mad in pursuit journal


Abram Bullis' Notebook

I was back on the Scenic Byways yesterday, lining up a stack of things for ebay, one folder for "Store," another for "Auction."

It never goes as fast as I want it to because I get intrigued with things.

Yesterday's mystery was an old notebook that surfaced from Jim's public health book collection. A notebook with lines set up for accounting. Leather spine, marbled cover. Inside, every page is filled with old handwriting. On the flyleaf is the owner's inscription: "Abram R. Bullis, Manchester, Vermont 1835."

The notebook contains page after page of medical anecdotes and prescriptions for various ailments, either from lectures or from reading, along with other stray facts ("First steamboat on the Hudson River by Fulton 1807"). An example:

Pragmatic Practice of a Thompsonian Viz.

Giving tobacco enemas in cases of Hemorhoids. This case was related by Prof Beck of Albany N.Y. This same Empric [?] displayed his knowledge of Anatomy by injecting a decoction of Lobelia Inflata into the vagina of a Female instead of the rectum. Such practice is Malum Prohibitum.

Lots of enemas, emetics, cathartics, and...

Leeches after they have been applied to a part can be made to disgorge themselves by putting them into beer. Unless they are made to disgorge themselves they will die or be unfit for use.

I naturally went looking on to see what I could learn about this fellow.

Turns out that Abram Bullis (1815-1866) got an MD and practiced as a surgeon in the small towns of Wayne County, a few miles from here. He had a wife and four children. He died at the age of 51 and is buried in Palmyra NY. Jim probably found the notebook on one of his explorations of Wayne County used book stores or antique shops.

It seems logical that the notebook is a record of his medical training at the age of 20. Interesting.


Samuel Thomson. Father of American Herbalism.