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National Porcineographic: a Portrait of America as a Young Hog
A limited-edition map celebrated the coincidence of a patriotic occation with a pig-centric one.
Nothing remains of Ridge Hill Farm, once an 800-acre estate in Needham, Massachusetts. The only reminder is a street name in neighbouring Wellesley. Yet once it was the Xanadu of sewing-machine magnate W.E. Baker. And one fine summer day in July 1875, Ridge Hill Farms hosted one of the grandest parties the area is ever likely to see.
Massachusetts governor William J. Gaston and Boston mayor Samuel C. Cobb were among the many dignitaries, foreign and domestic, attending Baker’s fête champêtre, which served a double purpose: it commemorated the centennial of the Battle of Bunker Hill, fought nearby; and it was the Corner-Stone Party for a 'Sanitary Piggery', one that Baker believed would inaugurate a filth-free future for the entire hog-rearing industry. As the patriotic coincided with the porcine, each of the 2.500 guests received a copy of this peculiar map of the United States as a ‘good cheer souvenir’ of the event.
The map’s rather long-winded full title is: THIS PORCINEOGRAPH is copied from the Census Surveys of 1870, adding only 3 feet of territory (?) resting on Cuba, Mexico and Sandwich Islands, and the Hydro-Cephalus from Canada. Congressional Legislation is required to PERFECT this GEHOGRAPHY.
Produced by the Forbes Lithograph Manufacturing Company of Boston, this must be the world’s finest - and possibly only - example of sustained porcineography (1).
The familiar shape of America’s 48 contiguous states is shadowed by the silhouette of a trotting porker. The bristles on its back peek out over the long, straight border with Canada. Maine figures as its eastbound snout, its right eye is placed between Lakes Erie and Ontario to coincide with the Niagara Falls & Cataract (2). A giant pig’s ear covers much of Michigan and Wisconsin, in imitation of the Great Lakes.
Two legs of the continent-sized beast are coterminous with actual geographic features: its right front leg, raised, is the Florida peninsula, its right back leg, touching putative ground, is Baja California, the Mexican peninsula. An imaginary left back leg is reaching across the Pacific to step on the islands of Hawaii, or, as they were then also commonly referred to, the Sandwich Islands (bacon sandwiches, by the look of these). Its imaginary front left companion rests on a sausage-shaped Cuba (3). The state of Washington has sprouted a bristly, curly tail wrapped around Alasqueue.
The map itself is surrounded by a herd of pigs. Some are sitting in mock-allegorical poses atop it, copying the personifications of continents or countries on other maps. The main trio is labelled, left to right, Hog & Ham & Pork. Hog is holding a plate of shrimp and what appears to be a palm tree. Ham is emblazoned with a patriotic slogan (4) and holding an eagle’s nest containing a young chick and some yet to be hatched eggs. Pork is preparing a bean-based condiment by pouring brain sauce into it.
Other swine are running right around the map, each accompanied by the name, coat of arms and pork-based specialty of each American state (5). That list reads like a menu of lost regional dishes - some perhaps mercifully so. Included are such colourful recipes as:
Two small vignettes, at each of the bottom corners of the map, demonstrate the intertwined histories of government and pig-rearing in America (6). A tiny inscription shadowing the curl of the continental pig’s tail refers back to the man who commissioned this lithograph: Entered according to act of Congress by W.E. Baker 1876.
William Emerson Baker (1828-1888) may now be largely forgotten, he was something of a 19th-century Bill Gates. Baker started life as a tailor in Boston, and teamed up with sartorial colleague William Grover to found the hugely successful Grover & Baker Sewing Machine Company. Sewing machines were one of the mid-19th century’s hottest apps. The company’s fabulous success allowed Baker to retire at 40, a very wealthy man indeed.
At that time and place, wealth carried with it the moral duty (or social obligation) of philanthropy. Boston was New England’s focal point (7) for many of the era’s grand causes, be they abolitionism, suffragism or temperance (8). Baker’s do-goodery had a wide variety of outlets, including support for religious tolerance, for post-Civil War reconciliation between North and South, for the Boston Aquarium and for the fledgling Massachusetts Institute of Technology (founded in 1861). But the main thrust of his post-retirement work was in the cause of Pure Food.
Baker subscribed to the Pure Food movement’s view that unsanitary food production was the cause of much disease, and that the latter could be greatly reduced by the reform of the former. Hence his missionary work for what he called Hygienic Farming and Sanitary Cookery: “The prevention of disease among our general citizens, as well as in the army corps, is of more consequence than attention for its cure by the Medical Department.”
