War and Medicine

Two types of wars began around 1812.  Both had a significant influence on medicine.  The War of 1812 required more skilled physicians to take to the battlefields, with hopes of improving upon the types of losses incurred at battle during the Revolutionary War.    There was also a political battle brewing between physicians and non-physicians with regard to the best way to practice medicine.  Individuals engaged in these political arguments who were in support of the patient felt that it was up to the patient to decide whatever form of medical care he/she was to receive.   Ths early version of the Jacksonian method of medical care–be your own doctor–seemed to ring true for many to patients.  The transition from plant remedies to much stronger mineral remedies was having significant effects upon a natural theologians intrepretation of medicine, who would ask–were doctors really employing te best foms of natural remedies out there? 

Whatever treatment modalities happened to come your way due to sickness and disease, one point was certain, no matter which route, or root, you took for your treatments, you stood the risk of becoming either seriously poisoned, serious burned, or seriously mismanaged.   Medicine had no answers to what was the true cause for disease.  By now there were impressions that diseases were due to personal attributes such as hereditary, temperance, adaptability, the ability to acclimate, the ability to do whatever it took the stay alive and to get better.  The most popular extracorporeal reasons for disease focused on climates and small organisms or animalcules.  The climatologists thought that a major component of disease pathology related to our ability to adapt to and live with climate and local topogaphy.  This was the external aproach to the same theory already stated by be Darwinians andnon-Darwinian evolutionists–the Lamarckians, who believed adaptation was more a physical process requiring a certain amount of naturally bred and borne skills not related to personal identity.  The believers in animalcules as the cause for illness certainlyhad significant evidence to their claims.  For the first time, various small organisms were being linked to the diseases of domestic animals.  Like the worm that occupied the human intestinal tract and was responsible for so many diseases in the 1790, so too were these organisms causing sheep, cattle, horses and other farm animals to stop moving about, only to lay to waste and die.  In the Hudson Valley, there was plenty of this evidence to go around, including by such political leaders and Bartow White, who favored the climate theory for disease, and the Livingstons, whose interest in livestock, farming, and in particular the wool industry, followed a philosophy that both of these could be responible for disease and illness.  ‘Why take sides?’ they might have asked.

Regarding the changes about to take place with regard to medical philosophy, just prior to the War of 1812, a book was published on the events that occurred with the Turkish War in Europe.  These battlefield and encampment events were witnessed by Dr. Joseph Townsend, a physician also schooled in religion and whose work and travels were supported by the Vatican.  Townsend’s observations of the medical setting at these places included his witnessing several therapeutic measures often repeated for ailing soldiers.  These treatment methods consisted of none other than puke, purge and bleed, the same type of healing noticed earlier in County history, being practiced by Stephen Thorne.

Most important to Townsend’s writings on these observations was not the methods or skills engaged in during and after the battles and skirmishes, but rather the simplicity and symbolism of how the soldiers were being treated.  Religiously trained, Townsend could probably sense the trinity-based symbolism of these doctors’s practices, and  wrote just enough about the methods of practice, without stating anything about the trinity symbolism in these methods, to result in many of his readers later feeling this easy treatment method with easy to understands steps that had to be engaged in, possibily meant that domestic of self-produced medical care was the way to go, instead of relying upon the increasingly toxic effects of regular physicians and their highly concentrated mineral remedies.  

In 1798, Townsend’s book was published in Boston, followed by another just a couple of years later, and then another book on medicine that he wrote detailing a number of recipes for producing you own medicines.  Townsend’s writing met the needs of the people, especially those in low income rural settings throughout the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.  This set the stage for the next most important events in non-traditional medical history to take place.   The reputation of local physicians was suffering greatly from people attitudes about how they were managing the advancement of their profession.  Doctors seemed to be very much atheistic in nature.  They were often caught removing the dead bodies of neighbors’s relatives for use in cadaver training sessions provided for the medical students.  In New York city, this caused the public to be outraged when its local medical school chaired by the famous Revolutionary War surgeon Samuel Bard was accused of allowing the medical school’s professors and students to unearth someone’s deceased mother for use in one of their sessions.

