Springfield in Sangamon County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Looking for Lincoln
Americans had poor oral hygiene in Lincoln's era.
Rotten teeth and foul breath were common (halitosis was not yet a social evil). Calomel frequently prescribed by doctors for fevers caused many people to have loose teeth. Dentistry was plagued by ignorance and quackery. Barbers were the usual practitioners of tooth extraction, wielding the dreaded "turn-key" (pictured below) used to twist out stubborn teeth. Various craftsmen tinkered at creating dentures, including carved ivory, metal plates that occasionally featured old sheep;s teeth, or even hickory plugs soaked in creosote. After Dr. Amos W. French arrived from New York in 1848, he soon acquired a reputation as one of the best "mechanical dentists" in the West. He was also a book collector; his upper-floor office looked more like a library than a dentist's office. He and Lincoln studied German together---but Lincoln kept the class in turmoil with his storytelling. After the Civil War, French participated in the scientific revolution that transformed the dental profession.
Lincoln had a bad experience with a dentist before Dr. French arrived. In an 1841 letter, he wrote
Erected by State of Illinois Historic Preservation Agency & Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Science & Medicine. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln, and the Looking for Lincoln series lists. A significant historical year for this entry is 1848.
Location. 39° 48.033′ N, 89° 38.93′ W. Marker is in Springfield, Illinois, in Sangamon County. Marker is on E. Adams Street. Between 5th & 6th Streets. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Springfield IL 62701, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Curran's Jewelry Shop (here, next to this marker); Soldiers of the War of 1812Soldiers of the American Revolution (a few steps from this marker); 1859-1911 (a few steps from this marker); Departure Point of The Donner Party (a few steps from this marker); President-Elect Abraham Lincoln (a few steps from this marker); Abraham Lincoln - Eighth Judicial District (a few steps from this marker); Streetscape 1859 (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Springfield.
Credits. This page was last revised on October 7, 2019. It was originally submitted on October 22, 2011, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 543 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on October 22, 2011, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.