Copper Queen Hospital ‘high tech’ a century ago

Though a small-town facility, today’s Copper Queen Community Hospital has garnered national attention for being ahead of its time in many ways, including its use of the best technology for medical care.

That includes its use of electronic medical records, digital imaging, which can send everything from x-rays to CT scans anywhere in the world to be read by experts immediately and telemedicine, which links patients here to specialists in stroke, cardiology, trauma and much more, in real time.

But I was amazed to discover as well that the Copper Queen was an advanced hospital more than a century ago. The Bisbee Daily Review reported in October 1910 that a 3-year-old Benson girl, who had swallowed a 5-cent piece 10 days earlier, had been brought to the Bisbee hospital after all other attempts to remove the coin had failed.

Probang used at Copper Queen Hospital

Here’s an illustration of one type of probang, at right in photo, that was used by Copper Queen doctors to remove the coin.

Her physician, a Dr. Powell, tried to use a stomach tube to remove the coin from her esophagus, but was not able to capture it. He suggested taking her to the Copper Queen to take advantage of the facility’s x-ray machine.

“The wonderful rays showed plainly the location of the coin which was directly opposite the collar bone in a vertical position,” the paper reported.

The coin was so large that it couldn’t complete its trip to the stomach and had been there long enough to become “firmly seated.” The little Martin girl (no first name given) could not swallow solid food, but could take milk or water.

At the Copper Queen Hospital, the girl was put under ether. Several x-rays (at that time, the X was capitalized) were taken and doctors used a probang, an instrument designed to remove obstructions from the esophagus, without success. In fact, the bristles on the end of the instrument were bent. Doctors tried the procedure three times, all without success.

(I wondered about the spelling of the word that came out “probang” in the paper, but it’s an actual term. It is a device invented in the 17th century by a Welshman, W. Rumsey. It is about 12-14 inches long and has bristles or a sponge on the end. The one in the illustration at left (it’s the instrument on the right) has a sponge; the one used by Copper Queen doctors had bristles. It is probably a variant on the word “probe.”

(Click on the illustration to increase its size so you can reach the names of the various instruments.)

If one won’t work, try two

When they discovered the probang wouldn’t move the coin, they took more x-rays, with the instrument in place. “The rays showed that the coin bent the end of the probang in such a way that it could not draw the coin back.” Continue reading

Art imitates life, Mexican Revolution style

Recently I started rereading a novel of the Mexican Revolution, which opened with a scene that was a bit overblown in detail. Or so I had thought the first time through, until I had come across a real event in my research for a book for this series that encompasses how the Revolution impacted our area.

Mariano Azuela is best known for his novel “The Underdogs,” (Los de Abajo), which chronicled the gritty, dismal life of soldiers in Pancho Villa’s army. A physician who had served with Villa, Azuela wrote most authentically of that turbulent time in Mexico’s history.

Tents at Naco

These are tents of the 10th Cavalry, pitched at Naco near the time of the incident at Tintown.

He also wrote a pair of novellas on the same theme, “The Flies” (Las Moscas) and “The Bosses” (Los Caciques.) “The Flies” opens with a family trying to escape from a war-threatened city: “Mama, my canary!” shouts the quite spoiled and obnoxious (my opinion) elder daughter, Matilde.

Marta [the mother] trotted after her, puffing, lugging a heavy valise and the bird cage. . . .

Matilde put her lips to the cage.

“Darling, lover, give me a kiss.”

The little creature was beating its wings nervously against the bars.

Would people escaping imminent battle worry about a caged canary? I thought not. Bring your valuables, yes, and that which you needed to survive the next indefinite period. But a bird? Hardly. Not there. Not then. Continue reading

How many people lived in Bisbee?

A perennial question I get relates to Bisbee’s population, generally in the form of “how many people lived here?”

One semi-answer that has floated around for years is that Bisbee was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco. That would be news to the folks in Denver and El Paso.

A search of census records I did many years ago showed that Bisbee was never the largest city in the state, in term of the decennial count, but that has a problem in two areas: It only was taken every 10 years, so what if Bisbee was bigger during the middle of a decade, and it only counted the incorporated city. Much of Bisbee’s population lived outside the city limits.

Bisbee population in 1916

That should read “Fred A. McKinney’s.”

