Here’s another classic. This book is entitled Applied Physiology, which is subtitled “including the effects of alcohol and narcotics.” It was published by the American Book Company in 1897. It was written by a Dr. Frank Overton and apparently was intended for primary grades, according to the title page. Today those are usually grades 1-3, and sometimes include kindergarten. But given the subject matter, I can’t imagine that was true in 1897, but who knows. But then again, in the “Preface,” they state that they’ve included “only those subjects which are directly concerned in the growth and development of children,” adding this.
The value of a primary book depends largely upon the language used. In bringing the truths within the comprehension of children, the author has made sparing use of the complex sentence. He has made the sentences short and simple in form, and logical in arrangement.
In 21 short chapters, totaling 144 pages, they tackled such subjects for children as “Living Bodies and Cells,” “Elements of the Body,” “Oxidation,” “Fermentation and Alcohol,” “Digestion of Food in the Mouth,” “Alcohol and Digestion,” “Narcotics,” “Drugs and Poisons,” and even “The Flow of Blood in the Body” and “Regulation of the Flow of Blood.”
Here’s some highlights from:
61. How yeast makes alcohol. — Yeast will grow only where sugar is. When it has grown for some time there is no more sugar, and instead of a sweet taste there is a sharp or sour taste. The yeast has changed the sugar to alcohol. All alcohol is made from sugar by yeast.
64. Alcohol. — Alcohol is a clear liquid and looks like water. It has a sharp taste and smell. It burns very easily and makes a very hot flame. Its smoke cannot be seen, and its flame will not make anything black, as a match flame will do.
65. Use of alcohol. — Alcohol will dissolve more things than water will dissolve. It is used to dissolve drugs, varnishes, perfumery, and many other things. It will dissolve even oil and fat. Tailors clean grease spots from clothes with it. It takes water away from flesh and makes it dry, hard, and tough. It will keep anything from rotting. In museums we pour alcohol over pieces of flesh or [Pg 40] plants in glass jars. Then they will keep and we can look at them at any time. Thus alcohol is a very useful thing, and we could hardly do without it.
66. Strong drink. — Some men use alcohol in a wrong way. They swallow it as a drink. But men cannot drink pure alcohol, for it would burn their mouths. They always drink it mixed with some water. Alcohol in water is called strong drink.
67. Why men use strong drink. — Some men take strong drink to make themselves warm, and some to make themselves cool. Some drink to keep themselves awake, and some to make themselves sleep. Some drink to keep themselves still, and some to make themselves stir around faster. Men use strong drink really because it seems to make them feel strong for a while. It does not make them stronger, but it harms the body and the mind. Its alcohol does the harm.
KINDS OF STRONG DRINK
68. Wine. — All strong drink is alcohol and water. There may be other things to give it taste, but alcohol and water are always in it. No strong drink is over one half alcohol.
In olden times wine was the only strong drink. Men used to crush out the juice of grapes and let it ferment. This made wine. But very often they used the juice before it fermented. Then it had no alcohol and could do no harm, but was a good food. We read of wine in the Bible. Some of it was fresh fruit juice.
In wine, the sugar is changed to alcohol. The rest of the juice stays the same. All wine is made by the yeast plant growing in fruit juice. No yeast is put in, for there is always enough on the outside of the fruit. Wine is about one tenth alcohol.
69. Homemade wine. — Cider is a kind of wine. It is made from apple juice. It has alcohol a day or two after it is made. All homemade wines have alcohol. Any of them can make a person drunk. Using weak homemade wine and cider often makes an appetite for stronger drinks. The alcohol in any of them is enough to harm the body.
70. Beer. — After man had made wine for a long time, some one found out how to cultivate yeast. Then men could make sugar and water ferment whenever they wanted to. So men boiled grain to take out its sugar. Then they poured off the liquor and added yeast and let it ferment. This made beer and ale. Now millions of bushels of grain are used every year in making beer. Men call beer a light drink. But it has alcohol and is a strong drink, and can make men drunk.
So much misinformation, it’s starting to make me think that Doc Overton might be a prohibitionist. Beyond getting the history so utterly wrong, there are also these little judgmental statements peppered throughout the text.
74. Habit. — Some strong drinks have only a little alcohol and some have a great deal. No one begins to drink the strong liquors. He begins with wine or beer. When he has once learned, he has a hard time to stop drinking. It is dangerous to drink even weak drinks.
75. Strong drink and thirst. — When a man is thirsty, water will satisfy him but strong drink will not. Sometimes the mouth is dry and dirty and then a man feels thirsty. Rinsing the mouth [Pg 45] with water, and rubbing the tongue and teeth clean will help the dryness and stop the thirst. At any rate, strong drink will only make the mouth dryer.
Some men drink only when they are tired. Then a cup of strong and hot tea or coffee will make them feel much better than a glass of strong drink, and will not harm them so much.
