Doctors have been practicing medicine for centuries, and some of the things they did were downright crazy. For example, in 18th century France it was routine to bleed patients until they nearly died. This is just one of many strange medical practices that doctors thought made sense at the time. We have gathered 50 of such terrible medical practices that if you saw happening today, you would surely sue the doctor.
Coca-Cola Literally Had Coke in It
In 1894, Coca Cola was sold as a patent medicine to cure fatigue, nerve disorder, and indigestion. It was originally intended to contain the stimulant, cocaine. Coca-Cola is still sold today and contains much less than .03% of cocaine that it used to have in its original formula! You can judge the high amount of cocaine that was present in the old cans in 1894 by the fact that you would have to drink more than a 100 cans to equalize the same level of cocaine that was present in just once can of Coca-Cola at that time.
Electric Bath Treatment 1910
In the 1910, people were asked to sit in a tub or their limbs were immersed in water containers and mild electric current was released in the water. This was done to treat rheumatism and arthritis. Today, this would be considered electrocution and torture. Doctors didn’t know how a lot about how electricity worked at the time – they just thought it was a miracle cure! The treatment continued until 1940s when another doctor found that instead of curing diseases like rheumatism, electric shock therapy actually made them worse.
Manual High Speed Drill Used By Dentists
Before the invention of electricity, dentist had to use drills that were powered by hand. These tools used a foot pedal in order for the drill to work and spin around at very high speed which was extremely painful not only for children but also adults too! Today with electric machines instead of manual ones, it is much easier on everyone’s teeth when getting drilled or treated in some other way.
Ideal Rectal Dilators In 1893
It is a little bit surprising that these kinds of things existed since it could have been dangerous if they had not known what was going on with people who used them – back then nobody really knew much about the human body so many irresponsible practices happened. In those days there were no doctors or healthcare professionals taking care of everyone which meant doing whatever you wanted because everything was unpredictable meaning long lives for all under better management nowadays! The shape of these dilators was also a point of concern for many as people thought that it could be used as an adult toy.
Gentleman’s Guide to Amputation from the Victorian Era
During the Victorian Era, amputation was a common procedure to get rid of gangrene and other infections. This is why many people were able to survive since it helped with their recovery! Amputations are still done today but only when necessary for example if someone gets an injury that requires them getting part of their body removed or something similar. Today we have all kinds of different technologies in order for us not having to resort to such painful procedures which means longer lives without too much suffering!
It was Okay to Smoke Cigarettes While You Were Admitted in the Hospital
Back in the early 20th century it was totally fine for patients to buy and smoke cigarettes in their hospital bed. The harmful effects of tobacco weren’t that well known at that time and it was considered as a relaxant which could calm the patient’s body. So doctors didn’t bother that much about the patients smoking dangerous cigarettes right in their hospital bed. Today if a patient smokes cigarette in the hospital, he/she will be asked to stop it and the patient may even lose his or her medical insurance benefits. It is considered that tobacco products are highly dangerous for health and can cause different diseases from cancer to cardiovascular problems.
Lobotomies Were Very Common
Between the years 1939 and 1951, around 18,000 lobotomies were performed in the United States on veterans, rebels-political opponents, prisoners and even in some cases it was performed on misbehaving children to improve their behavior. Lobotomies were a popular procedure for many years in the United States. Many people who had mental illnesses or other health issues would have this done to them by their doctor! Nowadays we are very fortunate to be able to know everything about our body parts and how they work so you don’t need something crazy like that anymore since everybody gets better healthcare nowadays meaning longer lives for everyone because now people can get treatment without having to resort to such methods thanks to our great physicians who take care of us all equally these days!
Before Polio Vaccination, Children Were Put In To an Iron Lung- 1937
Polio was a very common disease that caused high fever, breathing problems and paralysis in children. Before the advent of vaccination which eventually came to be known as one of the most successful medical inventions ever, doctors had no idea how they could cure this deadly virus. One way they thought would work is putting kids alive inside an iron lung – machine that helped them breath without any problems! This lasted for months but even though some survived, not all lived through it since many died due to pneumonia or other infections contracted while living inside these machines longer than necessary.
Civil War veteran Jacob Miller Survived a Headshot
Back in the Civil War, there were no proper medical facilities to help soldiers after they got injured. One of these people was Jacob Miller who had a bullet stuck inside his skull for decades which caused him pain but he couldn’t do anything about it since back then surgery wasn’t done unless necessary and having an open wound on your head is definitely not considered as something that can be fixed immediately! Of course today with modern medicine, civil war veterans would have been given much more support than what they actually received during their times.
