Publications

When Thomson began publishing the professional journal for his profession, his medical practice was on its way to becoming highly popular.  The first year of publication of any Thomsonian Journal was 1832.   This was due to one of his strongest supporters Alva Curtis.  In 1833, Curtis moved his business from Columbus, Ohio to Cincinnati located just down the Ohio River, approximately 100 miles to the southwest.  The next Thomsonian journal to begin publication was printed in Albany, New York.  A couple of hours to the south of this location by steamboat was Poughkeepsie, located about halfway between Albany and New York City.  Another journal published about the same time as the Albany journal came out of Philadelphia.  Over the next 10 to 15 years, Philadelphia would become the hub of Thomsonian publishers, opening as many as 5 publishers by the 1850s.

A review of the routes between these urban settings provides us with some additional insights into the popularization and spread of Thomsonianism once the printing press became the way to distribute this information.  Aside from the general diffusion of Thomsonian that had taken place in the New York-Connecticut-Vermont-New Hampshire region for a little more than ten years, the primary commercial routes for the news related to the journals tended to take the major transportation routes from Surrey (Thomson’s home setting) to Albany, and from there south toward Philadelphia.  Along the way, Poughkeepsie became the main stopping point for this route, more than likely instead of New York City.  This was probably due to the unwelcome nature the medical profession had regarding Thomsonianism about this time.  During the 1830s, the major medical school in New York was active in the City, along with its related professional journal.  As a result, Thomsonians bypassed the New York City route for the most part in their attempts to spread the Thomsonian influence, and make their way to Philadelphia where for some reason a much stronger following could be established.

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An alternative commercial route for Thomsonianism to take during this time was south from Surrey until towns and cities situated along the Northern shore of the Long Island Sound was reached.  This route would be later followed we know due to the successful opening of Thomsonian printing presses in Hartford, Connecticut, on down to New Haven and a little eastward to Norwich, before businesses were subsequently opened in the remaining lower New England States of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  If we reviews the start-up years for these printing presses, we can pretty much develop a series of isochrons depicting the rate and direction of the diffusion of Thomsonianism over these years.  Quite logically, Thomsonianism followed sever major commercial routes, but apparently made its way along the Hudson from Albany to Poughkeepsie, and from Poughkeepsie, made its way Eastward into Connecticut in order to make its way northeastward, towards Boston, starting up new presses in several lower Massachusetts and one northern Rhode Island town before the larger cities of Boston and Providence finally had their own Thomsonian journal publishers.   Heading eastward (and excluding Maine for the moment), the last town in Massachusetts to finally start-up a Thomsonian Press was Boston in 1843 followed by Fall River in 1846, and as just mentioned for Rhode Island, Providence in 1843.  To the west of Albany, Rochester was the last city to start-up a press, which took two years to be initiated in 1846. 

 

Also note how none of the towns and cities in the immediately vicinity of Philadelphia, heading south along the Coast line, ever started to print a Thomsonian over the next 15 years of its most active period.  It was almost as if the Baltimore-Washington, DC and Maryland areas were barriers to the continued spread of this public knowledge.  As history have since shown, to bypass this political barrier, Thomsonian supporters initiated their home setting for each new region by travelling past these mid-Atlantic cities and starting up in Charleston, South Carolina.   This enabled the diffusion of Thomsonian into it most popular area–the Bible Belt.  By making its was into the Bible Belt, Thomsonianism revitalized its followers and established a new following at various midwestern communities along the Mississippi River and several of its major tributaries.

 

Some exceptional and highly unusual evidence for the popularity of Thomsonianism in the midwest, along the Mississippi River and the Bible Belt, was published in the medical journals for its Independent Thomsonian group–the Physiomedical physicians.  Physiomedicine, later called Physo-medicine, is a later name provided to Alva Curtis’s medical sect in Ohio–the Botanico-medical physicians.  In the 1850s, schools distributed along the Bible Belt, as well as many hospitals in this region, had quite a dilemma they were facing socially and morally.   Medicine was heading towards becoming an non-sanative practice.  This nature of regular medicine was made very evidence with its migration to more aggressive palliative remedies in the form of alkaloids, concentrated plant extracts, and the isolation and purification of some plant medicines in the form of laudanum and quinine.  By 1851, there were three major forms of medicine and several related forms of practice, but along the Bible Belt, the major forms of medicine were regular medicine or allopathy, eclectic, and homeopathy.  Thomsonianism in its purest sense was no longer on its own.  Many of the medical schools had either incorporated it into their curriculum, which was mostly eclectic nature, or they did not cover Thomsonianism much at all, like homeopathy and regular medical schools.

