1891: The foreskin: an “evil genie” that will land you in jail

Peter Remondino (1846-1926) arrived in the United States from Italy in the 1850s and was raised in rural Minnesota. He later studied medicine in Philadelphia and served as a doctor during the American Civil War.

In the 1870s, Dr Remondino relocated to California and became one of San Diego’s most prominent and sought after physicians. Though best known for his specialisation in respiratory illnesses, Remondino was also a vocal advocate for circumcision. His central argument was that the foreskin was a redundant organ. When man was a hunter-gatherer, the foreskin:

“..provided him with a sheath, wherein he carried his procreative organ safely out of harm’s way during wild steeplechases through thorny briars and bramble… This leathery pouch also protected him from the many leeches, small aquatic lizards or other animals that infested the marshes or rivers… or served as a protection from the bites of ants or other vermin…”

But now, Remondino argues, the foreskin is nothing but trouble, exerting:

“…a malign influence in the most distant and apparently unconnected manner. Like some of the evil genies or sprites in the Arabian tales it can reach from afar the object of its malignity, striking him down unawares in the most unaccountable manner; making him a victim to all manner of ills, sufferings, and tribulations… and other conditions, calculated to weaken him physically, mentally and morally… to land him perchance in the jail, or even in a lunatic asylum.”

It goes without saying that Dr Remondino recommended circumcision to treat or circumvent a number of ailments, including masturbation, nocturnal emissions, bedwetting, venereal diseases, timidity and insecurity, even cancer. Remindino also called for the “wholesale circumcision of the Negro race”, a measure he claimed would curtail the interest of black men in white women, reducing a great deal of racial tension and a “great number of lynchings”.

Source: Dr Peter Remondino, History of Circumcision from the Earliest Times to the President, Philadelphia, 1891; “Questions of the Day: Negro rapes” in National Popular Review, v.4, January 1894. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.