The following essay I wrote while researching Dr. John Kennedy Bristow, ca. 1993. Dr. Bristow was an Oregon trail doctor, and one of the first practitioners of several very popular alternative healing professions to move to Oregon during the 1850s. Bristow’s uncle, on his mother’s side, was Michael Gabbert, a member of the staff for one of the first medical schools to try to open its doors in Memphis, Tennessee.

From about 1850 to 1862, this school was provided with the papers needed to initiate its training in medicine and so tried several times unsuccessfully to provide classes to students. During the first few years, there were some political arguments going back and forth between physicians on staff as to what to teach, in particular the philosophy of what form of medicine to promote, within the western half of the state. During its first months, with staff away visiting another medical school and assessing its program, the few remaining in the Memphis area changed the advertising for this school claiming they will teach the newer forms of philosophies and medicine being promoted. These forms of medicine were the physiomedical or more religious-minded healing practices promoted by Thomsonians, botanics and physomedical or physiomedical trained physicians.

Due to the Bible Belt philosophy, these methods of treating were considered more respectful and proper according to the religious teachings. At the time, a well-equipped and prepared teaching hospital was typically run by either a religious group or by some government related office or agency, and on occasion as some large clinical setting developed for a school.

But most times the first kind of hospital offered both religiously minded sanative philosophies offered by homeopaths and certain eclectic physician practices, along with the more standard mineral remedy, opium-rich based treatments provided by the much less sanitative allopathic or regular medical profession. In the Bible Belt, people often tended to favor either of the first two and hesitant about trusting the latter. In the end, it took one teaching hospital facility to force closure of the non-allopathic wards; its students, professors and practitioners had much less of a following than the homeopaths and eclectics, which is what this essay was about.

I came upon the story by perusing an 1854/5 small octavo journal at NCNM in Portland, Oregon. This was a very rare journal–Physiomedical Recorder. Very little information on its publication history is noted in the bound copies of the index cards for the New York and national libraries such as LC and NLM available for review at New York Public Library. (The year was 1990 about after all, well before the internet age.) Based upon those card catalogue references, this journal was very short lived, and apparently had Physomedical Recorder as a prior title, with this preceded by titles noting its Botanical medicine history, suggesting some political relationship with Alva Curtis’s school in Columbus followed by Cincinnati. Just six months into publication as Physiomedical Recorder, this school and publisher was purchased by another, apparently mostly of allopathic belief and practice. (Cincinnati Medical Gazette and Recorder I believe.)

With this change in the title bar on page 1 of the rest of the binding, the content and format of the text change to less experiential (fewer articles with brief, few paragraph quips, case recalls, ideas, news items), more theoretical (often boring surgical and anatomical-physiological lessons stuff), much lengthier articles. The philosophy of the second school was obviously quite different. Like with several other ca. 1990-1995 essays I wrote, the footnotes/endnotes for this writing did not copy over that well in the new format. The boxes in the text refer to a footnote or reference source, also with boxes at the beginning of each entry.



In 1851, the Thomsonian profession suffered greatly from a lack of followers willing to practice Thomsonian medicine but unwilling to buy into Samuel Thomson’s patented formulas. By 1850 Thomsonian groups began forming local societies in Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and Ohio and were redefining not only the Thomsonian healing faith but also rewriting some of Thomson’s core teachings. Several of these New Thomsonians (neothomsonians) removed certain parts of Thomson’s teachings from their programs, replacing them with locally-discovered formulas and local beliefs as to the cause of illness and the healing process.

During the early 1850s, only one Thomsonian school was opened, the Thomsonian College of Barbourville, GA, organized the year before. These new Thomsonians called themselves botanic physicians and practitioners of reformed medicine, depending on what their philosophy was focused on. In parts of Central and Western Ohio, Western Tennessee and parts of Southern Alabama they referred to their practice as botanic medicine, adhering to parts of Thomson’s teachings to which they added a little of their own impressions and experiences with local botanicals. In Eastern Ohio, New York and along the coastal states they referred to their practice as reformed medicine, but which quickly became known as “Eclectic Medicine” sometime during the mid-1820s. Eventually, many students of the schools of Botanic Medicine would come to consider themselves “Eclectic” as well, retaining the original name of their school for only a few years more.

