Monday, April 28, 2014

Dr. Reuben Greene and "Indianopathy"

1867 "Indianopathy" - Schmidt Collection
 "'Native Indians' may often be found, who with their simple roots and herbs do much for their suffering fellows; but with the aid of Science, as practiced at the 'Indian Medical Institute,' infinitely more is now accomplished than was ever expected by the 'red man' himself." - Dr. Reuben Greene in Indianopathy (1867)

The use of Native American Indian images, names, and medical tradition has been a mainstay of the United States patent medicine industry for almost two centuries.

As historian James H. Young wrote in his classic The Toadstool Millionaires: A Social History of Patent Medicines in America before Federal Regulation (1961):

"From the 1820's onward for a century the Indian strode nobly through the American patent medicine wilderness. Hiawatha helped a hair restorative and Pocahontas blessed a bitters. Dr. Fall spent twelve years with the Creeks to discover why no Indian had ever perished of consumption. Edwin Eastman found a blood syrup among the Comanches, Texas Charley discovered a Kickapoo cure-all, and Frank Cushing pried the secret of a stomach renovator from the Zuni. (Frank, a famous ethnologist, had gone West on a Smithsonian expedition.) Besides these notable accretions to pharmacy, there were Modoc Oil, Seminole Cough Balsam, Nez Perce Catarrh Snuff, and scores more, all doubtless won for the use of white men by dint of great cunning and valor."

1867 "Indianopathy" - Schmidt Collection
Perhaps few patent medicine mavens co-opted this tradition as formally as Dr. Reuben Greene, proprietor of the "Boston Indian Medical Institute" and creator of what he called "Indianopathy" or the "Science of Indian Medicine."

Clearly, from the excerpt at the top of the page, Dr. Greene's admiration of Native American healers went only so far, as his statement is indicative of the paternalistic and racist attitudes towards Indians at that time.

In today's blog post I share a few Dr. Greene items in my collection:

One - an 1867 edition of his 72-page pamphlet - "Indianopathy: Science of Indian Medicine: Founded upon the 'Laws of Nature,' the principles of which were obtained by Dr. Greene in his travels among the Indians, whereby he is enabled to successfully treat cancers, tumors, scrofula, ulcers, and all chronic diseases ." 

The booklet includes a short biography of Dr. Greene, about 30 pages of a home medical guide with an emphasis on cancer cures, a list and description of no less than sixty-five different remedies that he sold to cure an equally impressive list of maladies, and about 20 pages of testimonials.

My copy is a wee bit fragile for scanning, but here is a link to actual page images from a similar edition (1858) in the National Library of Medicine.

I also happily share an 1860 letter in my collection from Dr. Greene to a patient  who seems to be having some skin problems as Dr. Greene recommends and gives instructions for the use of several of his medicines, including his Healing Salve, Panacea, and Poultice.  The letter also included an insert with instructions for diagnosis by mail.

1860 Letter - Boston Indian Medical Institute - Schmidt Collection

1860 Letter - Boston Indian Medical Institute - Schmidt Collection  

1860 Letter - Boston Indian Medical Institute - Schmidt Collection

1860 Letter - Boston Indian Medical Institute - Schmidt Collection
1860 Letter - Boston Indian Medical Institute - Schmidt Collection


Mark said...

Wow, I'm surprised anyone was writing about this stuff at the time. Another fascinating and untold side of history:)

Spike said...

I stumbled on this trying to find info on Dr. Reuben Greene after reading an article about him in a copy of the New Hampshire Argus & Spectator (January 30, 1857) that I found at a garage sale.. Was going to upload a pic of the article for you but it won't allow photos. Cheers.