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Rum ManiacsAlcoholic Insanity in the Early American Republic$
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Matthew Warner Osborn

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226099897

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226099927.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 June 2022

The Pathology of Intemperance

The Pathology of Intemperance

(p.137) Five The Pathology of Intemperance
Rum Maniacs

Matthew Warner Osborn

University of Chicago Press

Chapter five charts how and why the medical profession developed and popularized the view that heavy habitual drinking constitutes an incurable physiological disease. In public lectures, journals, and speeches, physicians detailed the catalogue of destruction wreaked by alcohol, publicizing a new pathology of intemperance. Through vivid description and illustration, physicians asserted that the drunkard’s compulsion to drink derived from a diseased stomach. While heightening public fear, however, physicians had little inclination to attempt to develop a cure for the condition. Promising therapies emerged in the 1820s which physicians actively discouraged people from using. By mid century, finally spurred on by patient demand, physicians experimented with treating inebriates in hospitals and asylums, but their efforts remained scattered and experimental. This chapter argues that by heightening public fear, but failing to develop therapies, physicians encouraged the popularity of the Washingtonians, who promised to cure drunkards. As Washingtonians exerted an ever-greater influence on popular culture, sensational accounts of delirium tremens proliferated. The medical impulse to pathologize habitual drinking thus led to a popular lurid fascination with the drunkard’s struggle with the cravings for drink.

Keywords:   Temperance Movement, Addiction, Alcoholism, Asylums, Anatomy, Health Reform, Physiology, Washingtonians

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