As one of its wealthiest patrons, Baker completely identified himself with the Pure Food cause. He turned his summer estate into a crowd-pulling amusement park with over 100 attractions. It was dubbed a ‘Fairyland of the Beautiful and Bizarre’, but Baker’s intention was as much to instruct as to amuse. The Crystal Cave (featuring Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves), the pleasure lake called Elm Tree Pond, the Norino Tower, the Floral Art Gardens, the Museum of Industry - they were all there to guide the visitors towards a more food-hygienic future.
Especially so the many saloons, restaurants and hotels dotting the estate. The guests of the 225-room, luxury Wellesley Hotel and the hiking-oriented Trephis Home Hotel were catered for by cooks graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Cookery, one of several Pure Food institutes grouped together in the estate’s Mount Charity area. Another one was the Trepho-Phagian Institute (9), a charity providing sanitary cooking for the “invalid poor” (the hygienic quality of the food specifically aimed, one imagines, at making them less ‘invalid’).
One of Baker’s additions to the research side of Ridge Hill Farms was the aforementioned Sanitary Piggery. Baker believed that pigs were not to blame for the filth they were commonly raised in, but that this filth was the cause of much disease: "The hog is naturally more cleanly in its habits than many of those who say he isn’t (…) The flesh of those swine fed on city garbage is liable to be unfit for market, as this garbage is often fermented and sour. And thus the City of Boston, by the disposition of its garbage, directly aids... in filling our hospital wards with patients diseased from eating unwholesome pork."
Baker’s Sanitary Piggery involved a clean environment and wholesome food for its porcine residents - it was even rumoured they had individual beds, and slept under silk sheets. That may have been hyperbole, but it underscores Baker’s belief that public health depended greatly on sanitary food production.
Baker’s ambitions exceeded his Sanitary Piggery. He wanted to establish an entire Hygienic Village, to be called Hygeria. In 1881, he petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for tax exemption, claiming that his work would benefit public health by preventing medical expenditure, thus saving the state considerable amounts of money. Hygeria would "induce the people of [Massachusetts] to practice such sanitary economies and household reforms as shall tend to diminish crime and disease and improve the vigour of the race."
The town of Needham opposed Baker’s secessionist plans, and despite his threats to establish Hygeria in another part of the country, this refusal - not to mention Baker’s untimely death, in 1888 - doomed the project. Baker’s widow sold Ridge Hill Farms, which suffered from fire, neglect and lack of funds and was eventually sold for residential development. This map is among the few tangible relics of Baker’s Pure Food crusade.
Curiously, the area around Needham was the test site for other Pure Food experiments, such as ‘hands-free’ milking at the Walker-Gordon Laboratories, where a mechanical ‘Roto-Lactor’ provided “milk untouched by hand from cow to consumer”, at first aimed at infants, later at the general consumer. Developed in the 1930s and displayed at the NY World’s Fair in 1939, the Roto-Lactor was in operation until 1960.
Many thanks to Daphna Atias for sending in this map, found in Recipe for a Culinary Archive, an illustrated essay by American food historian Jan Longone. The Library of Congress possesses a high-resolution downloadable version, as does the Big Map Blog, mentioned earlier on this blog, whence I got the version shown here.
(1) The cartographic representation of pigs, from the adjective for pigs and related animals, ‘porcine’. Other common and/or fun animal adjectives include: bovine (cows), ovine (sheep), asinine (donkeys), ursine (bears), feline (cats), galline (chickens), canine (dogs), corvine (crows), musteline (ferrets), vulpine (foxes), ranine (frogs), equine (horses), caprine (goats), pediculine (lice), and garruline (magpies). This blog treated one other example of pig-related cartography, although its non-figurative por(k)trayal of the map’s subjects may exclude it from the definition of porcineography (see #58).
(2) A clever play on the latter word’s double meaning: eye-disease, or large waterfall.
(3) The pig’s feet on Cuba, Baja and Hawaii account for the three added ‘feet’ of territory mentioned in the title. The claim on Cuba is justified by the (southern) US’s Spanish legacy, the extension towards Hawaii simply by America’s Pacific reach. The justification for the appropriation of Baja is, rather cryptically: Cast not thy (Mexican) pearls before swine least (sic) they tread them under their feet.
(4) Sic semper tyrannis: ‘Thus always to tyrants’. Attributed to Brutus, who supposedly said this when killing Caesar. Used by Americans rebelling against British rule. Adopted by Virginia as its state motto. Later also shouted by John WIlkes Booth when shooting Lincoln.
(5) Not all the entities shown here were states at this time; some were still territories, a few still had to acquire their final borders: the Dakotas were still Siamese twins, and Arizona and Wyoming were still to lose western bits of their territories to Nevada and Idaho, respectively.