The politics of alternative medicine at this time was also well demonstrated by how many of these schools positioned themselves on the map geographically and politically.  Some regions had twin towns or cities, with one location consisting of regular physicians, and the twin to this town consisting of alternatives.  In some locations we might even find a town or set of towns with all three groups well established, each defining its own specific territory and population of potential followers.  Memphis was one such town where only a regular medical school existed, at least for a short while.  According to one individual working at this school, most of its professors took a trip to another medical school to see how they were running their various courses and even labs, and managing their enrollment.  During this trip, the remaining instructor who remained behind distributed some information about the school and its plans to become Thomsonian, possibly in order to improve upon the next fall’s enrollment.  When the other professors returned, this was not at all what they expected and for the next couple of months a series of articles were published in the Thomsonian and non-Thomsonian magazines about this political turmoil.  During this time, the school switched from regular medicine to physiomedicine with a little touch of Thomsonianism, and due to the disputes amongst staff regarding exactly what type of medicine was being practiced and trained by the Memphis school.  [This story is told in much more detail elsewhere.]  Due to these differences, the school only lasted about 10 years total, with its doors closed much of the time.

Another related story of these political battles then engaged in involved two neighboring towns in Ohio, where again one school was regular, another eclectic, and the third homeopathic.  This community had one major hospital, run by nuns, which allocated one ward or hallway each to each of the three professions using their facility.  The presence of an entire homeopathic ward in this hospital represented a common practice the religiously run hospitals were involved with.  Of the three types of medicine being practiced, homeopathy was the most sanative form of therapy according to their faith.  On one occasion, the allopaths noticed that the eclectic ward and homeopathic wards had more physicians, and on occasion, they had no patients at all compared with the other two.  Through some political actions ,they were able to get the nuns to close down the alternative wards–the result of which was the removal of the patients in the other two wards into their own hospital beds, versus the option of walking or riding back home.

Although Thomsonianism like any other profession did not just follow the commercial routes delivering its good to new populations.  There was a combination of spatial behaviors that led to the diffusion of Thomsonian around the country.  The most obvious diffusion behavior this sect adhered to was the hierarchical diffusion method, in which it travelled from one large region to the next, found a place to establish its home base for the region, and then from there diffusing out in every direction possible.  Religion played a major role in where Thomsonianism would successful establish its next following.  In some places, religion played the most important role in defining Thomsonianism as the core practice of the community.  For this reason, some parts of the Bible Belt kept their medical training offers as part of the local church settings (in particular Illinois).  The most sensitive years of this short-lived period in medical history were from 1840 to 1855 or 1860, the final years of the first era of Thomsonian medicine practiced in this country.  

Note:  For schools go to https://brianaltonenmph.com/6-history-of-medicine-and-pharmacy/hudson-valley-medical-history/the-post-war-years/the-early-medical-profession-in-new-york/part-6-a-period-of-change/a-timeline-of-medical-schools/developing-spheres-of-influence/

Alphabetical State-Town Listing (1832-1859 only)

THOMSONIAN JOURNALS

BRIAN L. ALTONEN

11/1/95

Introductory Notes:

This is a partial listing of the journals.  Curtis notes most Thomsonian periodicals that be between the years of 1830 and 1860 [p. 868].  The first Thomsonian Journals were published out of the Boston, Philadelphia and  Cincinnatti regions.  This is a review only of the antebellum journals.

For complete journal list, see Alexander Wilder’s History of Medicine, appendix 838-847, [at NCNM] which lists all 94 journals.

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TRADE JOURNALS PUBLISHED IN:

Alabama

1845.  Botanic Register.  Marion.  Alabama

Connecticut

1843. Connecticut.  Independent Botanic Advocate. Succeeded by the Botanic Advocate and Thomsonian Family Physician.

Hartford

1841.  Thomsonian Scout.  Standish, and J.W. Johnson.  Hartford, Ct. 

1842.  Botanic Luminary.  Hartford, Ct. 

New Haven

1845.  Thomsonian Messenger.  Joseph D. Friend, Ed. New Haven, Ct.

Norwich

1842-1843 only.  Thomsonian Messenger.  O.B. Lyman.  Vols. 1-2. 1842-3.  Norwich, Ct.  Removed to New Haven?

