Under the above title, Brander Matthews, Professor of Dramatic Literature at Columbia University, has written a very interesting and delightful collection of essays by way of reminiscences.
“When a man squares himself at his desk,” he writes “and for a moment stays his hand from the pen while he tries to squeeze the sponge of memory” – to borrow the apt phrase of Henry James – when he seeks to recall and to set in order his most salient recollections, he finds himself confronted by the duty of making a choice between the two kinds of autobiography, loosely so called; He must decide whether he will write about himself, bringing up to date the log of his own voyage through life, or whether he will not talk mainly about his fellow – passengers on that Noahs Ark whereon we are all embarked as it drifts over the endless waters. If he shall choose rather to recall what he remembers about others than what he remembers about himself, the result will be only a book of reminiscences, and a true autobiography.
I should like to reminisence at this time of these many years – they really are but few in number – that I have had the honor of being a number of this Society (it is, in fact, but a dozen short years). It is not, however, to speak of my own experience, or of my own decades, but to go back over these many years bridging a century to the introduction of homoeopathy in America – not entering into a discussion of all the interesting history of that period. In fact this period has already been reviewed most exhaustively and admirably by Dr. Stuart Close, in his paper on ” A century of Homoeopathy in America.” published in THE HOMOEOPATHIC RECORDERS for November, 1925.
There are a few salient features pertaining to our discussions of Hans Burch Gram and his associates that were not brought to light upon the occasion of the Centenary Celebration of the Introduction of Homoeopathy into American Some of these points were singularly neglected, if not in a great measure entirely overlooked; and it is to the consideration of some of data that I wish to call the attention of the International Hahnemannian Association at this time.
The facts concerning Gram himself, and his immediate associates. Dr. John F. Gray, Dr. R.B. Folger, his friend Mr. Wilsey (vide Trans. Worlds Homoeopathic Convention, 1876, p. 440, et seq.) Dr. A.G Hull, the first student of homoeopathy in America. et al., were comparatively well covered at that time. a few important points, are however, worthy of note.
First as to Gram; As we generally know, he was the grandson of a wealthy sea captain of Copenhagen. His father, Hans Burch Gram, was private secretary to the Governor of the Danish Island of SantaCruz, who while touring the United States en route to his destination, in the year 1782 (or 1783), stopped in Boston at a well-known hostelry. Here he met and married (against his fathers consent) a Miss Burdick, the daughter of the tavern keeper. Resigning thereupon from his position he remained in Boston until his fathers death, which occurred, in all probability in 1803; he himself died on the eve of his departure to Denmark to attend to his inheritance. For, as is always the case in well – regulated romances, his dignified and worthy parent had repented his rash act in disinheriting his son and, upon reconsideration, had bestowed upon him the bulk of his property, which for the times, was a sizeable legacy.
The sons story is soon told; On the death of his father (who had earned a meager existence for himself and family as an organist and teacher of music and while in Boston had lived at successive periods on Common Street) Gram left America in 1803 for Copenhagen, at the age of eighteen to attend to his family estates, which were now descended to him He was successful in recovering to a large extent the family inheritance, but not being content merely with the life of a gentleman of leisure, he resolved upon some useful pursuit. At the suggestion of his uncle, Dr. Fenger, who was a physician to the king he began the study of medicine; and so gifted was he that he graduated from the University of Copenhagen with the highest of the three honors conferred, the degree of C.M.L. (Magister in Surgery), and being held in high esteem in court circles, he soon acquired a distinguished practice.
Hearing, However, of the salutary method of Hahnemann, he studied the new system carefully and methodically, and tested it clinically to his entire satisfaction Imbued as he was with republican principles, he decided to introduce this method of therapeutics, which was rapidly gaining ground in Europe, into his native country. Accordingly, returning by way of Canada, where he landed in the springtime, he reached. New York by early autumn (September 10th is the authentic date, though not generally mentioned), in the year 1825, where he had the honor of introducing homoeopathy to the New World.
Grams contributions to medicine considered mainly of his translation of Hahnemanns ” Geist der Homoeopathischen Heillehre,” a pamphlet of 24 pages, which he called ” The Character of Homoeopathia.” This tract he distributed among his professional friends and acquaintances, of whom, with his excellent introductions from abroad, he soon had an extend and influential circle.
His efforts to convert his professional brethren, however, ended for the most part in failure. Although this pamphlet was dedicated to his friend, Professor David Hosack, owing to his imperfect english, it failed to convince many of the truth of the method; and his efforts succeeded only in alienating what friends he now possessed. His personal efforts and especially his clinical results with homoeopathic remedies were more successful, and it was from this source, more than from his writings, that Grams influence spread.
