Monday, January 27, 2014

52 Ancestors:  A Case of Second Sight

Chronicling America gave me this delightful little nugget about my third great-grandfather, William Bickerstaff.  It brings joy to my heart to find things like this in old newspapers.

A Case of Second Sight.
STEUBENVILLE, O., Feb. 2.--The physicians of this city are puzzled over a rare case of second sight occurring lately.  William Bickerstaff, an old resident of the Sixth ward, has regained his sight after being compelled to wear spectacles for forty years.  About two weeks since [or, about two weeks ago] his sight began to improve.  Now he reads his newspaper without the aid of glasses.  His age is 82.
This article was published on the front page of the February 4, 1892, issue of The Stark County Democrat.

Notes and Comments
Despite the fact that the articles says William Bickerstaff was 82 years old in 1892 by all other accounts he was born on February 14, 1807, and, therefore, would have been nearly 85 years old.  Was accuracy less important in those days?  Or was the article originally hand-written and the 5 was misread as a 2?

I have no background in optical science but I would dearly love to know how his vision was restored.  I know diabetics often have vision problems but I think they usually lean toward losing vision rather than gaining it.  However it happened, it must have been a real blessing to William not to need glasses to read.

I'd like to know more about how he obtained his glasses, the prescription, and what they looked like.  As far as I know, no photographs survive of William Bickerstaff.


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  1. Interesting story - maybe there is hope for the rest of us, but I doubt it!

    1. It IS an interesting story. I agree -- I doubt there's much hope for the rest of us, either. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

  2. A head injury suddenly dislodged a clot pressing on a nerve? A miracle? Almost daily you hear of someone living after being taken off life support, of a sudden disappearance of a tumor or a cancer, of people walking after being paralyzed. Maybe we need to call on Dr. House. Or just be glad.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Jana. I'm going to see if I can find a more detailed story in one of the Steubenville newspapers, the town where he lived.


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