Bed bugs

A Closer Look

Mary Whipple used the word “cimexes” to describe some very annoying pests. This is Latin for “bed bug,” and they made her quite miserable. After arriving in Faribault in 1858 at the house she occupied with the Brecks, and with the divinity students lodged in the attic, she wrote about her first nights and days in this new place:

“I was wrenched with a headache that, even under favorable circumstances would have prevented my sleeping, but between the mattress and the cimexes which marched out in regiments, with a silent cry of “Fe fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman,” sleep was out of the question. I lay there and laughed, too nervous to resist, as Nellie and Clara moaned and called to each other about their unwelcome guests and I could overhear the students exclaiming about the ‘remarkable fellows’ that were coming from the roof into their faces… I wonder what your mother would say to the cimexes. Would she have terms adequate to express her horrors? When I think of how the beds came down because of the discovery of one dried cuticle. It stands out in ludicrous light in comparison with the cold businesslike air with which I slaughter them, as regular morning and evening exercise. I put to death fifty or sixty innocent infants of the race on my Bible and Prayer book this morning- that is daily order. Perhaps you think it vulgar to write about anything so vile, but if you lived among them you would acknowledge it an engrossing subject.“

Plagued by bed bugs? Woman getting out of bed, ca. 1900.
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.

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