ATM 2016 Pioneers

Did frontier pioneers use whiskey as a medicine?

Douglas Risley
Henderson, Kentucky

Yep, Old West pioneers considered whiskey the rough-and-ready king of remedies. It supposedly was a great antiseptic and cured colds, rheumatism, arthritis and boredom. The U.S. Army used either quinine or whiskey for just about every ailment. ​

Whiskey also gave the doctor “liquid courage.”​ I still laugh out loud when a Western movie doctor gets ready to treat some gunshot cowboy, calls for whiskey and then drinks it himself.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official state historian and the vice president of the Wild West History Association.  His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015.

If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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