Examining old newspapers can provide a wealth of information for researchers. We can learn about the economy, trends in fashion, weather patterns, and many other things as well. This month I have chosen a notice that ran in the local newspaper this month in 1837.
“NOTICE: On Tuesday, the 21st instant, I will sell in Charlotte, at Public Venue, the following Property, belonging to the estate of Dr. Wm. M.B. Flinn, dec’d., to wit: A Horse, Sulkey and Harness, His Stock of Medicine, Furniture, and Library, a complete set of Dentist’s Instruments, Some Gold Foil and Teeth. The Instruments are equal, if not superior to any in the State-there is one of his own inventions for the purpose of plugging the Front Teeth, which was said by an eminent Dentist to excel any Instrument of the kind he had ever seen, either in Europe or the United States. The above articles can be seen at Wm. Flinn’s, 6 miles west of Charlotte, by any person wishing to examine before the sale. Twelve months’ credit given by giving bond with approved security. John H. McDowell, Adm’r.”
There are several interesting things that come to light here. First, we have the mention of a dentist in Charlotte in 1837. Figures from the 1850 Census show only 34 dentists in the entire state. The 1830 Census did not ask for occupations, but we can assume that a growth in population also meant more specialized occupations like this. Prior to 1800, it was not uncommon for the local barber to also act as the town dentist. Next we see the mention of “Gold Foil and Teeth”. Gold foil is a very thin sheet of hammered gold that is traditionally used for gilding picture frames and other architectural elements. In this case the gold foil was applied to a false tooth, providing a cheaper alternative to a solid gold version. Then we see the instrument that Dr. Flinn invented, proclaimed superior to others of its kind. One can only imagine how he used it to plug a patient’s teeth. Finally, we can use old maps to confirm that Dr. Flinn indeed lived six miles from Charlotte, helping us define early boundary lines.
The Charlotte Journal was published from July 1835 until December 1851. By examining the bits and pieces of information contained in such advertisements, we can form a more complete picture of life in our region during the early days of the Republic.
Scott T. Farb, Director,
Museum of the Waxhaws