Popular Science Monthly/Volume 23/May 1883/Correspondence
FLORIDA AS A HEALTH RESORT FOR CONSUMPTIVES.
IN "The Popular Science Monthly" for March, Dr. George E. Walton, of Cincinnati, has an article on "The Remedial Value of the Climate of Florida," some of the statements in which, for the sake of accuracy, it seems desirable to correct.
What Dr. Walton says of the humidity is true. It can not be compared with Minnesota (that is, the northern part of Minnesota) for dryness; but it will compare favorably with other southern localities in Europe and America; for instance, we see by Dr. Walton's table, page 644, that the humidity of San Antonio and Florida is about the same; and just here let me say that writers on Florida climate are apt to take Jacksonville as a representative locality, because the available statistics usually come from there. The Signal-Office is there. But it is by no means the best locality for invalids. It has the advantages and the disadvantages of a city, though a small one. It is much damper than other points in East Florida frequented by invalids; fogs are more prevalent, and last longer. It is not so safe to be out after sundown. As we go up the river the dampness lessens for a hundred miles. During the months of February, March, and April, 1878, using a Mason's psychrometer (wet and dry bulb)), and comparing my observations with those of the Signal-Office at Jacksonville, the relative humidity for three months, in 1878, is for that city 66·2, according to Dr. Baldwin's observations for several years 62·6, while for Palatka it is 61·3.
The summer dampness is just what Dr. Walton says of it, three fourths of all the rain-fall of the year occurring during that season. But, further on, Dr. Walton says, "The prime need of a consumptive is that he shall be a great deal out-of-doors, that he shall breathe pure air," etc. "Is the climate of Florida fitted to do this? ... I answer no!" On the contrary, I answer emphatically yes! Here is just the advantage of Florida over the cold and cool resorts. Here, one is constantly incited by the sunshine and the delightful climate to be all the time out-of-doors. As regards physical exercise, during most of the time one is not incited to it. But there are cool changes during the winter and spring months (which are peculiar to this climate, distinguishing it from a purely tropical), during which one may exercise on horseback, on foot, or by rowing. That people here are indisposed to exercise is true; but it is not always, by any means, because of the temperature, but of constitutional indolence Those who take an interest in their surroundings, or who are fond of fishing and hunting, may be seen at all times, in warm and cold weather, putting forth all requisite energy. Persons must seek occupation and amusements in order to get the benefit of climate. What Dr. Walton says about tubercular consumption, especially the latter stage, is true, and it is true of cool and cold climates also, but not to the same extent, perhaps, as of warm and moist. That is, the universal admission of all honest writers on climates and health resorts is, that such cases die wherever they go. They are necessarily incurable, with very few exceptions, and notable exceptions occur here as elsewhere. And here let me explain why so many more consumptive cases die in Florida than in other resorts. When they get reduced almost to death's door by softening of deposits, fever, diarrhœa, etc., they are too ill to go to Europe, and also unable to bear any change, except to a warm climate; consequently, the mass of them come to Florida, often with a knowledge on the part of the physician and friends that they are certain to die, but clinging to the last straw themselves.
Dr. Walton says "During the last six months of 1881 there were thirteen deaths in Jacksonville (population, 8,000) from consumption, these deaths being of residents only, and excluding all non-residents or visiting invalids. This is a mortality of 1·62 per 1,000, being a greater mortality than occurred in Cincinnati during the same time, which was 424 in a population of 280,000, or 1·51 per 1,000. ... It may be stated in this connection that natives of Florida taken with consumption frequently seek other places and climates as a means of cure."
I am certain that Dr. Walton has fallen into an error in his statement with reference to the deaths from phthisis among residents, if he means natives or even persons who have lived many years in Florida. The population of the State is made up very largely of Northerners who have lived here one, two, five, ten years. No doubt many of the deaths referred to by him occurred among this class, probably all of them; for consumption is rare among natives, although they live in every way, for the most part, in opposition to the rules of health—poor food, poor water, poor habitations, insufficient clothes in cold weather—that is, the middle and lower classes do—all tending to the development of tubercular disease, and which would inevitably produce it in a less favorable climate.