By the late 1850s, Eclectic Medicine had taken the place of Thomsonianism in sectarian medicine, basing its practice on a combination of regular or allopathic medicine and what had became known as “irregular” medicine by regular MDs. Due to their diverse cultural upbringings and philosophies, in combination with both regular and irregular medical training, Eclectic physicians were able to select the best of each medical sect, providing them with the means to produce a more comprehensible practice based on numerous treatment modalities without having to adhere to some of the more uncomfortable practices adhered to whenever a patient was treated like the use of opiates, heavily symptomatic metal and mineral drugs, and the ongoing adherence to blood-letting most of the patients.

To important political leaders in support of Eclectic Medicine and to Eclectic medical school administrators, this medical practice was designed to improve upon the unchanging practice of regular medicine. This enabled its followers to change and more effectively update their philosophies and beliefs and changes took place throughout their lifelong career. To many onlookers, the potential patients, Eclectic Medicine seemed to be the best of the total various healing sects formed by 1860. In 1840, in a November graduation speech given by Professor John Bell of the Ohio Medical College in Cincinatti (open since 1817), Bell stated:

“You will not be taught by us, either from Hospital or College…exclusive or one-sided medicine. We shall not attempt to indoctrinate you with allopathy alone, still less with homeopathy or hydropathy alone. Sometimes, more generally indeed, our remedies will be given with a view to remove the disease, by inducing a series of actions antagonistic to those of which constituted its symptoms, and so far, we are allopathic practitioners. Sometimes, but less frequently than in the circumstances just mentioned, we have recourse to medicines, for remedial measures, which produce effects seemingly analogous top the symptoms of the disease, and in this sense we practice homeopathically.”

Further along in this speech Professor Bell defended the use of water cure by eclectic physicians along with the study of gymnastics and exercise, and even the use of the long-disputed allopathic mineral remedies. During the 1840s and 1850s, as Eclectic doctors came to believe strongly in other alternative healing faiths which surfaced as well, Eclectic schools often ended up having disputes with each another over the alternative healing faiths. In New York and Ohio for example, doctors came to believe strongly in phrenology, a curing method borne out of Philadelphia and New York City by the Fowler family. In the Mid-Atlantic region, eclectic physicians came to respect their local teachers like Kentuckian Eclectic physician who promoted this same belief system, but termed it physiognomy to differentiate himself from the Fowlers. Differing regions even expressed differing belief systems when it came to explaining the effects of climate and astronomical forces on human anatomy and physiology.

Even though these disturbances in medical opinions were what defined the Eclectic nature of this sect, for the most part, many agreed that the Eclectic physician was obligated to avoid the administration of opiates, and certain mineral drugs that many were labeling as toxic. As long as the methods Eclectic healers used were considered genuine, natural, and relatively non-invasive, this form of healing was truly eclectic in nature and therefore better and in many ways safer than healing practices carried out by the regulars or allopaths. However, this ever-changing difference in philosophy and opinions held by members of this sect eventually led to the development of factions in the field, ultimately dividing the Eclectic practitioners into several sects.

In 1855, Dr. John King noted the division of this sect, noting it consisted of four types of healers. According to King, there were the graduates of the Cincinatti Eclectic Medical Institute, “who are regularly instructed in the seven departments of professorships, under the same regulations as to study and qualifications, as in other respectable colleges.” Then there were the older doctors who graduated from regular schools, and who, in Dr. King’s keen eye, “adopted liberal reformatory views.” A third type of Eclectic healers in King’s review of this field consisted of “Graduates of smaller schools, some of which are hardly to be recognized as respectable.” The fourth type of medic King described as “Irregular practitioners who have studied with private preceptors, and read such miscellaneous text books as pleased their fancy.” The distribution of these four types of Eclectic physicians depended primarily upon the distribution of those who offered apprenticeships or were active as lecturers and actual medical school professors.

