I ran across this intriguing subject while researching an early Surname Saturday article about the Pimple surname. I found several references to so-called “death by pimple” and researched further. Clearly, the problem was due to lack of an effective way to treat infection prior to the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.
That’s not to say doctors didn’t try to treat infections. There were advertisements galore during the nineteenth century hailing various “miracle cures” for all sorts of maladies, pimples included. The first instance found in a search of “pimple” at Newspapers.com yielded an article about a suspect in the disappearance of a surgeon who “hath been set upon by some ill people.”
NOTE: This article is being re-purposed and may be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. After January 1, 2018 it can also be purchased as an individual article. If interested, please subscribe to the blog (to the right of this post) and you will be notified when the new Digging History Magazine web site is launched.