New Haven, Connecticut and Natick, Massachusetts: 1860-1866. This daily journal measures 8” x 10” inches and contains 172 pages of densely written entries that begin on September 4, 1860 and end on January 8, 1866. Included are 12 pieces of related ephemera including an index of patients he treated and a five-page autobiography focusing on Washburn’s childhood medical problems that generated his interest in becoming a physician. Everything is in nice shape; the top 2” of the journal’s spine has perished. Partial transcripts of Washburn’s early medical history and his journal entries are included.
Washburn’s autobiography provides detailed first-hand observations about the horrendous treatments inflicted upon seriously afflicted patients in the first half of the 19th Century, and his journal provides an exceptional window into college life at Yale, the Civil War home-front, and electro-galvanic medical treatment in the 1860s.
About 80 pages of the journal focus on daily college-life and the remainder on Washburn’s medical practice. Entries regarding the home-front during the Civil War are found throughout the journal. In addition to information about classes and professors, the journal discusses student violence, competition and altercations between the Brothers of Unity and Linonia (debating clubs), traditions and secret societies, and the importance of religious instruction. A few of the highlights include:
1) During a Brothers-Livonia debate, “Eakins of ’63 received a cut in his hand with a knife. . . . E. L. Keyes of ’63 was badly cut in the upper part of his arm. . . .”
2) After a fight in town, “Beldin is charged with the fatal stabbing of G.L.Stafford in Temple Saloon about 2 or 3 o clock last Saturday morning and the others with being accessories to the crime. The two first are Law Students and Baldwin is a Medical Student Stafford died last Sunday Night. . . .”
3) Wooden Spoon Exhibitions were held to honor poor students: “R. K. Weeks received the Wooden Spoon” in 1860, and “the 7th Reg. Band from New York” played at the 1862 event. The Burial of Euclid in 1860 celebrated a class’s completion of the required geometry course: “No horns were blown and . . . they had no coffin this year but an urn instead bore the ashes of Euclid. Six horses I believe drew the hearse. . . .”
4) “At 12 ½ o clock the whole class with not more than a dozen exceptions took the cars for Savin Rock House . . . and on the way serenaded the Young Ladies of ‘Oak Hill Seminary.’ The Band played and the ‘Glee Club’ sang. In return the Young Ladies sang two of the National Airs and we of course cheered them although the singing on their part was not remarkably well executed. . . . After waiting more than about an hour we sat down to dinner. . . . We were not long in relieving the tables of a considerable portion of their burden after which we adjourned to a small hill back of the house where we smoked our pipes, sang our songs, . . . and had a jolly time. . . .”
There are a number of entries regarding the Civil War including the assassination of President Lincoln. A few of the highlights include:
1) "Wendal Phillips lectured . . . Subject ‘’The Present Crisis.’ . . . He was in favour of allowing all the Slave States to secede and then of cleaning the Constitution so that an honest man can swear to abide by it intending to do so. He said the Gulf States would never come back into the union until they come back as a Black Empire. . . . “
2) “The 2nd regiment of Conn Volunteers marched from Brewsters Park to the Green with flags as the first and about 7 P.M. marched on board the Steamer Cahawba. In this regiment were the “New Haven Grays” and most of the New Haven volunteers. Most if not all of the regiment carried pistols and had the sabre bayonets in their guns. . . . The crowd on the Green this afternoon was tremendous. . . .”
3) “F. W. Matteson of my class having received a commission as Major from the Gov. of Illinois received this afternoon a beautiful sword from his class. . . .”
4) “The remains of Col. Russell lay in state at the State House. . . . They were escorted by a large military procession through the streets. . . . Col Russell fell in the battle at Roanoke Is. . . . .”
5) “At table this morning J. H. Bishop of Md. Remarked that we had tried to incite insurrections in the South & that they [had] the right to do the same among us J. S. Millard of Iowa said “you lie you know it – it is not so” when Bishop seized his goblet & hurled it at Millard who warded it off from his head by raising his elbow. . . . The conversation was respecting the arrest of Valandigham.”
6) “The drafting for the first ward of this city took place in the State House this afternoon but of the 212 names drawn over 80 were students & 32 were members of my class mine was the Sixth name which came out. Most of the students being enrolled at their homes will be exempted here. Prof. Dwight & tutor De Forest were among the drafted. . . . Two guns are planted on the Hospital Grounds & the soldiers were all provided last night with 40 rounds of ammunition & the public which would be most liable to attack was well guarded.”
Washburn’s medical entries are just as fascinating. He began treating patients after two years of college, but didn’t take up the profession in earnest until he completed his semester of medical training and graduated with a medical degree in January of 1865. Almost all treatments featured “applications” of electricity and records for 108 patients are included in the journal; some have full-page, detailed entries. A few abbreviated examples include:
1) “In the latter part of June 1862 I had about 1000 circulars scattered on the outskirts of New Haven and began the treatment of patients with the Electro-Galvanic Battery. Mr. E. M. Wolcott came to me with the Rheumatism. . . . He had tried most everything but without avail. . . . Both his wrists and left shoulder were lame also his right ankle which was swollen so that he was unable to wear his boots. . . . Gave him the second application and the last . . . after which the lameness in his wrists was gone, the next day he . . . took a walk in his boots. . . .”
