This was the advertisement in Kingston’s Chronicle and Gazette, which ran on October 20th, 1841, heralding the arrival of Mr. Williams. His visit to Kingston came near the end of his illustrious career in quackery, preceded by nearly forty years of travelling in Europe and the United States, treating patients and selling his so-called miracle cure for blindness.
Mr. Williams’ remedy was most likely made of belladonna, which can dilate a person’s pupils enough that it may be possible for them to see past cataracts in their eyes. In this way, Mr. Williams’ mixture may well have been able to help some, but certainly not all, of those who received it.
On side of box: “Properties // Mydriatic and anti-spasmodic. Poisonous in overdoses. Useful in eye-diseases, in asthma, and as an addition to cathartics to aid their action and prevent their griping. Give 1 to 2 grs. of the powdered leaves. Antidotes, emetics, stimulants and opium in small doses.”
Printed on label: “Homeopathic Tincture // of // BELLADONNA // CONTAINS 46% ALCOHOL // POISON ! // Average Dose of Tincture: 3 to 10 drops // Prepared By // P. H. MALLEN COMPANY // CHEMISTS AND PHARMACISTS 125 North Wabash Ave. CHICAGO”;
Not long before he came to Kingston, Mr. Williams ran into trouble with the law in Washington D.C., winding up in court for being paid to practice medicine without a license. It was there that he met two of the many famous characters he encountered throughout his life– his lawyer was none other than James Hoban Jr., the son of the White House architect, and the prosecution was Francis Scott Key, writer of the American National anthem!
To find out how the trial ended and to learn more about Mr. Williams and his exploits in Kingston and beyond, visit the Museum of Health Care’s blog at https://museumofhealthcare.blog/2019/11/04/a-sight-for-sore-eyes-the-strange-tale-of-mr-williams-the-oculist-and-his-kingston-connection/