“I send you two patients to the mad stone. They are natives of this place and had their children bitten today.”
-J. Reuben Richerson to R. L. Harrison, 26 June 1893
“1/3net receipts from mad stone since same was placed into hands of R. L. Harrison.”
-written on checks from Harrison to Richerson and Maria L. Motley, 14 March 1893
“Mad stone? What’s a mad stone?” I wondered out loud.
I’d stumbled across the R. L. Harrison Papers, 1893-1901 (Library of Virginia accession 26527), during the dog days of summer. This business records collection consisted of correspondence, checks, accounts, and receipts from Harrison, a druggist in Richmond during the 1890s-1910s, to J. Reuben Richerson, Nannie E. Richerson, and Maria L. Motley, all of Caroline County, concerning something called a mad stone (or madstone) and payments for its use. Piqued by this reference, I set out to answer my own question.
I learned from the Oxford English Dictionary that a mad stone is a “stone or similar object supposedly having the power to counteract the effect of the bite of a rabid or venomous animal.” Furthermore, thanks to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, I discovered that it was a “stony concretion (as a hair ball from the stomach of a deer).” In appearance, it looked like a small stone; according to various descriptions, it could be smooth or it could be rough. The … read more »