The  Doctor
by Anthony & John P.

Doctors in Colonial times were nothing like the doctors of today. Doctors used ancient methods to cure their patient, but they rarely worked. One of their methods was to bleed their patient with a small knife called a lancet. They did this because they believed that too much of one of the humors or fluids in the body caused diseases. If you had a headache the doctor would give you walnut meat because it looked like a brain. Sometimes the sick would be put in a really hot or an icy-cold bath.

In Colonial times the doctors had to use raw materials to make medicines, such as plants, herbs, roots, tree bark, and some animal parts. They eventually learned the remedies used by the Indian medicine man or shamans. They relied partially on prayers and dancing, but to cure many illnesses they used powerful drugs and potions. These were the remedies made from nature. These remedies often worked.

Some of the tools they used were:

  • Knife - to bleed the patients
  • Mortar & pestle - used to crush herbs
  • Hot poultice - soft moist substance applied to body to help an aching part of the body
  • Cold Cloth - applied to the body to reduce fever
  • Tree bark
  • Plant leaves
  • Herbs and roots

Before there were medical schools in America, apprentices trained with doctors. They learned how to make medicines, were able to read the doctor's medical books, and watches the doctor as he worked. When their apprenticeship was over they could just claim that they were doctors. 

By 1721, doctors began to work differently. Hospital were built, medical societies were founded, and colleges began to teach medicine about the body.

In 1775, the Declaration of Independence was signed by four doctors.

  • Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire
  • Lyman Hall of Georgia
  • Benjamin Rush of Pennsylvania
  • Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire

Click on a trade below to read more about it.

Source: Fisher, Leonard Everett. The Doctors. New York: F. Watts, [1968]. 

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