Dr. Jackson’s Office

Dr. Jackson's Office

Originally built in 1820 in Westford, New York, this tiny Greek Revival style building had just one room that served as the office for the community’s doctor. A series of doctors continued to use the building for almost the next one hundred years.

During the 1840’s, doctors usually practiced outside their offices by traveling to visit patients at their homes. Therefore, doctors could use small offices without much storage as most of their equipment was portable. Rural doctors performed a variety of tasks including surgeries, tooth extractions, epidemic tracking, and baby deliveries in addition to more general medical care for ill patients.

Nineteenth Century Medical School

During the nineteenth century, doctors followed a variety of health care philosophies. After three years of training to be a pharmacist, they could become a doctor through an additional two years of apprenticeship or formal training at a medical college. Doctors primarily used medical publications to continue their education.

Doctors in Rural Communities

In addition to their medical responsibilities, many doctors also worked in other professions and played key roles in their communities. Dr. John Jackson, for example, also farmed, raised livestock, and served in a variety of public service roles. Elhanan Jackson also farmed as well as serving as the Commissioner of Common Schools and Overseer of the Poor. Young doctors looking to establish themselves in a rural community had to prove themselves and build public confidence. Doctors who integrated themselves into their communities were more successful in their practices.

Doctors often made house calls- so this small office doubled as office and home.

Objects and Documents

Pair of Crutches

Like today, people who had injured their legs or feet used crutches in order to move around. Crutches of the nineteenth century were not as comfortable as today’s and could not be easily adjusted to fit the height of the user.  Rags would sometimes be wrapped around the top to try and make it less painful … Continue reading Pair of Crutches

Patent Medicine

Pharmacists, grocers, and many others sold immensely popular patent medicines during the nineteenth century. Premixed patent medicines came with instruction for use and often advertised that they did not contain chemicals commonly used in prescription medications. Neither the United States nor the State of New York had any laws regulating the creation or sale of … Continue reading Patent Medicine

Doctor’s Saddlebags

Physicians often made house calls to care for their patients. Since many physicians traveled by horseback, these saddlebags allowed doctors to transport their medicines and equipment safely. The saddlebags are made of leather and could be put over the back of a horse or over the doctor’s shoulder.  

Advertisement for Dr. Thrall’s Pharmacy

Pharmacists often advertised their services in local newspapers. Freeborn G. Thrall advertised his shop in the Freeman’s Journal in Cooperstown, New York. Like many other pharmacists at the time, and like today, Thrall carried a variety of goods in addition to prescription medications.

Tooth Key

While dental cavities were sometimes filled with gold or silver during the early nineteenth century, decaying teeth were often removed. This item is called a tooth key and was used in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to remove molars, the large back teeth. The small, curved, metal arms at the base were set around the affected … Continue reading Tooth Key


This stethoscope is made from wood and ivory. While it looks very different from what doctors use to listen to patients’ hearts today, they function in similar ways. The ivory section of the device would be pressed against the patient’s body while the physician would listen to a heartbeat or breathing patterns through the other … Continue reading Stethoscope

Mortar and Pestle

Doctors and independent pharmacists had to mix their own medicines during the nineteenth century. Solid ingredients could be ground into powders and mixed with other ingredients using a mortar and pestle. Powders could be mixed with liquids to make liquid medicines, or rolled into pills and lozenges.