Introduction

This is a unique view of the health of the valley that correlates well with much that was written at this time in Hudson Valley medical history.   It is one of the best articles I have uncovered detailing the philosophy of health in the Hudson River Valley during its early post-Revolutionary War settlement years.

Samuel Mitchell was the “Father” of this particular specialty in medicine.  This view of health in the valley would be perpetuated for decades to come by other local leaders of the region.  It was used to market the inhabitability of precious lands and natural resources made available for sale, by such families as the Livingstons.  Aside from Congressman Mitchell, local congressman Bartow White would promote the mid-Hudson Valley for its health-giving features and its importance to the chronically ill valetudinarians in search of a healthier place to reside.  Other local leaders of the medical profession felt that this part of the state was quite unique from the heavily crowded urban parts of New York up near Albany and down south in Manhattan.  Even the Albany physicians at times in terms of medical politics agreed with the Hudson Valley physicians when both of them claimed each of these regions and their professional societies of physicians should be allowed to run indepedent of the New York State Medical Society trying to monopolize any and all political and philosophical control of this rapidly growing profession.

Regionalism was at its best in culture and medicine during this period of early American medical history.  One could research the New York, Boston or Philadelphia medical setting and learn little about how medicine was practiced and what local physicians believed in or felt about the causes for illness, the basis for life, the best way to remain healthy.   Such a popularity in local thinking was extremely high in the Hudson Valley setting and wasn’t appreciated or respected  by others in this young United States profession.  Extending this philosophically-based regionalization was the fact that the New York view of disease and health promoted by Mitchell had significant conflicts with the other claims being made by Philadelphian physicians like Benjamin Rush, as well as Boston, Virginian, and Georgian Physicians.  Even though Mitchell, as Chief Editor of the Medical Repository was occasionally grateful enough to Dr. Rush to publish his articles in the Repository, this was a very rare event.  Rush is published less by this New York journal than other physicians from other regions of this new country.  When compared with its chief competitor being published out of Philadelphia, Rush was to the Philadelphia medical journal what Samuel Mitchell was and remained to the New York journal.  Both became and remained local heroes, each with their own unique philosophies and traditions, and each as certain as the other that the other competing comrade’s claims and beliefs were wrong when it came to understanding natural disease and its epidemiological history.   Fortunately for New York readers of the Repository, Mitchell”s writings and name are found in every number of this journal published during his years of reign in the New York medical profession, far outnumbering the influences of Philadelphia’s Benjamin Rush.

Reverend Warden’s take on the health and topography of the Kinderhook area is a direct result of Mitchell’s way of interpreting  medical geography and health.  There are a number of theories promoted by Mitchell as to how the various diseases could have numerous environmental causes, some related to toxins, others to gases (miasma), others to particles emitted, others to unique fumes and animalcules, others to wind and sunlight, others to natural magnetic and gravitational forces, others to unique electrical forces produced by nature.  Each of these components of the local natural history played important roles in the development of different disease conditions.  To the most avid followers of Mitchell, each and every one of these vastly different theories could all be related to the onset of disease–the grand unified theory or unity theory of disease physicians were then in search of.  Reverend Warden’s writing touches upon most of these philosophies of disease as defined primarily by Samuel Mitchell of New York and the Hudson Valley, not the Philadelphians like Rush, who had little to no experience surviving Hudson River Valley climate and topography.  This article exemplifies Hudson Valley “Regionalism” and the relationship of region to health.

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