The most urbanized regions with medical schools offered in-house training programs which typically lasted from two to 4 months, and were often given in sequences that included introductory material during the first sessions and intermediate to more advanced training such as midwifery and pharmacology during the later sessions. In some cases, a student could take a class or two in this urban setting, obtain a signed attendance card, and continue the clinical training in his or her home town area. Other regions offered travelling lectureship programs, or had a professor who could travel from one educational site or school to the next over a two year period, providing opportunities to complete the training at their own pace.

In the less concentrated and sometimes less extensive medical programs, students could move to a site, take classes for two or three months, and then head back home to complete the clinical portion of the training as an apprentice. In some cases, these lectureship programs were very superficial and according to King, “Irregular” in nature, offering classes and sessions distinctly different from most other Eclectic MD programs. This latter type of schooling was most likely found in communities which were pretty much absent of doctors and nearby medical schools, and at times were even allowed to be somewhat religious in nature, being offered at a local church or religious building, and typically not including any sort of actual cadaver based human anatomy study programs.

Ever since members of the Thomsonianism sect had split into separate groups due to political differences, many of these healers, mostly of the latter two sub-classes noted by King, became converted Thomsonians (referred to by some medical historians as Neo-Thomsonians). King went through the particulars of these healing faiths to boldly distinguish the Eclectics from the others. He defined Eclecticism as “a practical and scientific improvement upon the common doctrine of the profession–a movement which has no sympathy with the sectarian narrowness and ignorance of Thomsonianism.”

The New Thomsonians, on the other hand, King defined as realists and pragmatists who took their basic knowledge and made use of it to remain accepted and active as healers. These four sub-groups noted by King are also divisible into distinct local sects based on their therapeutic selections. There were those who remained faithful to regular or allopathic medicine, executing the bleeding practices and arguing that this form of treatment could still be effective in some cases. (Even some of the first Homeopaths in New York City were of this type.) Other Eclectic physicians remained devoted to the use of certain mineral drugs such as Iodine, Iron medicines and Mercury. Still others relied on newly discovered and rapidly industrialized products manufactures using crystalline or concentrated plant extracts, such as quinine salt and the resinoids of many root medicines then being sold.

At times even the limited use of Opium came into Eclectic use due to this varying attitude they bore. For example, in a review of John King’s eclectic medical kit, published in the Eclectic Medical Journal, the author made note of King’s vial of Opium. Still, the most devoted eclectic healers who considered themselves purists stayed completely away from certain regular doctors’ remedies. Since it was the regular doctor who discovered quinine, for example, some Eclectics chose the Indian Remedy Dogwood for use as a febrifuge instead. When the need for a Blistering Plaster remedy arose, the regular doctor used Mustard and the devoted eclectic applied the recently discovered Croton Oil from the Central American and Texas Croton. In the southern states, Cayenne plasters served as local substitutes for blister packs, and were perfect for dealing with local disease in some healers’ minds due to their local origin. Similarly, since Ipecac was a South American based cure favored for two centuries by regular doctors, the most devoted eclectics chose instead to make use American Ipecac substitutes such as American Ipecac (Euphorbia ipecacuanha), Emetic Weed (Lobelia cardinalis), and Bastard Ipecac (Triosteum perfoliatum).

Changes in medical discipline during the 1850s also converted the earliest forms of alternative medicine schools into other more locally acceptible forms of alternative medicine. In western Tennessee, the Thomsonian school in Memphis quickly became Physio-Medical in its teachings, even before it opened and taught its first classes during the 1850s. Just over one year into its history, and still without graduates, this school converted again, this time to Eclectic Medicine. Thomsonianism was no longer popular for medical schools to profess their knowledge in. In an article that appeared in 1851 in the journal Stethoscope published out of Richmond, Dr. Peebles commented on this change in the popular Memphis medical school’s philosophy:

“In late years but few, if any, of the true breed are to be met with. Thomsonianism, as Samuel Thomson taught it, has long been dead; but out of its ashes there has arisen recently a more dangerous, but more imposing and disingenuous sect. We now have the Eclectics. These pretend to combine the excellencies, without the obnoxious parts of both systems of medicine, the “regular” and the Thomsonian. This has led to a new swarm of specious quacks, which overspread the land. Cincinatti is their head-quarters; from thence they emerge like locusts, to desolate the country. In many places they are now in the full tide of prosperity. But they cannot last long; this medical monsoon will vanish.”

