In the seventeenth century, Dutch doctors belonged to the higher burgher class and sometimes even to the nobility. They had been educated first in the Greek and Latin schools of their native towns and then proceeded to one of the universities. Later they went abroad to become acquainted with the well known of their profession in the principal cities of Europe and to complete their education under their tuition and to attain the official title of Doctor of Medicine. Many doctors were learned in many areas - there were astronomers, lawyers, and able writers among them. Usually doctors were ranked among the notables of the cities and were held in high esteem.
Also in the seventeenth century, the barber was not yet "separated" from the surgeon. Bleeding was still regarded as a cure for fever and many other diseases, and the barber did the necessary cupping and bleeding. His calling was more dignified than at present. In New Netherland in 1664, Sybrandt Cornelissen from Flensburgh was appointed assistant surgeon, to be employed in shaving, bleeding and administering medicines to the soldiers. Dr. Jacob De Lange was one of these barber surgeons, who had become wealthy by the end of the century. His inventory contains an "iron stick to put out to hang the barber's bason."
The first doctors sent to New Netherland were those who ministered to the ills of the crews and passengers in the West Indies Company's ships, and those who were hired to stay and heal the sick among the Company's servants. The resident doctors appointed by the Company charged the independent settlers for their services. Sometimes they charged a lump sum for an accident case or an illness, but it was more usual to contract with a family or an individual for an annual payment.
In 1652 the surgeons petitioned that nobody but they should be allowed to shave others. To this the director and Council replied "that shaving was properly not in the province of surgeons, but only an appendix to their calling." The names of the petitioning surgeons were Jan Croon, Van der Bogaert, Aldart Swartout, Hans Kierstede, Jacob Hendricksen, Varre Vanger, Jacob Hughes.
The following is a list of doctors appointed by the West Indies Company to practice in New Netherland:
1630 Herman Mynderts van den Bogaert 1637 Johannes La Montagne: Member of the Supreme Council and Vice Director of Fort Orange 1638 Hans Kierstede (died in 1666) Peter van der Linde Gerrit Schut Jan Pietersen van Essendelft (died in 1640) 1644 Paulus van der Beeck from Bremen (He had served in Curacao and on board the Company's ships: settled in Breuckelen[sic] 1647 William Hays of Barry's Court, Ireland (served since 1641 as chief surgeon in Curacao) Peter Vreucht 1649 Jacob Hendricksen Varrevanger (entered the Company's service in 1646, discharged June, 1662) Isaac Jansen (ship) Jacob Mollenaer (ship) Jan Pauw (ship) 1652 Jan Herwy (Hervey) William Noble (ship) Gysbert van Imbroch Jacobus Hugues Johannes Megapolensis, Jr. (returned to Holland about 1656) M. Cornelis Clock Nov. 18, 1658 Peter Jansen van den Bergh Jacob L'Orange 1659 Alexander Carolus Curtius 1660 Harmen Wessels 1662 Jan du Parck (military) Samuel Megapolensis. Cornelis van Dyck (died 1687) 1673 Henry Taylor Fort Orange 1642 Abraham Staets 1655 Jacob d'Hinse Esopus 1660 Gysbert van Imbroch 1662 James Clark Folcks Mespath 1663 William Leverich 1664 Sybrandt Cornelissen van Flensburgh
An important precedent was set when Dr. Hans Kierstede sued the estate of Solomon La Chair for services. The court held: "Mr. Hans is to be preferred before the other creditors as the same is for surgeon's service."
As has been mentioned, the surgeons did not limit their activities to practicing medicine, but engaged in trade and various kinds of business like the other burghers. In addition, the clergy did not limit *their* practice to religion, but were sometimes "curers of the bodies, as well as of the souls." In 1663, a supply of drugs was sent from Holland for "an English clergyman versed in the art of Physick and willing to serve in the capacity of Physicians." It is felt that this was the Rev. William Leverich, who sailed in October, 1660, in De Bonte Koe (The Spotted Cow) from Amsterdam.
Surgeons frequently took payment in shop goods. Also the Court Records indicate that the doctors supplied their private families, or individuals by the year, and often had trouble collecting their annual stipend. In October, 1661, for example, Mr. Jacob Huges sued five patients for unpaid fees. One of these was Martin Clazen who "denied owing eight guilders for service rendered, saying that his wife lay with a severe accident and agreed with the surgeon for a year, but that Mr. Jacob did not once come to see after his wife, and therefore he had been obliged to call in Mr. Hans Kierstede to whom he must pay three times as much." Keep in mind that doctors during this time were often referred to as "Mr.".
Doctors found plenty to do in New Amsterdam. They not only helped cure disease, but helped heal wounds gained in tavern brawls, stabbing and slashing incidents, and in frequent fights and quarrels. The doctors themselves were sometimes violent characters and needed help from fellow doctors. (Dr. Henry Taylor was one example.)
Thanks to the request of Surgeon Hendricksen Varrevanger, a hospital for sick soldiers who had been billeted on private families, and for the Company's negroes, was established on December 23, 1638. The first town midwives were (163-) Hilletje Wilburgh, and Trijn Jansen or Jonas, mother of Anneke Jans.
Finally, medicinal plants did exist in New Netherland, but not in great abundance. Writing to the West Indies Company on September 17, 1659, "Governor Stuyvesant requests that medicinal seeds be sent, and instructs his correspondents to have each package of seeds placed in a separate linen bag to be hung up during the voyage so as to receive light and air. On December 22, 1659, the Directors inform him that the seeds requested have been sent, and also that they have sent some silkworm seeds as well."
For more information on these customs, check the source for this material:
Dutch New York by Esther Singleton, published by Dodd, Mead and Company (originally), 1909.