Georgia

1848.  Georgia Botanic Journal. 1848. n.l.  Georgia.

Forsyth

1846.  Southern Botanico-Medical Journal.  William Henry Fonerden.  Forsyth, Georgia   

1846.  Southern Botanico-Medical Journal.  L. Bankston, Hugh Quin, T.J. Hand, and others, eds.  Forsyth, Georgia.  Same as first entry, only with different editors?  This journal later removed to College of Macon. 

Macon

      ???.

Illinois

Hillsborough

1846 – ?.  Western Medical Truth-Teller and Physiological Journal.  Hillsborough, Illinois.  1846-?

Maine

1859.  Maine Thomsonian Recorder.  Benjamin Colby. Merged with Thomsonian Medical Advertiser. [Boston?]

Massachusetts

Boston

—-.  Thomsonian Manual.  William Alcott, Ed. n.y. Boston, Mass.  This Thomsonian journal was personally advocated by Samuel Thomson.

1843.  True Thomsonianism.  Boston. 1843.  [A pro-Mattson group in the Dr. Morris Mattson vs. Thomson dispute.]

1844.  Thomsonian Advertiser.  James Osgood, ed. Boston, Mass.

1845.  Thomsonian Medical Independent. Boston, Mass.

1846.  Thomsonian Medical and Physiological Journal.  Benjamin Colby, Ed.  Merged with New England Medical Eclectic, September 1846.

Fall River and Middleboro

1846. Fall River and Middleboro Medical Inquirer. Fall River and Middleboro, Mass.  1846.

Worcester

1846.  New England Medical Eclectic and Guide to Health.  Worcester, Mass.  Calvin Newton, ed.  Title changed in 1847 to New England Botanic Medical and Surgical Journal; and after Vol. 6 to Worcester Journal of Medicine, F.H. Kelly, Ed.

New York

1853.  Medical Reformer and Temperance Advocate.  I.M. Comings. New York. 

Albany

1834.  The Thomsonian Botanic Watchman,   John Thomson (Ed.)vol. 1, no. 1, Albany, NY. (Jan. 1, 1834.)

1834-5.  Botanic Watchman.  John Thomson, ed. 1834-5.  Albany, NY.

Poughkeepsie

1837 – 1845, 1848.  Poughkeepsie Thomsonian.  Thomas Lapham, Ed. Poughkeepsie, NY, (1837-Nov. 1845, -1848).  Later editors: J.N. Lapham, and John Cunningham.   1837-1848.

According to Wilder, “in November, 1845, Dr. Abiel Gardner succeeded.  He transferred the establishment two years afterward to Dr. Aaron Bassett.  At this period the medical conflict had been generally victorious, and the zeal for organization and reform journals sensibly waned.  Dr. Bassett discontinued the Thomsonian in 1848, turning the subscribers over to New England Botanic Medical and Surgical Journal.” [p. 869.]

Rochester

1846.  Medical Truth-Teller. J. Gates, ed.  Rochester, NY. 

Ohio

Cincinnati

1843.  Botanico-Medical Recorder.  Alva Curtis. Cincinnati, Ohio. 

See: Vol. XI is 1843; vol. I is 1832 (holding onto numbering system since vol. 1, Thomsonian Recorder, and successors, beginning with Columbus, Ohio, 1832.

Columbus

Thomsonian Recorder.  Thomas Hersey, ed. 1832.

Removed to Cincinnati as the Botanico-Medical Recorder, edited by Alva Curtis and then William H. Cook.  See note for Thomsonian Recorder, vol 1 (1833?), vols 2-5, 1834-1837, and vol. 1-(6)-7. (1833-1838), all of Philadelphia, PA.  This was possibly two separate and independent publications of the same journal and pretty much the same text. 

Mount Vernon

Botanico-Medical Reformer.  John Kost. Mount Vernon, Ohio.

Worthington

1836-43.  The Western Medical Reformer, Worthington, Ohio.   Worthington, Ohio.  Vols. 1-7, 1836-43.  Thomas Vaughn Morrow, I.G. Jones, and associates at the Worthington Medical College.

