William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Finding aid created by
James B. Price Papers, 1818-1848
Rob S. Cox, February 1990
James B. Price papers
Price, James B.
The Price papers consists of 39 letters written by James B. Price and/or his wife, Ellen, to James' sister, Elizabeth Price in Philadelphia. The letters are about personal matters, Price's medical practice, and his impressions of New Orleans, Louisiana.
The material is in English
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown.
James B. Price Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
James Price was a Philadelphia-trained Quaker physician, who practiced successively in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Maryland. In 1818, he was placed in charge of the Northern Dispensary, an offshoot of the Philadelphia Dispensary chartered as an institution to provide medical care to the poor. At the time, Price was unmarried and his personal life was marked by some turmoil, and he was plagued by scandalous rumors about his relationships with women. His relationships with members of his family, however, remained very close, particularly with his sister, Elizabeth.
Price entered into private medical practice in 1820 at Cannesbrules, La., a small town near New Orleans. With a clientele including the "French" population, plantation owners, and slaves, Price prospered so that by 1824, he was treating as many as 300 patients a day and earning an annual income between $6000 and $7000. His antipathy toward New Orleans ("that vast emporium of filth and corruption") may have dissuaded him from pursuing an even more lucrative urban practice, but by 1822, Price had done well enough for himself that he was able to enter into marriage with Ellen Holliday, a woman raised and educated in Philadelphia. While awaiting construction of a new house, the couple moved in with the Holliday family at Bellegrove, La. The Prices had at least four children: Mary Elizabeth (b. 1823), Charles Edward (1825-1827), Clara (b. 1827), and Lucius D. (b. ca.1830).
In the succeeding years, Price's practice grew so large that he began to complain of the strain it placed on his health, particularly during the summer months when cases of malaria, cholera, typhus, dysentery, and other contagious diseases peaked. Like many of his contemporaries, he considered the climate in Louisiana to be so unhealthy during the summer that an un-acclimated northerner would risk almost certain death in traveling south. At other times, however, Price was struck by the physiological ability of people to adapt to the harsh climate, if given sufficient time. Both he and his wife suffered from serious illnesses during their stay in the south, Price contracting dysentery (which he claimed may actually have improved his health), cholera (1823), and malaria, and Ellen malaria and other fevers. Price's bout with cholera was a particularly severe one and he credited his wife with saving his life by applying blisters, contrary to the advice of the attending doctor, an 'ordinary French physician.'
The year 1827 was a particularly difficult one for the Price family. Their young son, Charles Edward died of complications resulting from a fever, and at nearly the same time, Price's father-in-law died, leaving the young family with substantial debts and a house still under construction. Combined with the stress of Price's heavy workload, debt, and separation from his family, and at the urging of his wife, who preferred Philadelphia to the South, the Prices decided to relocate. After a visit by Elizabeth to Louisiana in the autumn of 1829, the Prices moved to Maryland in March 1830, finding the Baltimore area to be a good compromise between the healthy conditions of the north and the warm climate of the south.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The Price papers consist of 39 letters written by James B. Price and/or his wife, Ellen, to James' sister, Elizabeth Price in Philadelphia. The earliest letters in the collection focus on James' personal life and suggest a critical interest on his and Elizabeth's part in contemporary literature. These letters contain scattered some information on medical matters, such as mention of the yellow fever epidemic of 1819 and the decision of the Philadelphia Board of Health to evacuate a portion of the population to safer grounds in New Jersey.
Price's letters from New Orleans provide excellent descriptions of the scenery and population of Louisiana. His contempt for New Orleans and mistrust for the "Creole" and "French" populations are vividly expressed. These letters are also of interest in drawing a strong, non-technical portrait of medical care and the effect of disease on the population of the New Orleans area in the 1820s. Ellen's letters focus on family and personal matters.
