Highlights from the Exhibit

The Book in the Sickroom

A selection of images and the labels which described them from the exhibit displayed at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Many of these images correspond to parts of the catalogue essays and those sections are accessible through the link below the image.


Domestic Medicine and Folk Medicine

[John Tennent.] Every Man his own Doctor: or, the Poor Planter's Physician. Third edition. Williamsburg: William Parks, 1736.

The first American domestic medicine manual. Tennent was a Virginia doctor controversial for advocating Native American herbal remedies. The earliest surviving copy is of the second edition, Williamsburg, 1734. Franklin published another edition and sold it for a shilling, with a discount for those who gave it away in charity. It was reprinted at least 7 more times, including a German edition.

in the essay

Women's Medicine and Child Care
Mary S. Gove. Lectures to Ladies on Anatomy and Physiology. Boston: Saxton & Peirce, 1842.

Before she was a hydropath and wife of Thomas Low Nichols, Mary Gove was a disciple of Sylvester Graham and a lecturer to women on health and physiology. The frontispiece symbolizes the health reformer's linked concern with the physical body and with spiritual improvement.

in the essay

Botanic Medicine
Samuel Henry. A New and Complete American Medical Family Herbal. New York: Samuel Henry, 1814.

Illustrations that permitted accurate identification of plants greatly increased the utility of herbals; but they also increased the cost. Color made the pictures still more useful, and still more expensive, since water color had to be added by hand to each copy individually. This is one of the first herbals featuring American plants, and the first to offer subscribers the option of having the illustrations colored by hand.

in the essay

John Williams. New and Valuable Recipes for the Cure of many Diseases. For the Use of Families. New York: 1828.

Herbal medicine was disseminated in rural areas and among the poor in cheaply printed pamphlets providing lists of remedies. This one was reprinted dozens of times. These little books were often used to preserve handwritten family recipes.

in the essay

Sex and Birth Control
Onania; or, the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution, and all its Frightful Consequences, in both Sexes, Considered. Boston: for John Phillips, 1724.

The first American sexual hygiene publication. Puritans frowned on masturbation because it subverted marriage, leading to an excessive number of bachelors and spinsters and not enough children to sustain the community. Sex itself was not bad. Even adultery was preferable to habitual masturbation.

in the essay

Aristotle, pseud. Aristotle's Master Piece Completed. New York: printed for the United Company of Flying Stationers, 1788.

The first, and for long the only American sex manual, hardly changed since the 17th century, reprinted scores of times before 1840, and usually sold under the counter. It was partly folklore (the cut shows birth defects caused by the thoughts of the parents at conception) but it portrayed sex as natural, necessary to health, and fun.

in the essay
Ralph Glover. Every Mother's Book: or the Duty of Husband and Wife Physiologically Discussed, being a Short Treatise on the Population Question . New York: R Glover, 1847.

The early 1830s saw the first books on birth control, Owen's Moral Physiology and Knowlton's Fruits of Philosophy. Though serious reformers, they were accused of encouraging promiscuity. This piracy of Owen's book has a pitch for a device that killed semen in the vagina with electric shock. The frontispiece shows the effect on a family's health and welfare of not using birth control.

in the essay

Advertising Health to the People

Main Gallery Posters
Deshler's Anti-Periodic Pills, a newly discovered and certain Cure for Fever & Ague. Chas. D. Deshler, Agent, New Brunswick, N. J. New York: Pudney & Russell, 1854. Broadside.

This broadside was printed with eight different kinds of decorative wood types.

in the essay
Nancy Linton. A Faithful Representation of her Actual Appearance & Condition after having been Cured by the use of Swaim's Panacea. [London:] Drawn on stone by W.H. Kearney, printed by C. Hullmandel, [1830s?] Hand-colored lithograph.

Swaim, one of the richest and boldest of the early medicine men, promoted his panacea with this hand-colored picture of his most famous cure. At first glance it looks like a "before" picture, but it is indeed an "after." Only Swaim's could have kept such a person alive, it suggests. Swaim claimed his panacea included no mercury, but it did, and Nancy Linton's condition suggests mercury poisoning.

Dr. Jayne's Family Medicines. Philadelphia: [ca. 1850.] Engraving.

Jayne, one of the most flamboyant medicine men of the mid-19th century, made his headquarters into an advertisement by building it as tall as technology would then allow. This was in a sense the first American skyscraper.

in the essay

Shepherd's Medicines. Bodder & Co. proprietors, Baltimore. Philadelphia: Wagner & McGuigan. [ca. 1848.] Lithograph.

in the essay

Dr. George Stuart's Botanical Syrup and Vegetable Pills, the Greatest Family Medicine in the World. Philadelphia: P. S. Duval, 1849. Lithograph.

in the essay

Dr. C.F. Brown's Young American Liniment. Philadelphia: Duross Bros., 1861. Color woodcut and relief print.

During the Civil War patriotism was used to promote an endless variety of products. Here color woodcut printing made a "before and after" illustration more effective.
Know Thyself! Lectures on Phrenology. New York: Office of the Phrenological Journal, S. R. Wells, Publisher, [ca. 1865]. Color woodcut and relief print.

Phrenologists often corroborated their theories by referring to portraits of the heads of famous and infamous men and women.

in the essay
Dr. Hoofland's Celebrated German Bitters and Balsamic Cordial. Prepared by Dr. C.M. Jackson. Philadelphia: L.N. Rosenthal, 1859. Chromolithograph.

Chromolithography, lithography in colors, was introduced in the 1850s and revolutionized advertising posters. A riot of colors ensued, some more lifelike than others.
If You Wish Perfect Health Use the National Bitters. Schlichter & Zug, Proprietors. Philadelphia: R.F. Reynolds, 1867. Chromolithograph.

Chromolithography was used to bring blooming color to this picture of health.

Green Mountain Boys Gathering Materials for Paine's Celebrated Green Mountain Balm of Gilead and Cedar Plaster. Boston: Forbes & Co., 1868. Lithograph.

Advertisements often depicted the natural sources of proprietary medicines rather than the factories in which they were bottled.

in the essay

Dr. O. S. Martin. Read and Circulate, the Well Known and Popular Indian Physician, Dr. O. S. Martin, would respectfully inform the Ladies and Gentlemen of this place and vicinity that he has taken rooms at [blank filled in manuscript]. Schoharie, New York: "Republican" Power Press, 1860.

Itinerant physicians often used handbills to announce their arrival in a town; they were printed with the location of the temporary office left blank so they could be used over and over again. An "Indian Physician" was a botanical doctor.

in the essay

Jayne's Carminative Balsam. Philadelphia: D. Jayne & Son, 1857. Engraving

in the essay

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