It’s been a very long evening, mostly spent examining different iterations of Hohman’s rheumatism cure. I’ll break the monotony by discussing its background.
In early America, as in Europe, much literature was circulated via broadsides, single sheet publications usually addressing a particular topic. In an era before health insurance or regular medical care, many of these were medical in nature, detailing various cures for particular afflictions. This exhibit at the Library Company shows some examples of broadsides circulating in Pennsylvania at this time.
I’ve yet to find an example of this particular rheumatism charm, but it seems to have been known in Hohman’s time. Our author recognized its worth for treating the condition, but condemned the price and its incomplete nature in his introduction:
A letter to cure rheumatism, sold at from one to two dollars, and, did not even give directions how to make use of it: these depending on verbal communications.
That price seems quite low today, but that should be put into context. Upon its original release, Hohman’s book sold for the price of three shillings, or approximately seventy-two cents, over a quarter less than the price of this letter, which was one remedy on a single page.
There’s some debate as to how much Hohman was motivated by money. We know he was – after all, he mentions in his introduction that he is publishing the book because he is poor and deserves to make money from his publications – but the question might be asked as to whether he was sincere in presenting these works or simply trying to fleece his readers. How can we tell?
This charm provides an important indication. Hohman was no stranger to broadsides; if he had never published a word on charming, he would be known as the foremost publisher of ballad and hymn broadsides of his time. If Hohman were truly trying to exploit his readers, he could easily have printed up a broadside of this charm, sold it for the same cost as his book, and done so at a much smaller expense. This suggests that Hohman did, indeed, believe in the efficacy of these charms and the importance that they be available to a wider audience.