HistoryBuff.com October 2010 Newsletter
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The Story Behind Medical Discoveries


Although ether was first discovered in the 1500s, it wasn’t until 1842 that it was first used to put a patient to sleep while conducting surgeries. Its discovery as an anesthesia came by quite by accident. Starting in 1830s America, medical students often held ether frolics. They would each breathe in a small amount of the ether vapors and it would make them light-headed and on a “high.” Crawford W. Long was at one such frolic. He observed that the users would stumble around and often crash into furniture. Although their legs or arms may have been bleeding heavily, they felt no pain. In 1842 Doctor Long performed three minor surgeries using ether as an anesthetic. For some reason, Doctor Long did not continue using ether.

In 1846, Doctor William T. G. Morton began using ether routinely for dental extractions and felt more confident of its power. He arranged for a demonstration at Harvard University for other doctors to witness. The surgery was for the removal of a mass on a man’s neck. The surgery went well and the patient was very satisfied. From that point onward, news of this new method of surgery spread widely. Oliver Wendell Holmes later coined the term anesthesia to describe the condition brought on by ether. Either continued to be used as an anesthesia well into the 1950s.

Blood Types

For hundreds of years, as a last resort, physicians occasionally attempted blood transfusions, to cure their patients. Sometimes it worked, but most of the time the patient died anyway. It wasn’t until 1901 that blood types were discovered by Karl Landsteiner, an Austrian. Examining blood from various donors in a microscope, he discovered four different groups. He named them ABO types. More research discovered some blood had antigens and others didn’t. Eventually, he discovered fourteen different blood types. For his work, he received the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1930. I do not know why it took twenty-nine years to recevie the Nobel Prize.

A Cure For Polio

Polio has been around for at least 4,000 years. A major epidemic of Polio spread in New York City in the summer of 1916. The affliction spread quickly and widely. By mid-August, 9000 children had shown symptoms of the disease. The most famous of all Polio victims was Franklyn Delano Roosevelt. He contracted Polio in 1921 when he was thirty-nine years old. Most Polio victims died. Those that survived were left with mangled legs or twisted spines and were unable to run or play. Braces were used often, but at best, the user could only walk a few steps on their own. Enter Elizabeth Kenny.

Elizabeth Kenny was a nurse in the outback of Australia. She was particularly interested in how the bones and muscles worked. In 1911 she came across her first patient with Polio. Doctors advised her that Infantile Paralysis had no cure and told her to "just make the patient comfortable." Not being one to sit back and do nothing, she applied hot packs to the patients legs. She also routinely exercised the patient's leg muscles by bending their knees and ankles multiple times. This treatment was done several times a day. Low and behold, the patient fully recovered! In one district, twenty children contacted Polio. All six of the patients that Elizabeth Kenny treated survived without complications.

She entered the military during World War I and served her time in the Australian Medical Corps. It was then that she earned the title "Sister." She traveled between Europe and Australia.

After the war was over, she spent the next thirty years trying to convince doctors that her method to cure Polio DID work. She was constantly hounded as a quack. In 1940 she left Australia and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her methods were more widely accepted in the United States. In 1942 she opened her own Polio clinic in Minneapolis. Her success rate was eighty-five percent that were fully cured with no lasting affects. The other fifteen-percent did live but with some lasting problems. The success rate for doctors not using Sister Kenny’s methods was just the reverse. These same doctors claimed that the patients she treated did not actually have Polio in the first place.

Sister Kenny’s method of treating Polio became more wide spread for patients with other muscle problems. Today we call this treatment physical therapy and it is used widely for other muscle problems.

What Some People Will Do For Money

Some scholars claim that Abraham Lincoln was engaged to be married to Ann Rutledge. Others claim they were just friends. Ann Rutledge died in 1835 in New Salem, Illinois. She was buried in the Old Concord Cemetery near New Salem. In 1890 some town leaders in Petersburg, Illinois decided that they should go dig up Ann Rutledge’s body and bury it in their own Oakland cemetery. They hired a famous poet of the era to write a poem to be used at her new grave. The reason? The town leaders thought that by having Rutledge’s grave in their town it would become a tourist attraction! The left photo is of Ann Rutledge’s grave near New Salem. The photo on the right is Rutledge’s grave in Petersburg, Illinois.

