Friday, December 2, 2011

1862 Letter Between Patent/Homeopathic Medicine Dealers

In today's post I share a July 13, 1862 letter (from my collection) written from a "Mrs. E. R. Benton" - a patent/homeopathic medicine dealer in Cleveland, Ohio - and a "H. Bardin, M.D." - a patent medicine supplier in Penn Yan, NY.

I have been able to find some biographical details on a "Mr. E. R. Benton" in Cleveland in the 1860s...but nothing yet on a Dr.
Bardin in NY...if anyone can help, that would be GREAT!

Although the penmanship is pretty nice, the handwriting is somewhat light from aging and it's a bit hard yet for me to provide a complete transcription; still,
there is some really interesting content!

First off, note that she received a letter from Bardin dated 30 June 1862 that was delivered by 03 July 1862...that's pretty quick delivery between OH and NY in the 1860s, during a war no less!

Next it looks like she supplies an inventory of Bardin's medicines she has on's possible that she has some "army cases" and also some "farm cases." It's especially interesting to note the inventory of "The Hill Med" which almost certainly refers to "Dr. Hill's Medicines." Hill's was a British brand from the early- to mid-1700s that made its way to America. The brand last through the 19th century as well, I believe.

Mrs. Benton mentions that she hasn't been able to devote much time to selling medicines due to her husband's absence, but adds "I think I shall sell two whole cases soon as I have told my friends of the superiority over all other Med that I have ever saw..." and "I have broken up several fevers for my friends with its use."

The bulk of the letter refers to the case of young man next door taken with a terrible fever. The family sought help from a physician ("Alopathic" as she refers to this she means an "allopathic" or "conventional" physician...allopath was a term of derision coined by competing homeopath sect, to which she and Dr. Bardin likely
belonged); evidently she advised them that they should have called her sooner and she might have been able to's especially interesting that she asks Dr. Bardin for advice on what she should give in such a case when the "No. 1" pills do not work.

She closes with a note about her husband being detained on patent business (indeed, some of the biographical information I'v been able to get about Mr. Benton does have to do with his inventions).

The cover is nice condition, with a nice Cleveland postmark and has some interesting notations, apparently made by Dr. Bardin
to help him in filing the letter in his correspondence.

'm in the middle of some other writing projects right now and don;t have time to do a proper transcription just yet, but did want to share this peek into medical life of the 1860s and the close connection between postal history and medical history. I hope you enjoyed it!

If anyone is interested in trying a transcription, drop me a line and we can talk about your collecting or historical interests and perhaps sharing digitized images of the letter and cover.

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