A series of articles of the politics of this region and its school and the various professionally based counterarguments to these articles, describe the history of this first medical school to open in Memphis, Tennessee quite well. Political problems had rapidly developed in both the regular and alternative MD schools and professional groups. Between 1846 and 1856, this made the Memphis medical school one of the most politically- and professionally-sensitized schools in the United States when it came to deciding upon religious faith versus medical philosophy.


In Memphis, Tennessee, attempts were made to initiate an alternative medcial school by 1846. A Charter was obtained for the Botanic-medicalCollege, of Memphis, Tennessee [1848-1860]. This school’s title was not Eclectic in nature, but rather implied a Neo-Thomsonian basis for the healing methods to be taught at this institution. But instead of accepting Thomsonianism, the doctors who taught there selected Eclectic Medicine to base their teachings on. For the 1849-50 academic year, an Annular Circular for the Medical Department of the Memphis Institute was published in which this sect defined its goals:

“…much care will be taken to make him acquainted with the essential principles of Allopathy, Hydropathy, Homeopathy, Chronothermalism, and Thompsonianism (sic); and also with the differences that exist between them and Eclecticism.”

For the first two years, this school went through the typical financial and political stress. Since financial stability was a major problem these earliest alternative schools had to face, one of the faculty members in Memphis decided to insert a memo in the Bulletin for this newly established school at its initial gathering in Fall 1850; the other five members of this school’s faculty were out of town on a professional visit, reviewing the other Eclectic schools in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Dean of the Memphis school, Dr. H.J. Hulee, inserted an addendum without the permission of the other members of the faculty which announced that the school was changing to a “regular orthodox school.” Dr. Hulee’s initial plan was to forestall the faculty’s discovery of this change, have the students re-accept their registration for next year’s classes in regular medicine, and therefore prevent this entire program from failing financially. When the remaining staff of the school returned, they disagreed with Dr. Hulee’s idea to convert their program to allopathy. According to Dr, Newton, one of the members of this profession who published criticisms about its schools, wrote “This was done without my knowledge or the consent of the Faculty.” Legal actions were considered against the Dean, but were soonafter dismissed when Hulee decided to resign from the program.

Still, despite their continued devotion non-allopathic medicine, the condition of this Memphis School was not much better. For the Fall 1850 session, this school maintained its Eclectic composure. Yet differences remained between certain members of its staff, leading to the subsequent resignation of one of the professors after he was disappointed with the program and decided he did not qualify to teach it. Further disagreements amongst the staff led the other six also to resign, three of whom removed to the Eclectic Medical Institute in Cincinatti. Now, Dr. Hulee, were he to return, was left with a medical school in disharmony with itself and its overall goals. Thus in March 1851, Dr. Newton of Cincinatti wrote an editorial comment about the Memphis school, stating he was uncertain as to whether or not it would be reorganized in time to begin classes next winter. Subsequent criticisms of this school were then published in the regular medical journal Western Lancet by Professor L.M. Lawson of the regular Ohio Medical College, who wrote:

“We are informed that a medical school, called the Memphis Medical Institute, has been established in Memphis, Tennessee, by a sect known as Eclectics. The characteristics of this sect, are their opposition to the regular profession, abuse of mercury, and a pretended adhesion principally to botanical remedies–they are, in every sense, adventurers in medicine, desirous of making converts to their pretended system, with but little regard to the means employed”

In his editorial, Newton tries to continue his support for eclectic medicine, by replying to Lawson’s comment:

“…Prof. Lawson has either ignorantly or designedly misrepresented the Memphis Institute. And if he can prove, with the exception of the steamers, that any school of medicine, in this country, even his successful rival in Cincinatti, have adopted the above platform then we will acknowledge our own ignorance, and his correctness.”

