The Toadstool Millionaires:
A Social History of Patent Medicines
in America before Federal Regulation

Chapter 2: "Galvanizing Trumpery"

James Harvey Young, PhD

See POINTED METALS, blest with power t'appease,
The ruthless rage of merciless disease,
O'er the frail part a subtil fluid power,
Drench'd with invisible Galvanic shower,
Till the arthritic, staff and "crutch forego,
And leap exulting like the bounding roe!"

—Thomas Green Fessenden,
"An Address de-livered before the

America won her independence in the realm of pseudo-medicine not with a pill or a potion, not with an elixir or a vermifuge, but with a pair of small metal rods called tractors. The hero of this revolution was a physician in Plainfield, Connecticut, named Elisha Perkins. The critical date was 1796, in which year the government granted Perkins the first patent to be issued for a medical device under the Constitution of the United States.

Why did the revolution come so late? Why had not some shrewd colonial citizen, observing the steady sales of the old English patent medicines and sensing the gold that might lie at the end of such a rainbow, launched a competitive home-grown remedy? The answer is that there were some fumbling efforts heralding the day of native American nostrums. Yet prior to the Revolution no American entrepreneur managed to offer a real challenge to Bateman's Pectoral Drops or Hooper's Female Pills.

American quackery dates back to 1630. In that year Nicholas Knopp, a resident of Massachusetts Bay, was fined five pounds, or was whipped, for vending as a cure for scurvy "a water of no worth nor value," which he "solde att a very deare rate." [2] How Nicholas marketed his water is not known, but certainly not with the exaggerated printed promotion that attended the origin of the English nostrums in the same century. Nor did Americans, during the colonial years, ever achieve either the flamboyant advertising or the distinctive packaging that characterized the English patent medicines.

Mountebanks wandered up and down the colonies persuading the gullible to buy their wares. One Charles Hamilton, for example, appeared in Chester, boasting of his excellent education and marvelous cures. Somehow the townspeople got suspicious and examined the pretender. Charles was found to be a woman, and Charlotte Hamilton was put in jail. Another itinerant, calling himself Francis Torres, came to Philadelphia, selling "Chinese Stones" for the cure of toothache, cancer, and the bites of mad dogs and rattlesnakes. A fortnight later, one Acidus gave counsel to the poor who could not afford Monsieur Torres' twenty-five-shilling charge. "Go to a Cutler's Shop," he wrote, "there you'll find a Remnant of the Buckshorn, cut off probably from a Piece that was too long for a Knife Handle, saw and rasp it into what shape you please, and then burn it in hot Embers; and you will have Mons. Torres's Chinese Stone." The wandering Frenchman with his Oriental remedy showed up in other colonial cities. But, unlike many British contemporaries, he did not settle down in one place, wrap his potent stones in identical packages, ship them to shops in other towns, and advertise their curative blessings in numerous papers simultaneously [3].

Nor was such a sophisticated scheme of promotion employed in behalf of American-made medicines hardly so suspect as Monsieur Torres' wares. Humble men and women, most of them probably sincere, went into the market place with remedies taken over from folk medicine, and even advertised them. But the efforts were local, sporadic, and limited.

The text of an advertisement from a Philadelphia newspaper under date of August 19, 1731, read: "The Widow READ, removed from the upper End of Highstreet to the New Printing- Office near the Market, continues to make and sell her well-known Ointment for the ITCH. . . . It is always effectual for that purpose, and never fails to perform the Cure speedily. It also kills or drives away all Sorts of Lice .... It has no offensive Smell, but rather a pleasant one; and may be used without the least Apprehension of Danger, even to a sucking Infant. . . . Price 2 s. a Gallypot containing an Ounce." It may be doubted that this advertisement cost the ointment maker a penny, for the newspaper was the Pennsylvania Gazette, the Gazette's publisher was Benjamin Franklin, and the Widow Read was publisher Franklin's mother-in-law.

