“There wasn’t an anhydrous lacrimal gland in the room”*…
For more than 100 years after the founding of America’s first medical school at the University of Pennsylvania in 1765, faculty members personally peddled tickets to their classes in order to fill lecture halls. So if a prospective surgeon, like Samuel Gartley, whose name appears on this delightfully morbid ticket featuring dancing skeletons, wanted to study anatomy under W.S. Jacobs at the University of Pennsylvania around 1800, he would seek out Jacobs and buy a ticket to attend his “dissecting class.”
“With roughly 10 to 15 dollars in hand, anybody could purchase admission to a course of lectures directly from the professor, who profited directly from the students’ fees,” write Carol Benenson Perloff and Dr. Daniel M. Albert, the authors of a new book, Tickets to the Healing Arts: Medical Lecture Tickets of the 18th and 19thCenturies. Customers included not only matriculated medical students but also practicing physicians and “apprentices” laboring within the older, informal system of medical education. This proprietary enrollment system was upheld by unsalaried professors who worked like independent contractors, paying rent and overhead to the school’s dean out of ticket sales while pocketing the proceeds…
* Mary Roach,
As we take our seats, we might spare a colorful thought for Phineas Taylor (“P.T.”) Barnum; he died on this date in 1891. Barnum founded and ran a small business, then a weekly newspaper in his native Connecticut before leaving for New York City and the entertainment business. He parlayed a variety troop and a “curiosities” museum (featuring the “‘Feejee’ mermaid” and “General Tom Thumb,” but also serious scientific exhibits, for which he actively collected natural history specimens.) into a fortune… which he lost in a series of legal setbacks. He replenished his stores by touring as a temperance speaker, then served as a Connecticut State legislator and as Mayor of Bridgeport (a role in which he introduced gas lighting and founded the Bridgeport hospital)… It wasn’t until after his 60th birthday that he turned to endeavor for which he’s best remembered– the circus.
“I am a showman by profession…and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me.”