As if this growing dissatisfaction weren’t enough, there was the ongoing signs of failure of medicine when it came to properly manageing and preventing the repeated yellow fever epidemics  to hit the region.  This failure had already been interpreted as some sort of warning from above regarding how differently religion was now being practiced in the United States.  In 1802 for example, the incoming yellow fever epidemic was predicted and witnessed so brilliantly by local faithful church members that many flocked to the churches for sanctuary from this ominous disease.  There were even account given of people crouched down in the chruch against its wall, watching and the steam of mist crept in and made its way between the pews, terminiating the lives of those unfaithful to the church during the year prior to his event.

In 1807, the yellow fever epidemic caused a new form ofalternative healing to be popularized–metallic calipers.  According to the more respected writers and speakers of allopathy (regular medicine), the first form of quackery born in the United States.  These metal calipers had their short stay in the regions as a popular new medical treatment, escially for yellow fever.  But the trip to New York to futher this cause and its claims only resulted in the death of the inventor of this miracle cure–Elijah Perkins.  It would up to his sons and other relative to keep this family tradition of healing alive, which they could only do for a few more years.  Elijah Perkins’s Metallic Tractors were simply another example of a short-lived popular health related fad.

Elijah Perkin’s metallic tractors set the stage for Samuel Thomson in Vermont, to produce his own version of a domestic recipe guide for the poor, that had much the same to offer as Joseph Townsend’s writings did, only with a little more of the local feel and the perfect blending of various medical philosophies needed to develop his readership.  From 1812, the year Thomson first published his methods in a pamphlet, to 1820, when this method of self-directed medical practice finally took a strong hold, his writings and Thomson’s activities trying to promote this new ideology had just the regular medical professionals and ongoing yellow fever epidemics to contend with, much to the dismay of local doctors.

The impact of this period of regular and “irregular” medicine (as some came to call it) on Hudson Valley history we can see in the physicians who practiced in this region, as told by advertisements in the local newspapers.    In Poughkeepsie, a Thomsonian representative started up his business in the city.  There were also Thomsonian representatives opening shops and offices in other large cities between Poughkeepsie and New England, within large towns like Troy and Hudson.   All of this was happening just when the towns and cities north along the Hudson began to develop new populations of individuals escaping the yellow fever epidemics within the large shoreline cities.

Putting these events in some sort of succinct chronological order, we have the following.

    • 1797 — Joseph Townsend’s first book. 
    • 1797–Metallic Calipers become popular
    • 1797–State Medical Licensure initiated
    • 1802–Townsend’s other book
    • 1806–Shadrach Ricketson’s (Quaker) book on Health published.  Dutchess County Medical Society formed.
    • 1812–Samuel Thomson’s first pamphlet/book
    • 1817–Ohio school opened by a Dr. from New York
    • 1820–Samuel Thomson’s Friends of Thomsonianism Society


The French Revolution (1789-1799)

The French Revolution was an event that took several years to develop.  During these unstable prewar years, many of the most successful and richest political leaders, scientists, philosophers, writers, artists, and doctors were slowly preparing to leave France should a war become pending.   Ironically, the most important impact France had on medicine at this time was the development of a new philosophy towards the mentally ill, especially those who were treated as prisoners.   The most important contribution that French has had to medicine is often cited as the works their physicians did on helping to define the most humane forms of treatment when it came to treating the insane and mentally ill, as well as the methods used to house and punish prisoners.   The second most important contibution was the invention of Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotine in 1791.

When the French began migrating to the United States before the French Revolution began about 1789, they brought with them a number of very lucrative businesses.  Naturally, these highly profitable enterprises first set up in NewYork City, but once the fears of Yellow Fever commenced, they along with others fled to the rural parts of the country.  The closest place for these French businessmen and women to settle was Poughkeepsie, and so they did.  We find evidence for this once again in the Poughkeepsie Journal advertisements, with French language and music teachers, musicians, artists, chefs, and practitioners offering their skills to anyone willing to visit their office or home space.  Along with French culture came French newspapers, books, music and philosophy.  An important part of this new philosophy to the local in Poughkeepsie was its attractiveness to some people.  In particular, the fairly metaphysically-centered belief in electric cure and medical electricity came to be famous due to these new city residents.   

