Hank Hill once said "If it is meant to be covered up with clothes, it aint meant to be talked about." Maybe that is true. But then we'd miss out on so many fun and inappropriate conversations! Let us turn our attention to the Columbian Exchange. This process began upon the "discovery" of the New World by the much maligned explorer Christopher Columbus. (The fact that the Vikings got here first, albeit temporarily doesn't seem to matter to some people.) The phrase Columbian Exchange refers to the transfer of plants, animals, people, technology, and disease between peoples of the Old World and New. The Europeans brought horses and smallpox. In exchange they received potatoes and syphilis.
Ah yes, syphilis. The gift that keeps on giving. Soon it grew rampant in Europe. In an era with no "safe sex" and legalized prostitution, it is no wonder that it became the most feared of all STDs. No effective treatment existed to cure it. That did not, however, did not stop people from trying. One such treatment was to use mercury by either rubbing it on the skin or injecting it. This gave rise to the saying "A night with Venus and a lifetime with Mercury." This was sort of the first "Just say no" type campaign! Few listened as syphilis continued to be a major problem until the discovery of penicillin.
The list of syphilis cases reads like a Who's Who of European society. Writers such as James Joyce and Guy de Maupassant experienced the joys of syphilis as did philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche. Let us not forget the artists who did the same like Gauguin and Van Gogh. It wasn't the IRS that brought down Al Capone, it was syphilis! (Well, permanently brought him down that is.) It did not discriminate and effected the rich and poor alike. For every Capone or Joyce there were hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals known today only to their Creator who suffered as well.
So what prompted me to write a blog post about disease of the hooty hoo? Many moons ago I attended a Civil War reenactment at Old Fort Jackson about sixty miles south of New Orleans. This was the May prior to Hurricane Katrina if my memory serves me correctly. Anyway, one of the sutlers was selling a reproduction Old West badge. It was too good to pass up and so I bought it. I happened to glance at it while I was thinking about what to write about today and there you have it. Today's blog post. I have included a photo of said badge below.
My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian who, if I were alive in the Old West, might like to have this job!
Did this job require a college degree?