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On the left So, What's New in the Past in blue lettering above The Multiple Meanings of Medical History in the bottom in red lettering. A montage of six images. The far left is a man is being beaten with a stick by another man; a third man stands to the left holding a watch, timing the beating. Next is a oman, half-length, left pose, full face; holding Cushman's Menthol Inhaler. Next a group of four physicians sit in consultation, two with walking sticks to their noses, while the patient looks on from his bed. Next a black and white half length, full face, seated at desk covered with books and papers, hand to chin of William Osler. Next a black and white photograph of Dr. Harvey Cushing dressed in medical scrubs and wearing gloves standing at the bedside of a young patient lying on their side with bandages on their head and covered with white sheets. Finally a head and shoulders photograph of Henry Sigrest in an advertisment for a talk.

HISTORY as Weapon

In the nineteenth century, contending factions in the deeply divided medical profession used history as a weapon. In this wear for survival, practitioners belonging to rival groups wrote histories that revealed their triumphs over the wrong-headed practices of their competitors or the inevitable progress of their own favorite ideas and institutions.

Many people viewed doctors' claims to professional authority as attempts to reconstruct European class divisions on free American soil. Instead of proceeding confidently with licenses granted because of approved levels of training, medical practitioners had to prove their ability within a bitterly competitive marketplace.

Medical sects proliferated, each claiming to have the most effective medical treatments. Homeopaths vied with naturopaths and hydropaths for the attention and financially loyalty of patients. In this cacophony of competing claims, a group of physicians founded the American Medical Association in 1847 to create an authoritative basis for the medical profession as we know it today. The members of the AMA, the "regulars" in their own eyes, were accused by rivals of being merely another competing sect, the hard drugging "allopaths."

The division of medicine into rival factions was not merely an American phenomenon. Here a French artist ridicules the supposedly gentle treatment of the homeopaths.

A man is being beaten with a stick by another man; a third man stands to the left holding a watch, timing the beating; on the floor and on the wall are additional sticks.
Charles Émile Jacque (1813-1894)
Les Homéopathes: 2ème Traitement-Similia Similibus, Courbatura Batonibus
Paris?, ca. 1880s
Prints and Photographs Call Number: WZ 336 J19 no. 5
Lithograph

As a rule and unlike the present day, physicians were not generally respected in the early nineteenth century. In this etching from the period, a British artist, highlighting the perceived and pretentiousness and pomposity of the medical profession, underscores widespread contemporary attitudes in his scathing caricatures.

A group of four physicians sit in consultation, two with walking sticks to their noses, while the patient looks on from his bed.
George Moutard Woodward (ca. 1760-1809)
A Consultation of Doctors on the case of Sr. Toby Bumper!!
London, February 26, 1807
Prints and Photographs Call Number: WZ 338 W91 no. 6
Etching

The title page of this nineteenth century medical tract captures the tensions, antagonisms and rivalries typical of the period. The author, a founder of the "physio-medicalist" school, is here responding to the "provocation" he detected in the remarks earlier delivered by a member of the "allopathic" school. The physio-medicalists, like the Thomsonians from whom they derived, relied largely on botanic ingredients, whereas the allopaths included metallic compounds in their often quite vigorous pharmaceutical preparations.

Title page of The Provocation and the Reply; or Allopathy Versus Physio-Medicalism in a Review of Prof. M.B. Wright's Remarks at the Dedication of the Cincinnati New Hospital, January 8th, 1869.
Alva Curtis (1797-1881)
The Provocation and the Reply; or Allopathy Versus Physio-Medicalism in a Review of Prof. M.B. Wright's Remarks at the Dedication of the Cincinnati New Hospital, January 8th, 1869.
Cincinnati, 1870
NLM Call Number: WBJ C978p 1870, Title Page
Book

The Homeopaths (who believed in "like curing like") and the allopaths (who believed in remedies with properties opposite to the symptoms for which they were prescribed) were bitter rivals in nineteenth-century medical practice. In this amusing wood engraving, while the patient lies sick in bed, the homeopath grabs the allopath by the collar as a quarrel ensues of the proper method of treatment.

While the patient (M. Jobard) lies in bed dying from acute indigestion, the homeopath grabs the allopath by the collar, as a quarrel has developed over the method of treatment.
Henry Monnier (1805-1877)
L'Homéopate et l'alléopate, en présence chez M. Jobard, se traient de polissons, se prennent à la gorge et le malade meurt faute de secours
ca. 1830s
Prints and Photographs Call Number: WZ 336 M71 no. 6
Wood engraving

A sampling of cards for patent medicines used in the wide-open nineteenth-century medical marketplace.

Child, head and shoulders, full face.with the title Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound at the top.
Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound
United States, 19th Century
Prints and Photographs Call Number: QV 772 C25 no. 5a
Chromolithograph


Woman, half-length, left pose, full face; holding Cushman's Menthol Inhaler.
Catarrh, Neuralgia & Headache No More!
Buffalo, 19th Century
Prints and Photographs Call Number: QV 772 C25 no. 6a
Chromolithograph


A chromolithograph showing Indians on horseback and people sledding. On the bottom right corner is black lettering is Dr. Kilmer's Indian Cough Cure Consumption Oil.
Dr. Kilmer's Indian Cough Cure Consumption Oil
Puck Bldg., N.Y., 19th Century
Prints and Photographs Call Number: QV 772 C25 no. 13a
Chromolithograph


Two children playing outside; fence and house in background. The words Cocaine Toothache Drops instantaneous cure is written in black lettering on the fence.
Cocaine Toothache Drops
United States, 1885
Prints and Photographs Call Number: QV 772 C25 no. 57
Chromolithograph


Samuel Thomson was the founder of one of the earliest and most vigorous of the nineteenth-century medical sects, the "Thomsonians." As clearly indicated in the extended title of this tract, the Thomsonians believed in "curing Disease with Vegetable Medicine." They also believed in a more "democratic" style of practice in which, ideally, "every man [was] his own physician."

