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Magnetic Medical Institute correspondence


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

Magnetic medicine was a popular (and likely ineffective) medical treatment during the 19th century. It was particularly prominent in the Midwestern United States after the American Civil War. This phenomenon has been attributed to an unsettled frontier atmosphere, a lack of trained physicians, and a tradition of self-treatment. Alternative treatments (or what might be considered quackery) flourished in this region of the United States.

Magnetic medicine was available in numerous forms: electro-magnetic machines, trusses, belts, plasters, balms, liniments, cordials, ointments, oils, and even magnetic spring waters. These treatments were advertised to cure numerous ailments, including respiratory issues (such as asthma), liver and kidney disorders, and rheumatism, as well as purify one's blood, cure piles, and improve women's reproductive health.

The Magnetic Medical Institute was located in Grand Rapids, MI, and likely founded and run by Dr. J. C. Batdorf, who described himself as a "scientific diagnoser and magnetic healer." Not much is known about the Institute, but Batdorf and his two sons were arrested for fraudulent use of the mail in 1901. Batdorf diagnosed his patients through the mail, and seemingly did this by collecting a lock of the patient's hair. One patient, a man, was "diagnosed" with various women's diseases.

Sources: "Three Batdorfs Held to the Grand Jury." Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), June 15, 1901.

Basford, Jeffrey R. "A historical perspective of the popular use of electric and magnetic therapy." Arch Phys Med Rehabil 82, no. 9 (September 2001): 1261-9.

Digger Odell Publications. "The Attraction of Magnetic Medicines.", 2009. Accessed 7 June 2018.

This small collection consists of three letters, dated May, June, and August of 1900, sent to a Mary Gray in Rural Ridge, PA, from Dr. J. C. Batdorf of the Magnetic Medical Institute in Grand Rapids, MI. The letters are in reference to Gray's case, for which Batdorf has diagnosed, prescribed treatment, and remarked upon her improvements.

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
7 June 2018

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