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Tom Tiddler’s Ground: Irregular Medical Practitioners and Male Sexual Problems in New Zealand, 1858–1908

  • Lindsay R. Watson (a1)

Abstract

Irregular practitioners (‘quacks’) specialising in male sexual problems succeeded in nineteenth-century New Zealand by taking advantage of the growing population of unattached men who were ignorant of their own sexual physiology. The irregulars also profited from the regular practitioners’ acceptance of ill-defined or imaginary male sexual disorders and the side effects of conventional venereal disease treatments, the lack of a clear demarcation between quacks and the regular medical profession, and an increased availability of newspaper advertising. Improvements in the postal system enabled quacks to reach more potential customers by mail, their preferred sales method. The decline in quackery resulted from scientific advances in the understanding of disease and government legislation to privilege regular practitioners and limit quacks’ access to postal services and advertising.

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Corresponding author

*Email address for correspondence: lwatson@xtra.co.nz

References

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1. The New Zealand Truth, 29 April 1911, 1. ‘Tom Tiddler’s Ground’ refers to an ancient playground game and was the title of a short story by Charles Dickens. Apparently New Zealanders were easy pickings for quacks.

2. May, Louise, ‘Medical Malversations: Quacks, the Quackery Prevention Act 1908, and the Orthodox Profession’s Push for Power’ (unpublished BA Hons thesis: University of Otago, 1994); Jennifer M. Gray, ‘Potions, Pills and Poisons: Quackery in New Zealand, circa 1900–1915’ (unpublished BA Hons thesis: University of Otago, 1980); Camille Guy and Sandra Coney, ‘Pink pills for pale people’, in Sandra Coney (ed.), Standing in the Sunshine: A History of New Zealand Women since they Won the Vote (Auckland: Viking, 1993), 94–5.

3. W[illiam], J[ohn], ‘Springthorpe, ‘Medical Registration in Australia’, BMJ, 1, 1162 (1883), 689.

4. Martyr, Phillippa, Paradise of Quacks: An Alternative History of Medicine in Australia (Paddington: Macleay Press, 2002); Bryan Gandevia, ‘A History of General Practice in Australia’ Canadian Family Physician, Australian Supplement, October (1971), 51–61. See also Peter Phillips’ popular book Kill or Cure? (Adelaide: Rigby, 1978).

5. Martyr, ibid., 63.

6. Walker, David, ‘Continence for a Nation: Seminal Loss and National Vigour’, Labour History, 48 (1985), 114.

7. Darby, Robert, ‘William Acton’s Antipodean Disciples: A Colonial Perspective on his Theories of Male Sexual (Dys)function’, Journal of the History of Sexuality, 13, 2 (2004), 171172.

8. Featherstone, Lisa, ‘Pathologising White Male Sexuality in Late Nineteenth Century Australia Through the Medical Prism of Excess and Constraint’, Australian Historical Studies, 41, 3 (2010), 337351.

9. Phillips, Jock, A Man’s Country? The Image of the Pakeha Male, a History (Auckland: Penguin, 1987), 78.

10. Ibid., 10.

11. Phillips, op. cit. (note 9), 10.

12. Guy and Coney, op. cit. (note 2); Gandevia, op. cit. (note 4). In New Zealand, the terms chemist and druggist interchangeably from the 1840s; the term druggist disappeared by the mid-twentieth century. The term apothecary added veracity to a few newspaper advertisements until the 1870s.

13. The North Otago Times, 25 August 1864, 1.

14. Tissot, Samuel-Auguste, Onanism: Or a Treatise on the Diseases Produced by Masturbation (1758) cited in Robert Darby, A Surgical Temptation – The Demonization of the Foreskin and the Rise of Circumcision in Britain (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 52.

15. Perry, R. and Perry, L., The Silent Friend (London: R. & L. Perry & Co, 1847).

16. The Daily Southern Cross, 6 April 1858, 4; Edward B. Bowman, Medical Fallacies and Rational Medicine (Sydney: Clarson, Shallard & Co., 1864), 7.

17. Perry and Perry, op. cit. (note 15), IX–X.

18. ‘Reports on Lunatic Asylums of the Colony’ and ‘Reports on Mental Hospitals of the Dominion’, Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand, Section H (1880–1920). From 1879 to 1919 the mean incidence of insanity due to masturbation within New Zealand male inmates was approximately five per cent.

