So who is Rose anyway?

March 29, 2016

This week is #MuseumWeek2016. Today, museums around the world are taking a special look at the #PeopleMW who have helped make their museum special.

Visitors usually ask “Who is Rose Melnick?” The short answer is that she is the mother of Dr. John C. Melnick, who named his medical history museum in her honor.

RoseMelnick

Rose Patek Melnick (undated)

The longer answer is that she her maiden name was Patek. She married Arsney Melnick and they lived in Youngstown, OH. Rose was the mother of five children. John was born in 1928. He completed much of his education in the Youngstown area, attending public school, Youngstown College (now Youngstown State University), and Case Western Reserve University. He completed a three-year residency in Radiology at the Youngstown Hospital Association, South Unit and was hired there as staff radiologist in 1963. He always said that it was his mother who encouraged him to pursue medicine as a profession and he was grateful for her unwavering support.

10858721A

A group of Youngstown College students in front of the main building, 1950

Dr. Melnick wrote eight medical research articles during his career. In 1965 his discovery and paper on a rare bone disorder was significant. The disorder is now called Melnick-Needles Syndrome. He published another paper discussing some of the long-term effects of the syndrome in 1982.

In 1974, he was elected President of the Mahoning County Medical Society. In 1981, he was named Doctor of the Year for his discovery of the link between the incidence of cancer and radiation treatment of the thymus gland.

His interest in medical history led him to write several articles on local medical history in 1972. These articles led to his self-published book A History of Medicine in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. He was also on the Board of Directors for the Mahoning Valley Historical Society and a member of the Western Reserve Historical Society.

JohnMelnick

Dr. Melnick with “A History of Medicine in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, 1973

 

The other great interest in Dr. Melnick’s life was Mill Creek Park. He wrote a book about the history of the park, called The Green Cathedral, which was published in 1976. He was active on the Citizen’s Committee. He established the John C. Melnick, M.D. Mill Creek Park Museum at Fellows Riverside Gardens and funded the observation tower there, which he named in honor of his father.

melnick

Melnick Mill Creek Park Museum

Dr. Melnick dreamed of opening a museum that would cultivate an interest in medical history in the Mahoning Valley. The Rose Melnick Medical Museum took shape in the 1990s and finally opened on the campus of Youngstown State University in 2000. The archival finding aid of his professional and medical history papers is available here.

Dr. Melnick died on January 15, 2008 after an extended illness.

 


Doctors by the numbers: Youngstown at the turn of the 20th century

October 28, 2015

One of our visitors’ favorite exhibits, the office recreations, can now be seen in downtown Youngstown at the Tyler History Center!

detail of the 1930s exam room

detail of the 1930s exam room

In preparation for this exhibit, I did some additional research on the professional changes in the medical profession in Youngstown during the early 20th century. I knew, generally, about office hours and specialization, but I wondered what that changed looked like more specifically in our town. So I looked through the City Directories from that time period and gathered some data. City Directories are great resources and they’re available at most historical societies or even public libraries. They’re like phone books before there were phones. It would be interesting to see how Youngstown compares to other cities during this time period.

I started with the 1895 Directory. The population of Youngstown at that time was around 40,000. There were 60 doctors listed under the “Physicians and Surgeons” heading. Over half of them (35) had office addresses in the downtown area. There were 9 physicians who listed their home address the same as their office. Almost all of these were downtown apartments. So in Youngstown at this time, most doctors had offices separate from their homes and they were concentrated in the downtown area.

Dr. George Sherman Peck standing on a muddy street with his horse and buggy.

In 1895, Dr. G.S. Peck was a prominent physician in Youngstown. He had an office at 26 West Federal Street, near many of his colleagues. 

In 1905 Youngstown had grown to a population of about 70,000. There were now 101 names under the heading “Physicians and Surgeons” in the Directory. The ratio of doctors to the population was steady over these 10 years. Most of the doctors (70%) still had offices in the downtown area. Only 15 doctors had at the same home and office address. The big change in 1905 was that there were 4 doctors who listed themselves as eye/ear/nose/throat (EENT) specialists, and one  as an osteopath. There were no specialists listed in the 1895 Directory.

