%> Nevada Riches: The Land and People of the Silver State
People & Life Ways
Riches, Ranching & Railroads
(1850-1900)

Hospitals

Because of the scarcity of doctors and medical facilities, many people in Nevada had to take of illness without a physician or hospital.  They kept common remedies in the home:  calomel, jalap (a purgative), quinine, blue pills (a form of mercury), ipecac, peppermint, and some form of an opiate (such as laudanum) for pain.  Onions, mustard, turpentine, lard, eggs, sugar, goose grease, and manure were used in poultices and home remedies.
Women did not go to a hospital to have a baby, as most do in modern times.  Babies were usually born at home.

But when a person became very ill, they sometimes went to a hospital, if one was available.  The Storey County Hospital opened in Virginia City in 1865, and St. Mary Louise Hospital, considered the first modern hospital in Nevada, was built on the Comstock in 1876.  Miners paid into a union hospital fund, one dollar per month, for hospital services, a form of health insurance.

Las Vegas was established as a town in the early 20th century, and the first hospital there was a four-bed tent.  By 1909 this wooden building was used as a hospital.  Until Las Vegas Hospital was built in 1931, Dr. Roy Martin worked out of a hospital he established in the former Palace Hotel.  Working in the heat in the days before air conditioning was difficult.  If an emergency required surgery, it was done between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m.; some relief was provided by a simple cooling system of fans blowing air over blocks of ice.
 

Photo Credits:
1: Nevada State Museum
2: Special Collections, University Nevada Las Vegas