Venereal Disease and the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Venereal Disease and the Lewis and Clark Expedition

by Thomas P. Lowry
     
 

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One of the greatest challenges faced by William Clark and Meriwether Lewis on their 1804–6 Corps of Discovery expedition was that of medical emergencies on the trail. Without an attending physician, even routine ailments and injuries could have tragic consequences for the expedition’s success and the safety of its members. Of these dangers, the most…  See more details below

Overview


One of the greatest challenges faced by William Clark and Meriwether Lewis on their 1804–6 Corps of Discovery expedition was that of medical emergencies on the trail. Without an attending physician, even routine ailments and injuries could have tragic consequences for the expedition’s success and the safety of its members. Of these dangers, the most insidious and potentially devastating was the slow, painful, and oftentimes fatal ravage of venereal disease.
 
Physician Thomas P. Lowry delves into the world of nineteenth-century medicine, uncovering the expedition’s very real fear of venereal disease. Lewis and Clark knew they were unlikely to prevent their men from forming sexual liaisons on the trail, so they prepared for the consequences of encounters with potentially infected people, as well as the consequences of preexisting disease, by stocking themselves with medicine and the latest scientific knowledge from the best minds in America. Lewis and Clark’s expedition encountered Native peoples who experienced venereal disease as a result of liaisons with French, British, Spanish, and Canadian travelers and had their own methods for curing its victims, or at least for easing the pain it inflicted.
 
Lowry’s careful study of the explorers’ journals sheds new light on this neglected aspect of the expedition, showing in detail how sex and venereal disease affected the men and their mission, and describes how diverse peoples faced a common threat with the best knowledge and tools at their disposal.

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Editorial Reviews

Montana the Magazine of Western History

“This slim book is written with wit, intelligence, and a humane understanding of venereal disease. . . . It belongs on the shelves not only of Lewis and Clark fans, but in any library of American history because it offers so much insight into frontier health and sickness.”—Montana: The Magazine of Western History
Free Lance-Star

“Lowry has given careful and reasoned thought to an aspect of history that until now has been virtually unmentioned.”—Sandra D. Speiden, Free Lance-Star

— Sandra D. Speiden

The Times of Acadiana

“Surely, I thought, this little book can’t be a serious evaluation of the conjunction of two never-to-be united subjects. I was completely wrong. Dr. Lowry, a retired psychiatrist and a historian of aspects of the Civil War, has thrown light on his two subjects, both of which are fascinating looked at in the light of the other. Lowry points out that the subject of sex has been broached by historians of the famous expedition, but having been broached, it is mentioned in passing. . . . This has meant that not all of the history of the expedition could be written.”—The Times of Acadiana
Military Heritage

“In this intriguing and fascinating monograph, Lowry demonstrates that venereal disease was a major threat to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.”—Military Heritage
Chronicles of Oklahoma

“There is much to ponder in this compact book. . . . It offers new questions and new modes of considering the Lewis and Clark Expedition during this bicentennial when no topic is out of bounds. Lowry’s is a welcomed volume on the shelf of Lewis and Clark books.”—Patricia Ann Owens, Chronicles of Oklahoma

— Patricia Ann Owens

Bulletin of the Pacific Circle

"Overall, Venereal Disease and the Lewis and Clark Expedition is a worthwhile read and much will be learned from it."—Kerri Inglis, Bulletin of the Pacific Circle
Bulletin of the History of Medicine

"The quotations about Indian sexual practices and Lowry's demonstration of the extent of Lewis and Clark's concern about venereal disease are fascinating."—Ronald G. Walters, Bullentin of the History of Medicine

— Ronald G. Walters

Gretchen Worden

"Tom Lowry has given us a brilliantly contextualized story of the significant role that sex and syphilis played in the Lewis and Clark Expedition."—Gretchen Worden, former director, Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Jack D. Welsh

"You needn't be a doctor to follow the story of syphilis and gonorrhea since 1498, what Lewis and Clark knew of venereal disease, night-life along the trail, and the search for post-expedition late syphilis. Entertaining and highly recommended."—Jack D. Welsh, author of Medical Histories of Union Generals and Medical Histories of Confederate Generals
Free Lance-Star - Sandra D. Speiden

“Lowry has given careful and reasoned thought to an aspect of history that until now has been virtually unmentioned.”—Sandra D. Speiden, Free Lance-Star
Chronicles of Oklahoma - Patricia Ann Owens

“There is much to ponder in this compact book. . . . It offers new questions and new modes of considering the Lewis and Clark Expedition during this bicentennial when no topic is out of bounds. Lowry’s is a welcomed volume on the shelf of Lewis and Clark books.”—Patricia Ann Owens, Chronicles of Oklahoma
Bulletin of the History of Medicine - Ronald G. Walters

"The quotations about Indian sexual practices and Lowry's demonstration of the extent of Lewis and Clark's concern about venereal disease are fascinating."—Ronald G. Walters, Bullentin of the History of Medicine

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780803229594
Publisher:
University of Nebraska Press
Publication date:
04/28/2005
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
117
Product dimensions:
5.32(w) x 8.32(h) x 0.63(d)

Meet the Author


Thomas P. Lowry is a retired psychiatrist and associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco. He is the author of Curmudgeons, Drunkards, and Outright Fools: Courts-Martial of Civil War Union Colonels, available in a Bison Books edition, and The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War. Edwin C. Bearrs is historian emeritus of the National Park Service.

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