19. Darby, op. cit. (note 14), 181.

20. Ranking, W.H., ‘Observations on Spermatorrhœa; or the Involuntary Discharge of the Seminal Fluid’, Provincial Medical Journal and Retrospect of the Medical Sciences, 162 (1843), 9395.

21. Laws Milton, John, On Spermatorrhoea and its Complications (London: Robert Hardwicke, 1864).

22. Bayuk Rosenman, Ellen, Unauthorized Pleasures: Accounts of Victorian Erotic Experience (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), 19, 26.

23. Darby, ‘Antipodean Disciples’, op. cit. (note 7), 171–2; The Otago Witness, 15 June 1872, 22; James George Beaney also wrote Syphilis, Its Nature and Diffusion Popularly Considered (Melbourne: George Robertson, 1870), which may be a paraphrase of an earlier German work, and The Generative System and its Functions in Health and Disease (Melbourne: F.F. Baillière, 1872). See Phillips, op. cit. (note 4), 114.

24. Muskett, Phillip E., Illustrated Medical Guide, New Zealand Edition (Sydney: William Brooks, 1903), 203, 206. Although in conflict with religion, some physicians prescribed masturbation because they believed disease would result if men did not evacuate semen regularly. See Patrick Singy, ‘The History of Masturbation: An Essay Review’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 59 (2004), 112–21.

25. Darby, Robert, ‘Australia: A New Britannia in Another World’, History of Circumcision, available online at http://www.historyofcircumcision.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=category&sectionid=6&id=71&Itemid=50  (accessed 11 March 2012). For a comprehensive account of the use of circumcision to treat masturbation in nineteenth century Britain, see Darby, op. cit. (note 14).

26. Perry and Perry, op. cit. (note 15), 155–6. Both camphor and copper sulfate have antibacterial properties.

27. Perry and Perry, op. cit. (note 15), 163–4.

28. ‘The White Cross League and Quackery’, The Lancet, 157, 4042 (1901), 492.

29. Guy and Coney, op. cit. (note 2).

30. Bynum, W.F. and Porter, Roy  (eds), Medical Fringe and Medical Orthodoxy, 1750–1850 (London: Routledge, Kegan & Paul, 1987), 1.

31. Rosenman, op. cit. (note 22), 30.

32. Rosenman, op. cit. (note 22), 33.

33. Bowman, op. cit. (note 16), 18.

34. Quackery Prevention Bill, The New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 144 (1908), 26; Darby, op. cit. (note 25).

35. Martyr divides Australian medical practitioners into four classes: popular providers (home cures, patient medicines, homeopathy); popular practitioners (masseur, midwife); non-registered practitioners (non-registered includes deregistered); and registered practitioners (allopathic and registered). See Martyr, op. cit. (note 4), 12.

36. Martyr, op. cit. (note 4), 12, 65.

37. Hall-Jones, John, ‘Menzies, James Alexander Robertson’, available online at http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1m42/1 (accessed 14 August 2012).

38. Hopkins Adams, Samuel, The Great American Fraud (Chicago, IL: American Medical Association, 1907), 84. The American Samuel Hopkins Adams wrote a series of articles for The Collier’s Weekly from 1905 exposing medical quackery in the US. His work resulted in the USA Pure Food and Drugs Act 1906. James Mason referred to The Collier’s Weekly during the New Zealand Quackery Prevention Bill Hearing in 1907. See ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand, I-14 (1907), 12.

39. The Evening Post, 31 March 1879, 2.

40. The Colonist, 24 February 1888, 3; The New Zealand Gazette, 21 January 1886. Speer was registered 13 October 1885 in Auckland as MD Harvard 1874.

41. Martyr, Phillippa, ‘When Doctors Fail: Ludwig Bruck’s List of Unregistered Practitioners (1886)’, The Electronic Journal of Australian and New Zealand History, 1 November (1997).

42. Johnson, David, New Zealand’s Maritime Heritage (Auckland: William Collins, 1987), 104105.

43. The Otago Daily Times, 13 July 1863, 4; The North Otago Times, 10 March 1864, 5.

44. The Otago Daily Times, 11 August 1864, 3 and 19 August 1864, 4.

45. The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (New South Wales), 5 May 1866, 1; The West Coast Times, 9 July 1866, 2.

