Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
James Craik Collection, 1789-1792

Finding aid created by
Clements Staff, December 1993, and Meg Hixon, November 2011

Summary Information
Title: James Craik collection
Creator: William L. Clements Library
Inclusive dates: 1789-1792
Extent: 7 items
The James Craik collection contains seven letters and recipes written by Craik. Three items relate to the health of George Washington and his family, and six propose contemporary cures for various ailments.
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:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1992. M-2814.2.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

James Craik Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.


James Craik was born in Scotland in 1730 and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. After receiving his degree, he served in the British army as a surgeon, but resigned his position in 1751 to sail for Virginia; he eventually settled in Winchester. He served as a surgeon with the Virginia Provincial Regiment, where he befriended George Washington, with whom he served in the French and Indian War. In 1758, he moved to Port Tobacco, Maryland, where he married Marianne Ewell in 1760; they had nine children. Craik was dissatisfied with British rule, and joined the Continental Army, serving as assistant director general of the hospital department during the war. A founding member of the Society of the Cincinnati, Craik moved to Alexandria, Virginia, after the war. He remained close to Washington for the remainder of his life as his friend and personal physician, and was present at the time of his death in 1799. He died on February 6, 1814.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The James Craik collection contains seven letters and recipes written by Craik. Three items relate to the health of George Washington and his family, and six are contemporary cures for various ailments. In the first letter, addressed to Tobias Lear, Craik encouraged him to introduce his friend Mrs. Dixon to George Washington (September 21, 1789). The remainder of the material focuses on medicine, and contains several remedies for a range of complaints, including chest pain, a "perpetual blister," and a malady frequently affecting children. Three of the items relate directly to the health of George Washington and his family.

These include:

  • A letter to Martha Washington proposing a treatment for her son's fever (August 8, 1780)
  • A letter to Colonel Bassett suggesting a method to alleviate "weakness" in Washington's stomach (December 6, 1792)
  • A method for easing one of Washington's complaints (undated)
Subject Terms

    • Drugs--History--18th century.
    • Medicine--United States--History--18th century.
    • Washington, George, 1732-1799.
    • Craik, James, 1730-1814.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Recipes.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1, Small Collections  
    James Craik collection [series]
    Folder   24  
     September 21, 1789-November 19, 1792
    Folder   25  
     December 6, 1792, and  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds additional material on the final illness and death of George Washington, including Tobias Lear's firsthand account of his death.

    Craik, James, and Elisha Cullen Dick. Biographical Sketch of Gen. George Washington. [1800].

    Woodruff, Hezekiah N, and James Craik. A Sermon Occasioned by the Death of Gen. George Washington, Commander In Chief of the Armies of the United States of America, Who Departed This Life On Saturday, the 14th December, 1799, After an Illness of About 24 Hours: Preached December 29, 1799. Stonington-Port: Printed by Samuel Trumbull for Messrs. Edward & Nathan Smith, 1800.

    Tobias Lear papers


    Gillett, Mary C. "Craik, James." American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press, 2000.