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia

1836.  Botanic’s Friend and Herald of Truth.  1836.  Philadelphia, PA

1834-1837.  Thomsonian Recorder, vol 1 (1833?), vols 2-5, 1834-1837. Philadelphia, PA

1838.  Thomsonian Recorder, vol. (6)-7. (1838-1838) Philadelphia, PA. 

Continued in Columbus, Ohio, as Botanical Medical Recorder by Alva Curtis, soon after the Sect divided during their annual meeting in Baltimore.

1835 – 1839.  The Philadelphia Botanic Sentinel and Thomsonian Medical Revolutionist, Philadelphia.  Vol 1-2 (1835-6?/7?), Vol. 3 (1837/1838); Vol. 4 (1838/1839)  Philadelphia, PA.  Referred to also as Thomsonian Medical Revolutionist.  Philadelphia had a following in 1837.  Also published in this city are Aaron Comfort’s Thomsonian Medical Instructor (Philadelphia, 1855), The Thomsonian Manual and Vade Mecum, Philadelphia Branch of the U.S. Botanic Society (Philadelphia, 1835).

1841.  Thomsonian Sentinel.  Philadelphia, PA.

1843.  Botanical Medical Reformer. Philadelphia, PA

Rhode Island

Providence

1843.  Rhode Island Medical Reformer.  B. Franklin, ed.  Providence, RI

Woonsocket

1842 – ?.  Woonsocket Sentinel and Thomsonian Advocate.  Woonsocket, RI. 1842-?

South Carolina

Charleston

1836-?.  Southern Botanical Journal.  D.F. Naudain, (ed.).  Volume 1-?, Charleston, SC.  (1836-?)  Charleston, SC.

Tennessee

Maryville

1835.  Thomsonian Defender.  William Spillman, ed.  Maryville, Tn.

Memphis

1846.  Southwestern Medical Reformer.  William Byrd Powell.  Memphis, Tn.

Vermont

1842.  Botanic Advocate. Vermont. 

Unknown State/Date of Publication

1843.  Botanical Sentinel. 1845. 

—-.  Southern Medical Reformer.  Henry M. Price.

Chronological List (1832-1859 only)

1832

1832 – .  OH.  Thomsonian Recorder.  Thomas Hersey, ed. 1832.  Columbus, OH.  Removed to Cincinnati as the Botanico-Medical Recorder, edited by Alva Curtis and then William H. Cook.  See note for Thomsonian Recorder, vol 1 (1833?), vols 2-5, 1834-1837, and vol. 1-(6)-7. (1833-1838), all of Philadelphia, PA.  This was possibly two separate and independent publications of the same journal and pretty much the same text. 

1833

According to one listing of distributors of the Thomsonian recorder, the following states were represented: 

    • 41 agents were in Ohio.
    • 29 in Tennessee
    • 21 in Alabama
    • 14 in New England
    • 11 in Indiana
    • 8  in New York

1834

1834.  NY. The Thomsonian Botanic Watchman,   John Thomson (Ed.)vol. 1, no. 1, Albany, NY. (Jan. 1, 1834.)

1834-1837.  PA.  Thomsonian Recorder, vol 1 (1833?), vols 2-5, 1834-1837. Philadelphia, PA

1834-5.  NY. Botanic Watchman.  John Thomson, ed. 1834-5.  Albany, NY.

1835

1835. TN. Thomsonian Defender.  William Spillman, ed.  Maryville, TN.

1835 – 1839.  PA.  The Philadelphia Botanic Sentinel and Thomsonian Medical Revolutionist, Philadelphia.  Vol 1-2 (1835-6?/7?), Vol. 3 (1837/1838); Vol. 4 (1838/1839)  Philadelphia, PA.  Referred to also as Thomsonian Medical Revolutionist.  Philadelphia had a following in 1837.  Also published in this city are Aaron Comfort’s Thomsonian Medical Instructor (Philadelphia, 1855), The Thomsonian Manual and Vade Mecum, Philadelphia Branch of the U.S. Botanic Society (Philadelphia, 1835).

1836

1836.  PA.  Botanic’s Friend and Herald of Truth.  1836.  Philadelphia, PA

1836-?.  SC.  Southern Botanical Journal.  D.F. Naudain, (ed.).  Volume 1-?, Charleston, SC.  (1836-?)  Charleston, SC.

