Lancaster University, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, and the Wellcome Trust have organized a conference in Dwight, Illinois for “transnational perspectives addiction, temperance, and treatment in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”
The “I’ve been to Dwight” meeting (July 14-17), is being held at the home of the Keeley Company, the history of which serves as a unique lens to approach the topic:
Though nearly forgotten today, the Keeley Company, based in Dwight, Illinois, distributed its “gold cure” for the alcohol, tobacco and drug habits by post and from franchised clinics across North America, Europe and Australia between 1880 and 1966. The company’s popular, international success ensured that its founder, Dr. Leslie E. Keeley, was among the world’s most famous physicians at the turn of the twentieth century. Keeley however, faced constant accusations of quackery from the forces of professional biomedicine, particularly the BMA and the AMA. Nonetheless, tens of thousands of satisfied patients from around the globe were convinced that his “gold cure” had rid them of their alcohol and drug habits and “I’ve Been to Dwight” was a catchphrase they used to explain their sobriety. After Keeley’s death in 1900, the company worked to conform to shifting standards of biomedical practice, but competition from state-run sanitaria led to its closure in 1966.
Because of its global presence, its difficult relationship with the medical mainstream and its tenacious popularity among ordinary people, marking the closure of the Keeley Company begs many historical questions and it urges us to answer them in broadly critical, comparative and/or transnational terms.
The keynote speaker will be Dr. Sarah Tracy, historian of medicine from the Department of the History of Science at the University of Oklahoma.
The conference program can be found here.
The village of Dwight, Illinois is directly in between Chicago and Bloomington, and is a short train ride from the city.
Some further online resources about the Keeley Cure:
Did you or someone you know publish an article in 2015 that touches on the history of pharmacy practice (or education) in the U.S.? Nominate yourselves for the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy 2016 Glenn Sonnedecker prize!
The award, which honours the historian’s contributions to that field, consists of $1,000 and a commemorative plaque. Submission deadline is June 30.
Further details on the competition can be found here.
Find out more about the AIHP, which is housed at U of Wisconsin-Madison (including student research support programs, archival collections, and other research resources and materials).
Find out more about Sonnedecker’s work here.
I have spent the past month enthralled with my Monday night TV options: TVO (the public television channel in Ontario) has been airing the 4-part series “Victorian Pharmacy” that originally aired on the BBC this past summer.
The series is an historical documentary that traces the history of the pharmacy through the Victorian era (each episode is set at a progressively later date). Set at Blists Hill Victorian Town in Shropshire, it stars domestic historian Ruth Goodman, professor at the School of Pharmacy Nick Barber, and PhD student Tom Quick. Dr. Goodman has participated in several similar projects including Tales from the Green Valley (everyday life on a farm in Wales, circa 1620), Edwardian Farm, Victorian Farm, and Victorian Farm Christmas.
A quick synopsis: In episode one, set in 1837, the group explored some early treatments: including the use of leeches, an oil compound made of earthworm, the bronchial kettle, and the discovery of Indian tonic water. Episode two progressed to the mid-nineteenth century and explored “cure-alls” and disinfectants. Episode three faced the new regulations that were established for pharmacists in 1868 and portrayed the cast taking the examinations (which included the practical test of creating a suppository) – they also discussed the loophole in the legislation that allowed women to emerge in the developing field of pharmaceuticals. Finally, episode four, set at the end of the Victorian era, featured new techniques in dentistry (including a foot-pedal drill), the creation of condoms out of sheep intestines, and the latest developments in photography. What made Victorian Pharmacy so engaging, to me at least, was not only the discussion of various developments in the history of the pharmacy and medical treatments, but that the cast prepared and tried out these treatments.
I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to recreate psychology’s early labs – perhaps looking first to Wilhelm Wundt’s lab and then moving to the United States to compare how their labs were both similar and different. We may not have an open air museum like Blists Hill to draw on, but there is still a fair amount of apparatus hanging around from the “Brass & Glass” era with enough photos to help recreate what the labs would have looked like…..
If you missed the original broadcast of Victorian Pharmacy on the BBC or the re-airing on TVO, the episodes are available on TVO’s website: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Four.