The Memphis Medical Institute continued teaching classes despite its limited attendance. In accordance with the doctrine published by the National Eclectic Medical Association, the following “cardinal points” were followed in designing the curriculum:

“1st. To maintain the utmost freedom of thought and envestigation, in opposition to the restrictive systems heretofore in vogue. “2nd. To resist the influence ofthe prevalent errors of medical science and practice, and the authority by which they are sustained. “3rd. To aid and encourage the cultivation of medical science in a liberal and benevolent spirit, especially in the full development of the resources of the vegetable materia medica, and of the sanest, most speedy and efficient method of treating disease.”

With the continued rising popularity of Eclectic medicine, new attempts were made to open a school in Louisville, Kentucky, by Dr. J.H. Jordan. Due to increasing political tension, Dr. Jordan also failed in his attempt to open his school. The Memphis school remained, still holding classes to very few potential graduates. It lasted another eight years, closing it doors just before the Civil War began.


One of the tactics used by members of the regular medical profession to eliminate alternative medical programs was to argue with alternative healers about their need, selection and use of hospitals. The hospital was where many patients of these doctors spent the night when their diseases were severe or ongoing. Since hospitals were few and far between during this early period of alternative medical history, the traditional church-sponsored hospitals played one of the more important roles in doctors learning by way of the clinical experience now required of them. The introduction of clinical hospital-based practices to the medical curriculum was still in its early stages. Patients typically made their overnight stays in every place possible, ranging from infirmaries and small clinics, to doctor’s homes, insane asylums, riverboat hospitals, and church hospitals. Therefore, in the very early years, as the hospitals attended by regular doctors began to allow alternative healers such as Eclectics and Homeopaths to attend to their patients in these facilities as well, many initiators of these colleges decided that important political changes were in the naking. Since decent and adequate classroom and clinical training was now being performed to meet with licensing requirements, as long as alternative healers carried out the same training procedures, it was reasoned that they should be offered admissions passes to the hospitals as well. This torrential period in Ohio medical history stemmed from the earliest years of medical school history in the Western Reserve.

In 1819, the Medical College of Ohio was chartered, and opened its doors on Sixth Street in Cincinatti. It did not fully operate until 1825, once the state had provided the funding needed to erect its teaching quarters. This teaching establishment outlasted the college, which survived just another twenty-five years. During the time it was in use, the opposing regular medical facility maintained its direct control of the clinical setting for this region–the Commercial Hospital. In 1845, the Eclectic Medical Institute was chartered by legislation passed in Ohio. It was located on the corner of Court and Plum streets and was a plain building raised without the grants provided regular schools by the state. Around the same time, Dr. C. Newton had opened a clinic on sixth street. Newton’s Clinical Institute had been set up to up to about one hundred patients. Its wards bore separate rooms, each with the convenience of gas-lighting and hot and cold water, and was considered by some to be superior to the old tattered hospital facilities which made up the CommercialHospital. The two other medical teaching center in Cincinnati at this time were Miami Medical College and The Cincinnati College of Medicine and Surgery.

In April 1851, an attack was made on the Medical College of Ohio, purportedly for charging members of the faculty with “sectarian bigotry.” The Trustees were charged with “having proscribed the MethodistChurch.” The Trustees were indeed about to be accused of being engaged in “a scheme to revolutionize and to destroy the College, simply to gratify the personal ambition of a few men.” This led to the eruption of political turmoil beginning with the July issue of the local Western Lancet. Changes had been made in the clinical plans, effecting each of the different schools. The Ohio Wesleyan University had control of the clinical site where Methodists controlled a significant part of the program. To the eclectics it was felt that this place would probably open a medical department for the eclectics and botanics. They therefore had applied for the use of this site nearly a decade before, but had since endured major political struggles through this dispute. Their allowance for use of these facilities was later rescinded.