Many of the herbal concoctions in the pharmacopoeias had begun in the empirical experimentation of laymen. In America as in England, Nature was continuing to yield her secrets, whether sound or not, to the prying of all people, professional or not. An interest in one's own health and that of relatives and friends was enough qualification—then as now—to set up in business as a lay prescriber. According to an ancient and perverse tradition, under which disease was regarded as a curse from offended gods, cures could not be found through human intelligence but in a secret lore of an occult order, a kind of magical knowledge more dramatic and potent when possessed by the unschooled. Thus remedies advanced by widows and maiden aunts, simpletons and slaves, were by some regarded with especial favor. Traditions handed down, the slightest bent toward haphazard tinkering, provided dozens of therapeutic possibilities. Almanacs, newspapers, diaries, correspondence, bear testimony to the universal concern over sickness, the widespread interest in cures, and the plethora of gratuitous counsel. The line between free health hints and marketed remedies was often crossed, with economic need, perhaps, the major stimulus. The Widow Read might have desired the sense of independence which selling her itch ointment could provide. Certain "Dutch Ladies" of Charleston might have vended their "Choice Cure for the Flux, Fevers, Worms, bad Stomach, [and] Pains in the Head" because this was the only way they could support themselves. Doubtless a similar economic explanation lies behind the cordials of a New York carpenter, the eye-water of a Charleston goldsmith, the cough cure of a Boston grocer [4].

But seldom do these colonial notices have even the verbal vigor of the Widow Read's announcement. Advertisements for American remedies are shy and circumspect beside those appearing in England for their bolder English cousins. Compared with British Oyl, the Widow Read's ointment did not get around, even in America. Lack of capital may be one explanation. The fact that trade ties were tighter between each colony and Britain than between colony and colony may hold a clue.

The colonial years offered one concoction that has often been termed the first patent medicine in American history. It was named Tuscarora Rice and its maker was a woman. First to tell Mrs. Sybila Masters' tale in print, so far as can be found, was John F. Watson, who in 1844 published his Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time. From Indian corn, asserted chronicler Watson, Mrs. Masters prepared her Tuscarora Rice which she recommended as a fare especially beneficial for promoting the recovery of consumptive and other sickly persons. In 1711 she and her husband went to England with her remedy to seek her fortune. While there she got a patent. Back in America, Thomas Masters set up a water-mill and a processing plant near Philadelphia to make Tuscarora Rice in more abundant quantities.

Watson's tale is substantially true. In 1715, after an initial rebuff, Thomas Masters managed to secure letters patent for "A New Invencon found out by Sybilla his Wife, for Cleaning and Curing the Indian Corn Growing in the severall Colonies in America." This was the first patent granted in Great Britain to anyone dwelling in America. A drawing accompanying the petition shows a device for pounding maize in mortars with stamps operated by cogwheels attached to a large cylinder turned by horse or water-power. Besides providing a "wholesome Food" in a more convenient form for export, according to Sybilla's petition, "the said Corn so refined is also an Excellent Medicine in Consumptions & other Distempers."

Having secured her patent, did Sybilla vend her food-medicine in the American colonies? The record is dim. She did petition the officers of Pennsylvania requesting that the patent be noted in the colony's records. How much maize she ground and how zealously she promoted it among the ailing are unknown. The Masters' mill of Watson's account, indeed, seems to be a case of mistaken identity.

Thus Sybilla is one of the mystery women of American patent medicine history. Inventive, ambitious, desirous of protecting the fruits of her ingenuity, she is the type of woman who might grind corn, call it rice, and market it as a consumption cure. 'Whatever the truth, Mrs. Masters' Tuscarora Rice did not make the therapeutic impact in the colonies that Mr. Turlington's Balsam did.

Even the prodding of nascent patriotism in the years leading to the Revolution did not bring forth a real American competitor to the English patent medicines. Advertisements might tell of made-in-New-England mustard, "superior... to any imported," of colonial tobacco pipes, "equal in Goodness" to any from abroad, and of "American Grindstones . . . esteemed vastly superior to those from Great-Britain, the Grit being smaller." But no fervent patriotic pride inspired the advertising of hair-restorers and cure-all dentifrices made and marketed in the colonies.

Ironically, the first patent medicine to stress in its name its American origin, a product of the final tempestuous decade before the outbreak of war, was made in England. The proprietor was the vigorous Dr. John Hill, he who could change water into asses' milk. In 1770 Dr. Hill marketed an American Balsam. Truthfully or not, he said that the medicine was made from American plants which had been taken to the king and queen some years before by an American botanist—who really existed—named William Young, Jr. The new remedy, its proprietor asserted, would cure everything from whooping cough to the "hypochondriacal disease." And, of course, being compounded from American plants, it was "no wonder" that "it must have the best effect in that country." Out of gratitude to young Mr. Young, Dr. Hill declared, he had appointed the botanist's venerable father as the only "capital vender" of the American Balsam in the American colonies [7].

