Welcome to our past exhibit on health, healing and addiction in 19th Century America. This page is a work-in-progress as we’ll be adding photographs, articles, and references to lectures held on the topic.

Detail of Dr. Kilmer and Co.’s medicine advertisement, c. 1889, University of Rochester

Health, Healing & Addiction in 19th Century America

April 8, 2021 – October 17, 2021

Curated by Kathleen Motes Bennewitz

This exploration featured rare artifacts, instruments, costumes and photographs, drawn from those once owned by the Lockwood and Mathews families, as well as loans from major private collections and public institutions.

Displays included such notable, nationally regarded collections as those of Dr. Donald Blaufox, Professor and University Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Nuclear Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Curator of MoHMA, and Chris Foard of The Foard Collection of Civil War Nursing, whose rare artifacts will be on view for the first time in the State of Connecticut and have been shown in major U.S. museums, including the National Gallery in Washington D.C. Mr. Foard was an advisor to the PBS series Mercy Street.

Public collection loans included artifacts from the Visiting Nurse Service of New York as well as several institutions in Connecticut including the Greenwich Historical Society, Norwalk Public Library, Norwalk Historical Society, Wilton Historical Society, Westport Public Art Collections, Bethel Public Library, Kent Historical Society, and Old Saybrook Historical Society to name a few.

Binocular microscope manufactured by Henry Crouch, 1870, courtesy of The M. Donald Blaufox, M.D., Ph.D. Collection, Museum of Historical Medical Artifacts

The exhibition investigated what history can teach us about the Germ Theory, Civil War and its medical legacy, changes in nutrition and self-care, and the extraordinary breakthroughs in technology that rocked the medical establishment leading to the birth of modern medicine and public health.

It also brought to light unconventional treatments and rising addiction rates, which were pervasive in the 19th century through the widespread access of popular and unregulated, over-the-counter “remedies” promising pain relief and improved health. 

John Harley Warner, award-winning author and Avalon Professor of the History of Medicine at Yale University, served as the expert advisor for the exhibition.

To view video: Press “play” in lower left corner. Video will start automatically and will allow for 50 seconds per slide. Selected slides with additional information will allow 50 seconds to view the slide and audio will follow. Please view the video in “full screen” for optimal viewing.

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