Physicians Record Book

It has been a few weeks since I have reported on our NHPRC project. We now have created over 1900 records. July’s entries will be added to the online catalog early next week.

Today I enjoyed paging through a manuscript labeled Physician’s Record Book. A very brittle volume, it begins with notes copied from medical books. There are also notes about religion. What I found most interesting was the vast amount of medical information provided. It begins with pages listing patients’ names, ages, and what they were being treated for. In the doctors account books I have previously cataloged, they often simply wrote that they saw a particular family member, such as “To seeing wife” or “to treating son.”

The doctor who used this volume (it does not appear to contain his name) made notes of congestion in the brain, cholera morbus, spasm from constipation, and ecchymosis. He also wrote about more common ailments such as influenza, diarrhea, and teething. Particularly with the more serious illnesses, the doctor recorded whether the patient recovered or died.

Physician's Record Book

Patient listing, Phyisican's Record Book, 1816-1824, Ms 85583. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Of particular interest are the pages of journal entries regarding women in childbirth. The doctor detailed not just the current pregnancy, but others the woman may have had, along with whether there were complications. In this section he referred to the woman only by their last initial. As you may read below, the doctor spared few details in his description of Mrs. D.

Record Book

Entry from Physician's Record Book, 1816-1824, Ms 85583. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Mrs. D was on her forth pregnancy. Her most recent one had been normal, though she had trouble with the first two. The doctor details his patient’s pains and the position of her child. It is difficult to ascertain whether the child survived. The mother, however, did not. Ten days after the doctor recorded the pains, etc., Mrs. D. suffered some horrible experiences (detailing them would lead to too much spam!) and soon passed away.

Fortunately we can balance out Mrs. D’s ordeal with that of Mrs. H. Her third labor lasted 12 hours and she fully recovered.

Entry from Physician's Record Book, 1816-1824, Ms 85583. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Though we do not know the author of the volume, names in the listing of patients can be found in Massachusetts census records from 1810 and 1820. The doctor was most likely in the Boston area. Our usual practice would be to recommend de-accessioning an account book from a state other than Connecticut. However, neither Barbara nor I could bear the thought of passing along this invaluable look at female medicine in the nineteenth century.

This volume is open for research. As always, please come visit. Make sure to read about other items in our collections on Connecticut Public Broadcasting’s Your Public Media site. You may also “like” us on Facebook and follow @ConnHistSoc on Twitter.


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