Comparable ingenuity on the part of Americans themselves did not come until after the fighting was over. It was part of the great fire of cultural nationalism, kindled during the war and fanned into higher flame by the pride of victory. The United States gloried in new American textbooks, American maps, American Bibles, American machines. Reputable medicine reflected the trend. There was a renewed search by American physicians to discover American herbs which could relieve the American sick of "unrepublican dependence" on European medicines. Efforts were begun to compile an American pharmacopoeia. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence and most distinguished physician in the new nation, argued that there were twenty times more intellect and a hundred times more knowledge in America in 1799 than there had been before the Revolution."

Amidst this atmosphere made-in-America patent medicines also were proudly launched. But the first American-made product in the annals of quackery to provoke a national mania was the metallic tractors of Dr. Elisha Perkins. More than that, the tractors went eastward across the Atlantic and earned the first considerable repayment from Britain toward balancing the debt accrued through a century of American colonial dependence on the English patent medicines. The tale of this Connecticut Yankee and his remarkable device must precede the account of American ingenuity in filling pillbox and vial.

Perkins was a man from whom something remarkable was almost sure to come. Nature had endowed him with tremendous energy, persistent curiosity, and a commanding presence. His vigor was revealed in the way he conducted his practice in and around Plainfield. Perkins often rode his horse sixty miles a day. For weeks on end he got along on three or four hours of sleep a night. Sometimes he grew so weary that he would lie down at the home of a patient, but the busy doctor demanded that he be allowed to nap exactly five minutes and no more. In an age in which hard liquor was viewed as the antidote to weariness, Perkins refused to touch a drop. Despite such Spartan devotion to duty, the doctor found time to take an active role in community affairs. He established and helped support an academy. He held office in his county medical society. It was no wonder that he earned the respect of his professional colleagues and the esteem, even the adoration, of his patients.

Perkins was not a physician content to practice by rote. He had learned medicine, after a brief matriculation at Yale, through apprenticeship to his father. His career had begun precociously before he was twenty. As he went his rounds, he speculated on the cases which came under his care. He found some time to read, too, acquiring raw data and pieces of theory to mix with his own empirical observations. This curiosity led Perkins to certain conclusions with respect to therapy, and he was a man who had the courage to try them out.

The doctor was a tall man for his day, six feet in height, powerful and well proportioned. His manner was decisive, forceful, confident, yet not too aloof to mar sociability. Perkins' person strengthened the impact of his good works in the community. He also had a native shrewdness that may well have won admiration from his fellow-residents of the Nutmeg State: Perkins supplemented his medical fees—he had a family of ten children to support—by buying, selling, and trading mules.

This, then, was the man who invented Perkins' metallic tractors. His son Benjamin, who was closely associated with the venture, asserted later that Elisha long had held the view that metals possessed an influence on the body not fully recognized up to his day. He had observed that during surgery, when the scalpel touched a muscle, the muscle would contract. He had been convinced that when he applied a lancet to separate the gum from a tooth before extraction, the ache in the tooth came to an end. With these observations in his mind, his son indicated, Perkins read of the experiments of Galvani. The Italian scientist had found that the leg of a frog contracted when a nerve and muscle were linked with two different metals placed in contact one with the other. This information from abroad, said Benjamin Perkins, tended to confirm his father's hypothesis [10].

Electricity certainly was in the air in the late 18th century, and it was playing a dramatic if uncertain role in medicine. Before the American Revolution, in Charleston, electrical tropical fish were being used to fire charges into palsied patients. In the mid-1780's a Philadelphia bookseller lauded the panacea properties of electrical treatments—especially if taken in conjunction with cephalic snuff. Thirty years earlier, Benjamin Franklin, though skeptical, carried his notable interest in electricity to the point of helping a physician employ it in treating a woman suffering from convulsions [11].

Franklin's shadow also fell across the trail of Franz Antoine Mesmer, who dealt in electricity of another form. This dynamic young physician had come from his medical training in Vienna to Paris. There he set up a lavish establishment at which he healed by the power of animal magnetism. Wearing a lilac suit, carrying a metal wand, playing solemn music on a harmonica, Mesmer ministered to his patients and admirers. They sat gripping thumbs around a wooden tub, or "battery," from which came jointed metal rods to touch the ailing parts of their bodies. The tub was the condenser and conductor of the universal fluid that flowed through all those in the circle and wrought the cure. Mesmer walked about enhancing the magnetic potency by touching the afflicted with his rod or by a laying on of hands. The healing seance went on for hours, amid a growing tension accompanied by shouts, tears, hysterical laughter, and convulsions [12].

