McMaster University

History of
Health Care in Hamilton

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Dr. William Case

Dr. Oliver Tiffany

Dr. Oliver Tiffany is another example of a physician from this early period. Oliver Tiffany is thought to be the first physician to practice in the Gore District which was a huge tract of land that included the communities of Burlington, Hamilton, Ancaster, Dundas, Guelph and Galt. He was born in Massachusetts, qualified as a physician at the Philadelphia Medical College and emigrated with his family to this area in the 1790's. He settled in Ancaster Township in 1796.

Dr. Tiffany had a large rural practice. He was known to stable horses around the area of his practice in order to provide himself with a fresh mount as he made his rounds. He served the community for 40 years and died in Ancaster on May 7, 1835 at the age of 72. Six hundred people came to his funeral and the traffic jam caused by all the buggies and wagons was long remembered.

This ledger is almost certainly a record of his practice between 1798-1801. It records the names of his patients, the treatments that he prescribed and the fees that he collected. It is not a patient record as we know it since all the patients and their treatments are listed together under the name of the householder. The names of many early Hamilton and area residents can be found in the ledger including Richard Beasley, Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, Augustus Jones, Nathaniel Hewson (Hughson) and members of the Land, Ryckman and Springer families.

Payment was very frequently in goods and services rather than cash. What cash there was paid in British currency.

Examples of payments made in goods and services to Dr. Tiffany

  • by pumpkins
  • by mending a pitchfork
  • by a writing desk
  • by 2 ½ bushels of oats
  • by whiskey
  • by plowing 4 days
  • by hay
  • by 42 weeks boarding of horse @ 12 pence per week.

Dr. Tiffany would only buy a few drugs like quinine for malaria or laudanum for pain to prescribe to his patients. Most often his prescriptions were homeopathic herbal remedies compounded from his own herb garden. Only much later did the compounding and provision of drugs become the responsibility of a professional druggist.