“Steward’s Healing Art” Origins: The OG WebMD of Saco, Maine

I wanted to start this blog by thanking Erin and Meghan for all their invaluable help. Without them this blog would not be nearly as interesting as it is. Many revelations were made and “pieces are falling into place” as they say. Understandably, there is a lot of speculation and more to do but I am really excited with what has been found thus far.

To start, evidence for a specific binding company is elusive. Steward’s Healing Art was published in Saco, Maine (1827) and written by Dr. William Steward with a front and back cover composed of cardboard boards. These boards are bound with leather, which is wrapped in a single piece around the entire book. There is also a leather lettering piece, which I mentioned in the previous blog post, that is a dyed strip attached to the spine. Signature marks are also visible (see below in red circle), which reveal signs of the binder and are used to stack the sheets in order before they are bound. This was the extent of the binder’s information.

(Signature marks)

There was also a printing press involved as the impressions of the letters can be felt and seen on the back of some sheets. For instance, there are clear indents from the title page on the backside of the sheet where the copyright is printed.

(Printing press impressions and possible original publishing year 1812)

I, personally, found the publisher and author research more intriguing and it produced more rewarding results.

Firstly, according to Steward’s Healing Art the author, Dr. William Steward, was from Bloomfield, Somerset County, Maine. He also mentions that he is a Baptist, which I discovered in his strange monologue about Quakers that he decided to include in his introduction. That is the extent of the information I was able to find on the author. I did, however, uncover some very peculiar information regarding the publishers.

Interestingly, this book was published in Saco, Maine, a little town just south of Portland. Putnam and Blake printed Dr. William Steward’s Steward’s Healing Art in 1827. It is likely that Putnam and Blake acted as both the publisher and printer for this book. This can be inferred from the fact that Saco, Maine was a relatively small town, likely industrious in the lumber industry but not renowned for publishing or printing books. Nonetheless, there is very little textual information regarding the printer or publisher. There is a lack of a colophon or a printer’s mark in the beginning and end of the book. The only indication of either party is in the form of a printer’s imprint or publisher’s imprint on the bottom of the title page, which also includes the location and date mentioned above. Additionally, according to the title page, this book was printed as a first edition.

(Publisher/printer imprint)

However, I found Saco to be an odd place to print a book. Why here? I figured it was because the author was also from Maine but the towns are not exactly close. Bloomfield, according to Wikipedia is an “extinct town” and now part of Skowhegan, Maine. They are about 2 hours apart by car, which they did not have in the 1800s. Why would a doctor from Bloomfield go to Saco to publish his book? Perhaps, it was cheaper or the only one who would accept and publish his book. We may never know…

Also, I did some more searching and found other works by Putnam and Blake. Primarily, their other published works consisted of a primer for school children and newspapers. But here comes the strange part. These were all printed within the same time frame of about 1826-1830 (WorldCat). The publishing company seemed to have been quite short-lived. One reason for this could be that the company ran out of money. Or maybe Putnam and Blake had a falling out, which led to the dissolution of their alliance.

It is also likely that more than one copy of the book was printed based on the current locations this book can be found (WorldCat). Perhaps the original “Healing Art” was printed 1812, as it hints to in Steward’s Healing Art (see image above), before Putnam and Blake’s time by different publisher. Then Dr. William Steward could have added the additions after more years of research and the book could have been reprinted in 1827.

The most interesting piece of evidence I found occurred when I googled the individual publishers’ names. Apparently, Alexander C. Putnam merged with the Kennebunk Gazette, which was founded in Kennebunk, Me in 1821, to form the Kennebunk Gazette and Maine Palladium (Library of Congress and WorldCat). I was feeling pretty victorious at this point since this explains why Putnam and Blake was such an elusive and short-lived publishing company.

(Maine Palladium from America’s Historical Newspaper)

The Maine Palladium became Putnam’s main focus from 1828-1830 up until he died at the ripe old age of 36 in Saco, Maine in December of 1830 (Ancestry.com and America’s Historical Newspaper). Seeing that Steward’s Healing Art was published in 1827, it was probably the last work of Putnam and Blake before Putnam left the company. According to the Library of Congress and WorldCat, the Maine Palladium was a weekly newspaper that consisted mostly of advertisements “devoted to agriculture, commerce, manufactures, politicks, sciences, morality and religion”. Sounds like Maine in the 1800s to me.

(Putnam’s death from Ancestry.com)

Then, I did some research on Blake. Because I was lacking a first name, the Internet was eerily silent on him. It seemed as though Blake had been erased from history. I emailed two librarians at Bowdoin asking after Blake’s first name because they have access to an E-Journal that could hold some answers. Karen Jung emailed me back and huzzah! Lo and behold, she found his name: John A. Blake. Under the “Dissolution” section in the Maine Palladium from September 1828, it explained that Putnam and Blake had a mutual agreement to disband the partnership. Eureka! Who knew someone could get so excited about finding a name. Unfortunately, Ancestry.com did not yield promising results as his name, like Steward’s, was quite common. But, hey, I am thrilled about what I found and forever grateful for the people who have helped me.

(Courtesy of Bowdoin’s Library. Thank you Karen Jung for your help!)