46. The West Coast Times, 30 October 1867, 3; The Empire (Sydney), 10 April 1871, 1.

47. Available online at http://home.vicnet.net.au/~adhs/LetterT.html (accessed 9 October 2011).

48. A Melbourne Homeopathic Hospital existed from 1876 to 1934. See http://www.historyofhomeopathy.com.au/hospitals/item/367-the-melbourne-homopathic-hospital.html  (accessed 11 November 2011).

49. Available online at http://www.auspostalhistory.com/articles/1629.shtml (accessed 31 October 2011).

50. Ford, Edward, Bibliography of Australian Medicine 1790–1900 (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1976). ‘Nervous debility’ was a term particularly associated with the supposed effects of semen loss.

51. Available online at http://home.vicnet.net.au/~adhs/LetterT.html (accessed 9 October 2011).

52. Sir Andrew Clark was president of the Royal College of Physicians, knighted and made a baronet. BMJ, 2, 1722 (1893), 1111; Sir William Whitney Gull was Physician-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria.

53. Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Otago and Southland Provincial Districts (Christchurch: The Cyclopedia Company, 1905), 254–5. Establishments and individuals paid for their entries in the Cyclopedia.

54. The Wanganui Herald, 12 October 1899, 4.

55. The Oxford Observer, 1 September 1894, 4; The Hawke’s Bay Herald, 24 February 1883, 3.

56. The Thames Star, 24 August 1900, 3. It is unclear what MBSA means. MB probably indicates ‘Bachelor of Medicine’.

57. The Hawke’s Bay Herald, 24 February 1883, 3.

58. ‘Advertising is the art of making whole lies out of half truths’. Attributed to Edgar A. Shoaff.

59. Barry, Jonathan, ‘Publicity and the Public Good: Presenting Medicine in Eighteenth century Bristol’, in Bynum and Porter, op. cit. (note 30), 29–30.

60. Ibid.

61. Adams, op. cit. (note 38), 84.

62. Barry, op. cit. (note 59), 31.

63. The Otago Daily Times, 19 August 1864, 4.

64. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 15.

65. Day, Patrick, The Making of the New Zealand Press: A Study of the Organizational and Political Concerns of New Zealand Newspaper Controllers 1840–1880 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1990), 112.

66. ‘Tenth Report on the Postal Service of New Zealand’, Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand, E-1, (1869), 11.

67. Ibid. Typesetting was labour intensive, so galleys were changed only when new advertising required it.

68. The Evening Post, 18 January 1905, 2.

69. The Observer, 15 July 1893, 24.

70. Adams, op. cit. (note 38), 4.

71. The Colonist, 24 February 1888, 3.

72. The Thames Star, 24 August 1900, 3; The North Otago Times, 10 March 1864, 5; The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (New South Wales), 5 May 1866, 1; The Wanganui Herald, 12 October, 1899, 4; The Tuapeka Times, 24 May 1890, 6; The Evening Post, 18 January 1905, 2 and 16 November 1883, 4; ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 11.

73. The West Coast Times, 3 November 1866, 3.

74. Thomas de la Pena, Carolyn, ‘The Materials of American Studies: Reading Electric Belts’, American Studies, 44, 1–2 (2003), 219251.

75. Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, available online at http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/smith-louis-lawrence-4610/text7585  (accessed 9 October 2011).

76. Grey River Argus, 15 February 1872, 4.

77. de la Pena, op. cit. (note 74).

78. Walker, op. cit. (note 6).

79. The Otago Witness, 7 April 1883, 30.

80. The Evening Post, 16 November 1883, 4.

81. The Waikato Times, 24 January 1874, 4.

82. The Tuapeka Times, 24 May 1890, 6.

83. The Daily Southern Cross, 25 January 1864, 6.

84. The North Otago Times, 25 August 1864, 1.

85. The Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 3 July 1872, 2.

86. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 11.

87. The incidence of varicocele among army reservists in 1917 was 1.1%. ‘New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Analysis of the Results of the Medical Examination of Reservists Drawn in the Ballot to 30th June 1917’, Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand, H-19z, (1917), 3.

88. The Press, 6 July 1905, 5; Otago Witness, 4 November 1903, 14; Hawke’s Bay Herald, 12 April 1895, 6; The Press, 20 April 1904, 4.

89. de la Pena, op. cit. (note 74).