Paul Anderson back-lifting 6,270 lbs., the most weight ever lifted by a human. (1957)
Back in the day, Paul Anderson was a strong man who managed to lift an impressive amount of weight for his muscle mass and power! Today even though we still see people lifting heavy objects it just doesn’t seem as impressive anymore because everyone has access to different types of food than what they used to have back then. This is why today’s sportsmen eat much more than athletes from the past did – this gives them enough strength to perform well during competitions or events like these.
Headline about Polio Vaccination Being Available – 1955
This is a one of the more positive pictures on the list. It is from the year 1955, a nurse is showing someone who was on a respirator due to polio the newspaper headline about the vaccine that would soon become known as one of the greatest medical inventions ever. Today we have much better doctors and science than what there used to be before – meaning that people are able to live longer lives without worrying too much about getting sick as often as they did back then!
Pharmacy in New Zealand in 1800s.
A pharmacy from the late 1800s in New Zealand, it has many of the typical things you would see back then. There are several large bottles with different types of medicines for different purposes! There is no distinction between over the counter medicine and prescription drugs. Today pharmacies look much more modern since they always try to be up to date with new technologies so that customers get what they need better than before. Pharmacies back in the day also offered tooth extraction services.
Oldest Native American to have ever lived.
The White Wolf is believed to have lived for 137 years. He had multiple wives but no children. Of course there are many people who don’t believe it and refute the claims however many credible signs point towards the age being correct. He lived from 1785 to 1922. He is also considered as the oldest Native American to have ever lived. We are sure he had a wealth of wisdom and a lot of knowledge about the American history as for most part he saw it play out right in front of his eyes.
Dr. Kilmer’s Solution to Menstrual Cramps
This product falsely claimed that it can provide relieve from menstrual cramps. This is not surprising since people were always looking for ways to get rid of pain, even if it means trying out false products just like this one! Nowadays we have much better medicine than what there was before meaning that women are able to live a lot more comfortably without worrying about anything too serious. The company closed down in 1906.
Tallest person in history. Robert Wadlow He died in 1940 aged 22.
Robert Wadlow is the tallest person in history. He reached a height of eight feet eleven point one inches, which was big even for today’s standards! Robert died at an early age because he had a condition called hyperplasia of the pituitary gland that caused him to get very tall and die aged twenty two. Today we know more about what causes people to be taller than others so it would not have happened if there were better doctors around back then – this is why everyone has access to much better healthcare nowadays which means no risks of dying young like before!
Tanning babies at the Chicago Orphanage, 1925, to offset winter rickets.
In the early 1900s, it was suggested by medical experts that exposing infants to ultraviolet light could help them avoid rickets during winter time when there is less sunlight. This might sound crazy but this was a very popular practice back then – it’s not surprising since people had no idea what they were doing and just wanted to try everything possible! We have better doctors now who know exactly how to take care of their patients so we don’t have any reasons for resorting to such methods which means everybody lives more comfortably by knowing that they can get sick or injured without too much trouble as long as they go see one of our great physicians!
Stretching Device to Increase Your Height – 1931
A man trying out a stretching device which claimed to increase his height by two to six inches in 1931. It is no big surprise that this was popular since it meant having the benefits of being taller without any efforts! In those days there were many things you could do as long as they promised good results, even if some of them might have been dangerous since people didn’t know much about what causes one’s body parts to grow or shrink. Nowadays we know more about everything and how our bodies work so everyone can live a lot safer knowing exactly what will happen with their health – nobody needs to resort to such methods anymore which means everybody gets better healthcare nowadays meaning longer lives for all!
An Apparatus to Check the Reflex Movement of the Eyes
Back in the day, there were some strange experiments where people would try to cement a miniature lamp onto one’s eye during an experiment. The goal of these tests was to investigate the reflex movements of your eyes and their association with visual illusions so it is not surprising since everyone wanted to learn more about what causes our body parts to work! Today we know lots of different things that help us understand how every part works which means no risks for anyone because now everybody can be safe knowing they are doing nothing too serious when visiting doctors meaning longer lives all around thanks to better healthcare nowadays!
Beak Masks worn by doctors during the Plague. The beaks held scented substances.
In the old days, doctors used to wear beaked masks during the plague. The unique shape of the masks didn’t serve much of a purpose but rather held scented substances to help mask the smell. This sounds strange, but this was what they did at that time! Nowadays we have better doctors who know exactly how to take care of their patients so nobody needs to be exposed to such risks which means everybody gets better healthcare nowadays and can enjoy longer lives by knowing everything will turn out fine when going for treatment meaning everyone has an equal chance now thanks to our great physicians!
