Tuesday, March 31, 2015

This Chart From 1790 Lays Out the Many Dangers of Alcoholism

Click here to see the interactive document detailing the effects of drinking particular alcoholic beverages.

In the 18th century alcohol was thought to stave off fevers and ease digestion so people drank a lot, starting with an eyeopener with breakfast and ending with a nightcap. People believed that this was a healthy practice and at one point you could not buy life insurance if you did not drink. In 1785 Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and physician, published an essay, “An Inquiry Into the Effects of Ardent Spirits Upon the Human Body and Mind”.  He also drafted a dramatic illustration titled “A Moral and Physical Thermometer" that charted the medical conditions, criminal activities and punishments that could come from the frequent drinking of particular cocktails and liquors. People were shocked by his ideas and thought he was crazy.

“Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History” is on display in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives through January 10, 2016.
More: Smithsonian

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