The best evidence we see for this growing popularity in medical electricity appears in various articles about offices offering three forms of healing or medical treatment.  Once again, the symbolism of trinity helped to form some of the basis for their economic success during a period otherwie scarred with blight due to reccuring yellow fever epidemics.  Other city folks who came to Poughkeepsie during this time included a family of French Jewish Stained Glass Lampshade makers, a predecessor to the more famous Tiffany Lamps.

The War of 1812 (1812-1815)

The War of the third war to have a significant impact on American medicine.  Whereas the Turkish War impacted American medicine only indirectly due to the influences of Joseph Townsend’s domestic medical books on local families in New England and ultimately Samuel Thomson,  the French Revolution brought new thinking to the very young United States.  This rapid influx of French scholars, entrepreneurs, businessmen and economic leaders had a significant impact on the local economies, in particualr that of the Mid-Hudson Valley region.  The third war to impact American directly is the War of 1812.  A war which really didn’t begin at or end soon after that year, but one which took a different set of skills for military medicine to make use of, since the bulk of this war was fought on ships, with some impacts of advances in weapons technology on American citizens.

The natural evolution of medicine and society due to the advent of war is an interesting piece of American history.  With each major war Americans had with foreigners, neighbors, and even themselves, a certain amount of progress in medicine was made.  

The French-Indian War did little more than teach the military that it was indeed very important to engage in some sort of medical care on the battle field.  These small skirmishes and battles were often too small to allow for much lanning ahead of time in case of the need for medical services.  For this reason, the amount of medical staff assigned and available was minimal, if at all reasonable to fulfill a need.

The Revolutionary War learned from several of the previous Dutch Wars just how important it was to have a medical plan officially designed and implemented with battle, as well as between any of these types of interactions and excursions.  Whereas the history of the Dutch War of the late 1600s would have taught George Washington, Lafayette, and others about the needs for developing valuable medical provisions and stores, the Dutch wars and their writings when viewed in retrospect also taught the leaders of the military that too much medicine and too many medical supplies can become too time consuming, costly and wasteful.  Unlike the Dutch militia, whose stores consisted of large amounts of perishable raw goods in the form of plant materials, the  planners for the American Revolutionary setting changed many of these biological degradables into mineral remedies due to their stronger impact upon the body in need, the need for leser amounts of these goods, and their significantly greater shelflife.

Now it was up to the War of 1812 to provide some lessons to the military about medicine and war.  The War of 1812  consisted of a lot of ocean or sea battles.  The War of 1812 alsomade more aggressive use of field surgons, a lesson that was learned from the Revolutionary War, and perfected during the early post-Revolution years as Surgeons and Surgery Mates or Assistants regularly were held responsible for small militia groups.   The increase in battles at sea changed the nature of ship surgeons and their mates, making the mate more responsible than in previous years, better trained,and more experienced in the end.  In addition, the health of soldiers captures and imprisoned was becoming an important issue as well.  A number of soldiers emprisoned on British ships during the Revolution, had published diaries of their experience.  The poor conditions within prison, and the luck that came by happenstance because one of the prisoners was in fact a doctor, drew the attention of some to the unhealthy conditions of prison and jail, in or out of the war.   In spite of the best of circumstances when jailed on a ship at sea, imprisonment was never a healthy experience for most soldiers captured by the enmy.  In many cases, the onset of contagious diseases due to poor inoculation programs and the onset of diseases due to poor sanitation, crowding, and poor diets, made prisons one of he worst and last places a captured soldier would ever wish to see and experience again.  To many, such a wish often came true.  

Whereas the War of 1812 gave medicine another chance to make major advancements, once again at the military level.  On the mainland of Europe, the Napoleanic War (1803 – 1815) had taken its toll on many of the people  as well.  The publication of some of these events, along with the publication of physician’s discoveries by those who escaped this war, offered improvements to medicine unmatchable by American physicians.  The most important teachings we received from the French pertained to human psychology and the rights of the mentally ill.    This led  to improvements in the same sponsored and created by another American medical and religious group during this time–the Quaker physicians.  Both the Quakers and the unrelated Shakers would later benefit from the needs for this type of medical and pharmacal philosophy and marketing.


