Historical Tidbits: Blood-drinking in the 1870s

In the 1870s, many Americans latched onto the latest fad, imported fresh from France: They’d travel by carriage to their local slaughterhouses — known as “abattoirs,” the word being another French import. There the manager would usher the guests into a room set aside for the purpose, and pour them a glass of hot, steaming blood.

Enthusiasts claimed that the beverage cured paralysis, consumption (tuberculosis), and fatigue. Thin people gained weight; fat people lost; and the weak became strong. Blood-drinkers had become so numerous at the Brighton Abattoir just outside Boston that the facility’s management considered building a hotel to accomodate the vistors.

Not everyone was convinced. One doctor said that he and his medical colleagues hesitated to prescribe the “tonic.” It was “generally conceded,” he explained to a reporter, “that the appetite for blood becomes even stronger than that for liquor, and cases have been known where it has produced mania of the most violent type.” (*1)

Miracle cure? Or addictive toxin? You be the judge.  


*1: “The Blood-Cure,” Chicago Tribune, November 30, 1877, p. 8A.

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