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March 6, 1943

The Standard of Living in 1860: American Consumption Levels on the Eve of the Civil War

JAMA. 1943;121(10):795. doi:10.1001/jama.1943.02840100081038

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A distinguished committee which studied economic changes in the United States in 1923 pointed out that the most significant factor in the changes that had occurred in the previous quarter century had been the increasing expansion of human desires and wants. In no other field perhaps has this expansion been more significant than in the field of medicine and public health. The author discusses the conditions that prevailed in 1860 in diets, housing, clothing, transportation, education and leisure. One chapter is devoted to medical care and the public health. Characteristic of the 50's were high death rates and low life expectancy. The first disease microbe was identified in 1863, but anesthetics had come in in 1844. Quacks and frauds preyed on the ignorant masses; phrenologists and spiritualists claimed special abilities; hydropathy and homeopathy were in their heydey. The legal requirements for practice were not exacting. There were only faint indications

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