June 4, 2010

Peculiar Directions for Resuscitation from 1861

Swimming is an old art dating back to prehistoric times. In ancient Rome, it was an insult to say that someone was unable to swim. In the Middle Ages, knights were also expected to be able to swim but by the 1700s, few people knew how to do so. The strict clothing laws of the time deterred people from learning to swim and it soon lost favor. Stories of sea monsters, such as the Ogua in Pennsylvania (a 20 ft river monster who dragged deer into the river,) were also said to be used to deter people from the water. Even many sailors in the 1700s, could not swim which caused a lot of unfortunate, unnecessary deaths. 

John Locke was an advocate for teaching children to swim because it was a common cause of death. Even though Benjamin Franklin taught himself to swim and is credited for inventing swimming fins at the age of 10, his brother drowned while still a child. John Quincy Adams' son drowned as well. In the early 1800s, bath houses in England were popular but were too shallow to need to swim.

By the 1850s, visiting beaches became more popular and although most people only wading in the water with heavy bathing costumes, just having an increased number of people near the water lead to accidents.

Godey's Lady's Book gave these peculiar directions for resuscitation in 1861:

I am not sure what pressing the back of the neck would do but sticking a bellows in someone's nostril is just something I think I would have trouble doing--especially for 8 hours as the medical practitioner mentioned in the article claims. I am glad that we can swim today without such cumbersome garments but I would like to see more modest swimming clothing come back into style. I'm not a fan of sunburn and think it is uncomfortable and awkward to walk around in a bathing suit without a cover-up.


  1. You always have the most interesting posts!

  2. Milli, thank you. I love reading your blog too.

  3. Oh, I just love your blog, you have a wonderful writing style, and interesting topics!

    Can you believe the differences in swimwear from then and now? It's unbelievable. I agree about today's suits, and wouldn't mind something more old fashioned (maybe not so voluminous though ;))

    I've been reading here, but haven't had much computer time lately!

  4. Sophia, I'm glad to see you're still blogging. Thank you for the nice comments.

  5. here my email


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