90. Grey River Argus, 15 February 1872, 2.

91. The West Coast Times, 16 July 1866, 4.

92. The Otago Daily Times, 19 May 1894, 3; The New Zealand Tablet, 18 August 1893, 10; The Otago Witness, 3 December 1902, 34; Cyclopedia of New Zealand, op. cit. (note 53).

93. Martyr, P.J., ‘From Quackery to Qualification: Massage and Electrotherapy in Australia, 1870–1914’, The Electronic Journal of Australian and New Zealand History 3 March (1997), available online at http://www.jcu.edu.au/aff/history/articles/therapy.htm  (accessed 12 September 2012).

94. In Australia some orthodox practitioners used electrotherapy and others endorsed it. See ibid.

95. The Otago Daily Times, 21 April 1900, 5.

96. Robinson, Howard, The History of the Post Office in New Zealand (Wellington: Owen, 1964), 85126.

97. Ibid., 121.

98. ‘Tenth Report on the Postal Service of New Zealand’, op. cit. (note 66), 10; Robinson, op. cit. (note 96), 128–9.

99. The Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 3 July 1872, 2. ‘Indiscretion’ refers to masturbation.

100. Ramsey, Matthew, ‘Property rights and the right to health: the regulation of secret remedies in France, 1789–1815’, in Bynum and Porter (eds), op. cit. (note 30), 79.

101. Brown, P.S., ‘Social context and medical theory in the demarcation of nineteenth-century boundaries’, in Bynum and Porter (eds), op. cit. (note 30), 218–19.

102. Ibid.

103. In Australia patent medicines cost ‘…anywhere from one shilling and sixpence for a bottle, or a couple of shillings for a box of powders. At the same time, the average fee for a doctor’s visit was ten shillings and sixpence, although this could vary greatly (…)’. Martyr, op. cit. (note 4), 100.

104. Perry and Perry, op. cit. (note 15), 113–16, 172.

105. The Daily Southern Cross, 25 January 1864, 6.

106. The Waikato Times, 24 January, 1874, 4; The Kalgoorlie Western Argus (Western Australia), 7 July 1903, 1.

107. The Queanbeyan Age (New South Wales), 27 July 1871, 1.

108. Oriel, J.D., ‘Eminent Venereologists. 3. Philippe Ricord’, Genitourinary Medicine, 65 (1989), 388393.

109. The Evening Post, 16 November 1883, 4.

111. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 11.

112. The Press, 16 December 1892, 7.

113. Adams, op. cit. (note 38), 12–13, 34–38.

114. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 9.

115. The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Wellington Provincial District (Wellington: The Cyclopedia Company, 1897), 492–3.

116. Galvanic cells produce direct current. Waipawa, near Hastings in the North Island, had a population of 8,805 in 1891. The New Zealand Official Year Book, 1893.

117. The Hawke’s Bay Herald, 24 February 1883, 3.

118. The Daily Telegraph, (Hawkes Bay), 11 September 1886, Supplement, 2.

119. de la Pena, op. cit. (note 74).

120. The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Wellington, op. cit. (note 115).

121. The Poverty Bay Herald, 18 August 1906, 4.

122. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 38.

123. The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Wellington, op. cit. (note 115). The M?ori word pononga may be translated as ‘true’.

124. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 10.

125. The Evening Post, 26 May 1894, 3, available online at http://www.museumofquackery.com/ephemera/drbell.htm (accessed 15 October 2011).

126. The Star, 17 May 1886, 2; Otago Witness, 29 April 1887, 4.

127. The Otago Witness, 29 April 1887, 4.

128. The Observer, 22 March 1902, 23.

129. The Star, 1 August 1893, 2.

130. de la Pena, op. cit. (note 74).

131. The Otago Witness, 9 April 1891, 36. Kempthorne, Prosser & Co. also imported orthodox pharmaceuticals, surgical instruments and medical books. The Waikato Times, 24 January 1874, 4.

132. The Hawke’s Bay Herald, 22 June 1895, 5 and 12 April 1895, 6.

133. The Sydney Mail, 9 January 1897, 1.

134. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 9–10.

135. ‘The White Cross League’, op. cit. (note 28).

136. ‘Quackery Prevention Bill’, op. cit. (note 34), 22.

137. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 9–10.

138. ‘The White Cross League’, op. cit. (note 28).