(6) The left one reads: Litigation about the killing of two hogs found trespassing in a garden in Rhode Island in 1811, is said to have resulted in the election of the opposition candidate, Howell, to the United States Senate and the Declaration of War of 1812. The right one: Legislation concerning the litigation between the city crier, Capt. Kesyne, and the “widow” Sherman about a hog found astray in the streets of Boston, in 1636, resulted in the organization of the Massachusetts Senate.
(7) Not unlike Clapham was for London (see #499).
(8) A great temperance map, published earlier on this blog (see #258), was published in Boston in or around 1846.
(9) From the Greek words for ‘nourish’ and ‘eat’.
Strange Maps #511
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scientists are using bioelectronic medicine to treat inflammatory diseases, an approach that capitalizes on the ancient "hardwiring" of the nervous system.
- Bioelectronic medicine is an emerging field that focuses on manipulating the nervous system to treat diseases.
- Clinical studies show that using electronic devices to stimulate the vagus nerve is effective at treating inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Although it's not yet approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, vagus nerve stimulation may also prove effective at treating other diseases like cancer, diabetes and depression.
The nervous system’s ancient reflexes<p>You accidentally place your hand on a hot stove. Almost instantaneously, your hand withdraws.</p><p>What triggered your hand to move? The answer is <em>not</em> that you consciously decided the stove was hot and you should move your hand. Rather, it was a reflex: Skin receptors on your hand sent nerve impulses to the spinal cord, which ultimately sent back motor neurons that caused your hand to move away. This all occurred before your "conscious brain" realized what happened.</p><p>Similarly, the nervous system has reflexes that protect individual cells in the body.</p><p>"The nervous system evolved because we need to respond to stimuli in the environment," said Dr. Tracey. "Neural signals don't come from the brain down first. Instead, when something happens in the environment, our peripheral nervous system senses it and sends a signal to the central nervous system, which comprises the brain and spinal cord. And then the nervous system responds to correct the problem."</p><p>So, what if scientists could "hack" into the nervous system, manipulating the electrical activity in the nervous system to control molecular processes and produce desirable outcomes? That's the chief goal of bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There are billions of neurons in the body that interact with almost every cell in the body, and at each of those nerve endings, molecular signals control molecular mechanisms that can be defined and mapped, and potentially put under control," Dr. Tracey said in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJH9KsMKi5M" target="_blank">TED Talk</a>.</p><p>"Many of these mechanisms are also involved in important diseases, like cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension and shock. It's very plausible that finding neural signals to control those mechanisms will hold promises for devices replacing some of today's medication for those diseases."</p><p>How can scientists hack the nervous system? For years, researchers in the field of bioelectronic medicine have zeroed in on the longest cranial nerve in the body: the vagus nerve.</p>
The vagus nerve<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYyOTM5OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTIwNzk0NX0.UCy-3UNpomb3DQZMhyOw_SQG4ThwACXW_rMnc9mLAe8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="09add" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f38dbfbbfe470ad85a3b023dd5083557" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Electrical signals, seen here in a synapse, travel along the vagus nerve to trigger an inflammatory response.
Credit: Adobe Stock via solvod<p>The vagus nerve ("vagus" meaning "wandering" in Latin) comprises two nerve branches that stretch from the brainstem down to the chest and abdomen, where nerve fibers connect to organs. Electrical signals constantly travel up and down the vagus nerve, facilitating communication between the brain and other parts of the body.</p><p>One aspect of this back-and-forth communication is inflammation. When the immune system detects injury or attack, it automatically triggers an inflammatory response, which helps heal injuries and fend off invaders. But when not deployed properly, inflammation can become excessive, exacerbating the original problem and potentially contributing to diseases.</p><p>In 2002, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues discovered that the nervous system plays a key role in monitoring and modifying inflammation. This occurs through a process called the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature01321" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammatory reflex</a>. In simple terms, it works like this: When the nervous system detects inflammatory stimuli, it reflexively (and subconsciously) deploys electrical signals through the vagus nerve that trigger anti-inflammatory molecular processes.</p><p>In rodent experiments, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues observed that electrical signals traveling through the vagus nerve control TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. These electrical signals travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, triggering a molecular process that ultimately makes TNF, which exacerbates conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.</p><p>The incredible chain reaction of the inflammatory reflex was observed by Dr. Tracey and his colleagues in greater detail through rodent experiments. When inflammatory stimuli are detected, the nervous system sends electrical signals that travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, the electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, which trigger the spleen to create a white blood cell called a T cell, which then creates a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. The acetylcholine interacts with macrophages, which are a specific type of white blood cell that creates TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. At that point, the acetylcholine triggers the macrophages to stop overproducing TNF – or inflammation.</p><p>Experiments showed that when a specific part of the body is inflamed, specific fibers within the vagus nerve start firing. Dr. Tracey and his colleagues were able to map these relationships. More importantly, they were able to stimulate specific parts of the vagus nerve to "shut off" inflammation.</p><p>What's more, clinical trials show that vagus nerve stimulation not only "shuts off" inflammation, but also triggers the production of cells that promote healing.</p><p>"In animal experiments, we understand how this works," Dr. Tracey said. "And now we have clinical trials showing that the human response is what's predicted by the lab experiments. Many scientific thresholds have been crossed in the clinic and the lab. We're literally at the point of regulatory steps and stages, and then marketing and distribution before this idea takes off."<br></p>
The future of bioelectronic medicine<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYxMDYxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjQwOTExNH0.uBY1TnEs_kv9Dal7zmA_i9L7T0wnIuf9gGtdRXcNNxo/img.jpg?width=980" id="8b5b2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c005e615e5f23c2817483862354d2cc4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2000" data-height="1125" />
Vagus nerve stimulation can already treat Crohn's disease and other inflammatory diseases. In the future, it may also be used to treat cancer, diabetes, and depression.
