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Thursday, December 5, 2013

We're All Mad Here

We have several books compiled of articles from old Mississippi newspapers. The entries range from the mundane to the bizarre. For example, on November 29, 1894, the Southern Sentinel in Tippah County, Mississippi, ran the following blurb:

Henry, the 12 year old son of J. L. Walker was attacked in the street opposite Dr. Alexander's  resident last Friday by a dog supposed to be afflicted with the rabies. The animal reared up and evidently made for the boy's throat but Henry threw out his arm and the dog's teeth were buried into the left forearm. After biting the boy the dog fled in a northern direction and was afterwards slain by some parties near Faulkner.
Mr. Walker carried his son that same afternoon to Mrs. Palmer's and applied the mad stone which is said to have stuck for ten consecutive hours.
Henry does not complain and it is to be hoped that no serious consequence will result.
You'll be relieved to hear that Henry survived his dog bite. Here he is in the 1900 census, with his sister Noverta:

What conclusion must I draw from this? The mad stone cured the rabies! What is a mad stone, you ask? According to Merriam-Webster's Medical Desk Dictionary, it is:
a stony concretion (as a hair ball taken from the stomach of a deer) supposed formerly in folklore and by some physicians to counteract the poisonous effects of the bite of an animal (as one affected with rabies)
Fans of the Harry Potter books will recognize the mad stone by a different name, as in this passage where Snape reprimands Harry:

"A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons."
In 1885, only nine years before Henry Walker's accident, Louis Pasteur successfully treated a boy bitten by a rabid dog with a newly developed rabies vaccine. Mad stones eventually fell by the wayside as the much more effective vaccine became more widely available and well-known.

Lockhart, Tommy. Biographical Notes from the Files of the Southern Sentinel, Ripley, Mississippi, Tippah County. Old Timer Press, 1977.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic, 1999.
Madstone. (2005). In Merriam-Webster's medical desk dictionary, revised edition. Retrieved from
"Louis Pasteur." Scientists: Their Lives and Works. Gale, 2006. Biography in Context. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.

1 comment:

  1. Hum, my cat's hair balls might be worth something after all. :D


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