In 1784, while Franklin was representing the United States at the French court, Louis XVI ordered a commission appointed to investigate Mesmer. Franklin was chosen to serve, and among his colleagues were the chemist Lavoisier and a physician-inventor named Guillotin. After observations and experiments, some of which were held at Franklin's estate, the commission concluded that they could discover no electricity in Mesmer's tub. Nor could they detect, with any of their senses, that current known as animal magnetism. Mesmer was forbidden to continue his healing seances. Taking his spoils, he sought in England a comfortable retirement. Animal magnetism sank below the level of public concern.

Was it revived a decade later by Dr. Elisha Perkins? This charge was to be leveled and in turn denied. Two things are sure. Perkins did see a connection between disease and an electrical "fluid." And the tall, powerful, decisive physician from Connecticut, though different from Mesmer in many ways, could stand comparison in one essential trait, the magnetism of his personality.

An account of the steps by which Perkins came upon his great discovery that is more circumstantial than his son's after-the-fact explanation can be pieced together from surviving letters. It was in 1795 that this curious doctor was called upon to treat a woman afflicted with pains in her ankles. Spurred by an impulse, he took the blade of his penknife and drew its point downward from the middle of his patient's calf. What Perkins said to her as he performed this simple act is not a matter of record. But to the lady's joy and the doctor's gratification, the pains departed forthwith. The matter called for more experimentation and more thought. Later in the same year Perkins discovered that he could cure a headache by wielding a japanned iron comb. Just as important was his conviction that he knew why. Most of the discomfort, he wrote in a letter at the time, came from "a surcharge of electric fluid in the parts affected." The comb drew the fluid off [13].

The next crucial step in Perkins' progress is clouded in mystery. This was the shift from simple objects ready at hand as the agents of therapy to the more elaborate fabricated devices he called tractors. The new invention looked like nothing else under the sun. It was a pair of small metal instruments, each about three inches long and both of the same shape, flat on one side, rounded on the other, and tapering from a hemispherical head to a sharp point. One of the tractors was gold in color, the other silver. Perkins and his son averred that the former was an alloy of copper, zinc, and gold; the latter of iron, silver, and platinum [14].

From the pinnacle of success, Elisha Perkins insisted that nothing but his tractors would work. Perhaps he had come to believe this doctrine. Buried in his correspondence lay his initial triumphs with the more modest penknife and comb. At the time of the transition, the doctor's use of different metals might have been a cue taken from Galvani. The new project might also have gained from lessons the shrewd doctor had learned in trading mules.

Later in 1795 Perkins made the first public announcement of the tractors. To his fellow physicians assembled in state convention, he revealed his important discovery and told of the cures it was performing. Nor was the power of the tractors confined to cases in which they were wielded by their inventor. Others, too, it had been found, could use them with success, if certain therapeutic rules were adhered to strictly. The points must be drawn or stroked, one after the other, across the afflicted surface of the body, always being moved from the center toward the extremities. Otherwise the patient's condition might worsen. Even when properly employed, Perkins warned, the tractors were not "a catholican"; nonetheless he would "cheerfully hazard" his "honor and reputation" on their "ultimate success." They were most useful, the doctor said, in local inflammations, pains in the head, face, teeth, breast, side, stomach, and back, in rheumatism and similar ailments. Drawing off the noxious electrical fluid that lay at the root of the suffering, they brought blessed relief."

From the Connecticut doctors to whom he first announced his discovery, Perkins noted at the time, he had received many compliments. Indeed, he had been invited to read a paper on the subject at the next year's meeting of the state society. But this particular day of glory was not to come. Events of the ensuing year changed the minds of many of the physicians. When they convened in 1796, instead of listening to Perkins as he extolled his metal points, the doctors condemned the tractors as a device "gleaned up from the miserable remains of animal magnetism" and resolved that any member using them faced expulsion from the society. The next year this threat was made good. Perkins was ousted for violating the society's taboo against nostrums [16].

