Recently I purchased a bound volume of the Poughkeepsie Thomsonian covering portions of 1842 and 1843. In the late 1830’s into the 1840’s this was a newspaper-like publication published twice monthly in Poughkeepsie, New York. It’s not strictly speaking a newspaper but rather a marketing publication selling the Thomsonian theory and practice of medicine which opposed bloodletting and encouraged vegetarianism. In the 18th and 19th centuries length of life was randomly brief or long and many people sought answers to the secret of living longer. Into this uncertainty Thomsonian medicine found a willing audience based on the simple question; would you like to live longer?
The Thomsonian theory was developed by Samuel Thomson [9 February 1769 – 5 October 1843] who was a self-taught herbalist and botanist. Through experimentation he identified herbal remedies that appealed to a public wary of conventional medicine.
He was a skilled advocate who promoted his natural way with attacks on medical practice:
“Much of what is at this day called medicine, is deadly poison, and were people to know what is offered them of this kind they would absolutely refuse ever to receive it as a medicine. This I have long seen and known to be true; and have laboured hard for many years to convince them of the evils that attend such a mode of procedure with the sick; and have turned my attention to those medicines that grow in our own country, which the God of nature has prepared for the benefit of mankind. Long has a general medicine been sought for, and I am confident I have found such as are universally applicable in all cases of disease, and which may be used with safety and success, in the hands of the people.
After thirty years study and repeated successful trials of the medicinal vegetables of our country, in all the diseases incident to our climate; I can, with well grounded assurance, recommend my system of practice and medicines to the public, as salutary and efficacious.”
He was a believer, not just a salesman, who passed his most important test by living to 74 in an era when 40 was the norm.
Other Thomsonian publications were printed in that era and this one seems to borrow liberally from them. Readers and patients were encouraged to subscribe by the year for a dollar for which they received a bound set of issues to be used for studying ways to maintain health.
The distribution of these issues and volumes appears to have been quite local and those who signed up were immortalized in print with both their names and the number of copies purchased shown.
So it was a business that, at its core, was on the right track. These days we are encouraged to eat less meat and discouraged from bloodletting unless you have hemochromatosis.
And of course, for those with the collecting bug, it satisfies the appetite.