When strong drink is swallowed, its alcohol takes water from the mouth. When your mouth is dry, you feel thirsty. Strong drink makes the mouth dry, and so a drink makes a man more thirsty. The alcohol also makes the mouth smart. Men need another drink to cool the mouth after the first one. So one drink leads to another. All the while a person drinks water with the alcohol until he has too much water. But his mouth is dry and he feels as thirsty as ever.
BREATHING, HEAT, AND CLOTHING
117. What becomes of alcohol in the body. — When alcohol is taken up by the blood, it is carried to the liver. The liver tries to get rid of it by taking some air from the blood and burning it up, just as it burns the real food of the body. But this takes some air from the cells of the body. Then they do not burn as they should.
When a stove gets too little air through its draft, it makes an unpleasant smoke, and cools off. Just so, when the cells of the body do not burn as they should, they produce the wrong kind of smoke and ashes. This poisons the body and makes men sick. The most of the poisoning of alcohol is due to these new poisons.
When alcohol takes air from the cells of the body, they do not get enough air. Then they are like a short-winded boy, and do not do their work well. In this way alcohol makes the body weak.
Alcohol does not cease to be harmful because it is burned up in the body. It is harmful just because it burns so quickly. Using alcohol in the body is like trying to burn kerosene in a coal stove. The body is not made to burn alcohol any more than a coal stove is made to burn kerosene. You can burn a little kerosene in a coal stove if you are very careful. Just so, men can burn alcohol in their bodies. But kerosene will always smoke and clog up the stove, and may explode and kill some one. So alcohol in the body burns quickly and forms poisons. It always harms the body and may destroy life at once.
118. Alcohol and the lungs. — If you run a long race, your lungs will need a great deal of air. If you take strong drink, the alcohol will use up much of the air, and you will not have enough to use on your run. So you will feel short of breath, and will surely lose the race. You cannot drink and be long-winded.
Two drinks of whisky will use up as much air as the body uses in an hour. It would be easy to smother a person with strong drink. Drunken persons are really smothered; they often die because of the failure of their breathing, even while their heart is able to beat well.
Alcohol often causes the lungs to become thickened. Then air cannot easily pass through their sides, and a person suffers from shortness of breath. Sometimes these persons cannot lie down at all, but must sit up to catch their breath.
119. Drinking and taking cold. — A strong, healthy man can stand a great deal of cold and wet. If he breathes deeply in his work, all the cells of his body get plenty of air, and if he eats good food, the cells get plenty to eat. Then it will take a great deal to harm them. But alcohol hinders the digestion of their food, and also takes away their air. So the cells are both starved and smothered, and are easily hurt. Then a little cold and wet may do great harm to his body, for a drinker cannot stand bad weather or hard work so well as he could if he should leave drink alone.
Men often drink to keep themselves from taking cold. The alcohol really makes them more liable to take cold. It causes the blood to flow near the surface of the skin; there it is easily cooled, and the drinker soon becomes chilled; then he feels colder than ever. The cold harms the cells of his body, and then the white blood cells cannot easily fight disease germs. For this reason a drinker easily takes cold and other diseases.
120. Alcohol lessens the warmth of the body. — Alcohol causes the blood tubes in the skin to become larger. Then more blood will touch the cool air, and the body will become cooler. But because more warm blood flows through the skin, a man feels warmer. But he is really colder. Alcohol makes men less able to stand the cold. Travelers in cold lands know this and do not use it.
THE SKIN AND KIDNEYS
135. Alcohol and the skin. — Alcohol interferes with digestion and causes biliousness. This makes the skin rough and pimply. A drinker seldom has a clear skin.
Alcohol causes the arteries of the face to become enlarged. Then the face is red. A red nose is one of the signs of drinking. When a person uses strong drink he is often uncleanly. He does not care for the bad looks of his clothes and skin, and so he lets them stay dirty. This harms the skin and makes it look bad. The dirt also poisons the skin and may itself be a cause of sickness.
Because alcohol poisons the whole body and often produces kidney diseases, the drinker is apt to catch other diseases. Drinkers are the first to catch such diseases as smallpox and yellow fever. Where there are great numbers of cases, the drinkers are the first and often the only persons to die. This is because their skin and kidneys [Pg 82] have been harmed by the alcohol and cannot throw off the poisons of the disease. Any kind of sickness will be worse in a drinker. Surgeons do not like to operate on drinkers, for their wounds do not heal so quickly as in other people.
When there is too little air, a fire burns slower, and makes a blacker smoke and more ashes. Alcohol takes some air from the cells of the body. So they burn with smoke and ashes of the wrong kind. The skin has to work harder to get rid of these, and sometimes it cannot do it well. Then the body is poisoned. The alcohol is burned and cannot poison the body any more. But it causes the body to make poisons, and so it is to blame. The poisons do great harm to the skin and kidneys. Alcohol causes more kidney disease than all other things put together.