STANHOPE BAYNE-JONES, M.D.  The Evolution of Preventive Medicine in the United States Army, 1607-1939.  Accessed on 11-12-10 at  http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/misc/evprev/default.html


Throughout this critical and often very interesting period in local medical history both the wars between the medical sects that were now developing and the wars taking place between nations had minimal impact on the advancement of medicine as a whole in the Hudson Valley.  But the increase in members of the society was very much prevented by the war.    The following Dutchess County physicians were practicing and either licensed or certified during this time, leading to their initiation into membership with the local medical society.   The most important doctor to note, Quaker physician Shadrach Ricketson, is reviewed in detail elsewhere on this site.


PAIN, Ichabod B. 1790.  d. 1819.  Lic. State Soc., 1812.  Soc. 1817.  Born Amenia, 1790; licensed by the State Society, 1812. The Doctors Paine and Payne are all descendants of the Rev. Solomon Pain, of Canterbury, Conn. He died August 1st, 1819. Society, 1817.

SOWLE, JONATHAN.  Licensed by State Society, 1812; Society, 1813.


CROSBY, CYRENUS. 1762-1832.  cp. Amenia Union, 1806. soc. 1813. Born April 22nd, 1762; practiced Amenia Union about 1806; Society, 1813; died Amenia, December 22d, 1832.

FRISBY, JOSEPH. 1787-1814.  soc. Rhinebeck?, 1813, Born 1787; Society, 1813; died Rhinebeck, August 11th, 1814.

RAYMOND, JOSIAH.  Society, 1813.


ALLEN, STEPHEN. nb nd  Soc. 1814.

TRIVETT, ELIAS C. 1790.  d. 1866.  Lic. Society, 1814.  Soc. 1828.  Soc. State, 1836.  Drug Store Business.  Born England, March 24th, 1790; licensed Society, 1814; State Society, 1836; Society, 1828. Had drug store 288 Main street. Died April 12th, 1866.


RICKETSON, SHADRACK. 1768.  d. 1839.  cp. nd., rmvd New York 1808.  soc. New York, 1809? Soc. 1815.  Born 1768; New York City, 1806, where he wrote a book entitled “Means of Preserving Health and Preventing Disease,” published in New York City, September 1st, 1806; Society, 1815. A member of the Society of Friends. He never married. Died Beekman, March 3d, 1839.

BARNES, ENOS.  Clinton and Society. 1815.


Poughkeepsie Journal Evidence

The following are clippings taken from the Poughkeepsie Journal

The dates provided are based upon my note-taking regarding dates.  In general, postings and advertisements are published on numerous days.  Many have the date the typographic unit was compiled included in the lower corner of the item being published.  Often an item may be dated for when it was first requested, meaning the date precedes the initial publication by a bout a week.  Some items are dated for publication a year or more prior to the year they are found in the paper and photographed.  This is often because I try to find and use the most legible form of this advertisement or writing piece, rather than only document the first for this site.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to precisely keep track of the page and column in which a particular item can be found.  So for those into tracing my steps, rely upon the advertised date, the date I give for the weekly issue in which the advertisement was found, then go to the actual paper on microfilm and hunt the item down.  In general, page 1 is purely advertising, page 4 is purely land deed or property related information (usually deed/plot descriptions), with a few lingering ads found on the right edge or lower right corner, and pages 2 and 3 are where the bulk of this information is obtained, with page two usually devoted to world news features, but occasionally with nationally important articles on medicine and health, leaving page 3 as the primary source for most of my information.  

These items pulled from the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper are presented using the following section headings. 

  • Doctors (Cards, ads, moving announcements, apprentice requests)
  • Medical Committee meetings and politics
  • Local medical authors’s writings, commentaries, etc.
  • Medicines (excluding most patent medicines once the ads began to be published; these are reviewed elsewhere)
  • Kine Pox and Inoculation
  • Yellow Fever, Spotted Fever, other epidemic fevers
  • Diseases and Disease Theory
  • Other

Research notes

  • Some clippings appear above if pertinent to the discussion
  • The date of the newspaper from which an image came appears below the image, with other dates for the same image in parentheses
  • Sometimes a few personal notations are added just beneath the image.
  • Topics reviewed extensively elsewhere are not included on this page, or have a single clip with notes for cross-referencing and locating this part of the local history.

Period Covered:

Important parts of this period in history:






Medicines (Advertisements)


Disease and Disease Theory