Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science

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Web of Healing

[map of walking tour]
Map of Walking Tour

The Web of Healing Then and Now:
A Walking Tour

To help you more completely grasp what these practices meant to 18th-century Philadelphians, we have created a walking tour. We hope that by walking in the footsteps of early Philadelphians, you will become better acquainted with the everyday ideas, practices, and experiences that made up the web of healing.  Regardless of your familiarity with the city, the tour of Philadelphia is meant to destabilize traditional medical histories which place elite medicine at the center.  To this day the dominant medical paradigm is one that focuses on biomedicine and hospitals.  However, healing beliefs today are no less diverse than they were in the 18th century.  While the practices of today may not resemble those of the past, individuals continue to navigate the web of healing in their daily lives.  We hope that thinking about the varied health practices of 18th-century Philadelphians will help you consider the ways in which you view your own experiences with health and illness and how you can give voice to those whose histories demand to be heard but have not yet been told.

A pamphlet is available to guide you through the web of health and healing that characterized the landscape of early Philadelphia. It will introduce you to Philadelphia’s rich medical heritage as you learn about how a diverse group of Philadelphians — elite doctors, quacks, apothecaries, African Americans, Native Americans, women, midwives, and religious healers — approached health and illness. Just as a historical view of medicine is often one-dimensional, healing today is often seen as strictly the providence of biomedicine. A social history of healing in the 18th century challenges the accuracy of this perspective … both historically and for today. Reconsider what it meant to be in search of health in the 18th century and what voices demand to be heard in telling this history. Enjoy the experience!

The pamphet, “In Search of Health: A Walking Tour Through 18th-Century Philadelphia,” is available in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) form. An Audio Companion is also available to guide you through the walking tour. You can use the Adobe Reader (or compatible program) to view and print the pamphlet. The Adobe Reader is available at no cost for many computer systems at the Adobe website.