Do You Know About Josiah Bartlett?


 The “Do You Know About?” series of post will highlight historical moments in United States history that are not taught in school either for lack of time or they just don’t want you to know.  The series is designed to highlight important relationships and incidents that contribute to an overall understanding of history and engages the reader guiding them to learn about a subject that heretofore was deemed uninteresting.  In addition, this series is meant to show that the founders were not super human but had the same life struggles and fallacies that we have today. Enjoy and please leave comments.  This series will appear weekly. 

Josiah Bartlett

Did you know that Josiah Bartlett, a New Hampshire Signer of the Declaration of Independence, was a medical doctor.

By the age of 16, he began to study medicine under Dr. Ordway.   In those days, the colonies had adopted many of the English education customs and one of them was an apprenticeship in a chosen profession. For example, in medicine, the time of study/apprenticeship for medicine lasted five to seven years before an individual would begin his own practice.  Dr. Bartlett would open his own practice in 1750 in Kingston, NH.

By 1754, distemper hits Kingston, NH and spreads like wildfire.  Kingston had experienced an epidemic in 1735, which had killed many adults and children mostly under the age of 10. Distemper is a disease which occurs in the throat, and today it is better known as diphtheria, scarlet fever or a strain of strep throat. Through the observing his patients, Dr. Bartlett discovers that the disease is putrid, not inflammatory as previously accepted by the medical community. He utilizes Peruvian Bark in his treatment along with cool drinks, and first tries this on his own infant daughter.  She recovers from the disease and he begins to treat other patients with Peruvian Bark, who also recover from the disease.  This discovery would bring him recognition, but the New England Medical Society would temporarily suspend him for not following proper procedures. The proper treatment procedure at the time included bleeding, emetics, drugs and starvation would which sometimes result in death.

Fun Fact – Josiah Bartlett’s homestead has been in his family for 7 generations.

Disclaimer – some of the information above first appeared in my master’s capstone project.