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Dixon family papers


Held at: Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia [Contact Us]19 S. 22nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Edward H. Dixon was a New York City surgeon. He was born on December 31, 1808, in New York City, NY. He married a woman named Sarah Hart in 1833, and they had one daughter, Julia. Dixon earned his M.D. from Rutgers Medical College in 1829 or 1830, and then studied material medica, theory and practice, and therapeutics under Dr. John Francis; and surgery under Dr. Alexander Mott. Afterwards, Dixon accepted positions at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum and House of Refuge. Later, he opened his own practice as a consulting surgeon, as well as a private surgical hospital, where he treated pelvic viscera, hemorrhoids, fistula, stricture of the urethra, paralysis of the bladder, calculus, uterine and ovarian diseases, and difficult births.

During his lifetime and career, Dixon opposed what he called "trades unionism" in the medical profession, and refused to join either the New York State Medical Society or the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM). Although he was not a homeopath, Dixon seemed to share their distrust of traditional "heroic medical practices," which often included amputations and extreme surgeries. Dixon was especially critical of NYAM, which he believed was hypocritical in its prohibition on advertising as well as too exclusive. He is representative of the long 19th-century conflict between traditional doctors who tried to make medicine an exclusive and respected profession, and others who attacked them for anti-democratic elitism. In 1850, he began publishing his own medical journal, The New York Scalpel, to carry on his campaign and to instruct the public about medical practices he praised. He continued to publish The Scalpel until 1861, when the American Civil War began.

Dixon published several medical books during his lifetime, including A treatise on diseases of the sexual system: adapted to popular and professional reading, and the exposition of quackery, New York: Charles H. Ring, [c1846]; Scenes in the practice of a New York surgeon, New York: DeWitt & Davenport, [c1855]; and Woman and her diseases, from the cradle to the grave; adapted exclusively to her instruction in the physiology of her system and all the diseases of her critical periods, Philadelphia: Bradley, 1860; as well as The terrible mysteries of the Ku-Klux-Klan. A full expose of the forms, objects, and "dens" of the secret order: with a complete description of their initiation, New York, 1868.

He died in New York City on December 6, 1880.

Sarah S. Hart was on born on October 19, 1808, in Westchester County, New York, to Susannah Stewart and Nathaniel Coleman Hart. She married Edward H. Dixon on July 11, 1833, and they had one daughter, Julia. Sarah (Hart) Dixon died in 1883.

Julia Dixon was born to Sarah Hart and Edward Dixon in 1835 or 1836 in New York. She married Elias G. Brown, in 1857, and they had several children, including Julia and Mary. Julia (Dixon) Brown died around 1893.

The Dixon family papers span from 1842 to 1893 (although the bulk of material dates from the 1860s to the 1880s), and document the everyday life of women living in the late 19th-century, as well as the relationships between a grandfather and his grandchildren. The collection also contains several legal documents, relating to the sale and/or purchase of land by various family members, college diplomas, and two published articles. Researchers should note that although the collection contains materials by and about Dr. Edward H. Dixon, his career, and medical practices of post-Civil War physicians, are poorly represented.

The collection is arranged into four series: Correspondence, Edward H. Dixon, Elias G. Brown, and Legal documents. Nearly all of the series descriptions were taken from the bookseller's notes; the College purchased the Dixon family papers in 1994.

Series I: Correspondence spans the years from 1842 to 1893, although most of the letters were written during the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s. The series is further divided into subseries, based on the recipient. Subseries A contains several letters to Edward Dixon, including one sent by A. A. Phillips, defense lawyer, NY, on April 28, 1852, in which Phillips thanks Dixon for providing crucial testimony at a trial where Phillips' client, a "friendless and unfortunate" woman, won acquittal.

Series I, Subseries B (1842-1883), consists of letters sent to or from Dixon's wife, Sarah, mostly from family members. The letters cover topics such as the death of Sarah's father and grandfather; and from her half-sister, Clara, asking her to try to get a position for a "young colored girl almost 16 years old" who used to work for Clara. There are numerous other letters from Clara, written in various parts of the south throughout 1869, but not many details about post-war conditions.

