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A letter to the Evening Post

Robert Louis Stevenson, the invalid, saw a lot of doctors in his time. They were scattered about the globe. Everywhere the ailing writer went, he had to check in with medical practitioners. But in retrospect, few of them stood out as worthy of special biographical inclusion, the eminent Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau being one of them.

R.L. Stevenson did not write an article or notes about the Saranac TB setup the way he did with Menton and Davos. Instead, he put out his name, which was a whopping endorsement at the time, to freely advertise to the world the presence and affordability of a new fountain of “Juventus,” this magic mountain tucked in the wilds of upstate New York. A letter appeared in the New York Evening Post edition of March 8, 1888, two days before the “Great Blizzard of ’88,” stopped the press.

To the Editor of the Evening Post, New York:

Sir,

I was struck to observe the other day, in more papers than one, great praise of the new system of treatment in phthisis and great lamentation that no establishment upon this principle should yet exist in the United States.

These complaints read to me very strangely in this place, where I am almost within sight of The Adirondack Cottages for the Treatment of Pulmonary Disease. In that establishment patients enjoy the advantage of this harsh but pure and antiseptic air, of pleasant lodging in fine scenery, of a generous diet, continual open air and carriage exercise (the bare expenses alone amounted for last year to $600), and in cases of necessity, treatment in the pneumatic cabinet; all at the remarkable figure of $5 a week — or less than a fourth of what is charged at the similar institutions of Falkenstein, in Germany. It is plain these cottages are run at a loss, and the deficiency must be supplied among the rich and generous. And how shall this continue to be accomplished if even the newspapers are ignorant of their existence?

It is this which makes me ask you for a corner of your space. So many of our Anglo-Saxon family are ruined by this disease, so many of the rich, by prompt change of climate, have been enabled to throw it off in the beginning, that a word should be enough. Here is a chance offered, on the most modern principles to those who are not wealthy enough to flee to Florida or Colorado, to the Riviera or Davos. The chance is a good one: out of fifty-one patients treated in the last twelve months, four have been entirely cured, twenty-three have improved sufficiently to return to their friends and their employments, twelve have benefited slightly, and only eleven have been sent home as hopeless. And the period of exile need not in itself be disagreeable. I am sure it would interest anyone to see the establishment: the cottages are scattered about the main establishment upon a sheltered slope; the Saranac River winding underneath among woods; upon the farther side, a noble range of snow-clad Adirondacks rising against the sky and catching the colours of the sunset, and perhaps the big sleigh returning, in the sharp air of the afternoon, with its load of patients.

There is no object worthier to be helped, or if the present note shall seem to the charitable insufficient, written to be inquired into more thoroughly; and all information may be had of Dr. E.L. Trudeau, Saranac Lake, Franklin Co., New York, the physician of the establishment. I am, etc.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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