Credit: Adobe Stock via Maridav<p>Vagus nerve stimulation is currently awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration, but so far, it's proven safe and effective in clinical trials on humans. Dr. Tracey said vagus nerve stimulation could become a common treatment for a wide range of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension, shock, depression and diabetes.</p><p>"To the extent that inflammation is the problem in the disease, then stopping inflammation or suppressing the inflammation with vagus nerve stimulation or bioelectronic approaches will be beneficial and therapeutic," he said.</p><p>Receiving vagus nerve stimulation would require having an electronic device, about the size of lima bean, surgically implanted in your neck during a 30-minute procedure. A couple of weeks later, you'd visit, say, your rheumatologist, who would activate the device and determine the right dosage. The stimulation would take a few minutes each day, and it'd likely be unnoticeable.</p><p>But the most revolutionary aspect of bioelectronic medicine, according to Dr. Tracey, is that approaches like vagus nerve stimulation wouldn't come with harmful and potentially deadly side effects, as many pharmaceutical drugs currently do.</p><p>"A device on a nerve is not going to have systemic side effects on the body like taking a steroid does," Dr. Tracey said. "It's a powerful concept that, frankly, scientists are quite accepting of—it's actually quite amazing. But the idea of adopting this into practice is going to take another 10 or 20 years, because it's hard for physicians, who've spent their lives writing prescriptions for pills or injections, that a computer chip can replace the drug."</p><p>But patients could also play a role in advancing bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There's a huge demand in this patient cohort for something better than they're taking now," Dr. Tracey said. "Patients don't want to take a drug with a black-box warning, costs $100,000 a year and works half the time."</p><p>Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, elaborated:</p><p>"Why would patients pursue a drug regimen when they could opt for a few electronic pulses? Is it possible that treatments like this, pulses through electronic devices, could replace some drugs in the coming years as preferred treatments? Tracey believes it is, and that is perhaps why the pharmaceutical industry closely follows his work."</p><p>Over the long term, bioelectronic approaches are unlikely to completely replace pharmaceutical drugs, but they could replace many, or at least be used as supplemental treatments.</p><p>Dr. Tracey is optimistic about the future of the field.</p><p>"It's going to spawn a huge new industry that will rival the pharmaceutical industry in the next 50 years," he said. "This is no longer just a startup industry. [...] It's going to be very interesting to see the explosive growth that's going to occur."</p>
The first rule of Vulture Club: stay out of Portugal.
So you're a vulture, riding the thermals that rise up over Iberia. Your way of life is ancient, ruled by needs and instincts that are way older than the human civilization that has overtaken the peninsula below, and the entire planet.
"The Expanse" is the best vision I've ever seen of a space-faring future that may be just a few generations away.
- Want three reasons why that headline is justified? Characters and acting, universe building, and science.
- For those who don't know, "The Expanse" is a series that's run on SyFy and Amazon Prime set about 200 years in the future in a mostly settled solar system with three waring factions: Earth, Mars, and Belters.
- No other show I know of manages to use real science so adeptly in the service of its story and its grand universe building.
Credit: "The Expanse" / Syfy<p>Now, I get it if you don't agree with me. I love "Star Trek" and I thought "Battlestar Galactica" (the new one) was amazing and I do adore "The Mandalorian". They are all fun and important and worth watching and thinking about. And maybe you love them more than anything else. But when you sum up the acting, the universe building, and the use of real science where it matters, I think nothing can beat "The Expanse". And with a <a href="https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/the_expanse" target="_blank">Rotten Tomato</a> average rating of 93%, I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way.</p><p>Best.</p><p>Show.</p><p>Ever. </p>
Contrary to what some might think, the brain is a very plastic organ.
As with many other physicians, recommending physical activity to patients was just a doctor chore for me – until a few years ago. That was because I myself was not very active.