In 1849/50, as the Ohio Wesleyan University began plans to establish a medical department at the university, Dr. Lawson of the Lancet admitted that for, at least a while, the botanic students were being admitted to this city’s hospital. When later a bill was passed by Wesleyan , it helped to further prevent such activities to be performed by the alternative healers. The Trustees of the University then applied to the Legislature to have their new bill considered.

Once this “Senate Bill 93” was passed, this led to hostility on the grounds that “OhioWesleyanUniversity is a denominational or sectarian institution.” This comment was based on the fact that the Wesleyan Clinical site was sponsored and attended to by Methodists. Dr. Lawson was specifically targeted in this political debate through the trade magazines. As a result, Rev. H.E. Pilcher sent an open letter to Dr. Lawson.

As a reply to these comments, the following was stated by A. Thomson, who had overseen the consideration of the Eclectic’s own bill for passage:

“Dear Sir,–Your note of this date is before me. I introduced the bill referred to, took a lively interest in its fate while pending before the senate, and during that period had frequent conversations relative to its merits with Dr. Edwards, and other opponents of the measure. I think, therefore, I cannot be mistaken in saying, that one of the prominent objections urged by Dr. Edwards and others to the second section of the bill, was alleged sectarian character of the institution asking the priviledges (sic) proposed to be conferred by said section.

Yours truly, A. THOMSON.”

The University had applied for the privileges needed to allow its students to attend the hospital. The Faculty of the Medical College in turn had denied these privileges. The editor of this journal, Dr. Newton, commented that it was his feeling that no one should have exclusive rights to the teaching hospitals: “Without hospital priviledges, no medical school can compete with the Medical College, and a denial of priviledges is equivalent to a refusal to permit the establishment of another school. This would be odious to monopoly. Again: the hospital belongs to the people of the state, who are taxed for its support and half a dozen men should be permitted to make it a source of exclusive pecuniary income.”

The Eclectics based their complaints on the methods used for funding this school’s clinical site. The cost for building the hospital used by Wesleyan University was $3500, according to he article, most of which in the beginning was paid through taxes. This same institution had since received over $113,000 in state funds, arising from the various auctions that were held. In 1851, this hospital received about $3000 per year from the state and $27,000 in the form of funding from the Cincinnati Township. Professor Lawson blamed these political and financial differences on the Ministers, when in actuality, Newton felt, it was due rather, to the political goals of the Regular Medical College. Since the charter for this hospital lacked mention of any exclusive privileges on behalf of the regulars, Newton contends that the Legislature of 1839 made an error by not recognizing this. He claims their sectarian behavior was that which favored admitting only regular students to the teaching establishment: “It conditionally admits the students of the Medical College, but it does not exclude others.” Such a monopoly was still allowed though, and the actions taken by the members of the Eclectic sect could not reverse the actions taken by the Legislature.

Within a few years, this would result in the closure of the state’s first medical school. By 1854, Cincinnati, Ohio, still bore three Eclectic Medical schools–the Ohio Medical College, the Miami Medical College and The College of Medicine and Surgery. In these few years, the political and financial stress had led to the near demise of the Ohio Medical School. Then thirty-one years old, this college was in need of a clinical facility. Contacts were made with the Ohio Wesleyan University nearby to obtain hospital priviledges at their clinical site. Unfortunately, the political grounds dictated by the sectarian medicine issues got in the way of reaching this goal. The Ohio Medical College outshined the regular school to some degree, having fairly large classes due to its avid following. In an editorial about this posed by Newton, it is recommended that the Eclectic medical school take specific financial and political actions to secure places for its students to be trained at in the clinical setting. He thus suggested that the money paid into the Township Treasury by the school be used to allocate Hospital tickets for its students. That money paid previously fur such priviledges amounted to over 500 dollars, and would be surpassed by payments received from the newly matriculated medical students. Such priviledges would also require that the Eclectic people have management responsibilities at the schools and clinics. Newton noted that until most recently, these priviledges had existed between Ohio Welseyan Univeristy and Ohio Medical College.

