19th Century Medicine – Pre Civil War

The 19th century was the time period from 1801 to 1900. The American Revolution had taken place about 10-20 years before this time period and contributed extremely to the discovers and diseases during this time causing medical care and medicine to emerge.


  • 1832- out of Cholera
  • 1847- Anesthesia was publicly and properly used
  • 1859- Dr. Elizabeth was the first female to graduate from medical school
  • 1855- Yellow Fever was discovered in Portsmouth and Norfolk
  • 1864- Rebecca Lee becomes the 1st Africa American woman to earn a medical degree
Common diseases in 19th century America

During the 19th Century. disease was prevalent among the rapidly growing America. Urban areas were greatly affected due to its rapidly growing size. As more and more people entered and settled into their new cities, diseases such as Cholera, Typhus, Smallpox and Tuberculosis made a large impact on society. All of these diseases had one thing in common – they caused rapid death. These diseases did not discriminate either. No matter the age, race, nor social status, everyone had an equal chance of contracting an illness.  All of these diseases had serious symptoms, which provided clear evidence that the person was near their end.


Medical care in the 19th century

Medical care was desperately needed within this time period due to the many diseases that were discovered as well as accumulating.  Health Professionals in the early 1800s were not publicly available like they are today and their evolution led to many sanctions of medical aspects.  Midwives, and nurses who were dominantly women went through many hardships during this time all while being considered worthless and had no rights.  Surgeons and Physicians both were present but their job was not easily done do to the fact of having old tools and implements and not a lot of research to go within their practices.  Each of these professionals worked from the establishment of their own homes, and faced many difficulties  due to lack of transportation to get from one patient to the other.  All of these complications led to more problems within the health of Americans, which eventually demanded the need for proper medical care and professionals.

Medical Care in 19th Century America

Physicians first in the 19th century

As the nineteenth century approached, the concept and profession of medicine was far from highly developed as it is today. There is a vast difference in the practices and work opportunities within the field of medicine today versus in the nineteenth century. Training was held highly diverse between men and women. During this time period, the advances in technology and the study resulted in major changes to the profession of medicine. There are of course the broads descriptions of the professions within medicine such as physicians, apothecaries, and surgeons, but for my research I specifically am focusing on some of the very first physicians and their contributions to the study of medicine. Important physicians such as Dr. James McCure Smith, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, and Dr. Mary Edwards Walker immensely helped contribute to the evolution of medicine. Physician Firsts


Public health in 19th Century AMerica

In the 19th century public health was put in the spotlight, when scientists realized that cleanliness was the resolution to illness, it became top priority. Because of the high illness rates the poor would be blamed since the poverty rate was so high. Citizens failed to realize that the poor couldn’t help the fact that they couldn’t afford food with proper nutrients, to keep these illnesses away. Also poverty was not the only cause of sickness, it was also their living standards. The improvement of public health started in the mid 19th century, but the 20th century is when things were actually put in perspective and actions for improvement were made.