One aspect of the Catherine Morton case that puzzled me was just how common was chloroform in colonial Australia.
So I did some digging.
The key date in the story of chloroform is 1847, the year when Simpson first started using chloroform for pain relief and anaesthesia in childbirth.
The discovery clearly took the world by storm – as early as 1848 there were adverts in the Sydney Morning Herald for dentistry under chloroform:
SMH 03 Jul 1848 via trove.nla.gov.au
and wholesale druggists were advertising its availability as in this advert from the Colonial Times (Hobart) of 16 February 1851
So, when Meard asked Mr Witt the chemist for chloroform to anaethetise a favourite dog he wished to castrate, the use of chloroform was most definitely common knowledge – after all Queen Victoria had used it as early as 1853 to relieve the pain of childbirth …
[update 01 October 2018]
Just for fun, I ran a querypic search on the word chloroform, and as expected it confirmed that the discovery of chloroform was an overnight sensation:
with mentions (in Australia) peaking in 1848 and minor peak around 1853, doubtless as a result of Queen Victoria being administered chloroform during the birth of Prince Leopold …