Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amory Gale Ledgers
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The two volumes document Armory Gale's medical practice over thirty years. The first volume dates from 1840 to 1854. A note inside the front cover lists Gale's transfers in those years from Canton to Scituate to Mansfield, Massachusetts, and then to Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The second ledger opens in 1855, apparently in Medway, and the accounts run through 1872. Most of the accounts in the second volume begin with a balance transferred from another ledger, which would cover the gap between these two. Also, Gale transferred accounts in the second ledger to other volumes, so the series included at least three other ledgers.
The volumes are ledgers rather than daybooks. The first accounts in both books were entered chronologically, as Gale added the new patients to his lists. As time went on, Gale simply squeezed accounts in wherever there was room. At some point he added alphabetical indexes to each ledger, to provide some organization.
Gale's practice was an extensive one, especially for the days of horse and carriage. He treated patients throughout southeastern Massachusetts and northern Rhode Island, in some thirty-four towns. It is unclear why or how he developed such a wide-spread practice. Most of his entries in the ledgers are simply for "visit and medicine." Other frequent notations include dentistry and obstetric cases, vaccination, and treatment of broken bones.
Almost all the accounts were reckoned and settled at some point. Many patients paid in cash, and large balances settled in cash suggest that some of the patients were well-off. Gale also accepted a variety of goods and services for credit, including shoes for his family, washing, and work (by the hour or the day). He sometimes balanced credit accounts by paying out cash.
Gale used the last pages of the first ledger for personal accounts, but there are no other personal notations. There are, however, two interesting items. The first volume contains a list of medical fees for Worcester County. It gives the prices for a wide range of medical procedures, from "Advice in common cases" ($0.25) to "Operation for Strangulated Hernia" ($25). This list is an important resource for exploring economic and medical conditions in the 1840s and 1850s. The second item is a draft of an agreement between Gale and Dr. J.S. Nichols. Gale agrees to secure for Nichols as much as possible of the homeopathic medical practice in Woonsocket. In return, Nichols is to split the profits, estimated at $1200 a year, for two years. It is unclear if such an agreement was ever formally signed.