Interesting fact: I was surprised to find out that downtown Youngstown was not wired for electricity until 1915! As you can see, many doctors had offices in the downtown district, but they probably didn’t have much equipment that required electricity.

The next time period used in the recreation exhibit is 1929. At that time, the population of Youngstown was almost 170,000. There were 205 listings under the heading “Physicians and Surgeons”. In this year, it was interesting to note that there were 6 group practices listed, mostly in specialties. Although family members may have worked together in the past, these professional group practices of specialists were different. They were the beginning of a trend that is still strong today. In Youngstown, there were 3 EENT group practices, 1 dermatology, and 1 surgical.

Many offices were still located in the downtown area. In fact, some practitioners had two offices- one downtown and another perhaps closer to their home.

group of doctors from around 1920 casually sitting or standing in a park

These local doctors gathered for some fun around 1920.

As I expected, there were many more specialists listed in the 1929 directory. The largest speciality was EENT, with 6 practices listed (including the 3 group practices). Next, there were 4 surgeons, 3 pediatricians, 2 proctologists/gastro-entergologists, 1 optometrist, and 1 dermatology group practice. In total, there were 17 specialist practices in Youngstown, or about 8% of physicians.

This data is consistent with the general trends about 20th century changes in medical practice such as office hours, specialization, and group practices. I think the specific numbers for Youngstown bring it into focus for visitors.


New Video!

July 9, 2015

Finally! We’re back to creating more videos for the museum’s YouTube channel!

youtube_logo

The latest video was added last week. Its about rural doctors in the early 1800s. I hope you enjoy it!

Photo of video about 19th century doctors

Photo of video about 19th century doctors


Say what?

March 20, 2015

This week, I’ve been preparing to exhibit a few items from our hearing aid collection. In my research, I found it very interesting (yet logical) that technological developments in this field were closely related to the telephone, microphone, and radio. I visited the Kenneth W. Berger Hearing Aid Museum at Kent State University to learn more about the evolution of hearing aids.

Kenneth W. Berger with hearing aid collection, 1968

Kenneth Berger with hearing aid collection, 1968

The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary opened in 1820 and the first textbook on the ear and its diseases was published in 1821. Otology became a medical specialty in the United States around 1860, but it was several decades to develop hearing aids that could assist people with more than a mild hearing loss.

The first devices used to help people with mild to moderate hearing loss were generally called “ear trumpets.” Their use dates back to the 1600s, but they didn’t become popular until the late 1700s. The development of these instruments relied heavily on the study of acoustics. They simply amplified sounds through their shape. Typically, they were used in only one ear. They were relatively inexpensive and, because they were so simple, could be purchased without the help of a doctor.

Ear Trumpets from George Tiemann & Co., 1889

Ear Trumpets from George Tiemann & Co. catalog, 1889

The next big development in hearing aids came in the late 1800s with the development of the telephone. This technology was adapted to create simple “electric” hearing aids that contained carbon. The vibrations of speech would create friction in the carbon that was enough to produce an electrical charge that amplified the sound. At first, these devices were large, tabletop models. Around 1902, devices that were smaller and could be worn on one’s clothing were developed. These hearing aids used a 3- or 6-volt battery but were still only suited to assist those with mild to moderate hearing loss.

This Acousticon hearing aid was made around 1910. The carbon used in these hearing aids created a lot of static  and its effectiveness was sensitive to changes in temperature.

This Acousticon hearing aid was made around 1910. The carbon used in these hearing aids created a lot of static
and its effectiveness was sensitive to changes in temperature.

In the 1930s, powerful hearing aids using vacuum tubes were developed that could help people with severe hearing loss. By the early 1950s these were replaced with transistors since they only needed one battery instead of two. These transistor hearing aids became much smaller in 1964 when the integrated circuit was added. This smaller size lead to the development of many interesting styles of hearing aids including eyeglasses, broaches, and pens. Behind-the-ear and over-the-ear models were very popular for people with severe hearing loss.

Check out the exhibit in Cushwa Hall to see some early hearing aids like a conversation tube, hearing dome, ear trumpet, and Acousticon!