Title page and frontispiece of A Narrative, of the Life and Medical Discoveries of Samuel Thomson. The frontispiece on the left page has a head and shoulders, right pose of Samuel Thomson.
Samuel Thomson (1769-1843)
A Narrative, of the Life and Medical Discoveries of Samuel Thomson; containing an account of his system of practice, and The manner of curing Disease with Vegetable Medicine, upon a plan entirely new; to which is added An Introduction to his New Guide to Health, or Botanic Family Physician, containing the principles upon which the system is founded, with remarks on Fevers, Steaming, Poison, &c.
Boston, 1822
NLM Call Number: WZ 100 T4852n 1822, Title Page
Book

A faculty member at Harvard Medical School from 1847 to 1882, Holmes had no patience with homeopathy, the leading mid-century sectarian challenge to "regular" medicine. He thought that homeopathy, derived from the late eighteenth-century writings of Samuel Hahnemann, represented a backwards-sliding regression in medicine, not an advance of any sort in either theory or therapy.

Open to show the title page of Homeopathy, and its kindred delusions by Oliver Wendell Holmes and the bleed-through of a letter opposite of the title page.
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)
Homϗpathy, and its kindred delusions; Two lectures delivered before the Boston Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.
Boston, 1842
NLM Call Number: WBK H752h 1842, Title Page
Book

Originally devised by Silesian peasant Vincent Priessnitz, the "Water Cure" was another popular nineteenth-century alternative to regular medicine. Its proponents believed that the administration of water and baths of various kinds would purify and invigorate the body's physiology. The Water Cure-also called hydropathy-reached the United States in the 1840s.

Pages iv and 5 of The Practice of the Water-Cure by James Wilson, M.D. and James Manby Gully. Page iv is the end of the preface while page 5 is the chapter on the history of Priessnitz, and the introduction of the water cure.
James Wilson, M.D. and James Manby Gully, M.D.
The Practice of the Water-Cure
New York, 1846
NLM Call Number: WBF W749p 1846, page iv-5
Book


Man at the water cure is standing under a shower; an attendant is holding a towel and closing the door to the shower. At the bottom in black lettering it is written The Rain Bath. 'You must be shut in for 15 minutes! Sir.'
Thomas Onwhyn (ca. 1820-1886)
"The Rain Bath," from Pleasures of the Water Cure
London, ca. 1857
NLM Call Number: WBF O56 1857
Photographic reproduction


A man at the water cure is sitting in a sitz bath wrapped in a wet sheet with his trousers around his ankles. A watering can is next to him. In the background is a bath tub. At the bottom is black lettering is written Sitz Bath and Wet Sheet 6 o'clock winters morn. 'This is delightful very!
Thomas Onwhyn (ca. 1820-1886)
"Sitz Bath and Wet Sheet," from Pleasures of the Water Cure
London, ca. 1857
NLM Call Number: WBF O56 1857
Photographic reproduction

Thacher's "history" leaves out mention of the Thomsonians, the Homeopaths and other sectarian challengers and concentrates on the organizational achievements of regular medicine.

Pages 78 and 79 of the American Medical Biography detailing the medical schools in the United States.
James Thacher (1754-1844)
American Medical Biography: or Memoirs of Eminent Physicians who have flourished in America. To which is prefixed A Succinct History of Medical Science in the United States, from the first settlement of the country.
Boston, 1828
NLM Call Number: WZ 140 AA1 T3a 1828, Volume 1, pages 78-79
Book

A historically-based critique of the "mysteries" of homeopathic medicine.

Title page of Remarks on the Abracadabra of the Nineteenth Century by William Leo-Wolf featuring an illustration of a man writing homeopathia on a scroll adding a letter on each line.
William Leo-Wolf, M.D.
Remarks on the Abracadabra of the Nineteenth Century; or on Dr. Samuel Hahnemann's Homœopathic medicine, with particular reference to Dr. Constantine Hering's "Concise View of the Rise and Progress of Homœopathic Medicine," Philadelphia, 1833.
New York, 1835
NLM Call Number: WBK L589r 1835, Title Page
Book

Joseph Carson recounts the history of the Department of Medicine at one of the leading "regular" medical schools, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Like Thacher, he writes as if the Thomsonians, homeopaths, hydropaths, and physio-medicalists never existed or, at least, presented no serious challenge to the mainstream profession.

Title page from A History of the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania by Joseph Carson
Joseph Carson, M.D. (1808-1876)
A History of the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania, from its foundation in 1765. With sketches of the lives of deceased professors.
Philadelphia, 1869
NLM Call Number: W19 P418c 1869, Title Page
Book

This book presents the history of medicine from the vantage point of a sectarian challenger. The history of medicine recounted here looks very different from the version presented elsewhere by "regular" physicians.

Title page of The Reform-Medical Practice: with a History of Medicine, from the earliest period to the present time, and a synopsis of principles on which the new practice is founded by the Faculty of the Reform Medical College of Georgia.
Faculty of the Reform Medical College of Georgia
The Reform-Medical Practice: with a History of Medicine, from the earliest period to the present time, and a synopsis of principles on which the new practice is founded.
Macon, Ga., 1857
NLM Call Number: WBJ M171r 1857, Title Page
Book