By 1851, these had been abruptly halted by the passage of legislation written by individuals as Wesleyan which designed to remove the rights of Eclectics who attend their hospital. Newton wrote: “Was it not that they feared the competition, and knowing, as they did, that their own house has (if not now) been divided against itself and could not stand; for we are informed by a document laid before the late Legislature that they had no more than twenty-four professors within the last year. The public can draw their own conclusions.” As the result of State Legislature placing the Wesleyan University Hospital under the control of the University medical school, attendance rights once existing for eclectics were severed. By 1854, the Ohio Medical College was on its “last legs.” In spite of the impressive size of the school, and its teaching facility, considered by Newman to be the best of the three Cincinnati schools, it was about to lose Hospital priviledges in the upcoming winter of 1854/5. Since hospital priviledges were required to keep the medical school going, to provide the doctors a place to attend clinic at, and a place for their patients to remain should they be taken seriously ill, this political change in Ohio Medical College’s offerings would most likely cause this institution to close its teaching facility, to which Newton, replied:

“where the Trustees will obtain these requisites is yet unknown. As it is the nature of man to live and hope “something may yet turn up” that will give them both. From present appearances they will have no Hospital priviledges this winter, as nearly all the sick are sent to the Infirmary. At this time there are only a few patients in that part of the hospital edifice which has not been taken down. This College–what is left of it–is now in a worst position in this respect, than other Colleges of this city have been by the trickery of this old establishment.”

Soonafter, the Ohio Medical College closed it doors for good (but still exists today under another name, merged with one of the state’s larges schools).

Miami Medical College

The second Eclectic medical college to open in this part of Ohio was the MiamiMedicalCollege. Their clinical site was the CatholicSt. John’sHospital. This school received much criticism from the editor for its questionable clinical training practices: “Young men who wish to have collars placed on their necks can be accommodated there. Who would follow the practice of any man if he should teach the practice of cutting off a leg there times, and then three months after have to take it off a “little more bone” that the parts may heal over.” The training at this school cost fifteen dollars, a sizeable cost considering the time and the state of the economy. Newton stated that this school, according to rumor, had just five students, attending patients in the hospital along side “Dear Sisters” and “Holy Fathers” who helped to keep this profession alive. Newton’s major criticism about this school was that is is “strictly old Fogy order…we wish them more success than they had with their spring session.”

Ohio’s third school is The College of Medicine and Surgery. This school would outsurvive the other two, having been granted “the best Hospital arrangements of the three.” The Mariners who once served the armed forces were offered medical services here, at a “living price” according to Newton, for many remained at these facilities for the rest of their life. The failure of such efforts to initiate eclectic schools during this time was seen elsewhere in the United States as well.

In western New York, the Geneva Medical school was closed by 1854, and in mid-western New York: “The Syracuse School (we have been informed) had a very small class last winter, and was broken up by a fire which exposed its dissecting rooms and came near destruction by a mob–however, it was said, and we believe, it is still in operation.” In Pittsburgh two medical schools were in the works, but both failed to open following the winter of 1853-1854. When teachers in Burlington, Vermont, opened a school, “a regular congregational affair of unquestionable orthodoxy,” according to Joseph Buchanan, it failed to attract enough students to remain open. In Memphis, Tennessee, actions were taken to open an alternative school in the late 1840s, but in 1851, differences existed between the goals established by its initiators. Therefore in 1851, after three years of political bickering as to whether or not to learn and practice Physio-Medicine or Eclectics, this school remained chartered, but had yet to open.

Similarly, a physomedical or “quasi-Thomsonian” school opened in New York City as well under the title of the Metropolitan School of Medicine. Only two professors taught its first classes, attended only by twelve students, and with seventeen diplomas distributed by the end of that first session. By 1854 in Cincinnati, Physo-Medicine had reached its near-demise. It former classrooms on Third Street were now being used as a dining room for The Winne House, with advertising signs used to make the wall of a warehouse. The second location it once occupied was in use by the Miami Medical College, its repository building being used by a local Cadets military groups. Such early schools were often quite small, and quite accommodating for other social groups to rent or purchase following their closure. The construction of larger, more permanent teaching facilities would help make an institution somewhat more long-lived, so along as its sect continued to practice.