Fortunately, there are alternative sources of population counts, and I just came across one from early 1916, in the form of an article in the Bisbee Daily Review about the second city directory being put together by Fred A. McKinney. The morning newspaper reported Feb. 23 of that year that canvassing for the directory had been completed and it was at the printers.

It would show 22,744 people in the Warren District, a gain of 16% from the population when the first directory had been completed two years earlier. Continue reading

What did miners earn at the time of the Deportation?

In reading (or writing) about the Bisbee Deportation, it’s easy to get lost in what wages for miners mean. (Not to mention the more specific definition of “miner,” as opposed to other mine-related jobs, that was used at the time.)

In looking through a copy of Engineering & Mining Journal for Jan. 1, 1916, I came across this chart showing what workers in the various mines earned, depending on their jobs and depending on the price of copper. Continue reading

What Bisbee did for Easter 100 years ago

Easter as it was celebrated 100 years ago in Bisbee and the holiday of today may not be as different as one would suppose.

Easter in 1912 was commemorated on April 7, and The Bisbee Daily Review of that day said that “Easter time, like Christmas, is dedicated primarily to the children, and so the question of finding something which will interest and amuse them is important.”

Going to church on Easter

This front-page illustration tells a tale that is every bit as relevant today: It's time for a break from politics.

And thus follows a short article about painting faces on the eggs. One difference, it seems, was that many painted eggs at that time were simply for display and would take on their normal use thereafter. The paper says, “if the eggs are to be played with, it is better to boil them first.” Today, that goes without saying. Continue reading

Early Bisbee had its outpouring of poetry, too

Modern Bisbee is known for its poets. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the Bisbee Poetry Festival brought to town some of the finest poets in the country. Today, one is more likely to hear the “cowboy” poetry from neighboring Sierra Vista’s annual festival.

But more than a century ago, poetry was part of the culture as well, and many locally written poems were to be found in the pages of the Bisbee Daily Review, covering a broad range of themes.

Early-day Bisbee poetryMany were created by local literary talent, such as Ned White or Frank Aley, better known as Mescal. Some seemed to come from one-time sources among the citizenry. Continue reading

Not all Deportation stories are the same

For most of the men who were on the receiving end of the Bisbee Deportation, the stories were similar: rounded up at their residences or on picket duty, marched down to the Warren Ballpark, put into box or cattle cars and shipped by rail to New Mexico.

There were some stories that took different routes, including that of one Walford E. Holm, according to a story in the July 20 issue of the Arizona Labor Journal, a weekly (so its articles aren’t as timely) which provides a counterpoint of information to the Bisbee Daily Review.

Gov. Thomas E. Campbell

Gov. Thomas E. Campbell

The Deportation was on a Thursday, and by Saturday, Holm was in Phoenix addressing Gov. Thomas E. Campbell. In the company of others, including the editor of the Journal and a labor attorney, he told the governor of his experience with the events in Bisbee that week.

“To be brief,” the Journal reported, “nothing came of the visit to the governor” because he was “helpless” in the situation.

Continue reading

Carranza’s relations with U.S. drove Villa’s strategy

I’ve been collecting stamps for most of my life. My grandmother started collecting during WWII and at some time, when visiting her in Louisiana, she let me see her collection and it was love at first sight.

When I was old enough to know how to care for them (I still have all of her stuff), she turned her stamps over to me and that became the basis for an ongoing affair.

Her collection focused on the war, and as I explored philately, I began to specialize in something that was dear to me — the American West. Over time, that expanded into a couple of other topic areas, the most recent being Mexico. Continue reading

Were there machine guns at the Deportation?

I was wrong!

I have been asked many times whether machine guns were present during the Bisbee Deportation. My answer has always been, “I have never seen any reference to them.” And I’ve read millions of words on the subject.

So, technically, I wasn’t wrong, I suppose, since I hedged my answer. But now, I have to change that response.

In my own defense, I have to say that I went through about a decade and a half of newspapers (and that is plural) in researching the story of the Deportation and other parts of the Epic of Bisbee. From about 1906 until 1921, over several lengthy periods, one can find articles about labor issues in Bisbee and the rest of the West.

With that many papers, it’s easy to miss something now and then. But this particular article I shouldn’t have missed. As I am editing All Women and Children Keep Off Streets Today and reviewing my sources, I found a mention today of machine guns. Continue reading