Spirited Republic

March 20, 2015

Yesterday I came across the website for a new exhibit at the National Archives, “Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History.” This exhibit seems to focus on American culture during Prohibition (speak-easys and home brew) but I was glad to see they included a section on medicinal alcohol as well.

A parade in Cleveland escorts the first shipment of beer into the city in 1933. Because local beer brewers didn't have time to age their own beer when it became legal, beer was brought in from Renner Brewery in Akron.

A parade in Cleveland escorts the first shipment of beer into the city in 1933. Because local beer brewers didn’t have time to age their own beer when it became legal, beer was brought in from Renner Brewery in Akron.

I remembered the research I did for an exhibit on medicinal alcohol. I love the many dimensions of this topic including social reform movements, government power, and social traditions. In this graph of alcohol use throughout American history, it was particularly interesting to note the increases and decreases in consumption over time, especially for beer.

Alcohol

The National Archives exhibit looks interesting and they have scheduled a few events with local bars during the exhibit.


The Great American Fraud: Quacks and quackery in medicine

October 20, 2014

A “quack” is someone who pretends to be a physician or who claims to have medical knowledge that they do not possess. They often promise quick results or painless cures for serious conditions. They often advise patients to use specific devices or medicines with secret formulas. Many advertised their products in newspapers and drug stores or sold them through the mail. Others traveled from town to town, selling their products.

Quack medicine popular in the 19th century for several reasons. For many patients, traditional medicine at the time was unable to treat their illness, or the treatments was painful, expensive, or risky. Medicine at this time relied heavily on bleeding or powerful herbal medications that purged the patient. In addition, there was a lack of regulation in medical training and treatment that made it easy for people with little or no training to call themselves doctors.

Vegetable pills were quite popular in the nineteenth-century America. One of the most popular remedies was Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound for the treatment of diseases of women. The liquid was practically harmless. It also had no ingredients that would cure any ailment, let alone the dozens that claimed to eliminate. Like many patent medicines, it did contain alcohol, which the company claimed was added as a solvent and preservative.

Vegetable pills were quite popular in the nineteenth-century America. One of the most popular remedies was Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound for the treatment of diseases of women. The liquid was practically harmless. It also had no ingredients that would cure any ailment, let alone the dozens that claimed to eliminate. Like many patent medicines, it did contain alcohol, which the company claimed was added as a solvent and preservative.

The 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act

Beginning in the 1870s, a number of states passed general food safety laws, but very few of them prevented the sale of harmful or worthless medicines. By 1906, more than 100 food and drug bills had been introduced in the U.S. Congress, but none had been passed.

Dr. Harvey Wiley, chief chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1883 to 1912, was one of the most active proponents for federal laws governing food and drug safety. Wiley’s efforts helped lead to the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, which prohibited transportation of impure or contaminated food and drugs in interstate commerce and required truthful labels.

In particular, the law mandated that medicines that contained alcohol, morphine, opium, cocaine, heroin, cannabis, alpha or beta eucaine, chloroform, choral hydrate, acetanilide, or any of their derivatives, must have their quantity or proportion listed on the packaging. This was the first major strike against the patent medicine industry.

Hamlin’s Wizard Oil (1859-c1920)  This medicine was 65% alcohol mixed with oils of sassafras, clove, and camphor. Its traveling salesmen boasted that there was no sore it couldn’t heal, no pain it won’t subdue. It could be used topically or ingested. Under the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, the company was fined $200 and forced to remove the claim that it cured cancer.

Hamlin’s Wizard Oil (1859-c1920)
This medicine was 65% alcohol mixed with oils of sassafras, clove, and camphor. Its traveling salesmen boasted that there was no sore it couldn’t heal, no pain it won’t subdue. It could be used topically or ingested. Under the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, the company was fined $200 and forced to remove the claim that it cured cancer.

Bureau of Chemistry testing laboratory, c1910

Bureau of Chemistry testing laboratory, c1910

At the end of the 1800s, new laboratory techniques allowed chemists to test food and drugs to determine their component ingredients and strength. In general, the expanding use of the laboratory led to new understandings of disease and the action of drugs.

In 1905, journalist Samuel Hopkins Adams wrote 11 revealing, investigative articles for Collier’s magazine about the patent medicine industry. These widely read reports helped provide additional support to finally pass legislation to protect consumers.

