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Frozen Potatoes and Gold Fillings

October 26, 2009

This was my final week of going through Collections. It was also my first week of the actual planning of my exhibit. I went through the following Collections:
US Army 1st N. Carolina Regiment
Torrance Banks
Sarah Young
Kenneth Wilson Whitsett

I found the following the most useful:

US Army 1st N. Carolina Regiment
Torrance Banks

The US Army 1st North Carolina Regiment provided the only pictures of actual medical service during a war, namely the Spanish American War. These pictures illustrate the make-shift nature of medicine during war. The first picture shows a Jacksonville, FL tent hospital. The second shows a hospital in Havana, Cuba. The final picture shows several soldiers carrying one of their wounded brothers off the field in a stretcher.

The second collection, the Torrance Banks Collection proved a gold mine of information about medical information. The first thing was a large advertisement for an artificial limb company, one that had been in business since 1861. For a brief history of prosthetic limbs, see
Interestingly enough, in this same folder, there was a letter warning the recipient to quit selling their patented artificial limb or they would take action.

Another folder in this same collection touted cures for several different diseases or afflictions, such as fever and intemperance. The cure for intemperance proved most interesting. According to a hand-written piece of paper, one could beat alcohol addiction by dipping cut and peeled Irish potatoes into ice water and then sucking on the cold potatoes. A further gem in this collection is a letter detailing the treatment of a slave in which the doctor claims he gave the woman pills and laudanum.* I was quite surprised to see to that a slave-owner provided both pills and laudanum to a slave. In this same folder, was a receipt for dental services to Jane Torrance from E.H. Andres, who appears to have been a Charlotte dentist. A second receipt shows that William Torrance paid Dr. Andrews to give him 14 gold fillings.

Finally, the Torrance Banks collection poured forth several pictures of Dr. Gaston Torrance.

This final picture is of Dr. Torrance, but his uniform has perplexed me. It appears as if was taken in a studio. What I cannot figure out is what kind of hat Dr. Torrance has on. Does it have any special significance? If you know, please leave a comment.

The Harrel papers were the next interesting collection, namely because it contains an autobiographical account of Dr. W.B. Harrell, including his time at an acting assistant surgeon in the Confederate service during the Civil War. This account brings to light an interesting fact about the soldier-parole system, namely that if a surgeon or doctor was captured in a raid, as long as they were not armed, they were released.
Finally, the Kenneth Wilson Whitsett will probably not have bearing on this project, but something in it did catch my eye. One of the family sons was telling of an old family slave who named all of his multiple children after the brothers, sisters, sons, etc… of his former master. The son believed it a type of honor to his family. What do you think? Was this an honor, or was there some other reason behind this ceremonious naming?
*Laudanum is a mixture of alcohol and opium. It was somewhat common during the Victorian era, but is highly addictive.

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