Traders and Gentlefolk

Town Life,
page 11 of 14

And the surgeons on shore were protected against the ship barbers, who landed and who made some pretty grave mistakes when attempting to doctor in the town. In 1658 Dr. Varravanger, somewhat disgusted at the treatment of the sick, who, if they had no families, had to trust to the care of strangers, established the first New York Hospital, which was, after all, only a clean and suitable house with fire and wood and one good woman to act as matron.

There was no lack of physicians, — half a dozen by 1650. A century later, the historian of the province pronounced the towns to be swarming with quacks.

One tribute to old-time medicine and New York medical men we owe still. The well-known Kiersted Ointment manufactured and sold in New York to-day is made from a receipt of old Dr. Hans Kiersted’s, the best colonial physician of his day, who came to New York in 1638. The manufacture of this ointment is a closely guarded family secret. He married the daughter of the famous Anneke Jans; and, in the centuries that have passed, the descendants have had more profit from the ointment than from the real estate. There were plenty of “wise women” to care for the increase of the populace; the New Amsterdam midwife had a house built for her by the government. It was a much respected calling. The mother of Anneke Jans was a midwife. They were licensed to practise. Here is an appointment by the Governor in 1670:—

“Whereas I am given to understand that Tryntje Meljers ye wife of Wynant Vander pool a sworn and approved midwife at Albany in which Imployment she hath Continued for ye span of fourteen years past in good reputation not refusing her assistance but on ye contrary affording her best help to ye poorer sorte of people out of Christian Charity, as well as to ye richer sorte for reward, and there being severall other less skilfull women who upon occasion will pretend to be midwives where they can gain by it but refuse their helpe to ye poore. These presents Certifye That I doe allow of ye said Tryntje Meljers to be one of ye profest sworne midwives at Albany, and that she and one more skilfull woman be only admitted to Undertake ye same there except upon Extraordinary occasions. They continuing their Charitable assistance to ye poore & a diligent attendance on their calling.”


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