Baby incubators in 1900.
This is an old incubator from the 1900s. Back then, incubators were used to help infants that had breathing difficulties. There was a belief at the time that if you put them in an environment with constant temperature and humidity, they would be able to survive! Now we have much better doctors who know exactly how to take care of their patients so nobody needs such risks which means everybody is safe knowing they will get excellent treatment whenever there’s anything wrong meaning longer lives all around thanks to our great physicians!
The first kidney dialysis in the United States- 1974
In 1947, Mount Sinai performed the first kidney dialysis in the United States. The procedure involved using a machine to cleanse the blood of waste products which was not available until then – this would have been too bad if it hadn’t happened! Nowadays we are very fortunate to be able to know everything there is about our body parts and how they work so you don’t need anything crazy like that anymore since everybody gets better healthcare nowadays meaning longer lives for everyone because now people can get treatment without having to resort to such methods thanks to our great physicians who take care of us all equally these days!
The unique flu masks worn during the flu epidemic after the First World War, 1919.
The flu epidemic of 1919 led to an increase in the sales of gauze masks. The mask was worn by many people after WWI, but they didn’t help stop anything! Nowadays we are very fortunate to be able to know everything about our body parts and how they work so you don’t need something crazy like that anymore since everybody gets better healthcare nowadays meaning longer lives for everyone because now people can get treatment without having to resort to such methods thanks to our great physicians who take care of us all equally these days!
Gas Masks for Children in Liverpool 1942.
During the Second World War, children all around Britain were wearing gas masks. This was a protective mask that had to be worn in order for kids to survive through chemical warfare – which ended up never happening! Today it is very rare if not impossible that you will see someone walking on the streets with such an object because there are no threats like this anymore. However, parents still teach their children how to act during war times and other disasters just in case they happen at one point or another.
Walter Reed physiotherapy store 1920s
This is Walter Reed’s physiotherapy store from the 1920s. The equipment back then wasn’t as good since they didn’t have access to some of the technology we do today! Nowadays people are much better off because nobody has to resort to such risks which means everybody gets excellent healthcare nowadays and longer lives for everyone because now if there’s any problem with you, it can be treated without needing anything too weird like that thanks to our great physicians who give us all equal treatment these days!
Photos with the Deceased Before Burial
Before burial, many people would hold their deceased family members or take photos with them in lifelike poses. This was a very common practice back then and many people including many royals used to do it. Although this practice is very weird by our modern standards, this was a normal thing to do during the Victorian era. People used to think that if they kept taking photos with their deceased family members, then somehow they would be able to keep the spirits of their dead alive and that it would allow them to commune and have a relationship with their dead family members. Sometimes, they would even have a lifelike pose after the person has died and take photos of that as well.
A woman using an electric inhaling apparatus which produces a medicated fog used in the treatment of colds and influenza, circa 1929.
Breathing machines and electric inhaling apparatus were used to help those with colds, influenza, etc. These were not as safe as the ones we have today so people had a lot of bad experiences back then! Nowadays though we are very fortunate to know exactly how our body works such that you don’t need something crazy like this anymore because everybody gets better healthcare nowadays meaning longer lives for everyone thanks to great physicians taking care of us all equally these days!
A young patient getting fit with a respirator in 1955.
Patients suffering from breathing problems used to have to get fit with respirators back in the 1950s which was not very safe so if you had any health problems it could be really bad! They were big apparatuses and covered almost all of the abdomen. Nowadays everybody gets excellent healthcare and longer lives thanks to great physicians giving us all equal treatment these days!
The Elephant Man
Joseph Carey Merrick was a very unfortunate man who had severe face and body deformities. He used to be in the circus because he couldn’t do anything else! Nowadays we are very fortunate though because doctors know exactly how their patients work so nobody has to resort for something like that anymore meaning everybody gets excellent healthcare nowadays and longer lives for everyone thanks to great physicians giving us all equal treatment these days!
Blood transfusion bottle from 1978 in England
A blood transfusion bottle from 1978. These were not very safe because you didn’t know what people had in their system and stuff like that! Since we don’t need to worry about things like this nowadays, everybody gets excellent healthcare meaning longer lives for everyone thanks to great physicians taking care of us all equally these days!
Electro-convulsive therapy, or electroshock, has a bad reputation but it is actually very effective. No one knows how it works which means some people are suspicious of its effects! Luckily though since doctors know exactly how to treat us nowadays nobody needs something like this anymore meaning everybody gets excellent healthcare these days and longer lives for everyone thanks to great physicians giving us all equal treatment these days!
Fish oil Were Given to Children in School
Fish oil used to be given to children in school and we were told it was good for our health. However the practice was shunned when parents started to complain about schools giving fish oil to children. All parents these days are skeptical about these things. If you are not sure about something, it is better to be safe than sorry! The out roar by parents forced schools to stop this practice. The parents did not want the government or the schools to administer any type of medication when the parents weren’t around.
Frank Lentini was born in 1889 with a parasitic twin attached to his body at the base of his spine consisting of a pelvis bone and a rudimentary set of male genitalia.
Lentini was an Italian-born circus freak, who became the world’s most famous three-legged man after he visited New York City in 1912. Frank Lentini had a parasitic twin attached to his body at the base of his spine which consisted of a pelvis bone and male genitalia! He gained fame as one of the first well known war amputees because during World War I people would come from all over just to see him. These days we are very fortunate to have such great physicians taking care of us all equally so nobody has to resort for something like that anymore meaning everybody gets excellent healthcare these days and longer lives for everyone thanks to great physicians giving us all equal treatment these days!
Artificial Eardrum: 1800s
In the late 1800s, people used to purchase tiny devices that were inserted in the ear and sold as artificial eardrums. These allowed sound waves to be isolated which meant you could hear sounds better! It is very lucky we don’t need something like this anymore because now everybody gets excellent healthcare meaning longer lives for everyone thanks to great physicians taking care of us all equally these days!
Lucy Hobbs Taylor: first American woman to graduate from dental school, 1860s.
This was the time when women education wasn’t given as much important as men’s education. Traditional views were still prevalent during these times. Lucy Hobbs Taylor was the first American woman to graduate from dental school in the 1860s. She practiced dentistry for years and gained fame as one of America’s top oral surgeons during her time practicing! These days we are very fortunate because now everybody gets excellent healthcare which means longer lives for everyone thanks to great physicians giving us all equal treatment these days!
Neurological exam with electrical device, c. 1884.
During the 19th century, doctors used electrical devices to conduct neurological exams! These devices were used to test reflexes and people had mixed reactions about whether or not they thought it was helpful. Neurological exam are done with great care today as it is one of the most important areas of medicine. However the people in the older days weren’t that lucky.
A 19th Century vampire hunting kit
Vampire hunting was very common in the 18th and 19th century. The crucifix, garlic, wooden stakes and hammer, the rosary beads and the bible were used to fight vampires. Every family had a kit at their home and many people use to travel with these kits as well. The common belief was that vampires were created from the evil people on Earth and when they died they came back to feed on blood of their family.
Maud Stevens Wagner was the first known female tattoo artist in the US. (1907)
In 1897 Maud Stevens Wagner was working as a ticket seller at the Coney Island freak show. That’s where she met a side show tattoo artist, Gus Wagner. On her part what started as a job soon turned into a loving relationship and they got married in 1900. The couple had worked together for years traveling from city to city showcasing their tattoos. Maud Stevens Wagner was the first known female tattoo artist in the US. It was not easy for a woman to make money back then, especially if she had no education or “official” training. Maud was really successful in her line of work, she became the first American woman to become a professional tattoo artist. She continued with her husband’s profession and worked along with his assistants in several traveling shows.
The process of binding feet starts before the arch is fully develop – somewhere between the ages of 4 and 9.
The process of binding feet starts before the arch is fully develop – somewhere between the ages of 4 and 9. Young girls would have to stay in a position that will keep their feet tightly bound for most of the time, about 22 hours a day. There were many hazards involved with this practice, ranging from permanent damage to death. Many things can go wrong with this practice, from broken bones to being crippled for life.
Leeching Was Very Common: Antique Leeching Kit
In the past doctors used leeches to treat blood flow-related illnesses. Leeches were placed on specific parts of the body to suck out infected blood, which the doctors would then remove with a knife. The removed leech’s body would be placed back into its jar for safe keeping after having been cooked in fire, so it wouldn’t crawl out.
A leech is a worm-like segmented creature roughly 10cm long with suckers on each end. They are found in freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers and marshes throughout the world except Antarctica.
Willem Einthoven, the Inventor of the First Practical ECG/EKG in 1903
The ECG is an important diagnostic tool for doctors to measure the electrical activity of a patient’s heart, which detects abnormalities in cardiac rhythm. The measurements are recorded on graph paper producing line tracings.
