The toxic and deadly effects of certain mushroom poisons, as already described, have been known since ancient times; and the prolonged intoxicating debauches to-day prevalent among the Amanita dipsomaniacs of Northern Russia and Kamchatka, consequent upon the allurements of the decoction of the fly-agaric, are well-known matters of history.

The true chemical character of this poison, however, was not discovered until 1868, when it was successfully isolated by chemical analyses of Drs. Vigier, Schmiede-berg, Currie, and Koppe, and ascertained to be an alkaloid principle, to which was given originally the name of bulbosine, since variously known as muscarine, and finally and most appropriately amanitine.

The poison thus identified, it was reserved to an American authority on edible fungi, Mr. Julius a. Palmer, of Boston, to discover the fact of its confinement to but one fungus family - the Amanita.

In the year 1879, in an article contributed by him to the Moniteur Scientifique, of Paris, he states:

"Mushrooms are unfit for food by decay or other cause, producing simply a disagreement with the system by containing some bitter, acrid, or slimy element, or by the presence of a wonderful and dangerous alkaloid which is absorbed in the intestinal canal. This alkaloid, so far as known, is found only in the Amanita family."

To Mr. Palmer, then, is due the chemical segregation of the Amanita group as the only repository of this deadly toxic.

It has not been discerned in other species of fungi, whose so-called "poisonous" effects are more often traceable to mere indigestibility, the selection of "over-ripe" specimens, or to idiosyncrasy, rather than to their distinctly poisonous properties. Many mushrooms of other families which do possess ingredients chemically at war with the human system - as the Russula emetica and certain Lacta-rii, for instance - at least give a fair warning, either by taste or odor, of their dark intentions.

Owing to the numerous deaths every year consequent upon mushroom-eating, and nearly always directly traceable to the Amanita, the discovery of an antidote to this poison has been the quest of many noted chemists - several supposed antidotes having been experimented with upon dogs and other animals without desired results. These included atropine, the deadly crystalline alkaloid from the Atropa belladonna. The earlier experiments upon animals with this drug in Paris, as described by Dr. Gautier in 1884, while encouraging, were not considered conclusive, but were sufficient to warrant the suggestion that the treatment upon man might be effective. In a resume of the subject in the Philadelphia Medical and Surgical Reporter, December, 1885, for the benefit of the medical practitioners who are so frequently called upon to attend cases of mushroom poisoning, Captain Charles Mcll-vaine recommended the administration of a dose of atropine of from 0.05 to 0.0002 milligramme, and it was later reserved for the same gentleman to witness the first authentic instance of the application of this remedy in antagonism with the Amanita poison in the human system. The report of this experience was afterwards published (see Bibliography, No. 6), embodying also a complete and authentic account of the symptoms and treatment of the cases by the attending physician, Dr. J. E. Shadle, of Shenandoah, Pa., which account I feel is appropriately included here, being in full sympathy with the solicitous spirit of my pages. I therefore quote the statement of Dr. Shadle for the benefit of those interested.

Mr. Palmer's Discovery. Lesser Poisoning. Antidote For Amanita. First Authentic Application

Shenandoah, Pa., October 26, 1885.

Mr. Chas. McIlvaine:

My dear Sir, - In compliance with your request, I take pleasure in submitting to your consideration the following report of five cases of toadstool-poisoning which recently came under my observation and treatment:

On Monday, August 31, at 10 a.m., I was hastily called to see a family, consisting of Mr. F., his wife, his mother-in-law, Mrs. R., and his brother - in - law, Thomas R., who, the messenger stated, were having "cramps in the bowels."

Promptly responding to the call, I found them suffering from intense abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, boneache, and feelings of distress in the praecordial region.

Mr. F., twenty-nine years of age, was a miner by occupation, and had led an intemperate life. Mrs. F., twenty-two years of age, was a brunette, possessing a delicate body, and bearing a decided neurotic tendency. Mrs. R., forty-five years of age, was a small nervo-bilious woman. Thomas R., thirteen years of age, was a youth well developed.

While I was examining these patients, Mrs. B. , forty years of age, a neighbor of the family, presented herself, manifesting in a milder degree the same symptoms. She was a tall, spare woman. Previous to their present attack of illness their general health was good; in none could signs of disease be traced.

Picture to your mind five persons suffering from cholera morbus in its most aggravated form, and you will be enabled to form a pretty correct idea of what I beheld in the Faris residence on Monday morning, August 31.

That five individuals, four being members of one household, should be attacked simultaneously by a similar train of symptoms, naturally gave rise in my mind to a suspicion that something poisonous had been eaten. Upon close inquiry I obtained the following history:

On the afternoon of Sunday, August 30, Mr. F. and Thomas R.

. were walking through a wood not far distant from their home, and, in wandering from place to place, found clusters of very beautiful toadstools growing abundantly under trees, among which the chestnut predominated.