In 1880, Tombstone was a town of 2,000 citizens with a dozen doctors, but only four of them had a license to practice. The word “practice” took on new meaning on the frontier as these doctors performed procedures without the restrictions and restraints required of their Eastern colleagues. In those days, doctors treated all manner of ailments ranging from broken limbs, and gunshot and stab wounds to rattlesnake bites and scorpion stings. They also delivered babies, and fought smallpox, pneumonia and diphtheria. The most common accidents during that period involved explosives, wagons and horses, and surgery was usually performed at the scene of the accident, with little known about germs, sterilization and anesthesia (strong whiskey was commonly employed).
Arizona’s Official Historian Marshall Trimble takes a look at some of the curious and crazy approaches to frontier medicine, proving that laughter is the best medicine.
Included with museum admission; free to museum members.