Medicine, Public Health, and Business
The circus, the theatre, and the excitement of baseball and cycling were for most the only respite in an otherwise harsh and tedious existence. Public health was still in its infancy. Of the fifty-one reported deaths in 1862, twelve persons were under five years of age and twenty-one were twenty years old or less. The primary causes of death were the dreaded scarlet fever, consumption, and lung congestion and inflammation. In 1878 scarlet fever and consumption accounted for nearly fifty per cent of the 123 deaths reported in the city.
Ann Arbor was famous for its medical facilities. The city's reputation derived partly from its association with the University's Department of Medicine and Surgery. But by far the greatest part of its medical acclaim rested upon the showmanship of unorthodox practitioners who expounded all-inclusive remedies for the ills of mankind, and promised their patients restoration of health with a minimum of personal discomfort.
Daniel B. Kellogg claimed the ability, during hypnotic sleep, to discern remedies for illnesses. While in this state, Kellogg wrote in his autobiography, "I seemed to be a sort of connecting link between the patient's disease and nature's remedy." Kellogg's resulting popularity was not without its drawbacks. Before becoming a professional healer, Kellogg wrote: "The sick came from all directions...My house was filled to excess; and such was the demand upon my time that I was forced to neglect my legitimate occupation; and my external life was mainly spent in unconscious slumber."
Kellogg's techniques contrasted with the methods of Ann Arbor's most famous doctor. Ambitious and self-assured, Dr. Alvin Chase parlayed an extraordinary talent as a peddler of patent medicines and groceries into an enormously successful publishing business. While working the Detroit and Toledo circuit, Chase began collecting recipes for all types of medicines, as well as instructions for the preparation of common household items like vinegar, soap, paint, and cloth coloring. Recognizing the need for a compilation of such useful information, Chase brought his recipes together in a pamphlet entitled, Information for Everybody. The eighth edition of this work, brought out in 1860, became something of a publishing phenomenon. Within its covers the housewife on the farm or the tradesman in the city had at hand over 600 recipes for such luxuries as oyster soup and tomato wine, and for herbal remedies to cure everything from "old sores" and deafness to the relief of ingrown toenails.
The grandiose practices and theories of the Drs. Kellogg and Chase were indicative of fundamental changes through which medical science was passing. In reaction to traditional methods, which included the bleeding and purging of sick people, doctors in the '1860's and '1870's began experimenting with the use of mild vegetable remedies for illness. Mineral baths, too, were in vogue during this period. In 1866, a Doctor Hale opened the "Mineral Springs House" in Ann Arbor. Located on present-day Bath Street, this building accommodated up to 80 people.
The "Mineral Springs House" was one of many business enterprises to appear after the Civil War. In this period, E. J. Knowlton began the manufacture of his Universal Bath. Supported like a hammock between two pieces of household furniture, Knowlton's Bath could then be filled with water to bathe all or only parts of the human body. The pliable sides, Knowlton's advertising read, "confirm[sic] to the irregularities of the person, and leave very little space to fill up with water..." Metal bathtubs were still a rarity. Knowlton's genius was to manufacture an inexpensive, pliable, and portable bathing apparatus.
Another of Ann Arbor's burgeoning manufacturing businesses was the Mozart Watch Company. Patented by Donald J. Mozart, the watch was touted as a mechanical marvel. With its "self-compensating level," the watch had no stopping place, thus "once wound up, it is bound to run until it runs down...Screw the same (watch) to the side of a locomotive, and it will run with the most perfect regularity." In February 1869 the company moved into the south side of Dr. Chase's block and began producing its watches.