Letters written by Edward Dixon to his grandchildren – mainly Julia – from 1876 to 1880, make up Series I, Subseries C. Some of the letters discuss his promising invention (no details) to reduce elevated railroad noise in NYC.

Approximately two dozen letters to and from Dixon's daughter, Julia (Dixon) Brown, spanning the 1860s to the 1880s, comprise Subseries D of Series I. Several are from Julia's friend Lizzie, some from family members, but the bulk of the correspondence is condolences for her mother's death.

Series II: Edward H. Dixon dates to 1859 and 1879, and consists of two published articles, a calling card, a notebook, and his physician's license. One article, published in the July 1859 Scalpel, recounts a case of brutal Caesarean section by a doctor in California which Dixon says was unnecessary and poorly done. The second article is the public letter (June 12, 1879) he sent to the Academy condemning them for medical pretensions and for hypocrisy in their prohibition on advertising. The notebook contains poems, most, or all of which were transcribed from other authors (Byron, Campbell, Bruce, Emerson), and which were written in three different hands. The poems are followed by two pages of Dixon's genealogy: his maternal grandparents, then the births and deaths of his parents and siblings.

Series III: Elias G. Brown includes Brown's diplomas – a Bachelor's degree from Columbia University in 1846, and a Master's of the Arts from Columbia University in 1849. The series also contains an 1889 photograph of servants in the Browns' household, and an undated essay by Brown.

Series IV: Legal documents dates throughout the 19 century. The documents included are: 1) Indenture of land sale in NYC, 1801. Sold by Abraham Bancker to James Woods, NYC attorney, and Jonathan Dixon, NYC merchant. 2) Indenture of land sale, sold by David and Ann Campbell to J. Dixon, in 1801 another plot of NYC land. 3) Indenture of land sale, sold by Annie Taylor to William Eyer in 1899 a plot of land in Florida. 4) Petition by Nathaniel Hart's widow in the dispute between her and EHD's wife over the rights to some of Hart's land in Westchester Cty, NY, in 1842. 5) Legal documents relating to State of NY's approval of the will of Hannah Dixon, executed by EHD, 1855 and apparently reviewed for a court case in 1881. 6) Indenture of land sale from Clementine Rehrer to Edward HD Brown, 1893, a flat of land in Florida. 7) Will of Peter Bourdett, 1826.

This collection was discovered during a survey in the summer and fall of 2015. It was processed in the spring of 2018.

Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Finding Aid Author
Chrissie Perella
Finding Aid Date
June 2018

Collection Inventory

Subseries a: Letters to Edward H. Dixon, 1865-1878.
Box 1 Folder 1
From Abraham B. Hart, 1842.
Box 1 Folder 2
From Archbrook, 1883.
Box 1 Folder 3
From "Clara" (Clarissa Hart) Hicks, 1865-1878.
Box 1 Folder 4
Subseries c: Letters from "Grandpa" to Julia Brown and others, 1876; 1880; undated.
Box 1 Folder 5
Condolences for mother's death, 1883.
Box 1 Folder 6
From family, 1883; undated.
Box 1 Folder 7
From "Lizzie", 1863-1893; undated.
Box 1 Folder 8
From Reuben Mitchell, 1881.
Box 1 Folder 9
Empty envelopes, undated.
Box 1 Folder 10

Articles, 1859; 1879.
Box 1 Folder 11
Calling card, undated.
Box 1 Folder 12
Notebook (poetry and genealogy), undated.
Box 1 Folder 13
Physicians' license, 1880.
Box 1 Folder 14

Calling card, undated.
Box 1 Folder 15
Diplomas, 1846; 1849.
Photograph of "Servants in the Brown Household", 1889.
Box 1 Folder 16
"This also shall pass away" essay, undated.
Box 1 Folder 17

Indentures of land sales, 1801; 1893; 1899.
Box 1 Folder 18
Petition, re Nathaniel Hart's wido and Sarah (Hart) Dixon over land, 1842.
Box 1 Folder 19
Will of Hannah (Bourdette) Dixon, 1881.
Box 1 Folder 20
Will of Peter Bourdette, 1826.

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