On August 8, 1915 Mr. Jacob P Lindley died in Bloomington. He was a well known attorney in town and had talk at Wesleyan's law school for thirty years. My attention was drawn to Mr. Lindley not because of his occupation but because of the cause of his death -- quinsy. It sounds like a disease a little old lady with a crocheted shawl in lavendar would contract. Some how related to the whimsical china figures inhabiting her bric a brac stand, or the twittering little canaries that sang in her parlor.
But quinsy was an infection of the area around the tonsils. It is not to be confused with tonsillitis, which is an inflammation of the actual tonsil. In 1903 Dr. Frank E Miller wrote a informative paper in the International Journal of Surgery and described several cases of quinsy in his practice. Quinsy affects all ages of people, unlike tonsillitis, which most often affects children. He saw an infant with quinsy and with great difficulty persuaded the mother to let him lance the infection with a surgical needle. In all cases this treatment releases some amount of pus and infection. If allowed to progress, the throat can become constricted by the swelling, the patient is unable to swallow their own saliva and they are unable to open their mouth. This greatly impedes the work of the surgeon at that time, as the only treatment related by Dr. Miller is the lancing of the infected area to allow the escape of the pus. The patient would then have relief, but when considering the environment of the mouth, and the lack of penicillin at that time, the dangerous nature of quinsy would have been most frightening. Another patient who visited Dr. Miller was a singer, who had been unable to sing for two years, but after Dr. Miller lanced his peritonsillar abscess (the modern name for quinsy) the man was able to sing once again.