental and clinical observations. It contains 29 chapters on the anatomy and function of the brain and nervous system, the first of which was devoted to study methods and specimen preparation. The brain was removed from the skull before being sliced from the base upwards, then examined with magnification and drawn by Wren, whose drawings were then sent to a local engraver to be rendered on copper plates for the printer. Experimental techniques included microscopy as an aid to illustration and dye injection to study blood flow in cerebral arteries. Dissection and experimental results were supplemented by case histories. Cerebri Anatome introduced the word “neurology,” and contained the first detailed description of the importance and function of the Circle of Willis, a circle of arteries at the base of the brain. It also introduced names for various parts of the brain that are still used today.

Willis’ other major works include Pathologiae Cerebri et Nervosi Generis Specimen (1667) containing the first descriptions of neurological disorders, including epilepsy and asthma, and De Anima Brutorum Quae Hominis Vitalis ac Sensitiva Est (1672),  in which Willis further explores the soul-brain connection through analysis of different nervous systems.

 

The Health Sciences Library’s copy of Cerebri Anatome is the octavo edition of 1664, bound in vellum with hand-lettered spine and red-sprinkled edges. It was given to the library by Dr. James J. Waring.

 

Rare materials are available to individuals or groups by appointment on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, or at other times by arrangement. To schedule an appointment, contact Emily Epstein, emily.epstein@ucdenver.edu or 303-724-2119.

[Emily Epstein, Cataloging Librarian]

 

Willisplate ii            Willistp