 Harrison Narcotics Act, 1914

Part of the problem with patent medicines was that strong opiates and cocaine were sold over the counter to the public. Physicians were unaware of their highly addictive nature. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, cocaine and opium were used casually and often added to bottled medicines and beverages.

Use of these drugs began to decline around 1914, when 46 states had passed regulations on the use of cocaine and 29 states had laws against the use of opium, morphine, and heroin. The 1914 Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was the first national law regulating the sale and purchase of these drugs. Manufacturers and distributers had to be registered with the federal government and pay a tax. It was not legal for anyone who had not paid these taxes to be in possession of the drugs.

CocaineDrops_8%22

 

Dr. Bull’s Cough Syrup (c1890) was made of morphine sulfate dissolved in sugar syrup. When heroin was first introduced at the end of the nineteenth century, it too appeared in some cough remedies.

Dr. Bull’s Cough Syrup (c1890) was made of morphine sulfate dissolved in sugar syrup. When heroin was first introduced at the end of the nineteenth century, it too appeared in some cough remedies.

1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act

After the 1906 Act, the FDA continued to advocate for a stronger role in protecting citizens against harmful and misleading medicines and medical devices. Their next big legislation was the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. It was finally passed after a major disaster with a sulfanilamide medication that caused more than 100 deaths in 15 states. The major improvements are:

  • The FDA regulates cosmetic and therapeutic medical devices.
  • Drug manufacturers must provide scientific proof that new products are safe to use before putting them on the market.
  • The FDA has the authority to inspect factories that produce medical products.
  • The FDA must approve most drugs and some medical devices.
  • The FDA has the authority to seize illegal medical devices and bring charges against those involved.

Attempts to stop quackery

The American Medical Association

The movement against quacks in the United States was aided by the formation of the American Medical Association in 1847. By the 1880s, anyone could purchase fraudulent medical degrees from one of several “diploma mills” without ever attending a day of medical school. Putting an end to diploma mills was one of the AMA’s objectives during the early twentieth century.

Growth of the FDA

The 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act has been amended many times to strengthen regulation of medical treatments. A major change came in 1962 when the Kefauver-Harris or Drug Efficacy Amendment mandated that all new drug applications demonstrate that it is effective for the stated purpose. It also established the pre-market testing standard as the randomized, double blind controlled clinical trials.

In the past 35 years, there have been 24 additional amendments to address concerns in the rapidly changing food and drug industries. Major changes for medicine included:

  • mandatory reporting of death, illness, or injury for medical devices and dietary supplements (1990 and 2006)
  • establishing labeling and safety standards for dietary supplements (1994)
  • improving research on the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals for children (2002)
  • conducting post-market reviews of medical devices (2002)

KennedyKelsey_10%22

After signing the Kefauver-Harris Amendment on October 10, 1962, President John F. Kennedy presented a pen to Dr. Frances Kelsey. Dr. Kelsey was the FDA medical officer that refused to license the drug thalidomide for use in the United States, citing the lack of clinical evidence of its safety. In Europe, the drug was marketed as a safe sleep aid and also eased morning sickness in pregnant women. In 1961, European researchers finally linked the drug to 10,000 cases of serious birth defects and it was taken off the market. Because it was not licensed in the U.S., there were only 17 cases of birth defects reported. The tragedy encouraged the passage of the Kefauver-Harris Amendment.


Nuts! The John Brinkley story

September 29, 2014

One of visitors’ favorite exhibits at the Melnick Medical Museum is about Quack medicine. It features odd devices and medicines that were sold directly to customers to use in their homes. The creators or “doctors” of these items exist on the fringes of traditional medicine and the law, and are often involved in conscious acts of deception. Most of the medicines and devices made outrageous claims to cure cancer, baldness, neuralgia, or a variety of bodily weaknesses.

OxydonorVictory-1896A hamlins_wizard_oil Winslows Syrup label PinkhamAd

A new movie is in the works about one of these “doctors”- John Brinkley, who was selling a cure for male impotence in the 1930s. It follows his story, detailing his increasing use of promotional materials including direct mailings and radio advertising. You can find a Daily Beast article about the story here.

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers