1870s-1940s

Organized healthcare in Ottawa increased during the later half of the 19th Century, in the form of hospitals erected to certain portions of the public, such as maternity wards, and children’s hospitals. It wasn’t until 1919 that the Ontario Legislature passed the Ottawa Civic Hospital Act, which transferred provincial responsibility of the area hospitals to the City of Ottawa as a municipal project. A catalyst for the transfer of responsibility to the City of Ottawa was the Influenza epidemic of 1917. This epidemic was the last Ottawa experienced and was responsible for many deaths when hospitals were unable to meet the demand for care.

Timeline of the progression of public hospital beds available:

  • 1894 - Ottawa Maternity Hospital opened with 23 beds
 

CA-018217
Ottawa Maternity Hospital, ca.1920.
Located on Rideau Street near Wurtemburg Street, it operated from 1895 to 1924.

TITLE Ottawa Maternity Hospital
DATE
ca.1920
ITEM NUMBER
CA-018217
DESCRIPTION
Located on Rideau Street near Wurtemburg Street, it operated from 1895 to 1924.

  • 1898 - St. Luke’s General Hospital opened with 262 beds.
 

CA-001482
St. Luke's Hospital, 1898.
Located on the corner of Lochiel S.E. and Elgin Streets.

TITLE St. Luke’s Hospital
DATE
1898
ITEM NUMBER
CA-001482
DESCRIPTION
Located on the corner of Lochiel S.E. and Elgin Streets.

  • 1902 - Strathcona Hospital began services. Its goal was the cure and study of contagious diseases such as diphtheria.
  • 1912 - Hopewell Hospital established. The purpose of this hospital, erected on Porter Island, was to isolate small pox victims from the general population.
  • 1922 - Salvation Army Grace Hospital opened with approximately 100 beds.
  • 1924 - Completion of the Ottawa Civic Hospital was an amalgamation of three older institutions: Carleton General Protestant Hospital, St. Luke’s General Hospital, and the Ottawa Maternity Hospital. The new building had over 500 beds to serve the community.
  • 1926 - The Ottawa Protestant Children’s Hospital began services with 55 beds.
 
CA-002750
Ottawa Civic Hospital, 1926.
Waiting room of the Ottawa Civic Hospital.

TITLE Ottawa Civic Hospital
DATE
1926
ITEM NUMBER
CA-002750
DESCRIPTION
Waiting room of the Ottawa Civic Hospital.

 
CA-019997
County of Carleton General Protestant Hospital, ca.1900.
Female medical ward.

TITLE County of Carleton General Protestant Hospital
DATE
ca.1900
ITEM NUMBER
CA-019997
DESCRIPTION
Female medical ward.

 
CA-019998
County of Carleton General Protestant Hospital, ca.1900.
 Male medical ward.

TITLE County of Carleton General Protestant Hospital
DATE
ca.1900
ITEM NUMBER
CA-019998
DESCRIPTION
Male medical ward.

CA-019999
County of Carleton General Protestant Hospital, ca.1900.
Operating room.

TITLE County of Carleton General Protestant Hospital
DATE
ca.1900
ITEM NUMBER
CA-019999
DESCRIPTION
Operating room.

The general public took a personal interest in their own healthcare and often ordered remedies from mail order companies in an effort to procure the latest ‘scientific’ cures. The science behind these discoveries was not often clear or publicly documented, and relied instead on published recommendations from happy customers to sell their miracle cures.

Charles Billings may not have studied medicine as his sister did, but necessity might have piqued his interest. He corresponded with the Imperial Remedy Co., which sent him a letter in 1901 promoting their cure for constipation. Receipts were attached to the letter, which indicate that Charles Billings received the medicine.

 

MG162-08-233Dr. King's Electrobale Remedy order form, 1900 April 26.A letter addressed  “Dear Friend” from J.H. Reeves of New York to Charles Billings I, pressing Charles to try a new medicine for free, with confidence.

TITLE Dr. King's Electrobale Remedy order form
DATE
1900 April 26
ITEM NUMBER
MG162-08-233
DESCRIPTION
A letter addressed “Dear Friend” from J.H. Reeves of New York to Charles Billings I, pressing Charles to try a new medicine for free, with confidence.

MG162-08-233b
Advertisement flyer for Dr.King’s Electrobole Remedy, 1900.
Advertisement: “Electrobole, The Great Alvine for the cure of Piles, or whatever Kind or Degree; External; Internal; Blind or Bleeding; Chronic; Recent or Hereditary.”

TITLE Advertisement flyer for Dr.King’s Electrobole Remedy
DATE
1900
ITEM NUMBER
MG162-08-233b
DESCRIPTION
Advertisement: “Electrobole, The Great Alvine for the cure of Piles, or whatever Kind or Degree; External; Internal; Blind or Bleeding; Chronic; Recent or Hereditary.”

Charles M. Billings’ personal journals and his collection of advertisement clippings show that he too had an interest in medicine. An excerpt from one of his account books reads:

Antidotes for Poisons
First
– send for a physician
Second
– Induce vomiting by tickling throat with feather or finger, drinking hot water or strong mustard or whites of eggs. […]
Arsneic
– [Also known as] Rat Poison, Paris Green – Use milk, raw eggs, sweet oil, [caine] water, flour and water.
Opium
– [Also known as] Morphine laudanum, paragonic soothing powders or syrups – use strong coffee, hot bath; keep awake and moving at any cost.

Charles M. Billings recorded many of the cures and remedies he came across in his research. In fact, the late 19th and early 20th centuries were an exciting time of medical discoveries and exploration. Then again, some of the practices employed by doctors and patients seem questionable today—it was not uncommon to quiet constipated young children or teething babies with opium-based drugs. An advertisement for Steedman’s Powders advocated using opiates on teething children. In one of the ad’s testimonials a woman stated:

I have used Steedman’s Powders for my three boys, aged 4 ½ years (twins) and eight months, and find them a remedy for their little disorders. They are so easy to give I do not dread the ordeal of ‘giving medicine’ at all.
 

MG001-08-188Magazine clipping: Steedman’s Powders and teething, 1890s.Pamphlet advocating the use of opiates in the form of Steedman’s Powders to calm teething children.

TITLE Magazine clipping: Steedman’s Powders and teething
DATE
1890s.
ITEM NUMBER
MG001-08-188
DESCRIPTION
Pamphlet advocating the use of opiates in the form of Steedman’s Powders to calm teething children.

By the mid-1800s, opium-based drugs had become so widely accepted and commonly used that at least ten trademark brands emerged on the market, including top-sellers Steedman’s Powder, Godfrey’s Cordial, and Atkinson’s Royal Infants Preservative. Unfortunately, opium was not a cure-all or a miracle drug. It was highly addictive and it suppressed the appetite. As a result, malnutrition killed more children and infants than overdose did.

During this time more people began to study women’s illness. Pierce’s Memorandum and Account Book for the year 1886 “lists uterine problems, menstruation, bearing down sensations, internal heat, nervous depression [..]” as common female afflictions. The book focuses more on female illness as it progresses year by year.

As the medical profession grew, it became widely accessible with more doctors and hospitals, and eventually a healthcare system.

Dog Derby

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