By 1797 Elisha Perkins did not particularly care what his erstwhile colleagues thought or said or did. Indeed, he insisted, their action in expelling him would make him two friends for every single foe. He was too busy to pay much heed to his critics. He was a man with a mission. The tractors were now protected from the envious by a patent from the government, and the busy physician was occupied day and night in forging the instruments in a furnace hidden behind panels in his Plainfield home. Supply was hard-pressed to keep up with demand. And the retail price was twenty-five dollars a pair [17].

The tractors, indeed, bade fair to grip the imagination of the whole country. Electricity, that dramatic, potent, and mysterious force, might yet unlock the door to health, and perhaps Perkins had found the key. This was certainly the impression which he himself wanted to create. He issued a series of pamphlets to speed the good word. Not only humble citizens, but politicians, ministers, college professors, and many doctors gave ecstatic testimony. Not all of the members of the clergy who had tractors and certificates stating they had paid for them had in fact laid out any money. It was deemed prudent by Perkins to make a number of strategic gifts. Perhaps it was one of this number, a divine who taught at one of New England's colleges, who wrote for Perkins to print:

I have used the Tractors with success in several other cases in my own family, and although, like Naaman the Syrian, I cannot tell why the waters of Jordan should be better than Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus; yet since experience has proved them so, no reasoning can change the opinion. Indeed, the causes of all common facts are, we think, perfectly well known to us; and it is very probable, fifty or a hundred years hence, we shall as well know why the Metallic Tractors should in a few minutes remove violent pains, as we now know why cantharides and opium will produce opposite effects [18].

To lend his personal persuasion to the impact of the printed word, Perkins went on the road. At the moment the medical convention in Hartford was expelling him, he was holding forth in triumph in Philadelphia.

Franklin was no longer living to cast a baleful eye. The news-paper he had founded accepted advertising for Perkins' product.

At the Alms House, the board of managers were so carried sway with enthusiasm that they bought the rights of distribution for the city. Philadelphia was still the nation's capital, and Congress was in session. Several members of the House of Representatives were among the inventor's zealous recruits. Perkins also sold a pair of tractors to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Legend has it that he made a customer of President Washington himself. With the three branches of their national government thus leading the way, the citizens of America followed gladly. The boom was on [19].

Franklin had brought down electricity from the sky, and now Perkins had found a way, so it seemed, to bring forth from suffering men and women its evil influences. Could it be that a new America would provide the whole world not only with an example of freedom but also with the means to health?

Such, alas, was not to be. Elisha Perkins, nonetheless, died a martyr to his own delusion. In 1799 the city of New York was ravaged by a severe epidemic of yellow fever. All Americans, perplexed at the cause of this disease, were aware how dangerous such a scourge could be. Perkins especially had reason to know: six years before, in the terrible Philadelphia epidemic, he had lost a daughter, a son-in-law, and two grandchildren. It took courage of a high order for the Connecticut doctor to go to New York to tend the sick. Persuaded of the efficacy of his tractors, and of a remedy he had made from marine salt, vinegar, and water, Perkins went out from a boarding house room to serve. Within a few weeks he caught the fever, suffered, and died. With the haste necessary during such mass disasters, Elisha Perkins was given summary burial in a potter's field on the present location of Washington Square [20].

The fad for metallic tractors in America did not long survive their inventor. In the meantime, however, Benjamin Perkins had borne them across the ocean to England.

Unlike Elisha, Benjamin was no physician, but his father's talents at promotion he had inherited in double measure. Arriving in London, Benjamin secured a British patent for the metallic points under the title, "Application of Galvanism as a curative agent." He then arranged for the rendering into English of a German translation of a Danish book. The wife of a Danish diplomat, returning from a sojourn in the United States, had introduced the tractors into Copenhagen, where they had become the therapeutic rage. A dozen distinguished physicians swore to their effectiveness and permitted themselves to be quoted in the most extravagant terms. These words rendered into English, as well as Benjamin's own asseverations, kindled a fire of enthusiasm in England, even with the tractors selling at five pounds a pair. Many could afford to buy such a wonder and did so. On the plea that the deserving poor could hardly be expected to pay so high a sum, Benjamin launched a campaign to establish in London a charity clinic, the Perkinean Institution. On its list of officials were a number of peers of the realm and the son of Benjamin Franklin. The endowment, secured by public subscription, surpassed that possessed by any London hospital of the day [21].

