The Salt Lake Sanitarian: Medical Adviser to the Saints
BY SHERILYN COX BENNION
What avail the largest gifts of Heaven, When drooping health and spirits go amiss?1
In April 1888 Dr. Milford Bard Shipp and two of his four wives, Drs. Maggie C Shipp and Ellis R. Shipp, founded a monthly maga¬ zine "devoted to the prevention and cure of diseases and injuries, and the promulgation of the laws of health and life."2 The Salt Lake Sani¬ tarian was subtitled "A Monthly Journal of Medicine and Surgery." It survived until January 1891, offering advice on subjects ranging from cholera to "coffeeism" and encouraging its readers to educate themselves regarding "the laws of life and sanitation."3
The Sanitarian began at a time when the field of medicine was in transition. During the early part of the nineteenth century most mem¬ bers of the medical establishment practiced what came to be known as heroic medicine after Oliver Wendell Holmes gave it that label in de¬ rision. It included purging, bleeding, and administering large doses of drugs. Diagnosis was rudimentary, and few effective medicines were available. The practice of medicine required neither a medical degree nor a license.
Given the uncertain state of orthodox medicine, many patients lost confidence in it and turned to a proliferation of medical sects. In the words of one historian:
As medical science searched for better methods and procedures, the public wandered amid an endless list of pathies, the claims of which rivaled the eschatological dreams of the era's religious and political
Dr. Bennion is a professor of journalism and program leader of women's studies at Humboldt State University, Areata, California. A version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting ofthe Mormon History Association, May 1986.
lSalt Lake Sanitarian, July 1888, p. 84. 2Ibid., April 1888, p. 14. » Ibid.