Dr. Eady Eating Oysters

19th Century Caricature of Dr. Eady

Dr. Samuel Phillips Eady was an infamous London physician in early-to-mid 19th century London. Most historical accounts of Dr. Eady were less than complimentary. In The British Medical Journal, March 19, 1955, a writer in London submits an enquiry concerning a token which he has in his possession, namely, a Dr. Eady farthing.

In the April 30th edition of the same publication and year, another writer in London identifies the token and the doctor’s full name. According to the writer, Dr. Eady lived at 38 Dean Street, SOHO, from about 1820 until 1825. The respondent was less than kind in the words he used to describe the doctor.

Many people around London considered him a ‘quack’, and it is theorized that he was never actually trained to be an actual physician. The man was so despised that various cartoons lampooned him, including the one shown below. Dr. Eady is the figure with his hands in the oyster bucket, preparing them to be eaten while still alive.

In addition to cartoons, a song was written about him, and published in 1826. In addition to various tonics and potions, clues in the song hint to the fact that Dr. Eady sold cure-alls for syphilis.

A bit of the song goes like this:

Doctor Eady!

For every ill he had a pill,

A powder or bolus,

And patients plenty flock’d around

and never left him solus;

He gave advice for nothing,

And to prove he was not greedy,

He charged only for physic

– what a generous Doctor Eady!

Old Galen’s rules he left for fools,

He had no time for study,

Reading tries the best of eyes,

And makes men’s brains more muddy,

His pills he tried on patients,

That is if they were not needy,

Th’ regulars either kill or cure,

And so did Doctor Eady.

Young men would go, all in a glow,

And to him make confessions,

Sad relate how hard their fate,

Thro’ youthful indiscretions;

With kind commiseration

then he’d vow to cure them speedy,

For promises of cure

there was none like Doctor Eady.

This fact that Dr. Eady specialized in treating syphilis is confirmed after examining Illustrations from the Wellcome Institute Library © 1984:

“Eady operated a medical service at 38 Dean Street, Soho, where he professed to cure syphilis not merely by the use of mercury but by his own judgment and skill in its application. The advertisements which he published mark him, by their combination of large claims and obscure language, as a typical quack. Yet it is suspicious that while Eady’s quackery was frequently attacked in the 1823-4 volumes of the Medical Adviser, the volumes of the Family Oracle of Health for the same period, which also attack quacks, do not mention him at all… A deeper investigation of London’s medical nether-world in this period may provide an answer.“

In addition to his notoriousness, he was also infamous for “chalking” advertisements of his practice throughout Soho and other parts of London.

“In all probability no one has ever before carried the system [of chalking] to so great a length as this Doctor Eady, for it is scarcely possible to travel ten miles round the metropolis without meeting with his name, which naturally excites enquiry into the object and pretensions of the chalked up Hero.” (Page 156, Real Life in London, 1821, 1905)

Three locations are known for Dr. Eady’s practice; only one appearing on his token:

38 Dean Street, Soho

No 45 Frith Street, Soho

22 Church Street, Soho

Most importantly, upon examination of the text above from the Wellcome Institute, one discovers that Dr. Eady had in fact authored his own publication in 1824 entitled “An address to those who are unhappily afflicted with diseases of the generative system.”

Dr. Eady's New Publication

An address to those who are unhappily afflicted with diseases of the generative system

Only one copy of the book is reported to exist, and it currently rests in hard-copy at the Wellcome Institute. No known digitized versions of the document seem to exist.

Lastly of note, it seems that Dr. Eady eventually went insane. At one point in his career, he was imprisoned at King’s Bench Prison in Southwark, south London. Upon his release he was admitted to St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics in London, where he stayed to convalesce for six weeks. Upon discharge, seemingly sane again, he then subsequently attacked a patient and bit her. Gossip and general displeasure about the whole situation in the medical community was quite apparent.

Pursuant to Bell’s Unofficial Farthings, there exists six different varieties of the Dr. Eady Farthing, all produced circa 1820. Designated as BWS-2490, the descriptions are the following:

Dr. Eady Farthing Token Varieties Table

The following are two examples of well preserved Dr. Eady farthings. The first is a BWS-2490 Type B; the second a BWS-2490 Type C:

Dr. Eady Farthing Token BWS-2490-B

Dr. Eady Farthing Token BWS-2490-C

Aaron Packard [End Mark]

Notes and Sources

† On August 2 2011 a 7th variety was discovered by American numismatist Bill McKivor. This new variety possesses an Obverse-2 and a Reverse-5.

  1. The British Medical Journal, March 19, 1955
  2. Doctor Eady’s New Publication, Wellcome Institute Library, ©1984
  3. Real Life in London, Pierce Egan, 1905, Pg.156
  4. Bell’s Unofficial Farthings A Supplement, Robert Bell, John Whitmore, James Sweeney, Whitmore, ©1994, pg.65
  5. Correspondence with Bill McKivor, American Numismatist

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The author has over 30 years experience in North American numismatics. He is the author of numerous articles about exonumia, including those about tokens, scrip, and the public who used them. He is a member of the ANA, VNA, ACC, C4, CWTS, TAMS, MD-TAMS, AVA, NSCA, and NumisSociety.
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