New York Thomsonians, 1834

The above map demonstrates the location of a few of the leader in Thomsonianism around 1832.  Samuel Thomson had subscribers to his remedies that could be located all around the region (to be mapped later).  Even though Thomsonianism had leaders in New York City, like Dr. Pardon Lapham, a relative (cousin?) of Thomas Lapham of Poughkeepsie, the task of developing a strong New York following for this profession was uneventful due to social, political and sociomedical political influences.  Pardon Lapham continued to produce and publish for this profession, but it’s cultural core was in the upper Westchester to Niagara Falls, westward to the Lake Erie settings.

The following two lists are found in the 1834 publication of Thomsonian Recorder, this version published in Ohio (Poughkeepsie had its own version):

Dr. A. I. Coffin later became very famous, and published a book on herbal medicine.  He later removed to England to try to promote this profession.  Dr. Lapham of Poughkeepsie had developed a partnership an important publishing company in Poughkeepsie by this time–Platt and Co..  This ability of Thomsonians to develop a very strong professional and sociological following about this time made Thomsonianism the primary source of income for the most important producers of herbal medicines at this time in the valley–the Shakers up in New Lebanon.    As much as 50% of their herbal products were specifically grown for the Thomsonians, at the cost of allopaths and the allopathic drug companies.  This continued well into the 1840s, and made the shakers quite famous for their highly successful herbal medicine industry.

From the Introductory section of Thomsonian Recorder, 1834

One possible reason the Shakers favored Thomsonianism so much relates to its sanative based healing philosophy.  Sanative healing was in contrast with the practices of regular physicians, who many felt was based on interventions in disease development and disease related natural biological and life-related processes.      


This lack of an acceptible natural philosophy to base their protocols upon made the allopaths very unpopular during the 1830s and 1840s, an anti-allopathy belief system that initated some time during the very early 18oos due to the belief that disease was a natural consequence of life, and to some, a reminder of God’s punishments of the past such as the plague and locust epidemics.  One of the worst of these epidemics, Cholera, was known as the Blue Plague due to the blueish appearance that came on the face a few hours before death.


New York was the heart of these epidemics produced by nature, by God, in Philadelphia and New York City.  The Hudson River, upstream from the ill-fated docks in New York City, was for a time spared this God-given fate.  Such beliefs helped to further strengthen the anti-allopathy, anti-mineral movements that most of the Thomsonian movement was based upon. 


The following listing of Thomsonian medicines appeared in the Poughkeepsie publication of Thomsonian Recorder in 1834.  This materia medica represents the uses for this period in Thomsonian history, which took place about 3o to 35 years into the history of the invention of this medical profession.

By now, the profession is well established, and has followers in most regions of the United States.  Whereas Thomsonianism began as a New York-New England medical profession, based mostly on plants native to this region, we can see that as the materia medica increased in size, and a few plants from other regions were used by this profession.

Notive the mention of  “his three grand principles”–this provides support for my natural theology based argument for why Thomsonianism was so popular amongst religious and non-religious natural philosophy groups.




Source of the above images:


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