Thomas Jefferson Papers

Lyman Spalding to Thomas Jefferson, 11 February 1811

From Lyman Spalding

Portsmouth N.H. Feby 11 1811


Permit again to inclose you, my annual tribute of respect, the Bill of Mortality for this town.

I have now published these bills for ten years; and from the small number of inhabitants in the town, and my acquaintance with almost every family, I have been enabled to construct them with the greatest correctness.

The two last have been constructed with a view to determine what influence marriage has on longevity; for this purpose the married and unmarried have been characterized by specific marks.

I have never seen a bill constructed on similar principles. This was suggested to me by my friend Dr B. S. Barton of Philadelphia, in private conversation,—

I have the honour to be Sir Your most Obt Servt

L. Spalding

RC (MHi); addressed: “The Honble Thomas Jefferson, Esqr Monticello Virginia”; franked and postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 2 Mar. 1811 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Spalding, Bill of Mortality for Portsmouth, Newhampshire for A.D. 1810 ([Portsmouth, 1811]; broadside at WU: Ebling Library).

Lyman Spalding (1775–1821), physician and surgeon, was a native of Cornish, New Hampshire, who received a medical degree at Harvard in 1797. He taught chemistry and materia medica at Dartmouth College before establishing a practice in Portsmouth, where he founded a medical society and an anatomical museum. Spalding moved to New York City in about 1812. He was also professor of anatomy and surgery at Fairfield Medical School and became its president when it was incorporated as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Western District of New York in 1813. Spalding is best known for his introduction of a plan for a national pharmacopoeia in 1817 that would set a standard for medicinal substances, and for chairing a committee that published one three years later. He also used some of the first cowpox vaccine in the United States and invented but never patented a galvanic battery, a soda fountain, and a method for preparing oxygen for inhalation (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; James Thacher, American Medical Biography [1828; repr. 1967], 2:95–8; Spalding to TJ, 30 Mar. 1818; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 10 Nov. 1821).

Spalding prepared broadside bills of mortality for Portsmouth for the years 1801–11 (copies at WU: Ebling Library) and sent them to TJ from the beginning as an annual tribute (Spalding to TJ, 22 Feb. 1802 [DLC]). His brief letter to TJ of 13 Apr. 1810, written from Portsmouth (RC in MoSW-M; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson, Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 26 Apr. 1810 and so recorded in SJL), enclosed the bill of mortality for 1809 (broadside in MoSW-M), as did his letter of the same date to James Madison (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 2:300).

Index Entries

  • Barton, Benjamin Smith; mentioned search
  • Bill of Mortality for Portsmouth (Spalding) search
  • health; mortality rates search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Madison, James; and L. Spalding search
  • Spalding, Lyman; Bill of Mortality for Portsmouth search
  • Spalding, Lyman; identified search
  • Spalding, Lyman; letters from search
  • Spalding, Lyman; letters from accounted for search