Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from H.O. Herbert, 19 July 1802

From H. O. Hebert

Philadelphia 19 July 1802

Dear Sir/

In the Month of April last, I did myself the Honor of waiting on you, with an Engraving of an “Air pump Vapour Bath” as used in England—Your Politeness on that occasion I shall never forget.

I now take the Liberty of introducing myself, a second Time to your notice, for the Purpose of informing you, that I have this Day received from Mr Whitney, a Machine complete in all its Parts, & fit for immediate Operation—

Dr. Bulles who will do me the Faver to present this Letter, will at the same time convey to you Two Plates of the Machine—which I hope you will do me the Honor to accept—May I presume to hope also that you will extend to my Invention in its Introducation, that Patronage, which you have ever done to all useful Inventions & Improvements, & for which your character stands so iminently & deservedly conspicuous—

The Principle of the “Air Pump Vapour Bath,” is to convey Steam or Vapour to diseased Limbs & take off the Pressure of the Atmosphere—It is also calculated to be of the greatest Service by changing the Action of the diseased Parts. And I have no Doubt but, that it will rank among the first of modern Improvements in Medecine—& under the Superintendance of professional Men, prove a powerful Means not only of alleviating, but frequently curing, many Diseases which have hitherto been considered as incurable—I am with the greatest Esteem & Respect

Dear Sir Your mo Obed & very Hble Serv.

H:O: Hebert
York Street in South Third

RC (MHi); addressed: “To his Excellency The President of the United States per favor of Dr Bulles”; endorsed by TJ as received 31 July and so recorded in SJL.

Englishman Hildebrand Oakes Hebert arrived in the United States on 1 Apr. 1802 to market the “Air Pump Vapour Bath” for treating body parts afflicted with gout, inflamation, and other maladies. The device was invented by Nathan Smith of Brighthelmstone, England, who appointed Hebert his agent to obtain a patent and promote the device in America. Bearing a letter of introduction from Dr. Edward Stevens, Hebert met with TJ in Washington in late April. Settling in Philadelphia, he published a pamphlet on the invention later in 1802, then unsuccessfully petitioned Congress for a patent in January 1803. Later that same year, he relocated to Baltimore, where he continued to advertise the health benefits of the vapor bath. City directories first listed him as a physician, but later as an accountant. His residence in Baltimore continued until at least 1820, when he declared bankruptcy (Hebert to the Senate and the House of Representatives, 24 Dec. 1802, in DNA: RG 233, PMRSL; Hebert’s Air Pump Vapour Bath [Philadelphia, 1802], Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819, New York, 1958–63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 2391; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:285–6; Philadelphia Gazette, 8 Sep., 30 Nov. 1802; Baltimore Federal Gazette, 27 May 1803; Baltimore Patriot, 18 Mch. 1818, 20 May 1820; James Robinson, Baltimore Directory for 1804 [Baltimore, 1804], 49; William Fry, Baltimore Directory for 1810 [Baltimore, 1810], 91; Baltimore Directory for 1817–18 [Baltimore, 1817], 86; Vol. 37:234–5).

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