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The Mussey Collection

Cincinnati and Medicine at the Time

  • Intense study of medicine and surgery was not required of doctors. Viruses or "fevers", tuberculosis, as well as "the slows" were some of the common illnesses and diseases, without known causes or effective treatment. Many doctors treated illness with herbs or "bleeding".3
  • Cholera, of which outbreaks would spread quickly, was typically treated with calomel, a medicine containing mercury, which could lead to mercury poisoning.3
  • Alcohol was commonly used in treatment of many illness and diseases, as well as a painkiller and anesthetic for surgery.
  • Hygiene, both personal and of surgical instruments, and sanitation were not considered important, contributing on a small and large scale to many disease outbreaks.3

Reuben D. Mussey: Thinking Ahead of His Time

  • The Value of Medical Education—

  • “…a better acquaintance with diagnosis, a decided though gradual approximation towards a knowledge of those ailments…great advances in the science of hygiene, improved methods of medication, new, ingenious and successful modes of operating in difficult cases of surgery, all inspire confidence that the course of the profession…will continue to be onward in an accelerated ratio.”—Reuben D. Mussey, "The Trials And Rewards Of The Medical Profession", 1852
  • Cholera—

  • His paper, "Cholera Animalcules" was written 30 years before the bacillary theory of the disease.
    In his "Temperance Prize Essays", he laments cholera ever being treated with spirits and recognized rehydration with water as the best treatment.
  • Surgery and Anesthesia—

  • He was a pioneer who is recognized for many firsts and highly successful operations.
    He also introduced a specific mixture of ether and chloroform, that gave more consistently effective anesthesic results during surgery.
  • Hygiene and Temperance—

  • He was a passionate believer in hygiene and the abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, speaking and publishing on these topics throughout his career.
  • Vegetarianism as Remedy and Lifestyle—

  • His patients followed a strict milk and vegetable diet before and after surgery, which resulted in reduction of infection.
    He himself followed a vegetarian diet and believed it was important to long-term health.

The Mussey Collection: The Importance of the Collection

Bust of Reuben Dimond Mussey.
By artist, John Frankenstein at grave site in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati. It is considered of great likeness and “one of the most meritorious pieces of plastic art ever produced 
in this country.”
Bust of Reuben Dimond Mussey. By artist, John Frankenstein at grave site in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati. It is considered of great likeness and "one of the most meritorious pieces of plastic art ever produced in this country."4
Medical College of Ohio Cincinnati. William Woodruff. Engraving. 3&14/16 x 5&15/16 in (9.84 x 15.08 cm). Benjamin Drake and E. D. Mansfield, Cincinnati in 1826 (Cincinnati: printed by Morgan, Lodge and Fisher, February, 1847), frontispiece. Archives and Rare Books Department, University of Cincinnati.
Medical College of Ohio Cincinnati. William Woodruff. Engraving. 3&14/16 x 5&15/16 in (9.84 x 15.08 cm). Benjamin Drake and E. D. Mansfield, Cincinnati in 1826 (Cincinnati: printed by Morgan, Lodge and Fisher, February, 1847), frontispiece. Archives and Rare Books Department, University of Cincinnati.

“During the course of his career as a surgeon and medical educator in New England and Ohio, Mussey assembled a remarkable personal library. In size and scope, the collection is equivalent to libraries maintained by hospitals and medical societies of the period. The inventory of the Mussey collection compiled at the time of its transfer to the University numbers 3,379 book, pamphlet and periodical titles. In the biography of William Heberden Mussey (1818-1882) in Kelly & Burrage, it is noted that the younger Mussey gave to the city of Cincinnati a collection of books and pamphlets

“as a nucleus of the Mussey Medical and Scientific Library [and] as a memorial of his celebrated father.”2

After his removal to Boston, the elder Mussey's books remained in Cincinnati with his son, who was also a surgeon and who continued to add the collection.”1

Timeline of Cincinnati Medical Community History

1Christopher Hoolihan. “The Reuben D. Mussey Collection at the Henry R. Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions, University of Cincinnati Libraries.” October 2010.

2Dictionary of American Medical Biography. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1928, p. 896.

3“Medicine Before the Civil War”, Ohio History Central, July 1, 2005, http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=1546

4“Mussey Physicians in Each Generation for over 200 Years”, information compiled by Katherine T. Barkley, Medical Librarian, Jewish Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio, [no date]

Henry R. Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions

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