2) “I began the treatment of Mrs. M. C. Osborn (colored) . . . the mother of 12 children. She had much pain through the liver . . . & soreness in the bowels, a bad leucorrhea. . . . I gave her 20 applications seeing her about every other day – after the first three (which were given daily) the vaginal discharge had nearly ceased the lameness in her back had entirely gone her side much better & her bowels regular. . . .”
3) “I began the treatment of Miss Sarah Short aged about 15½ years. She was born with the right arm deformed. . . . The bones of her right-hand & fingers seemed to be without hardness. . . . I made application of the Battery to the arm from one to four times a week. . . .” Her arm soon commenced to grow in size. . . ..”
4) “I returned home yesterday & found Mother had been unable to speak above a whisper for the last 7 weeks. Dr. Lincoln [had] prescribed for her “Blanchords Iron Pills” . . . with no perceptible effect. This evening I passed a moderately strong current from the cervical & upper dorsal region of the back to her throat and chest for about 15 minutes. . . . At night I again repeated it & in a few moments after he voice returned. . . .”
5) “Miss Antoinette Turner came to me feeling a great sense of disability & much bearing down pain across the abdominal region. . . . At times she has had quite bad Leukorrheal discharge. There was considerable bloat across the bowels. I gave her the first application in the sitting position passing the current from . . . the back to her liver & bowels &c . . . which was followed by a sense of relief. . . . [For her second treatment] I placed her on the bed with the flat sponge attached . . . at the small of the back and . . . attached the other pole [to] the uterus & passed the current through the vagina for about 20 minutes. The improvement in her feelings . . . was very marked. . . .”
Washburn’s autobiographical medical history explains why and how he developed an interest in medicine, especially electrical medicine: “Born May 12 1837. . . . January 1, 1840 I enjoyed perfect health to all appearance at the time a small pimple was served near the end of my spine about the size of the head of a pin . . . it again made its appearance in Jun and grew somewhat larger of a very purple color and the Physician entertained fears of a thistelae. . . . It again made its appearance about the size of a Walnut when it was lanced. . . . The Physician applied a plaster . . . and gave me Iodine to take. . . . I was attacked with a violent Diarrhea which continued for several weeks. [Within three weeks] I had but little use of my hands my feet being entirely motionless. . . . The physician then visited me 27 times remedies used Willow bark boiled strong in water and mixed in Brandy and applied to my back and lower limbs White oak bark . . . in the same way then my feet was soaked in Mustard water every Night for some time. Blisters and Leaches were applied to my back Vinigar and flies Alcohall and flies red pepper and Brandy steeped were applied to my back and between limbs. Several sores came out on my back where the blister and leaches were applied discharging matter daily for several weeks during this time I took internal Medicine. . . . I could now move my hands a little better . . . and when laid upon the floor I could move a little on my Stomac [but] the cord in my ankle began to contract. In this situation I was carried to Boston . . . to Dr Hewit . . . pronounced my case to be a paralytic affection. . . . my Parents took me to Miss Hunt [and] she directed me to bath in cold saltwater daily and rub ambrocation upon my back and lower limbs. She gave me Medicine to physic my blood . . . and directed me to drink Dandelion tea. After [5 months] . . . I could creep on my hand and knees climb up in a chair. . . . I went to Boston . . . had narrow strips of iron placed [on] each side of my legs running under my feet and reaching to the knee which I wore a year. . . . Miss Hayward . . . thought if I was mesmerized and put to sleep I might be cured but this never was tried. . . . I was cupped at the end of my spine daily . . . and she said my kidneys were affected. . . . I saw Dr Kelly of New York and [received] a Machine made to go under my arms to walk in. . . . . Dr. Cutter . . . thought an electric Machine might prove beneficial . . . if it was used under skillful hands. . . . I began to walk on Crutches. . . . Dr. Ingalls . . . gave me a Brace for my back and some Liniment . . . and for the last year I have used my Crutches all the time.”. Item #009172 Some of the other ephemera in this lot relates to his high school and the purchase and sale of homes and offices. One manuscript agreement documents the sale of his first practice, Barker Washington & Company, in 1869. Online public records and newspaper advertisements indicate that his follow-on medical equipment and pharmaceutical business, E. L. Washburn & Company, was well-known throughout the state.
A unique, detailed look at both 19th Century college life and medical practice.
Washburn, a native of Natick, Massachusetts, continued to practice medicine in Cambridge, however he soon turned his attention to the sale of medicines and medical equipment, presumably electrical-galvanic devices.
Some of the other ephemera in this lot relates to his high school and the purchase and sale of homes and offices. One manuscript agreement documents the sale of his first practice, Barker Washington & Company, in 1869. Online public records and newspaper advertisements indicate that his follow-on medical equipment and pharmaceutical business, E. L. Washburn & Company, was well-known throughout the state.
A unique, detailed look at both 19th Century college life and medical practice.