Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
James B. Price Papers, 1818-1848

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, February 1990

Summary Information
Title: James B. Price papers
Creator: Price, James B.
Inclusive dates: 1818-1848
Bulk dates: 1818-1830
Extent: 39 items
Abstract:
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.

Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1988. M-2391.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

James B. Price papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Biography

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.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Childbirth.
    • Communicable diseases.
    • Death.
    • House construction.
    • Human beings -- Effect of environment on.
    • Interpersonal relations.
    • Louisiana -- Description and travel.
    • Medicine--Practice.
    • Mississippi River--Description and travel
    • Morgan, Samuel P.
    • Moving, Household
    • New Orleans (La.)
    • Physicians.
    • Price, Clare.
    • Price, Mary Ellen, 1825-1919.
    • Price, Philip.
    • Price, William.
    • Rheumatic fever.
    • Sick children.
    • Travel.
    • Typhus fever.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Box   1  
    James B. Price papers,  1818-1848 [series]:
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Partial Subject Index
    Acclimatization
    • 13, 23
    Animals
    • 11
    Bankruptcy
    • 26
    Bayous
    • 8
    Blisters
    • 15
    Bookstores
    • 18
    Bradford, Earle
    • 35
    Breast feeding
    • 18, 19
    Byron, George Gordon, sixth baron, 1788-1824
    • 14, 21
    Cajuns
    • 11
    Chickens
    • 38
    Childbirth
    • 14, 23, 29
    Children--Death
    • 26
    Cholera
    • 15
    Communicable diseases
    • 12, 13, 18, 24, 28, 30
    Conduct of life
    • 1
    Consumption
    • 8
    Courtship
    • 6, 10
    Cowper, William, 1731-1800
    • 21
    Cox, Henry Hamilton, ca.1769-1821
    • 7
    Creoles
    • 13, 24
    Death
    • 12, 23, 24, 26
    Debt
    • 26
    Depression, Mental
    • 31
    Dogs
    • 38
    Drought
    • 28
    Duncan, Lucius C.
    • 28, 30
    Dysentery
    • 8
    Epidemics--Louisiana
    • 14, 24
    Epidemics--Pennsylvania
    • 7
    Essay--History and criticism
    • 1
    Ethics
    • 1
    Farming
    • 10
    Farming--Louisiana
    • 34
    Fathers and daughters
    • 18
    Fatigue
    • 20
    Fishing
    • 38
    Flood, Henry
    • 25
    Floods--Mississippi River
    • 14
    Foresters
    • 23
    French-Americans
    • 11
    French-Americans--Louisiana
    • 13, 24, 29
    Gossip
    • 3
    Guardian and ward
    • 6
    Hamilton, Elizabeth, 1758-1816
    • 18, 21
    House construction
    • 22, 26, 38
    Housing
    • 22, 29
    Hunting
    • 11
    Illness
    • 2, 20
    Influenza
    • 24, 31
    Interpersonal relations
    • 3, 5-7
    Kimber, Emmon
    • 25
    Labranche, Louis
    • 34, 35
    Lafayette, Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834
    • 21
    "Letters on America by an English Woman"
    • 22
    Levees
    • 11, 14
    Livermore, Samuel
    • 15
    Louisiana--Description
    • 8, 11, 13, 14, 18, 20, 23
    Love
    • 3, 5, 6
    Malaria
    • 15, 16
    Man--Influence of Climate
    • 13, 20, 23, 30
    Marriage
    • 10, 12
    Marriage customs and rites--Louisiana
    • 10
    Maryland--Description
    • 38, 39
    Mate selection
    • 5, 6, 10, 12
    Medical Education--Pennsylvania
    • 25
    Medicine--Practice
    • 9
    Medicine--Practice--Louisiana
    • 11, 15-17, 29, 35
    Mississippi River--Description
    • 8, 11, 18
    Mockingbirds
    • 13
    Morgan, Samuel P.
    • 9, 27, 28, 30
    Morgan, Thomas
    • 27, 30
    Mortality
    • 29
    Mosquitoes
    • 22
    Mothers and daughters
    • 18, 38
    Moving, Household
    • 31, 35-37
    Names
    • 14, 23
    New Orleans (La.)
    • 14, 18, 20
    New Orleans (La.)--Description
    • 8, 31
    Northern Dispensary (Philadelphia, Pa.)
    • 1
    Palmer, Willie
    • 39
    Philadelphia (Pa.). Board of Health
    • 7
    Physicians--Louisiana
    • 11, 13-15, 17, 19, 21, 24, 25, 34
    Physiology
    • 13
    Plantations--Louisiana
    • 8, 11
    Pleurisy
    • 8
    Poetry--Criticism and interpretation
    • 21
    Poetry--History and criticism
    • 2, 4
    Portrait miniatures
    • 17, 20, 22
    Postal service
    • 10
    Price, Chandler
    • 9, 22, 28, 30
    Price, Charles Edward, 1825-1826
    • 23, 24, 26
    Price, Clara, b. 1827
    • 29, 30, 31, 34, 35, 38, 39
    Price, Eliza
    • 24
    Price, Ellen A.
    • 12, 15, 17, 27, 29-31
    Price, Isaac
    • 23
    Price, James B.
    • 18, 19
    Price, Louisa
    • 26, 32
    Price, Lucius D., b. ca.1830
    • 38
    Price, Mary Elizabeth, b. 1823
    • 14, 17-19, 23, 24, 27, 30, 31, 35, 38, 39
    Price, Philip
    • 11, 12, 15, 17, 24, 29, 34
    Price, Samuel
    • 39
    Price, William
    • 8, 10, 26-28, 32, 39
    Property
    • 24
    Public health
    • 7, 8
    Public health--Louisiana
    • 13
    Quakers
    • 18
    Quakers (Hicksites)
    • 28
    Quakers--History
    • 28
    Rheumatic fever
    • 8, 29, 30, 34, 35
    Scott, Fanny
    • 39
    Separation (Psychology)
    • 7
    Servants
    • 31
    Sewing
    • 21
    Sick children
    • 19, 24, 31
    Slander
    • 3
    Slavery--Louisiana
    • 32
    Slaves
    • 32
    Slaves--Medicine--Practice
    • 20
    Smallpox
    • 24
    Society of Friends. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
    • 28
    Spanish Fever
    • 31
    Spine--Wounds and injuries
    • 26
    Storms--Gulf of Florida
    • 23
    Swamps
    • 8
    Tobacco habit
    • 39
    Travel
    • 9, 19, 29, 33
    Typhus fever
    • 29, 30, 39
    Unitarians
    • 28
    Wealth
    • 10, 23
    Wealth, Ethics of
    • 11
    Weather
    • 27
    Whooping Cough
    • 24
    Wives
    • 12
    Wool trade and industry
    • 10
    Wright, Frances
    • 22, 23
    Yellow Fever--Louisiana
    • 14
    Yellow Fever--Louisiana--New Orleans
    • 29
    Yellow Fever--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia
    • 7