Tuesday, January 24, 2012

1864 Letter from "Eye, Ear, and Throat" Doctor to Union Sailor! (Part II)

In my last post (here) I featured an 1864 letter in my collection from an "Eye, Ear, and Throat" doctor to a Union sailor off the coast of North Carolina.

In addition to the terrific envelope/cover and the even more terrific content of the letter, I was also pleased to be able to find some great biographical information on the sailor, Hiram Parker, Jr., and the doctor, E. B. Lighthill, which I happily share below!

There is some wonderful biographical information to be found on Dr. E. B. Lighthill (and other Lighthills mentioned below).

For a start, here is his obituary in the March 27, 1901, edition of The New York Times:

Dr. E. B. Lighthill, the widely known specialist,died suddenly Monday night at his home, 12 Hill St., Newark, N.J. Asthma or bronchitis caused death. He was seventy years old and was a brother of Dr. August P. Lighthill of Boston. The latter with Dr.
C.B. Lichtenberg of New York, had visited him Monday and were pleased with the apparent good condition of his health. Dr. Lighthill was a native of Germany an a graduate of Frederic William University in Berlin. He practiced for many years in Syracuse and this city, after coming to this country. Ten years ago he located in Newark. He was a member of the New York Medical Society.

It's a rather laconic obituary, but more details on the Lighthills and Lichtenberg can be found in one of my favorite modern sources on quacks and other purveyors of "popular medicine": Social Medicine in the United States, 1717-1917: An Annotated and Illustrated Catalog of the Edward Atwater Collection (several volumes, 2001-). In Vol. 1, there are a few citations in the Atwater collection that shed some additional light:

August P. Lighthill was an 1851 graduate of the University of Berlin and an 1877 graduate of the Eclectic Medical College of the City of New York. He appears in the Boston directories under the category "Physician, other,"intermittently from 1863 to 1868, and with E. B. Lighthill in 1885. Edward Bunford Lighthill was an 1882 graduate of the Eclectic Medical College of New York.

According to Atwater, "C. B. Lichtenberg" also adopted the "Lighthill" surname.

The Lighthills advertised widely in newspapers and journals of the Civil War era and a few examples are provided below.

[Note in this example (The New York Times, August 19,
1863) the address at 34 St. Mark's Place which corresponds to the address on the letterhead featured in my previous post]

In fact, this was just the heading for an advertisement that included a full column of testimonials; among them is one from a fellow fighting for the Union. Perhaps it was testimonials from fellow soldiers and sailors like this that prompted Hiram Parker, Jr., to contact Dr. Lighthill!

As seen in the advertisement at the top of this post, the Lighthills (A.P. and E.B.) also traveled and offered their services in other towns, such as Bangor, Maine (ad is from September 19, 1861).

They also authored pamphlets such as "A Popular Treatise on Deafness," "Letters on Catarrh":

Some great biographical information on Hiram Parker, Jr. - including a description of his Civil War service - appears in History of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania (1907):

The business firm best known under the title of Sparks & Parker represents one of the pioneer industries in Pottsville which has survived the ravages of time. It was established by Jabez Sparks in 1855, for the manufacture of steam boilers, stacks, ventilating fans, the repairing of machinery, etc., and this is the business now owned and conducted by Hiram Parker, Jr. In 1876 William G. Sparks and Hiram Parker became the constituent members of the firm, and they continued as such until the death of Mr. Sparks, in 1898. For a few years following this event, the estate of William G. Sparks was unsettled, and the business was continued under the title of Sparks & Parker. Mr. Parker then came into the sole ownership. This industry during the half century of its existence has afforded profitable employment to hundreds of men, and is one of the few ancient landmarks of Pottsville.

[Note below the mention of the USS Louisiana, on which boat Parker was serving when he received the letter from Dr. Lighthill!]

The buildings, solid and substantial in their day, show the effects of the passing years. But the interesting life history of Hiram Parker, Jr., is not confined alone to the workshops with which his family has been so long connected. He spent more than twelve years in the United States navy, covering the entire period of the Civil War. His duties led him to nearly every port of the civilized world, and thus he rounded out an experience enjoyed by comparatively few men. He enlisted in 1861 as assistant engineer, and was assigned to duty on the gunboat Kanawha, in the Gulf Squadron, under command of Admirals Farragut and Porter. After a year of active service in this capacity he was detailed to take a prize vessel from Mobile bay to New York, and while in the city on this mission, he was examined and promoted, and was then assigned to duty on the gunboat Louisiana, in the North Atlantic Squadron, with headquarters at New Berne, N. C. Just prior to the battle of Fort Fisher Mr. Parker was detailed to the gunboat Tacony, on board of which vessel he completed his Civil war service. He participated in a number of naval battles, notably the bombardment of Fort Fisher, and the second battle at that point, which resulted in the capture of that Confederate stronghold. He was with the blockading squadron off Mobile, and in the historic manoeuvers of the Gulf and the lower Mississippi. After the close of the Civil war he was with the South Pacific Squadron for three years, and spent a like period with the South Atlantic Squadron, principally on South American coasts, being first assistant engineer on board the Lancaster. He was acting chief engineer on the Powhattan during the Cuban filibustering troubles following the close of the Civil war. One year was spent on shore duty, thus rounding out a continuous service of twelve years.

Hiram Parker, Jr., was bom in Pottsville, Oct. 4, 1841. He is a son of Hiram and Sarah P. (Craft) Parker, natives of Massachusetts...Mr. Parker was educated in the public schools of Pottsville. He was employed as a clerk in a store for a year or two after leaving school, and then he became an apprentice to the machinist's trade, at the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad shops. His subsequent business career has already been briefly outlined in this article. He has been twice married. In 1871 he wedded Miss Mary E. Sparks, a daughter of his business partner... He is a member of the Masonic and Odd Fellows' fraternities, and a Republican in political affiliations. He has served a number of years as a member of the Pottsville school board, but never sought or held other political offices.

Hiram Parker, Jr.. also has a findagrave.com page here.


Mark said...

It's amazing how much medicine has advanced:)

Jim Schmidt said...

Thanks foe the comment, Mark! It certainly has advanced but I'm also in the "the more things change the more they stay the same" camp...there is still a significant appeal for people to seek non-traditional remedies because people are still either skeptical of doctors or don;t like to see them.

But the "eyes, ears, throat" specialization is one of the really interesting parts of this story I think and speaks to the professionalization and specialization that was starting to occur.

Still, scrolling through their pamphlet and causes/cure of deafness you can see that there is both some great anatomical info but also some very dubious recommendations for "cures: and I'm not sure I'd want him doing surgery on my eyes!