Newton. “Disclaimer.” (Editorial). Eclectic Medical Journal. Vol. 3, no. 10 (October 1851), pp. 485. An example of part of the poltical actions which ensued during this time, a Dr. G. Mendenhall in Cincinatti visited a patient who had been treated by the Eclectics for dysentery. The editorial states Dr. Mendenhall: “he stands charged with taking without liberty the medicine from the bed of a patient whom we were attending, in order that he might known what we were doing for the p[atient. This too was at a time,–under very peculiar circumstances,–when he was permitted to visit the patient when we were present, but took advantage of our absence to perpetrate this unprofessional act.” The father of this patient ended up being a member of the medical scoeity for the regular sect. He is the one who turned in Dr. G. Mendenhall for performing such non-professional acts. In Worcester, Massachusetts, Dr. Newton died. This politicking in pharmacy continued in the Eclectic Medical world for most of the nineteenth century. It was fiercest during the first half, until the discovery of concentrated plant extract was made. This discovery, although it matched some of the skills of the regular pharmaceutical profession, out-performed even the laboratory accomplishments of their most dedicated plant chemistry researchers. Whereas allopaths like to claim the discovery or first manufacturing of the concentrated extract is that of the allopathic pharmacists, in fact their chemist had failed in producing an extract bearing the much needed drug chemicals in these formulas, having over-processed his botanicals. Thus the first discovery of a satisfactory method of producing such as drug goes to the eclectic doctor John King around 1837/9. John King’s methods successfully boiled down into a concentrate a concoction of Mayapple rhizome (Podophyllum peltatum), keeping its active agent podophyllin intact and able to function as a drug. The allopath’s chemist failed in his attemtp to achieve the same end results.


“American Eclectic Dispensatory.” Eclectic Medical Journal. Fourth Series. Vol. 1, no. 1 (Whole Series, vol. 14) (Jan. 1855), pp. 12-15.

ibid. Newton. “Medical Matters.” Eclectic Medical Journal. March 1851. p. 142. Quote originally taken from and article by Professor L.M. Lawson which appeared in the Western Lancet, of the Ohio Medical College, and reprinted in R.S. Newton’s “Professor L.M. Lawson vs, Eclecticism” in Eclectic Medical Journal. Vol. 3, no. 3 (March 1851), pp. 97-101.

“Medical Colleges.” Eclectic Medical Journal. Third Series. Vol. 2 (Whole Series, vol. 13) (Jan. 1854), pp. 15-16. Reprinted from Bickley’s West American Review.

H.E. Pilcher. “Western Lancet and Professor Lawson.” Eclectic Medical Journal. Vol. 3, no. 10 (October 1851), pp. 473-477. See p. 476.

Ibid. p. 478. Newton. “Old Schools.” Eclectic Medical Journal. May 1851. pp. 230-2.

Ibid. Newton. “Medical College in Cincinatti.” Eclectic Medical Journal. Third Series, vol. 2 (Nov. 1854), p. 503. Ibid, p. 418.

Buchanan. “Sign of the times.” Eclectic Medical Journal. Third Series, vol. 2 (Sep. 1854), p. 418. Ibid. Interestingly, this podophyllin is also the first cancer drug extracted from a plant. Would the same allopath’s claim to fame been taken seriously by modern pharmaceutical companies had the same such actions been taken in the modern day search for cancer drugs, in which the so-called founder destroyed such medicine along the way? 97-101.

“Medical Colleges.” Eclectic Medical Journal. Third Series. Vol. 2 (Whole Series)

One Response to “Political Tactics: Allopaths vs. Homeopaths and Eclectics at a Teaching Hospital and Medical School during the 1850s”

  1. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your blog. It’s
    a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me
    to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme?
    Outstanding work!

Leave a Reply to playstation network Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.