Some of these images are amazing. Most of them are terrifying and somewhat unsettling. But all of them involve real people. These aren’t weird and wacky imaginings. These depict real things that happened in our past. And of course, because they are so unsettling, they are plastered everywhere across the internet.
Although there is nothing innately wrong with looking at things that are strange and unfamiliar, the key is to remember that, in the end, these are just people doing the best they could with what they had and what they knew. We do the same, so when it comes down to it, we’re really not that different from the people here. And in all likeliness, people who live 100 years from now will look at us with a kind of mixed fascination and horror…and in 200 years, people will look back at those who lived during 2100 the same way.
Yet, with all of this information and all these images at out finger tips, we should actively work against becoming desensitized to these things, to becoming tone-deaf.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but the below images may be disturbing to some viewers.
Children in an iron lung before the advent of polio vaccination
A friendly reminder of what the world looked like before we have reliable, safe vaccinations. Unfortunately, many children were forced to live for long stretches of time (sometimes months) in these machines, and even these extended periods couldn’t guarantee survival.
Image of a postmortem brain hemorrhage
A brain hemorrhage is a type of stroke. It’s caused by an artery in the brain bursting and causing localized bleeding in the surrounding tissues. These can be caused by a number of things, such as head trauma, high blood pressure, or any number of blood disorders (such as hemophilia).
Damage to rib cage caused by corset (?)
There is some debate on this one; however, doctors assert that extreme and prolonged corset wearing can cause damage to the bones. Yet, without knowing the specific medical history of the individual in question (how they wore a corset and for how long, other medical conditions that they had, etc.) it is hard to say exactly how much of the damage pictured here was caused by the corset.
Early devices used to hide deformities
In the past, the ways that one could hide deformities caused by disease or injury were very limited. Often, the best that one could do is cover scars with, what look like, Halloween-styled masks.
Masks worn by doctors during the Plague
The beaks of these devices would be filled with substances like lavender.
Nurses tanning babies
This picture comes from the Chicago Orphan Asylum and was taken in the 1920s. Nurses used this practice in order to offset winter rickets.
Spine apparatus advertisement
This image comes from a Dr. Clark’s Spinal Apparatus advertisement in 1878.
A young boy in a “invalid cart” from 1915
Radiology nurse technician, WWI France 1918
One of first surgical procedures using ether as an anesthetic
By the time the American Civil War broke out in 1861, both ether and chloroform had been in use for several years as methods of surgical anesthesia. Though both anesthetic agents were developed around the same time (the 1840s), chloroform soon emerged as the more widely used, as it took action faster and was non-flammable (setting patients on fire is never very helpful).
Treatments for insanity
Artificial leg from the turn of the century