Doctor J. Flagg, Respectfully acquaints the ladies and Gentlemen of this town, that he continues his practice as Surgeon Dentist. [opening lines]
Smile — America’s first native-born dentist
Unrecorded late 18th Massachusetts handbill advertising the dentistry services of Josiah Flagg (b. 1763, Boston), the first native-born American to make dentistry his life’s work. (Guerra, citing Faggart) Flagg is also credited with inventing the first dental chair in America, a modification of a Windsor chair.
In this circa 1796 handbill, Flagg states he can transplant teeth and correct maxillary prognathism with surgery and that he also “cuts the defect from teeth and restores them to whiteness and soundness, without saws, files, acids and such abusives, as have shamefully crept into the profession, and which have destroyed the confidence of the Publick.”
Contrasting himself from dentist quackery, Flagg proclaims: “From the experience and success which Dr. Flagg has had in the several branches of his profession ... he takes the liberty to assert (and he hopes without arrogance) that his skill is superior to that of any competitor who has yet appeared in this country, and appeals to the respectable and liberal Medical Gentlemen the support of this declaration.” The advertisement ends with Flagg advertising his dentures, chewsticks, masticks, teeth and gum brush es, etc.
In minor examples, Flagg’s handbill, seen here, uses similar or exact language as found in Evans 30427, his 1796 broadside (e.g., “eases them from pain without drawing” vs. “Eases pain in Teeth without drawing” while the phrase “Sews up hare lips” is seen in both). Overall, in comparison, the texts are largely distinct from one another.
The Massachusetts Historical Society offers an excellent snapshot of Josiah Flagg’s life and suggests the potential for an intriguing connection between Flagg, Flagg’s father, a jeweler and music publisher, and Paul Revere who engraved the father’s A Collection of Best Psalm Tunes (1764) and who was himself a dentist during this decade. (“MHS Collections Online: Josiah Flagg, Surgeon Dentist”, accessed online)
A superb artifact from the nascent years of American dentistry.
Description: Doctor J. Flagg, Respectfully acquaints the ladies and Gentlemen of this town, that he continues his practice as Surgeon Dentist. [opening lines]
[Likely Boston, c.1796]. 4½ x 6¼ inches. Letterpress with ornamental type border. Trimmed to border on three sides; three words with slight losses; expertly conserved.
Not in Evans, Austen, Ford, ESTC, or OCLC. The verso of the handbill has 10 lines of genealogical notes in an 18th-century hand concerning William Brewster and Ruth Foss of Brewster, New Hampshire. Cf. Evans 30427 for a 1796 broadside advertising Flagg, Sr.‘s services. MHS notes that Josiah Flagg’s sons became famed dentists as well. Josiah Foster Flagg (1788/9-1853), was known as the “Boston Dentist” (AMB) and the Flagg family and their immediate descendants continued in the profession. wq10