THE NERVES, SPINAL CORD, AND BRAIN
154. Alcohol takes away thought. — Alcohol affects and weakens the cells of the brain sooner than it does those of any other part of the body. It first makes the thought cells weak. Then a person does not think how he acts. He lights his pipe in the barn and throws the match in the hay. He drives his horse on a run through a crowded street. He swears and uses bad language. He gets angry at little things and wants to fight. He seems to think of himself, and of no one else. He is happy, for he does not think of the bad effects of the drink. He has a good time, and does not care for its cost. He likes to drink, because it makes him feel happy.
155. Alcohol spoils motion. — Some cells of the brain cause the arms and legs, and all other parts of the body, to move. Alcohol next makes these weak. Then a person cannot move his legs right, but he staggers when he walks. He cannot carry a full cup to his lips. His hands tremble, and he cannot take care of himself. He is now really drunk.
156. Alcohol takes away feeling. — After a man is drunk, he loses the sense of feeling. He does not [Pg 96] feel cuts and blows. Because he does not feel tired, he feels very strong. He often sees two things for one, and hears strange noises. The whole brain at last gets weak, and cannot act. Then the drinker lies down in a drunken sleep, and cannot be waked up. Some die in this state.
157. Insanity. — When the brain is misused by alcohol for some time, it cannot get over it. Then the person becomes insane. Drink sends more persons to the insane asylum than all other causes put together.
158. Delirium tremens. — If a drinker gets hurt, or becomes sick, he sometimes has terrible dreams. In them he sees dirty and savage animals coming to harm him. These dreams seem very real to him, and he cries out in his fright. This is called delirium tremens. A person is liable to die from it.
159. Alcohol harms a drinker’s children.—The children of drinkers are apt to be weak in body and mind. A drinker hurts his children even more than he hurts himself. They are liable to catch diseases, and are often cross and nervous, or weak-minded. It is a terrible thing for a man to make his children weak and nervous.
160. Other bad things about drink. — There are many other terrible things about drink, besides the harm it does a man’s body. Many a man has made himself drunk so as to steal or kill. No man can drink long without becoming a worse man for it. Men will not trust him, and he loses the respect of his friends.
Making strong drink takes thousands of men away from good work. They might work at building houses, or raising grain, or teaching school. As it is, their work is wasted.
A great deal of money is wasted on strong drink. All the mines of the world cannot produce enough gold and silver to pay the drink bill. The people of the United States pay more for strong drink than for bread.
The price of two or three drinks a day would amount to enough, in ten years, to buy a small home.
The cost of strong drink is made much greater if we count the cost of jails and insane asylums. Over one half of all crimes and cases of insanity are caused by strong drink.
We must also add the misery and suffering of most children of drunken fathers. This loss cannot be counted in money. Numbers of children become truants from school and learn theft and falsehoods from lack of a father’s care. When all the cost is counted, nothing will be found so expensive as strong drink.
On the other hand, what do people get for their money and suffering? They get only a little pleasure, and then they are ashamed of it. Men use strong drink only because they like it more than they dislike its bad effects.
Since drink does a great deal of harm, with no good to any one, it is right to make laws to control its sale.
171. Alcohol and the eyes. — Alcohol makes the eyes red. It weakens the eyes and may produce blindness. A drunken person often sees double.
179. Taste. — We taste with the tongue. Dry food has no taste, but it must first dissolve in the mouth. Spoiled food tastes bad. Bad-tasting food is not fit to eat. Taste tells us whether food is good or bad.
We can learn to like the taste of harmful things. At first no one likes tobacco or strong drink, but the liking is formed the more one uses these. We ought to be careful not to begin to use such things.
Alcohol and tobacco burn the mouth and harm the taste. Food does not taste so good and we may eat spoiled food and not know it.
194. Alcohol and the muscles. — Men use alcohol to make themselves strong. It dulls their weak feelings, and then they think themselves strong. They are really weaker. The alcohol hinders digestion and keeps food from the cells. Then the fires in the body burn low, and there is little strength.
Alcohol sometimes causes muscle cells to change to fat. This weakens the muscles.
Men sometimes have to do hard work in cold countries; and at other times they must make long marches across hot deserts. Neither the Eskimos in the cold north, nor the Arabs in the hot desert, use strong drink. Alcohol does not help a man in either place. It really weakens the body. The government used to give out liquor to its soldiers; but soldiers can do more work and have better health without liquor and it is no longer given out.
A few years ago men were ashamed to refuse to drink. Even when a new church building was raised, rum was bought by the church and given to the workmen. Farmers used to give their men a jug of rum when they went to work. Farm hands would not work without it.
Now all this has changed. Men do not want drinkers to work for them. A railroad company will discharge a man at once if he is known to drink at all. A man can now refuse to drink anywhere and men will not think any less of him.