Almost everyone who visits my blog, Twitter account, and Facebook page knows I’ve broken my foot in two inconvenient places. Even with modern medical advances the most pleasant way to describe my experience is that it’s been a … pain. Literally and figuratively. This lover of walking 3-4 times a day with her dog has been sidelined. I’ve been sitting or lying down for a month, watching my bum grow two sizes. I’m a bit more mobile now and can hobble wearing an unwieldy boot.
How did people deal with this situation two-hundred years ago? I wondered as I stared at the ceiling with my foot propped up higher than my head. It certainly could not have been easy. Mrs. Mapp, or Crazy Sally, as she was known, was a famous London bone setter in the early 18th century. While she was unlucky in love, she made her fortune with her strength, boldness, and wonder-working cures.
Besides driving a profitable trade at home, she used to drive to town once a week in a coach and four and return again bearing away the crutches of her patients as trophies of honour. - Mrs. Mapp: The Bone-Setter, Book of Days, Robert Chamber, 1864
I doubt Mrs. Mapp would have bothered setting my foot. There was really nothing to manipulate. All it needed was rest and a good calcium-rich diet. How did people get round and about when they were hobbled in days of yore?
In my estimation, crutches resembled torture instruments more than helpmeets.
This 1850 crutch is similar to the one depicted in the image above. It was not adjustable, and rags were wound around the top to make the crutch less painful. Even with ample padding on the modern crutch, my underarms became sore. I can only imagine how much discomfort the old models offered.
Wheelchairs were invented early in the history of mankind. In 530 B.C. a wheeled child’s bed made an appearance on a Greek vase, and in 525 A.D. a wheelchair was depicted on a Chinese print. By the 17th century, the patient’s comfort began to be taken into account.
During the 18th century the Bath chair was born. Invented by John Dawson, the three-wheeled chairs remained popular all through the 19th century.