Popular culture remembers the settling of the Midwest as a golden era of unbounded opportunity, a time when every farm was a family farm and every farmer glowed with health. Pioneers in nineteenth-century Iowa, however, had to battle a formidable host of diseases during this golden era—malaria was endemic, smallpox and dysentery occurred in widespread epidemics, and typhoid, cholera, scarlet fever, and diphtheria had their seasons. Physicians in the growing Hawkeye State had little of the status and skill they command today, and herbalists, hydropaths, eclectics, Thomsonians, and homeopaths competed with purveyors of home remedies and patent medicines for their services.
The druggists of pioneer Iowa were artisan producers who compounded and prescribed botanical and chemical medicines, sold a variety of other merchandise from perfumes to paints, and dispensed the secret concoctions known as patent medicines, guaranteed to cure any condition, however alarming. In this compelling study, Lee Anderson tells the story of these early pharmacists and their hard-fought quest to legitimize their profession. While he confronts the politics of professionalism and the purpose of the pharmaceutical science and education, he also illuminates the mutual role of physicians and pharmacists in frontier health care.
With skill and humor, Anderson recreates an exciting time in midwestern history and provides insights into national issues of professionalism in medicine. His study will appeal to scholars in the history of medicine, pharmacy, and professionalism and to everyone interested in the history of the Midwest.