Although Edward Bliss Emerson’s life had unusual promise, his death was quite ordinary: he died of pulmonary consumption, which accounted for one in five deaths in the 1830s. He went to the West Indies in search of a more healthful climate, and sought it in St. Croix and Puerto Rico. But his quest was short-lived, and he died in 1834 at the age of 29. Because there was no consensus on the cause of consumption, treatment for the condition varied widely, and included a number of nostrums and therapies that may be considered “self-care.” Edward adopted a series of practices that he documented in his journal, therefore providing us with the range of lifestyle interventions and other therapies that were seen as desirable, and the belief systems informing these at the time. These practices ranged from the medically-sanctioned to the highly personal and idiosyncratic, and suggest a variety of holistic approaches to addressing an illness for which there was no “magic bullet.”


Tuberculosis, Medical Practices, NarrativeMedical Record, Puerto Rico, St. Croix, Edward Bliss Emerson


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