> Grand Opening: Dr. Chaffee's Office

November, 2019show full yearClose
Event:Grand Opening: Dr. Chaffee's Office
Date:November 2nd, 2019.
Time:1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Location:Windsor Historical Society
Contact:Sue
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Please join us at Windsor Historical Society on Saturday, November 2, 2019 from 1 to 4 p.m. for a fascinating journey into the past as we open Dr. Hezekiah Chaffee’s office as a newly installed hands-on space. Hezekiah Chaffee was trained as apothecary and practiced medicine from the 1760s through the early 1800s on Palisado Green. As well as making up and prescribing medicines, Dr. Chaffee would have treated fevers, broken bones, and a variety of other ills, even delivered babies. As you will see, a visit to the doctor’s office was not for the faint of heart!
When Dr. Chaffee established his practice in the 18th century, most doctors thought disease was caused by an imbalance of four humors or bodily fluids: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. To restore balance, bloodletting was a common treatment, accomplished with lancets or leeches. Yellow bile and black bile could be purged with powerful laxatives and emetics, or through blistering. This involved heating a glass cup over flame, then applying it directly to the skin. The blister that resulted would seep yellow fluid, the desired result.
So, how do we know what Dr. Chaffee’s office would have contained? We looked closely at Dr. Chaffee’s probate inventory taken at the time of his death, and at several of the very few late-18th-and-early-19th century doctor’s offices that survive along the eastern seaboard. Curator Kristen Wands researched treatments using a variety of medical texts that were available to Dr. Chaffee in his time.
As with the Society’s Strong-Howard House, Dr. Chaffee’s office is furnished with reproductions of the furnishings he likely used there. All furnishings are based on Connecticut Valley furnishings surviving in museums. Craftspeople from the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking worked all summer building an apothecary cabinet to house ingredients for Dr. Chaffee’s medicines, a desk which would have been the center of Dr. Chaffee’s studies into disease, and a table that could accommodate a patient needing his bone-setting services. Another talented craftsperson built Windsor chairs to accommodate Dr. Chaffee’s patients.
The result? Starting on November 2, visitors to Dr. Chaffee’s office will be able to browse through some of his medical texts, check out his apothecary chest, and mix up some remedies! Come help us celebrate steps leading to the evolution of modern medicine on November 2. Talk with Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking artists who produced the furnishings, and at 2 p.m., hear more about diseases and treatments of Dr. Chaffee’s time from Dr. Al McKee, physician and president of the Longmeadow Historical Society. Dr. McKee’s presentation examines causes of death found on New England gravestones.
Please note: Dr. Chaffee’s office is a small room, accessed by four brownstone steps. So you may have to wait to get in, but we invite you to browse through our Windsor history galleries and enjoy refreshments in our main building.




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