Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Scope and Contents of the Collection
This daybook covers the practice of an unidentified physician in the years 1831-33. The doctor was probably established in either Easton or Norton, Massachusetts, where most of his patients were located. Town histories list at least seven physicians in these towns for that period.
The entries in this daybook are short and often in a medical shorthand. Most simply list a debit for a call, advice, and medicine. Many note "new medicine," and presumably the charge was higher for a new prescription. Other frequent entries include dentistry work, venesection (bleeding), and childbirth, which the doctor noted by the abbreviation "puella.'' Vaccination, also a common procedure, increased sharply in August, 1811, which may indicate an outbreak of some disease such as smallpox or measles. Unfortunately, the doctor did not record which disease necessitated the vaccinations. Besides medical care, other debits show the doctor selling grain and boards, and renting out his horse and chaise.
Credit entries were infrequent, and almost all noted cash as the means of payment. Some debit entries were marked paid, which probably means they were settled at the time of service. The doctor added the charges at the bottom of each page, and he also figured his receipts by month and year. In 1831 his charges totaled $1952.32, and in 1832, $2046.16. Of course, this was only on paper, since he still had to collect for his services.
This physician saw patients, including charity cases, in Norton, Easton, Bridgewater, and in Plymouth County. Frequent patients included the families of Nathan Alger, Oliver and Lyman Dickaman, Cyrus Lathrop, Caleb and Nathan Pratt, and Samuel Wilbur. A few, presumably independent women, appeared under their own names, but most were listed under their husbands' names even as widows.