In his “Dedication, ” Gram had written;.
“The doctrines of homoeopathia are not in unison with those generally accepted and promulgated by medical men. The subject is a new one, tending not only to reformation in theoretical and practical medicine, but threatening to invalidate many of the doctrines at present admitted to be correct, and propagated as indispensably necessary in the study and practice of medicine. This new doctrine is already considerably advanced in Europe, and the number of its adherents is daily increasing. An examination of its principles will show that it is not be condemned, but that it deserves serious consideration, especially so as its propagators contend that not only theory and reasoning but experience establishes its truth.
Soon after his arrival in New York, Gram signed notes for his brother, involving him so seriously that he was thereafter financially embarrassed, hence his return to the practice of medicine.
Broken in health and disappointed in the reception accorded his efforts toward a much needed reformation in medicines. Gram was not destined long to survive. His death occurred on February 26, 1840, three years before the death of Hahnemann, whom he had so faithfully and wholeheartedly served.
Grams only other contribution to the literature of homoeopathy was a paper entitled “The Pharmaco – Dynamic Properties of Drugs.” which, after writing, he placed in the possession of Dr. R. b. Folger. this manuscript was afterward lost, and is probably not now in existence. Thus did this modest and is probably not now in existence. Thus did this modest and conscientious servant of homoeopathy make his apparently feeble, but all potent impress upon the medical profession of America. He suffered a paralytic attack while in north California, and died in New York, where he is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, beside the remains of his friend and pupil, Dr. John F. Gray.
The particular point I wish to emphasize regarding Gram at this time, is the fact that there seems to be a good deal of obscurity regarding the actual date of his birth. Even so excellent and accurate an account as that given by Dr. Henry M. Smith of New York (at the time of his death, one of the two surviving charter members of this association) does not definitely fix this date, even though Dr. Smith was in touch with Mrs. Greenlief, the sister of Gram. The year of birth as given by Dr., Smith is 1786, and this is generally conceded to be the correct one. It singularly omits the exact date yet in one reference it is stated that, according to Mrs. Greenlief, it was the month of July.
This obscurity of facts, led me to believe that there was in all probability some disparity in this report, owing to the fact that no one had definitely investigated the records. It was also confirmed by noting that the tablet erected at Boston University School of Medicine, presented by the Massachusetts Homoeopathic Medical Society in 1908, also gives this same year – 1786. I accordingly made an inquiry into the matter, during the summer of 1925, while president of the Boston district of the Homoeopathic Medical Society, in view of a forthcoming meeting in September, commemorating Grams introduction of homoeopathy in America. It was at this meeting that the above mentioned survey by Dr. Close was presented. The following facts were ascertained.
An extend search first of the historical records in the Massachusetts Genealogical Society at Ashburton Place, later at the Massachusett Historical Society at the Old State House (with the kind assistance of Captain Clark, Mr. Graham and Mr. Smith custodians of the society rooms), failed to through any light upon the subject. The records at the Boston City Hall were also consulted, through the courtesy of Mr. Edward McGlinnon, who informed me that undoubtedly if the birth of Gram had been recorded, it must be found in the one small volume of records extending over the century (from 1700 to 1800) including the period of the Revolution, for prior to 1800 the city was not required to record them, they being found for the most part in parish books, or as was for long the custom of recording them, only in family records. Furthermore, all the records contained in this one volume were obtained from this source. A careful search of the history of the Burdick family failed to note any marriage with a Gram.
My first search through the city records was unsuccessful, and I had about given up hope of reward, when a casual reference to this same volume at the Boston Public Library revealed the following notations.
Hans Benj. (not Burch he it noted,) son of Hans Gram and Jane his wife, 18 July, 1787.
Joanna Burdick, daughter of Hans Gram and Jane, his wife 1 June, 1801.
It is known that Gram had at least one sister (according to Dr. Smith possibly another beside Mrs. Greenlief) and from the association of the name of Burdick, might it not be inferred this record is that of his younger sister? At any rate the date here given – July 13, 1787 (instead of 1796) might easily be that of Hans Burch Gram despite the discrepancy in spelling, as children were frequently christened under a slightly different name from that recorded by the registrar of births. At all events, my personal efforts have convinced me that the date here given is undoubtedly the correct one, especially so no such name as Gram appears in the year 1786 or 1788. Hence the very definite entry in the year 1787, giving the month and actual day of the month cannot fail to be convincing.
Therefore, it seems only fitting that some definite record be made of this important date in the history of American homoeopathy, and likewise be given to the world. And to this end. I wish to present to the International Hahnemannian Association, these brief data regarding Hans Burch Gram, acquired in the city of his birth.