Edgar Allan Poe’s Real Life
Tuberculosis was a dreaded disease in the 19th century, one to which not only Poe’s wife succumbed, but also his mother. When Virginia Poe came down with this disease, there were no sanitariums or antibiotics with which to cure her. It was not even known at this time that tuberculosis was highly contagious.
As Virginia’s condition worsened, Poe moved his family in 1846, from crowded New York City, which he disliked, to the rural village of Fordham, which was then a part of Westchester County. It was hoped that the country air and healthier environment would bring about an improvement in Virginia’s health. He rented a cottage that had been built around 1812, which was owned by one John Valentine. The yearly rent was $100.00.
Home Remedies in the 19th century
Some of the remedies touted as cures for tuberculosis in Poe’s time included using opium (not yet illegal), eating a meat diet, smoking cow dung, drinking a mixture of elephant’s blood and milk, and eating mice boiled in salt and oil. Since the disease was considered fatal, victims were desperate. Some people believed that the disease was a punishment from God. Other home remedies of the time included:
Onion syrup. Onions were boiled to a concentrated solution and sugar was added to sweeten it. This was used for colds.
Cod Liver Oil was used to cure rickets, a condition caused by lack of vitamin D.
Snake oil was used as a liniment for aches and pains.