As Benjamin Perkins soared to new heights of fame and fortune, he enlisted the aid of an American ally. In London at the time was a Yankee lawyer, tinkerer, and poet named Thomas Green Fessenden. Down on his luck, Fessenden took little persuading when asked by young Perkins to expound the merits of the metallic tractors in verse. From the poet's quick pen came a bombastic satire called Terrible Tractoration!! A Poetical Petition against Galvanising Trumpery, and the Perkinistic Institution. Adopting the guise of Christopher Caustic, a regular English physician angry at having his income threatened by the tractors, Fessenden had his stormy hero stir up a war to the death against this dire threat, which was

. . . begotten
In wilds where science ne'er was thought on;
And had its birth and education
Quite at the fag-end of Creation!

Terrible Tractoration!! speedily sold out a first edition and went into a second. But this record was nothing compared with the sale of the tractors themselves. One Perkinean pamphlet cited testimonials from eight professors in four universities, twenty-one physicians, and thirty clergymen, twelve of them equipped with D.D. degrees. By March 1803, the pamphleteer asserted, some 5,000 English cures had been reported. "Supposing," he exulted, "that not more than one cure in three hundred, which the Tractors have performed, has been published, and the proportion is probably much greater, it will be seen, that the number . . . will have exceeded one million five hundred thousand!" Since the tractors also were being widely employed in the treatment of ailing horses and dogs, the totals doubtless soared higher still [22].

Already the critics were active. A physician from the provinces proclaimed that he had achieved cures just as marvelous with tractors carved from wood and painted to resemble the costly metal ones. Indeed, nails, pieces of bone, tobacco pipes, all worked as well. There was the case of the girl who long had suffered pain in the right arm and shoulder. After five minutes of treatment with wooden tractors, she pronounced herself cured. "Bless me!" she exclaimed, "why, who could have thought it, that them little things could pull the pain from one. Well, to be sure, the longer one lives, the more one sees; ah, dear!" [23]

The five-pound tractors could not live long under such treatment. Without popular belief in the secret and exclusive efficacy of the patented metallic points, the vogue hung on a while and then vanished.

Benjamin Perkins, in the meantime, sailed home to America. With him he brought two things he had not had when he went abroad. One was adherence to the Quaker sect. The other, representing the profits from England's contribution to American quackery, was £10,000. Perkins settled in New York as a seller of books, joined the New-York Historical Society, and used his wealth to aid libraries, help hospitals, and forward the abolition crusade [24].

It has been suggested that certain stalwart physicians in the Connecticut Medical Society and some members of the faculty at Yale were greatly shocked by the galvanising trumpery that had arisen in their midst. From this sense of outrage, at least in part, was to come the founding of the Yale Medical School. This unintended result may be viewed as the most lasting legacy of Dr. Perkins' metallic tractors. Four decades later, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes preparing for a lecture on the theme, only by great effort managed to find a pair to show his audience [25].

The tractors may have well-nigh disappeared. But the frantic hopefulness with which thousands of ailing people had greeted them lived on.