139. Adams, op. cit. (note 38), 109.

140. Adams, op. cit. (note 38), 81.

141. Adams, op. cit. (note 38), 3.

142. Roberts, M.J.D., ‘The Politics of Professionalism: MPs, Medical Men, and the 1858 Medical Act’, Medical History, 53, 1 (2009), 3756.

143. Porritt, Sir Arthur, ‘The History of Medicine in New Zealand’, Medical History, 11, 4 (1967), 334344.

144. ‘Medical Practitioners Registration Act 1869’, The New Zealand Statutes (1869), 169–73.

145. Rex Earl Wright-St Clair, ‘Medical Practitioners in New Zealand, 1840 to 1930’ (unpublished manuscript, 1989), introduction.

146. Gray, op. cit. (note 2), 47.

147. Cascoyen, George G., ‘Spermatorrhoea and its Treatment’, BMJ, 1 (1872), 67–9, 95–6.

148. Rosenman, op. cit. (note 22), 32.

149. Truby King, F., ‘A Plea for Stringent Legislation in the Matter of Corrupt and Immoral Publications’, New Zealand Medical Journal, 4 (1890), 18; ibid., 4 (1891), 151–2.

150. The New Zealand Medical Journal, 6 (1893), 65–6.

151. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 16–17.

152. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 11–12.

153. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 15.

154. The Evening Post, 2 July 1906, 5.

155. The New Zealand Truth, 4 July 1908, 5.

156. The Evening Post, 26 June 1906, 5.

157. The Evening Post, 13 July 1906, 2.

158. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 15; The Poverty Bay Herald, 20 March 1907, 1.

159. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 10.

160. The Evening Post, 13 July 1906, 2.

161. Quackery and other Frauds Prevention Bill, The New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 136–7, (1906), 406.

162. Hamer, David, ‘Hornsby, John Thomas Marryat – Biography’, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, available online at http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/3h35/1  (accessed 6 November 2011).

163. Quackery Prevention Bill, op. cit. (note 34), 16.

164. Gray, op. cit. (note 2), 28; Quackery and Other Frauds Prevention Bill, op. cit. (note 161), 412, 426; Quackery Prevention Bill, op. cit. (note 34), 20.

165. Quackery and Other Frauds Prevention Bill, op. cit. (note 161), 434.

166. Smyth, Helen, Rocking the Cradle; Contraception, Sex and Politics in New Zealand (Wellington: Steele Roberts, 2000), 13–14; Quackery and Other Frauds Prevention Bill, op. cit. (note 161), 413.

167. Darby, Australia – A New Britannia, op. cit. (note 25).

168. The Nelson Evening Mail, 10 September 1906, 1; Quackery Prevention Bill, op. cit. (note 34), 24.

169. Editorial, The New Zealand Medical Journal, 5 (1906), 32–3.

170. Quackery Prevention Bill, op. cit. (note 34), 20.

171. Quackery Prevention Bill, op. cit. (note 34), 21.

172. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), Introduction.

173. The New Zealand Gazette, 247 (1908), 177–8.

174. The Feilding Star, 9 October 1908, 2.

175. The Thames Star, 22 August 1901, 4.

176. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 10; The Poverty Bay Herald, 20 March 1907, 1; The Feilding Star, 22 July 1907, 2; The Poverty Bay Herald, 29 July 1907, 2.

177. ‘Report of Quackery Prevention Bill Committee’, op. cit. (note 38), 11.

178. The Wanganui Herald, 21 November 1908, 5.

179. The Tuapeka Times, 30 October 1907, 3; The Feilding Star, 9 October 1908, 2.

180. One case of spermatorrhoea was recorded in NZ Military Camps during 1918. ‘New Zealand Expeditionary Force’, Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand, 1919, I, H-19b, 41.

181. ‘Reports on Lunatic Asylums of the Colony’, op. cit. (note 18); F. Truby King, Feeding and Care of Baby. (London: Macmillan, 1913), 122–3; A.D. Latham, ‘Masturbation and Mental Illness’, The New Zealand Medical Journal, 36, 195 (1937), 319–21; F. Truby. King, Feeding and Care of Baby (Christchurch: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1942), 218–20.

I wish to thank Robert Darby, medical historian, for providing advice and encouragement, and to acknowledge the extensive use made of the National Library of New Zealand’s Paperspast website.

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Tom Tiddler’s Ground: Irregular Medical Practitioners and Male Sexual Problems in New Zealand, 1858–1908

  • Lindsay R. Watson (a1)

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