An odd little item from the Albany Argus of July 17, 1832 stood out to us:
Albany Lock Dispensary, No. 2 Green, two doors from State street, and No. 2 Store lane, two doors from Green street. Exclusively devoted to the treatment and prevention of a certain class of diseases. DR. COOKE continues to be consulted as usual, at his offices, in all delicate diseases arising from an impure state of the blood, and undertakes to cure positively and effectually, without confinement or hindrance from business, a certain disease, which alone engages his whole attention, in all its stages, on moderate terms. Recent cases he removes in a few days, without the aid of mercury.
Mercury was a common treatment for syphilis – but then again, it was a common treatment for everything. The name “Lock Dispensary” is oddly specific but apparently associated with the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (previously widely known as venereal diseases) – such an institution was established in London in the early part of the 19th century, and more in Britain and Ireland. There was also a New York Lock Dispensary in New York City, which was also apparently devoted to a certain class of diseases. Yes, again, venereal diseases. In 1844, Dr. George Cooke was listed as associated with a Lock Hospital, and Dr. Lacroix with the Lock Dispensary.
Strangers are respectfully apprised that Dr. C. has had thirteen years’ continued experience in this line of his profession, was educated in London, for many years actively employed in H.B.M. foreign medical service, in extensive hospitals, and latterly in connexion with the New-York Lock, and Dr. Evans’ Old Galen’s Head Dispensaries, establishments of celebrity and repute, where his skill was vastly distinguished, inasmuch as to suppress the most obstinate, malignant and doubtful venereal cases, solely with the aid of pure vegetable physical powers, which afford the most certain, expeditious and favourable results ever yet placed at the disposal or in the hands of man, for the effectual prevention and removal of this loathsome class of diseases . . . none need despair of a complete recovery and sound constitution, by applying at his Dispensary, where a medicine is also prepared which will prevent the formation of venereal disease in any shape or form, if used within twenty-four hours, according to direction. Separate offices provided, so that invalids can not be exposed to each other’s observations . . . No dieting required in ordinary cases, and the most honourable secrecy at all times strictly observed.
Dr. Cooke offered his services in “personal attendance” from 6 A.M. to 10 P.M. daily, at No. 2 Store Lane. (Store Lane was once known as Nail Street and Church Street, and later became called Norton Street, running east from South Pearl to Green St. In an 1839 notice in the Argus, Dr. Cooke, boasting of the degrees of M.D., D.D., and LL.D., posted:
The unfortunate are respectfully informed that the Albany Lock Hospital, established and modeled after the much celebrated European Lock Hospitals, has many years since been founded at Head Quarters, No. 3 Norton street, Albany, N.Y. To those unacquainted with this institution, it is necessary to mention that it has for its object the cure of all such diseases as syphilis, scrofula, strictures, diseases of the urethra, lumbago, flour albus [sic], impotency, diseases of the womb, seminal weakness of both sexes, nodes, caries of the bones, gonorrhea, gleets, with all venereal complaints in general, etc.
He promised the “most perfect secrecy may be depended on,” and that each patient would be received in a separate apartment, and at no time, unless at the request of the patient, would a third party be permitted to be present.
Perhaps because Albany was very much a port city, Dr. Cooke wasn’t the only one providing such services. In that same issue, V.B. Lockrow, M.D., with offices as 56 Beaver Street, 2 doors above Pearl Street, advertised “No Cure, No Pay!” at his Old Galen’s Lock Dispensary.
Dr. LOCKROW may be confidentially consulted, and particularly upon those diseases of the human frame of a private nature, viz: Syphilis, Gonnorrhea, Glets, Lues Venerea, Impotency, Seminal Weakness, with all the Venereal Complaints in general, etc. etc.
Dr. L., we were assured, has been “regularly educated to the medical profession, and graduated at one of the first Colleges in the United States.” That it should remain nameless is interesting. Nevertheless, he also offered private rooms for his patients and said that post paid communications stating their case and enclosing a reasonable fee for advice and medicine would be met with prompt attention. In addition, he had something Dr. Cooke didn’t have: Old Galen’s Box.
Old Galen’s Box is a neat small portable box, that can be carried in the pocket, containing medicine, and printed directions minutely detailing the symptoms and treatment of gonorrhea, in so plain and simple a manner that no mistake can occur. To strangers and seamen it is of the greatest importance, as they can pursue their journey and continue in their respective avocations, and in the mean time be their own physician, and thus avoid exposure and supercede the necessity of any surgical advice, farther than may be obtained from the concise and brief description of the disease, and its cure contained in the directions The above Box can be sent to any part of the Union, and the medicine contained in it may be relied on, as a positive cure.
[Galen was the most celebrated physician of the Roman Empire; he had no particular connection to STD treatment, but at the time his name was connected to all manner of things medical.]
Paula Lemire’s “Albany Rural Cemetery – Beyond the Graves” Facebook page had this to say about old Dr. Cooke who, like all good Albanians, lies in eternal repose in the Albany Rural Cemetery:
Born in England on February, 8, 1787, George Cooke came to New York in 1830 and relocated to Albany not long after. He variously identified himself as a lawyer, a doctor, a professor, and (as stated on his headstone), a general.
A purveyor of medical elixirs of his own formulation (such as a “Pectoral Essence of Boneset For Coughs, Colds, Etc.”), he was quite a self-promoter, placing scores of ads, articles, and letters in the local newspapers over the course of his career. The walls of his office at 3 Norton Street were, according to the Albany Evening Times, covered with “degrees and diplomas without number.”
As Albany’s oldest consulting physician, he was quite successful; he was able to leave a generous bequest to purchase 1,000 books for the library of the Albany Young Men’s Association and commissioned a marble medallion of himself by Erastus Dow Palmer to be placed in the Association’s rooms.
Cooke died on January 12, 1873 at the age of 84. His obituary in the Albany Evening Times referred to him as “an old and eccentric citizen” of the city who “rapidly acquiring wealth and possessing himself of a fine wardrobe…was seen everyday walking on Broadway attired in knee britches, silk stockings, shoes with gold buckles, his hair white and flowing, the observed of all observers.”
General George Cooke was buried in Lot 241, Section 95 on the North Ridge of the Rural Cemetery five on May 19, 1873. His interment record notes, “Monument on lot has sculpted likeness resembling Franklin D. Roosevelt.”
And thanks to Paul Nance for providing this synopsis of the Oxford English Dictionary’s etymology of a lock hospital:
Lock, in the sense of a hospital, dates from the 14th century, when it referred to an isolation hospital in Southwark, constructed to keep lepers out of the city. The meaning extended to wards for the treatment of venereal diseases in the 18th century.