Willem Einthoven (1860-1927) was born in Semarang, Java Island (Indonesia), and studied medicine at Utrecht University under Franciscus Donders. He worked at Leiden University after his graduation in 1883, where he developed the practical ECG using galvanometers that register minute differences in the electrical potential between different body parts.
Einthoven used three metal discs suspended by threads attached to a milliammeter between them to act as electrodes for recording the electrical activity. Einthoven won the Nobel Prize in Medicine “for his discovery of the mechanism of the electrocardiogram”. His invention received great interest from scientists around the world, and led to further development of more specific ECG measurements that are used today for diagnosis of heart abnormalities. This electrically based diagnostic tool is still used worldwide by doctors to detect abnormal cardiac rhythms, diagnose heart problems and assess how well a patient’s treatment is working.
Taking an x-ray in 1942.
This is how x rays were taken back in 1942. The process was a little complex back then as there weren’t any powerful machines available like we have now. X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Röntgen when he observed that some kind of invisible radiation was passing through his lab’s cardboard covered furniture and exposing an unexposed photographic plate, leading him to believe this might be a way to capture images of our internal organs. He referred to this radiation as a new kind of “X” – for unknown.
Burnt Skin Pattern from An explosion 1945
This shows how adverse the effects of an explosion can be on your skin. The patient exposure to ionizing radiation. Lesions are symmetrical and linear with hyperpigmentation present on most of the affected areas. Nodules are also observed in some areas of the patient’s skin, but no hair loss occurred after exposure to ionizing radiation. The patient’s history is significant for radiation exposure. The course of the burn was not typical because there were areas of skin sparing. The lesions are linear, sharply demarcated, and have associated hyperpigmentation.
Woman with an artificial leg, c. 1890-1900.
This woman suffered from an infection which led to amputation of her leg. However an artificial leg was then used by the woman which was very uncommon in that time. She could walk really well with her prosthetic leg. It was definitely an invention ahead of its time and let the woman live a life of good mobility. She could walk freely with the help of her artificial leg.
A female bodybuilder from the early 1900s.
You may see a lot of muscular females these days however Female body builders weren’t this common in the 1900s. In fact it was considered as a sign of lack of beauty for the females to have muscular bodies. Such females were usually asked to become part of the circus as they were considered such a unique thing.
The Four Legged Girl Myrtle Corbin – 1880
Myrtle Corbin was born a dipygus with four legs and two separate fully functional pelvises. This photograph is from 1880. She was often bullied because of her appearance and her parents were really sad because of that. Her unique appearance also caught an eye of a circus management who used to introduce her as the four legged girl.
Frieda Pushnik The girl with no limbs
Frieda Pushnik is one of the most famous people from the 20th century. She was born without any limbs. She did not have any hands or legs however she denied any sort of disability or deformity she had to achieve a celebrity status. Even though she did not have any limbs she was still very healthy. She passed away in the year 2000 at the age of 77.
This 3,300-year-old Egyptian stele is thought to depict a polio victim
A 3300 year old Egyptian stele shows what looks like a polio victim. The stele started a lot of buzz around Polio. Many experts believe that there may have been a polio epidemic at that time as well and further research in the matter could have helped experts find ways to counter polio in the modern era. Even though it seems to be depicting a polio we can still not say it for sure.
Working out at the gym aboard the Titanic, 1912.
Yes, the titanic was one of a kind ship with lots of amenities and features that were not found in other ships of that era. It also had its own gym where the passengers or the guests could work out and take care of their health. This picture shows people working out in what became a doomed voyage that is forever going to be embedded in history as one of the worst disasters ever.
Murder Bottles for Victorian Babies
In the Victorian Era, children were given water bottles to drink from so called “murder bottles” which caused multiple deaths among young children. There are accounts of toddlers being found dead with a murder bottle nearby because it was filled with poisonous substances like laudanum or alcohol and these kids had no idea that they shouldn’t swallow what is inside the bottle! Today parents will be extremely shocked to see such a thing happening as this would be considered child abuse but back in those days’ people didn’t care about their kid’s well-being at all – only looks mattered for them! The major reason that these bottles came to be called as the murder bottles was the fact that bacteria started growing inside these bottles which caused fatal infections in children.
Harriet Hubbard Ayer’s Moth and Freckle Lotion.
Moth was a Victorian term for a facial blemish. Moth’s face cream was meant to keep freckles and blemishes at bay, but many women wanted the product because it faded freckles naturally. The cream had silver nitrate as an active ingredient, which is probably what made it effective for people with fair skin. It also had lead acetate, which was used to inhibit the formation of melanin.