1836-43. OH. The Western Medical Reformer, Worthington, Ohio.   Worthington, Ohio.  Vols. 1-7, 1836-43.  Thomas Vaughn Morrow, I.G. Jones, and associates at the Worthington Medical College.

1837

1837 – 1845, 1848.  NY.  Poughkeepsie Thomsonian.  Thomas Lapham, Ed. Poughkeepsie, NY, (1837-Nov. 1845, -1848).  Later editors: J.N. Lapham, and John Cunningham.   1837-1848. According to Wilder, “in November, 1845, Dr. Abiel Gardner succeeded.  He transferred the establishment two years afterward to Dr. Aaron Bassett.  At this period the medical conflict had been generally victorious, and the zeal for organization and reform journals sensibly waned.  Dr. Bassett discontinued the Thomsonian in 1848, turning the subscribers over to New England Botanic Medical and Surgical Journal.” [p. 869.]

1838

1838. PA.  Thomsonian Recorder, vol. (6)-7. (1838-1838) Philadelphia, PA.   Continued in Columbus, Ohio, as Botanical Medical Recorder by Alva Curtis, soon after the Sect divided during their annual meeting in Baltimore.

1839

1840

1841

1841. PA.   Thomsonian Sentinel.  Philadelphia, PA.

1841. CT.   Thomsonian Scout.  Standish, and J.W. Johnson.  Hartford, CT. 

1842

1842. CT.   Botanic Luminary.  Hartford, CT.

1842.  VT.  Botanic Advocate. Vermont. 

1842 – ?.  RI. Woonsocket Sentinel and Thomsonian Advocate.  Woonsocket, RI. 1842-?

1842-1843 only. CT.  Thomsonian Messenger.  O.B. Lyman.  Vols. 1-2. 1842-3.  Norwich, Ct.  Removed to New Haven?

 

1843

1843. PA.  Botanical Medical Reformer. Philadelphia, PA

1843. CT.   Independent Botanic Advocate. Succeeded by the Botanic Advocate and Thomsonian Family Physician.  No Town/City.

1843. MA.  True Thomsonianism.  Boston. 1843.  [A pro-Mattson group in the Dr. Morris Mattson vs. Thomson dispute.]

1843. RI.  Rhode Island Medical Reformer.  B. Franklin, ed.  Providence, RI

1844

1844. MA.  Thomsonian Advertiser.  James Osgood, ed. Boston, Mass.

1845

1845. CT.  Thomsonian Messenger.  Joseph D. Friend, Ed. New Haven, CT.

1845. MA.  Thomsonian Medical Independent. Boston, Mass.

1845. AL.  Botanic Register.  Marion.  Alabama

1846

1846. MA.  Thomsonian Medical and Physiological Journal.  Benjamin Colby, Ed.  Merged with New England Medical Eclectic, September 1846.

1846. MA.  Fall River and Middleboro’ Medical Inquirer. Fall River and Middleboro, Mass.  1846.

1846.  MA.  New England Medical Eclectic and Guide to Health.  Worcester, Mass.  Calvin Newton, ed.  Title changed in 1847 to New England Botanic Medical and Surgical Journal; and after Vol. 6 to Worcester Journal of Medicine, F.H. Kelly, Ed.

1846.  NY. Medical Truth-Teller. J. Gates, ed.  Rochester, NY. 

1846. TN.   Southwestern Medical Reformer.  William Byrd Powell.  Memphis, TN.

1846.  GA. Southern Botanico-Medical Journal.  William Henry Fonerden.  Forsyth, Georgia   

1846.  GA.  Southern Botanico-Medical Journal.  L. Bankston, Hugh Quin, T.J. Hand, and others, eds.  Forsyth, Georgia.  Same as first entry, only with different editors?  This journal later removed to College of Macon

1846 – ?. IL.   Western Medical Truth-Teller and Physiological Journal.  Hillsborough, Illinois.  1846-?

1847

1848

1848.  GA.  Georgia Botanic Journal. 1848. n.l.  Georgia.

1849

1850

1851

1852

1853

1853. NY.  Medical Reformer and Temperence Advocate.  I.M. Comings. New York. 

1854

1855

1856

1857

1858

1859

1859. ME.  Maine Thomsonian Recorder.  Benjamin Colby. Merged with Thomsonian Medical Advertiser. [Boston?]