Settlement on the Missouri River
Swampy, poorly drained areas harbored mosquitoes that carried malaria. People who lived in these areas often contracted malaria from an infected mosquito.
Financially successful, Sappington continued to practice medicine. He began to experiment with quinine, a substance derived from the bark of the cinchona tree, a species native to South America. Sappington began importing cinchona bark as early as 1820, but it was only years later that he discovered its most promising medicinal use as a preventative against malarial fever.
Malaria, an infectious disease passed from mosquitoes to humans, ravaged much of early America. People who lived near bodies of water or in areas of swampy, poorly drained land were among those most likely to contract the disease. Once infected, an individual suffered from high fever, chills, vomiting, and joint pain. Missourians who lived along the Missouri
At 2,341 miles in length, the Missouri River is one of the longest rivers in North America and a major waterway in the central United States. The river flows east and south from western Montana, forming Missouri's northwest border and crossing the state before merging with the Mississippi River north of St. Louis. With the invention of the steamboat in the early 1800s, the river became part of the nation's first major transportation system and served as a main route during the nation's westward expansion. The Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, houses the remains of the cargo from a steamboat that sank on the Missouri River in 1856.
The Mississippi River runs south from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico and is considered the chief river in North America's largest drainage system. Bordering Missouri on the east, the river flows for 2,530 miles. Along with the Missouri River and several other tributaries such as the Ohio River, the Mississippi became part of the nation's first major transportation system in the early 1800s after the invention of the steamboat. Missouri has historically engaged in international trade by shipping and receiving goods along the Mississippi through the port of New Orleans, which lies at the river's mouth.
Rivers were often susceptible to malaria.
Pill Rollers used by Dr. Sappington to make his pills
[Courtesy of Missouri Department of Natural Resources, SHS000107-2]
In 1832, using quinine taken from cinchona bark, Sappington developed a pill to cure a variety of fevers, such as scarlet fever, yellow fever
Yellow fever is a virus transmitted to humans through the bite of female mosquitoes. While the virus is largely found in tropical parts of Africa and South America, large outbreaks have occurred in the United States, including an epidemic that killed 20,000 people in the Mississippi River valley in 1878. Symptoms of the disease include fever, chills, loss of appetite, muscle pain, vomiting, and headache. Those who survive the disease have lifelong immunity to it.
, and influenza
Commonly referred to as "the flu," influenza is an infectious disease that causes chills, fever, sore throat, runny nose, muscle pains, headache, coughing, and weakness or fatigue. Often it can be confused with other illnesses such as the common cold, but influenza is more severe and is caused by a different type of virus. In 1918 an extremely deadly influenza pandemic occurred. An estimated 50 to 100 million people around the world died from the disease. In the United States, more than one-fourth of the population was affected by the illness that year, leading to around 450,000 deaths.
. He sold “Dr. Sappington's Anti-Fever Pills” across Missouri. Demand became so great that within three years Dr. Sappington founded a new company known as Sappington and Sons to sell his anti-fever pills nationwide. The anti-fever pills were popular in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
Sappington believed in sharing his success with less fortunate relatives and relied upon them to help him manage and sell his products all across the country. It was during this time that Sappington became aware of quinine’s protection against malaria. As his family members and other sales agents travelled through regions prone to sickness, Sappington instructed them to take the pills occasionally to ward off malaria. None of them became ill with the disease.