I did a post today for another blog called “Your Daily Buzz” about Brown’s Hotel. As part of my very attenuated research, I found that Brown’s was founded in 1837 by Mr. James Brown and his wife Sarah, both of whom had been in service to Lord Byron. Mr. Brown had been valet to the great eccentric, who had gone to meet his maker back in 1824 while assisting the Greeks gain independence. He did not die in battle (though that would have suited his temperament), but from “sepsis” well before the battle started. BTW, the sepsis was most likely brought on by the medical treatment he was receiving for a rather bad cold.
Hmm … 1837. What was going on in the world back then? In fact, quite a lot as it turns out. Queen Victoria acceded to the throne that year, for example. And Martin Van Buren was elected president of the US. Van Buren was not overly popular and in 1842 he was defeated by the apparently more folksy but in fact rather calculating, William Henry Harrison (nicknamed “Old Tippecanoe”). Harrison had, by the way, acted shamefully to Chief Tecumseh but made quite a reputation as an Indian fighter.
Then Harrison died just a month after his inauguration. It was said that he died from pneumonia. In fact, it was probably because of a gastric infection caused by poor sewage management in the area around the White House. As it turns out Harrison is not the only White House resident who was probably victimized by this.
This was around the time that Dickens was writing his great novels, in which he brought out certain cruelties that society inflicted on children and the poor. Indeed, we do well to remember that while Dickens had a point, not only the poor suffered. Health risks, and not just from terrible wars, were rather pernicious.
And this was just a short time ago. We are much smarter now, right?