  1. Cited in Fessenden, Terrible Tractoration!! A Poetical Petition against Galvanising Trumpery, and the Perkinistic Institution (1st Amer. ed., N.Y., 1804), xxxiii-xxxiv. Some material in this and the next chapter has appeared in the author's "The Origin of Patent Medicines in America," Chemist and Druggist, 172 (Sep. 9, 1959), 9-14.
  2. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England (Boston, 1850), i, 83.
  3. Pa. Gaz., July i(, 175, Oct. 17 and 31, 1745.
  4. Va. Gaz., Dec. 22, 1738; S.C. Gaz., Mar. 7, 1743, and July 12, 1735; N.Y. Post, Dec. 19, 1748, cited in Rita S. Gottesman, The Arts and Crafts in New York, 1726-1776 (N.Y., 1938), 192; Boston News-Letter, Feb. 24, 1743.
  5. Garrison, Introduction to the History of Medicine, 402; LaWall, Four Thousand Years of Pharmacy, 412-13; and James T. Adams, Provincial Society, 1690-1763 (N.Y., 1927), 126, call Tuscarora Rice a patent medicine. Mrs. Masters' story is drawn from Watson, ii, 388-89; Alphabetical List of Patentees of inventions [1617-18521, (London, 1854), 368; George Ramsey, "The Historical Background of Patents," Jnl. Patent Office, 18 (1936), 13; Samuel H. Needles, "The Governor's Mill," Pa. Mag. Hint. and Biog., 8 (1884), 285-87. Photostats of the Letters Patent from Chancery, Patent Rolls (C.66/3511, No. 29), of Mrs. Masters' petition from State Papers Domestic, Entry Books (S.P.44), vol. 249, and of the sketched specification of the invention, from the Specification and Surrender Roll (C.210/1), have been supplied by the Public Record Office, which has also reported on several other references to the Masters in the British records.
  6. Mass. Gaz., Oct. 23, 1766, and Aug. 17, 1769; Boston News-Letter, Apr. 13, 1769.
  7. Pa. Gaz., Oct. 11, 1770, and Jan. 23, 1788; N.T. Jnl., Sep. 5, 1771.
  8. Whitfield I. Bell, Jr., "Suggestions for Research in the Local History of Medicine in the United States," Bull. Hist. Med., 17 (1945), 465; Rush cited in Ho1mes, Medical Essays, 192.
  9. The account of Perkinism is drawn from Jacques Marc Quen, "A Study of Dr. Elisha Perkins and Perkinism" (unpublished thesis, Yale Univ. School of Medicine, New Haven, 1954); Fessenden's poem, including its introduction and notes; James Thacher, American Medical Biography (Boston, 1828), I, 422-25; Certificates of the Efficacy of Doctor Perkins's Patent Metallic Instru-ments (New London, [1796]), in the Amer. Antiquarian Soc., Worcester, Mass.; Certificates of the Efficacy of Doctor Perkins's Patent Metallic Instru-ments (Newburyport, [1797]), and Evidences of the Efficacy of Doctor Perkins's Patent Metallic Instruments (Phila., [1797]), both in the N.Y. Public Library; Holmes, 15-38; Walter R. Steiner, "The Conflict of Medicine with Quackery," Annals Med. Hist., 6 (1924), 60-70; Morris Fishbein, Fads and Quackery in Healing (N.Y., 1932), 9-18.
  10. Cited in Quen, 11-12.
  11. S.C. Gaz., Oct. 31, 1748, cited in Hennig Cohen, The South Carolina Gazette, 1732-1775 (Columbia, S.C., 1953), 81; Pa. Gaz., Oct. 20, 1784; Carl
    and Jessica Bridenbaugh, Rebels and Gentlemen (N.Y., 1942), 270-71; I. Bernard Cohen, "How Practical Was Benjamin Franklin's Science?" Pa. Mag. Hist. and Biog., 69 (1945), 292.
  12. Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin (N.Y., 1938), 713-17; James J. Walsh, Cures, The Story of Cures That Fail (N.Y., 1930), 88-96; Garrison, 382.
  13. Perkins' letters are cited by Quen, 13.
  14. A pair of the tractors may be found at The Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
  15. Quen, 14; Evidences of the Efficacy of Dr. Perkins's Patent Metallic Instru-ments (Philadelphia ed.); Thacher, 423.
  16. Quen, 14-15; Fishbein, 14-15.
  17. Quen, 19; William S. Miller, "Elisha Perkins and His Metallic Tractors," Tale .Ini. Biology and Med., 8 (Oct. 1935), 43.
  18. Perkins' pamphlets; Walsh, 102-103; quotation cited in Holmes, 25.
  19. Pa. Gaz., May 3, 1797; Francis R. Packard, History of Medicine in the United States (N.Y., 1931), I, 248; Holmes, 23; Quen 18.
  20. Quen, 25-29.
  21. Fessenden, Terrible Tractoration!!; Quen, 19-21, 30-32; Holmes, 18-36; Porter G. Perrin, The Life and Works of Thomas Green Fessenden, 1771-1837 (Orono, Me., 1925), 47-77.
  22. Cited in Fessenden, 113.
  23. Ibid., 83-85; Holmes, 36.
  24. Quen, 32.
  25. Steiner, 69; Holmes, 15.

Table of Contents ||| Next Chapter

This page was posted on April 29, 2002.

Links to Recommended Vendors

  • Compare drug prices and save money at verified online pharmacies.
  • Evaluates the quality of dietary supplement and herbal products.
  • Discount prices, huge inventory, and superb customer service
  • OnlyMyEmail: Award-winning anti-spam services.
  • 10 Types: Website design, development, and hosting with superb technical support.