Among the more noteworthy letters in the collection are one concerning the Hicksite schism (1827 July). Although Price had ceased as a practicing Quaker, his sympathies remained with the Friends. In a letter dated September 28th, 1828, Price discussed his attitudes toward slavery which, if not actually pro-slavery, at least view the institution as largely benevolent, because, he felt, slaves were taken care of and not forced to work as hard as many whites.
- Communicable diseases.
- House construction.
- Human beings -- Effect of environment on.
- Interpersonal relations.
- Louisiana -- Description and travel.
- Mississippi River--Description and travel
- Morgan, Samuel P.
- Moving, Household
- New Orleans (La.)
- Price, Clare.
- Price, Mary Ellen, 1825-1919.
- Price, Philip.
- Price, William.
- Rheumatic fever.
- Sick children.
- Typhus fever.
Additional Descriptive Data
AcclimatizationAnimalsBankruptcyBayousBlistersBookstoresBradford, EarleBreast feedingByron, George Gordon, sixth baron, 1788-1824CajunsChickensChildbirthChildren--DeathCholeraCommunicable diseasesConduct of lifeConsumptionCourtshipCowper, William, 1731-1800Cox, Henry Hamilton, ca.1769-1821CreolesDeathDebtDepression, MentalDogsDroughtDuncan, Lucius C.DysenteryEpidemics--LouisianaEpidemics--PennsylvaniaEssay--History and criticismEthicsFarmingFarming--LouisianaFathers and daughtersFatigueFishingFlood, HenryFloods--Mississippi RiverForestersFrench-AmericansFrench-Americans--LouisianaGossipGuardian and wardHamilton, Elizabeth, 1758-1816House constructionHousingHuntingIllnessInfluenzaInterpersonal relationsKimber, EmmonLabranche, LouisLafayette, Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834
"Letters on America by an English Woman"LeveesLivermore, SamuelLouisiana--Description
LoveMalariaMan--Influence of ClimateMarriageMarriage customs and rites--LouisianaMaryland--DescriptionMate selectionMedical Education--PennsylvaniaMedicine--PracticeMedicine--Practice--LouisianaMississippi River--DescriptionMockingbirdsMorgan, Samuel P.Morgan, ThomasMortalityMosquitoesMothers and daughtersMoving, HouseholdNamesNew Orleans (La.)New Orleans (La.)--DescriptionNorthern Dispensary (Philadelphia, Pa.)Palmer, WilliePhiladelphia (Pa.). Board of HealthPhysicians--Louisiana
- 8, 11, 13, 14, 18, 20, 23
PhysiologyPlantations--LouisianaPleurisyPoetry--Criticism and interpretationPoetry--History and criticismPortrait miniaturesPostal servicePrice, ChandlerPrice, Charles Edward, 1825-1826Price, Clara, b. 1827
- 11, 13-15, 17, 19, 21, 24, 25, 34
Price, ElizaPrice, Ellen A.Price, IsaacPrice, James B.Price, LouisaPrice, Lucius D., b. ca.1830Price, Mary Elizabeth, b. 1823
- 29, 30, 31, 34, 35, 38, 39
- 14, 17-19, 23, 24, 27, 30, 31, 35, 38, 39
Price, SamuelPrice, WilliamPropertyPublic healthPublic health--LouisianaQuakersQuakers (Hicksites)Quakers--HistoryRheumatic feverScott, FannySeparation (Psychology)ServantsSewingSick childrenSlanderSlavery--LouisianaSlavesSlaves--Medicine--PracticeSmallpoxSociety of Friends. Philadelphia Yearly MeetingSpanish FeverSpine--Wounds and injuriesStorms--Gulf of FloridaSwampsTobacco habitTravelTyphus feverUnitariansWealthWealth, Ethics ofWeatherWhooping CoughWivesWool trade and industryWright, FrancesYellow Fever--LouisianaYellow Fever--Louisiana--New OrleansYellow Fever--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia
- 11, 12, 15, 17, 24, 29, 34