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Popular Print and Popular Medicine

Almanacs and Health Advice in Early America

Thomas A. Horrocks

Publication Year: 2008

In this innovative study of the relationship between popular print and popular attitudes toward the body, health, and disease in antebellum America, Thomas A. Horrocks focuses our attention on a publication long neglected by scholars—the almanac. Approaching his subject as both a historian of the book and a historian of medicine, Horrocks contends that the almanac, the most popular secular publication in America from the late eighteenth century to the first quarter of the nineteenth, both shaped and was shaped by early Americans' beliefs and practices pertaining to health and medicine. Analyzing the astrological, therapeutic, and regimen advice offered in American almanacs over two centuries, and comparing it with similar advice offered in other genres of popular print of the period, Horrocks effectively demonstrates that the almanac was a leading source of health information in America prior to the Civil War. He contends that the almanac was an integral component of a complicated, fragmented, semi-vernacular health literature of the period, and that the genre played a leading role in disseminating astrological health advice as well as shaping contemporary and future perceptions of astrology. In terms of therapeutic and regimen advice, Horrocks asserts that the almanac performed a complementary role, confirming and reinforcing traditional beliefs and practices. By analyzing the almanac as a cultural artifact that represents a time, a place, and a certain set of assumptions and beliefs, he demonstrates that the genre can provide a lens through which scholars may examine early American attitudes and practices concerning their health in particular and American popular culture in general.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

I have been fortunate in having the assistance and support of numerous colleagues, friends, and family members over the course of my work on this book, and it is with pleasure that I acknowledge them here. First, for guidance at early stages, I thank Richard Beeman, Kathleen Brown, the late Edward C. Carter II, and Charles Rosenberg. I am honored to have ...

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Introduction - Almanacs and the Literature of Popular Health in Early America

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pp. 1-16

A historian of early American almanacs once lamented that modern versions of the genre are the “degenerate offspring of respected ancestors whose contents were not primarily advertisements for hair- growing and itch- relieving potions.” Marion Barber Stowell’s critical remarks, expressed in a 1983 article, echo those made almost a century earlier by ...

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Chapter 1. Heavenly Guidance

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pp. 17-41

The introduction to the Methodist Almanac for 1846, in a brief history of almanacs up to that time, lauds almanacs for disseminating much “useful matter.” But the essay also condemns them for conveying “superstitions and injurious trash in the shape of astrological rules.”1 The writer’s scornful opinion of astrology was shared by many in the ...

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Chapter 2. Advice for the Afflicted

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pp. 42-66

In addition to astrological advice, early American almanacs offered remedies for various ailments and regimen prescriptions for health and long life. This chapter examines remedies or “cures” offered by American almanacs for dropsy, dysentery, and rheumatism, three afflictions that were common among Americans between 1750 and 1860, and presents ...

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Chapter 3. Prescribing Prevention

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pp. 67-89

The purpose of therapeutic or remedy advice was to restore a healthy equilibrium to a body that had fallen out of balance. The purpose of regimen advice, however, was to maintain a healthy balance by espousing a way of life that would protect the body from a variety of potential dangers. Of the general almanacs consulted for this study, 16 percent ...

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Chapter 4. Health Advice with an Agenda

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pp. 90-106

The Albany-based almanac maker marveled at the rapid growth of specialization in the trade: “We have religious almanacs, political almanacs, phrenological almanacs, comic almanacs, farmers’ almanacs, ladies’ almanacs, pocket almanacs, and temperance almanacs, which last are distributed at our doors without pay, or so much as the requirement of a nod by ...

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pp. 107-112

This study examines the dynamic relationship between popular print and popular medicine in pre–Civil War America. This relationship, of course, did not begin with the founding of the American colonies nor was it derailed by the carnage and economic disruption brought about by the Civil War. The tradition that dates to the invention of the printing press ...


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pp. 113-160


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pp. 161-186


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pp. 187-212


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pp. 213-221

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613761113
E-ISBN-10: 1613761112
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558496569
Print-ISBN-10: 1558496564

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 794702313
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Popular Print and Popular Medicine

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Almanacs, American -- History -- 18th century.
  • Almanacs, American -- History -- 19th century.
  • Astrology, American -- History -- 18th century.
  • Astrology, American -- History -- 19th century.
  • Medicine, Popular -- History -- 18th century.
  • Medicine, Popular -- History -- 19th century.
  • Social medicine -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
  • Social medicine -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Medical literature -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
  • Medical literature -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
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