Dr. Walton also refers to the want of statistics from here with regard to the results of the treatment in individual cases. The habit, almost universal, of cases of phthisis moving from place to place in Florida, after a few days' or a week or two's residence, renders the collection of such statistics impossible. And this is one of the reasons why the cases do not get the full benefit of this admirable climate. Even when they are improving rapidly in one location, they get tired and start off to some other, or because some one member of the party fancies a change, or because they have a friend or pleasant acquaintance somewhere else, although a physician may assure them that the change will be for the worse. Even patients who are referred to me by prominent physicians, and told to get my advice as to treatment and locality, go off to some entirely unsuitable place, contrary to my advice, and on that of some casual acquaintance. So much has this come to be the rule, that I now cease to waste my breath in trying to talk them out of their notions.
AN INTERCEPTED LETTER.
To the Editors of the Popular Science Monthly:
The subjoined letter accidentally fell into my hands, and, as it bears upon a certain much-discussed topic, I venture to send it to you for publication.
O. B. B.
New York, April 1, 1883.
Dear Ma: When Suse and me got to the city we found Cousin Ralph at the depot to meet us, and we went right home with him. We had a real nice supper, and as nobody was by but Cousin Lucy, I just told Cousin Ralph plain that Suse and me had come to New York to get what some folks call a higher education. Cousin Ralph, who is real pert, said that some folks he knew, would like to hire an education, but I told him that if we could hire an education all right, but we wanted a first class education anyhow, right off, and that Pa was already to pay for it. I said that we had gone through our semnary at home and learned all that old Mrs. Bookup could teach us, and that was why we come to York. Well, Cousin Ralph laughed a little, and then he looked serious, and told us things that made our hair stand on end. Why it taint no use trying to get a first class education here in York because the mean nasty men folk wont let us women get it. What do you think-Cousin Ralph says that they have six police, man before the big liberay they call the Astur liberay to keep women from getting at the books there. He says the street is just full of women a wanting to get into that liberay, but these police officers with their clubs wont let em. There are lots and lots of books in that liberay, Cousin Ralph says, big histories, and big ologies, and big dictionaries, and big books upon ever so many things, and women might get ever so much education by just sitting down and studying them books, but the men are afraid of educated women, so they just put police-men there to drive off everybody that is a female. I declare its a burning shame. Why, Ma, Suse and me might learn all about Bible times, and about astronomy, and geology, and geography, and about Julius Cesar, and Cristófer Columbus, and I don't know what else, and get a higher education all by ourselves if it werent that the men wont let us. I know it will make you real mad when you read this, just as it does Suse and me.
But that isnt all Ma. Would you believe that they won't let women buy books at the bookstores, because if they did they might get a higher education unbeknown. Cousin Ralph says that women cant get nothing but novels to read. The book-stores are just full of books that teach everything you can think of, and yet even when women have got the money to buy them the men wont let them do so. Cousin Ralph says there are books full of learning by somebody called Spensur, and some one called Hucklee, and another man called Tindell, but that it is as much as a woman's life is worth to go in and buy one. Cousin Ralph thinks she couldnt get out alive, at least he says he never saw a live woman come out of a book store with one of them books. All women would have to do to get a real first class education would be to go and get books out of the book stores, but the mean jealous men say they shant do it, and so keep them just as ignorant as they can be. And then Cousin Ralph says they wont let women go to lectures on history, and the siences as folks say. There are lectures given free at what I think Cousin Ralph called the Hooper Union, but he says if women went there to get lectures free, theyd be just driven off by policemen. Lots of things might be learned by going to lectures, but the poor women arent allowed to. Its real dreadful what a time we women have in trying to get learning.
And then Cousin Ralph says that the publishers wont publish books anymore with learning in them. Why they just print lots and lots of trashy novels which women have got to buy because they wont print nothing else. There's what is called the Franklin square liberay and the Sea side liberay, that keep on printing good for nothing novels, and women who want cheap books have to read them, because the men who print books dont want women to get a higher education, they really dont, and so they just flood the country with books that women have to read, because they cant get into the public liberaries, and aint allowed to buy books by Spensur and other learned people. Its just a conspiracy, Cousin Ralph says, to keep women down. I think its a great shame, dont you, Ma. But Suse and me mean to see if we cant get a first class education somehow. More next time, from
Your affectionate daghter,