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Papers of Charles Russell (1738-1780)


Charles Russell’s collection is small, and it is entirely financial. The financial records mirror his medical practice; there is an account book for the period 1764 to 1768 and two leaves of accounts from 1771. An examination of these tells quite a bit about his medical practice. Dr. Russell kept a daily record of patients he saw, often with notations on ailments, what was administered, and the charge for the same. His practice was substantial, as he often lists between 5 and 20 patients per day. The supplies and medicines he enumerates reflect the state of eighteenth century medicine. Most are quite rudimentary, such as liquorice, crem tartar [sic], gums, gentian, and honey. Among the more refined remedies appear various elixirs: opium, manna, and Hooper's Pills. Note: this series includes material related to Chambers Russell. See also box 197 for additional Russell family materials.

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Codman family papers
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Historical/Biographical Note

Charles Russell inherited the estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts, from his childless uncle, Chambers Russell. The estate was maintained by him from 1766 to 1775. The son of James Russell, he was raised in Charlestown and graduated from Harvard College in 1757. He studied medicine under Dr. Ezekiel Hearsy in Hingham, and he began to practice in Charlestown by 1764. Pursuing his medical studies, he went to England and spent a year at St. Thomas' Hospital with Drs. Colin McKenzie and William Hunter. Subsequently, he obtained a doctor's degree from the University of Aberdeen. Apparently he returned to the colonies and took over the Lincoln estate in 1767. His account book, however, indicated he continued his practice in Charlestown at least through 1768. Russell was a friend of John Singleton Copley, and Copley often dined at the Lincoln estate. On one of those occasions, Russell found himself without a corkscrew and at great effort rode to a neighbor to obtain one. Copley, who spent the night, was so moved by Russell's gentility that he rose early the next morning to paint a corkscrew on the dining room door so his host would never be without one. In February 1768, Charles married Elizabeth Vassall of Cambridge, with whom he had five children. This marriage was politically appropriate because the Vassalls shared Russell's loyalty to the Crown. During the turmoil of April 1775, Dr. Russell was forced to flee Lincoln. Having exchanged residences with a merchant, Henderson Inches, he stayed in Boston for a short time. Soon afterwards, he went to Antigua, where his mother-in-law owned several plantations. While there, he was in charge of a hospital for prisoners of war. He died before the war ended, in May of 1780.


The series is arranged alphabetically by record type.