Originally appeared in the Bridgton News of august 27th, 2020
In the days before modern healthcare, medicine and medicine advertisements were very different things compared to how they are today. From about the 1860‘s until the turn of the century, the field of medicine was populated largely by such things as travelling medicine shows, door-to-door pharmacists, and patent medicine wonder-cures, such as South Bridgton’s own Opodeldoc, a special “ammoniated lineament” made by James Knight and sold as a wonder cure for joint pain until one child drank it and was struck blind. These sorts of medicines, which had no regulation, were peddled by an eclectic mixture of grifters, tricksters, mystics and genuine doctors, such that one never knew when the wagon rolled up whether it was true medicine or simple snake oil being sold, and so to better convince their potential customers many travelling healers would publish lists of “Public Certifications” in the form of letters supposedly written by those they had already cured. Here in Bridgton, in 1871, one such practitioner set up shop for ten days at the Bridgton House, and if her advertisements are to be believed, not only could she cure such varied ills as catarrh, dropsy, and the dreaded scrofula, but also more serious allocations as with “a rare case of spinal disease,” and “a very remarkable cure of cancer.” Going all the way back to August 25th, 1871, please allow me introduce you to the celebrated Mrs. Manchester, “The Clairvoyant Physician.”
“Mrs. Manchester, the Independent Clairvoyant and Eclectic Physician,
Formerly from 618 Broadway, New York, late of Portland, has arrived in Bridgton, and taken room at the Bridgton House, for a short time only, where she will treat all diseases which she is held to. Price for an examination, $1.00.
Certificate of Cures:
This is to certify that Mrs. Manchester has doctored in my family for six years with marked success. She has cured my wife of dropsy in its worst form; my daughter of spinal disease of five years’ standing; a sister of deafness and cararrh; my father of blindness. And I would recommend her to the public as a skillful physician, and every way worthy of patronage – John Hobson
This is to certify that I called on Mrs. Manchester, the Clairvoyant Physician, last summer, with that physicians call a Rose Cancer on my arm. Five different physicians said I must have my arm taken off. I did not feel willing to submit to that treatment; consequently they told me they could not do anything for me. Hearing of the wonderful cures of Mrs. M. I thought, as the last resort, I would consult her. I did so on the 26th of June, and at this time my arm is as well as the other. I have no appearance of cancer or any disease of the arm. I must truly say, I think her a Great Physician. I advise every one to go and see her; if she cannot cure you she will tell you so at once – Sarah Getchell.
Lewiston, Nov. 26, 1867
I hereby certify that I have been deaf for twenty-five years; have had perpetual noise in my head, and have been under the treatment of many different physicians without receiving any benefit. I have been under the care of Mrs. Manchester for six months and my hearing is completely restored; the noise in my head has ceased entirely, and my general health is perfect. I heartily recommend her to all similarly afflicted – Mrs. Lucy Carr.
Gardiner, March 15, 1871.
Madame Manchester – I saw you at Bath two years ago, and took treatment for Scrofular Sores and lameness, I was afflicted with deep ulcers on my limbs, and lameness that compelled me to use crutches fifteen years. I wish to inform you that you made a perfect cure in my case; the sores all healed after a time, and my lameness is all gone and I feel like a new being. Hoping this brief statement may be a blessing to some unfortunate invalid, I remain very truly yours – John Jameson.
Bangor, May 15, 1871
Mrs. Manchester, Dear Madam: When you were in Bangor last summer, I called to see you with a child of mine that had been sick for four years. I had taken her to a number of Physicians, and none could tell what ailed her or even her symptoms. You examined her case, and told me exactly her symptoms from the commencement of her sickness, which was very peculiar; also told me there was something live in her, and also said there was a number of them, and told me that she drank them from a rain-water cistern. You said that you would not warrant a cure, but would try and do the best you could for her. She commenced taking your medicine in August last, and from that time till December, the child had passed off large quantities of what we call Tadpoles, from rain water, and I think, and am certain that the child must have died had it not been for you. And I advise everybody to see Mrs. Manchester, for I know that she has the power of knowing the condition of a person diseased better than any Physician that I have ever heard of. Please have this published, and let the world know that there is one who practice what they profess to. Very truly and gratefully yours – George E. & Mary L Martin.
Biddeford, May 2, 1870
This is to certify that Mrs. Manchester has cured me of scrofula or hip disease of five years standing, I have consulted the best professions in the country and have derived no benefit. I called on Mrs. Manchester ten months ago, and commenced treatment; the sores, three in number, have healed and I have thrown down my crutches, and am now a well man. I am confident if I had not consulted this lady I should always have been a cripple. Let all invalids give her a fair trial, and I have no doubt you will be benefited. – S.T. King.
Bridgton, Aug. 18, 1871
Dear Madame: When you were in this place last summer, I called you to examine my case, which was spinal disease. I had not used my limbs to stand on them for three years. I have consulted eight or ten Physicians, none of them did me any good; but still I grew worse, but by your skill I am now a happy man, as I have full power and strength of my limbs. I must say to the afflicted go and consult Mrs. Manchester, and give her a fair trial, and you will be well paid. Very truly yours – James Hall.”
Well, with such credentials as these, who could doubt it?
Till next time!