History tells us that the legendary hero Daniel Boone died at his son’s farm in Defiance, Missouri on September 26, 1820. He was 85 years old. Boone was buried in Marthasville, Missouri next to his wife. In 1845 some town leaders in Frankfort, Kentucky decided that they should go to Missouri and dig Daniel Boone up and bury him in their cemetery. Again, to make their town a tourist site.

When town officals in Marthasville heard of the theft of Boone's body, they made claim that the grave robbers DID NOT have Boone's body but that of another person. The top photo is of Daniel Boone’s grave near Marthasville. The bottom photo is of Boone’s grave in Frankfort, Kentucky.

In the case of Daniel Boone, in 1845, grave robbing was only a misdemeanor and, if convicted, there was only a small fine. However, in Ann Rutledge’s case, grave robbing was a felony and, if convicted, could be sentenced to jail. This makes me wonder why no one was prosecuted for robbing Ann Rutledge’s grave.

Beating the System

In the late 1960s there was a magazine on the newsstands named High Times. As the title suggests, it was a magazine for drug users. An example article was How to Grow Marijuana. While I am totally against drug use, there is one ad in an issue that I would like to tell you about.

There was a classified ad offering to sell Mexican pot for $2 per ounce at a San Diego address. Postage was only 25 cents. Drug use at the time WAS illegal but the person placing the ad made bundles of money. Yes, government officials conducted an investigation and found nothing illegal about the ad. How can this be? While the phrase "Mexican pot" implies Marijuana, the person was actually selling ceramic pots made in Mexico. He made trips to Tijuana and purchased them by the case. Word has it that he actually sold over $100,000 worth of Mexican pots!

Believe it or not, some people that ordered the Mexican pot, actually complained to their state’s Attorney General that they got ripped off.


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September Contest

CONTEST ONE QUESTION: Currently, a United States President can only serve two terms. What is the maximum number of years a Vice President can legally serve?

ANSWER: My original answer was ten years - two as Vice President and two terms as president. However, the way the question was worded, it could mean as Vice President only. In that case, the terms of a Vice President would be unlimited. Thus, I accepted either answer.

CONTEST TWO: What is the oldest military academy in the United States?

ANSWER: West Point

Only forty-three people entered the contests. Nine people failed to select a prize if they won. Four people selected a prize from Contest One prize list but answered the Contest Two question.

The September Contest Winners Were:
  • Jeannie Lewis - California
  • Joyce Hoff - Florida
  • Dianne Starnes - North Carolina
  • Bill Elkins - Idaho
  • Tifona Fiedler - Kansas
  • Katelynn Gossage - Indiana
  • Daniel Keith - California

This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question: Which American general and supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in World War II launched the invasion of Normandy in 1944 and oversaw the final defeat of Germany in 1945?

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: Of all the states in the United States, which one has its capitol the farthest south?

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Wednesday, October 20, 2010. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 72 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

  • To enter Contest One or Contest Two, email your answer to curator at historyreference.org

  • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest One question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest Two question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but only win one prize.

  • If entering both contests, entries must be sent in separate emails.

  • If answering the Contest One question, select your prize from the Contest One prize list.

  • If answering the Contest Two question, select your prize from the Contest Two prize list.

  • From subscribers entering the contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE contest prize they want to win, SEVEN will be selected to win ONE of the contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
October Contest One Prize List
(Select ONE of the two prizes below if enterering Contest One)


Wild West Outlaws
Real Stories, Movies & Documentaries

Original WWII Army Pillow Cover

Excellent condition

Blue Satin and Gold Trim

October Contest Two Prize List

(Select ONE of the prizes below if enterering Contest Two)

DVD Movie

King of Kong Island (1968)


Flash Gordon

Epsodes of the original 1950s TV series

Original Historic Newspapers

The Daily Madisonian (Washington, DC) historic newspaper from 1842

The World (New York) from 1864

Original New York Tribune historic newspaper from 1880
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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