Monthly Archives: March 2021

A Man For All Seasons

John E. Younglove and his weather records for March

When John E. Younglove (1826-1917) came to Bowling Green in 1844, the town gained a curious and inquiring citizen.  Over his long life as a druggist, town trustee and cemetery commissioner, Younglove collected rare books, archaeological specimens and tales of local history.  He also collected weather.

From 1849-50 and 1851-52, Younglove kept daily records of temperature (four readings a day), “clearness of the sky,” wind, and clouds.  A member of a national network of volunteer observers, he forwarded his data to the Smithsonian Institution for use in its new meteorology program, then tackling “the problem of American storms” and how to predict them. 

Younglove added other remarks to his notations, usually concerning the intensity of rainfall.  But his entries for June and July 1849 included another phenomenon that deserved close attention.  Early in the year, a wave of cholera had begun to make its way from India and across Europe.  Everyone knew that it would soon arrive in America – and that the nation was unprepared.  On June 9, 1849, Younglove’s weather notes recorded three deaths from cholera, “the first we have had.”  In a month characterized by high heat and excessive rain, the steady drip of deaths continued: one on the 14th, one on the 19th, two on the 22nd, five on the 23rd, and so on. 

Younglove’s record-keeping grew less frequent until 1886, when he resumed in earnest.  Through 1901, he filled his ledger with four-times-daily temperature readings, kept for the Department of Agriculture’s Climatological Service.  In addition to contemporary records, he preserved stories of weather and atmospheric phenomena gathered from his own experience and that of old-timers: the reverberations of the 1811 New Madrid earthquake; a magnificent meteor shower in 1833; the 18-below-zero day in February 1835 and the 24-below-zero chill in January 1877; the total eclipse of 1869; an 1870 tornado that destroyed Cave City; the 28-inch snowfall that buried Bowling Green in February 1886; and various record-breaking storms, killer frosts, locust infestations and river rises.  When an even deadlier visitation of cholera arrived in 1854, courtesy of the infected members of a travelling circus company, Younglove suspected that the outbreak was made worse by heavy rainfall during a performance “which caused the steam to arise” inside the crowded tent.  His chronicle was wide-ranging and unique: in annual narratives covering 1870 through 1909, Younglove looked back on each year’s weather patterns as they brought prosperity or hardship to the gardeners and farmers of his community – and formed a backdrop, in a few cases, to serious public health crises.

John E. Younglove’s meteorological record is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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A Golden Injection

With the growth of the temperance movement in the late 19th century came a tide of programs for the treatment of addiction, not just to alcohol but to tobacco and drugs.  Some were faith driven, but others were from the medical community and became so popular that they evolved into business franchises.  One of these was the Hagey Institute, an enterprise that made an appearance in Bowling Green in the 1890s.

Only a few years earlier, in 1889, William Henry Harrison Hagey, a physician and chemist, had opened the first institute in Norfolk, Nebraska.  Like several other aspiring addiction specialists, he touted bichloride of gold, a remedy that would supposedly eliminate the craving for alcohol and tobacco and for drugs like morphine and opium.  Patients drank a tonic and also received injections of the compound which, it was said, left a gold stain on the upper arm.  Hagey Institutes soon opened in California and as far away as Australia.

Bowling Green’s Hagey Institute was established no later than July 1892, when the Todd County Progress advised those “addicted to the liquor or morphine habit” to seek a cure there.  The principals were local pharmacist Gilson E. Townsend and Glasgow’s Dr. Charles T. Grinstead (“Physician in Charge”).  An advertisement assured patients of a “guaranteed” solution for “the Terrible Morphine Disease.”  As for the “liquor habit,” the Institute did not sermonize; like drug addiction, it was a disease rather than a moral failing, “fully as much to be dreaded as consumption, or any chronic or hereditary ailment.”  The ad further offered “$100 in gold” to anyone who, at the end of three weeks of treatment, confounded the cure by managing to keep down a drink of liquor.

Although the Hagey treatment promised to be “perfect and pleasant,” these gold-based regimens soon fell out of favor.  It came as no surprise, perhaps, that laboratory tests showed the secret formula for the elixir to contain not gold but practically everything else, including quinine, strychnine and other poisons, and even alcohol, morphine and opium!  Rather than instituting a pleasant withdrawal, it more commonly made users nauseous, fatigued, inebriated, confused, and even “insane.”  But as the shadow of quackery began to advance over the gold cure, there is no evidence that Grinstead and Townsend’s enterprise was operating under less than good faith.  Townsend later served twice as mayor of Bowling Green, and Dr. Grinstead deployed the Institute’s impressive gold-tinted letterhead to support Barren County physician John B. White in his attempts to defend himself against the “tattlers and liars” attacking his competence.

Dr. Grinstead’s letters from the Hagey Institute of Bowling Green can be found in the Jones Collection, part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more of our collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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