W-MCP2-4.029 TO MARY BAKER MCQUESTEN from her husband, Isaac.
May 28 1880
To: Mary Baker McQuesten No address
From: 11 Main St. East [Law Office]
JONES & MCQUESTEN
11 MAIN ST. EAST
John W. Jones, LLB-- I.B. McQuesten, M.A.
My own Beloved,
Yours came to hand yesterday afternoon. I will attend to your blurb. Am glad you are having such a time and that your whole visit may be equally pleasant. All [?] [?]. You will see a decided change in Ruby. Each day her cheeks fill out more and more.1
For this morning I have taken a good dose of health life & [?] pills. Result is my hand is so unsteady that I can scarce write.2
Poor Rebecca is glad to keep up in the running though she says that Huffy says nothing [?].
Must post this at once to be sure of its going by 11:30 mail.
Good-bye sweetest, looking to see you tomorrow.
Yours ruly [sic],
1 At the date of this letter, May 28, 1880, Ruby is one year old, born on May 3, 1879. At the same time her mother, Mary, was approx. 3 1/2 mths. pregnant with Muriel who was born on Nov. 11, 1880 (d.Aug. 27, 1882). This was Mary's fifth pregnancy in seven years, and she may have been away for a rest. In all, Mary had seven children in twelve years and her husband died in 1888.
2 This brief letter gives us some indication of Isaac's health in 1880. The letter is very poorly written and almost illegible in places. This rather incoherent letter and Isaac's admission of having taken "a good dose of health life" and some "pills" may be an indication of his alcoholism and dependency on various "stimulants."
"Healthy Life" was a term used for a "specific combination" of "specific medicines" prepared by John M. Scudder, M.D. in 1870, and by other practicioners. The combination consisted of Belladonna for congestive headaches, Macrotys for muscular pains, and various other substances for "specific" ailments.
"Synonyms for Belladonna: Devil's Cherries. Naughty Man's Cherries. Divale. Black Cherry. Devil's Herb. Great Morel. Dwayberry.
Medicinal Action and Uses--Narcotic, diuretic, sedative, antispasmodic, mydriatic....It is a strong poison....As an antidote to Opium....It has no action on the voluntary muscles, but the nerve endings in involuntary muscles are paralysed by large doses, the paralysis finally affecting the central nervous system, causing excitement and delirium....
As a drug, it specially affects the brain and the bladder....Small doses allay cardiac palpitation,..removing pain and distress....A mixture of Belladonna plaster, Salicylic acid and Lead plaster is recommended as an application for corns and bunions." http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/n/nighde05.html
Isaac was an alcoholic from an early age, and he and the family also used Calomel which is Mercury based, and Chlorodyne and Paragoric, both opium based, which were prepared and taken with Whiskey. Isaac was repeatedly treated in the Guelph institution for his addiction and mental comdition, and he died suddenly and unexpectedly, in 1888 (possibly suicide).
For more on Isaac's alcoholism, and his institutional treatment for same, see W2511, W2520, and footnotes attached. For information on the treatment of drug addiction between 1883-1900 see Box 15-007.