Papers of John Adams, volume 17

To Philippe André Joseph de Létombe

From Richard Henry Lee

From Ebenezer Crosby, 14 April 1785 Crosby, Ebenezer Adams, John
From Ebenezer Crosby
Sir New-York 14th. April 1785—

From a grateful & lively recollection of your former favours & friendly disposition towards me, I am induced to trouble you with a request, which, tho’ sensible it will be readily granted, I do with great reluctance, well knowing your time is too important to the public, to be intruded upon by your private Friends—1

I have lately been honoured with the appointment of Obstetrick Professor in the University in this City—to discharge the duties of which, I am obliged to provide myself with a Female-Apparatus from London—the price of which I cannot learn—2 Having no other Friend or Acquaintance in London, I beg leave to take the liberty of enclosing five Guineas to you, & requesting you will do me the favour of advancing enough to make up the deficiency, if there should be any, which shall be remitted to you as soon as known—

A Mr: Wright-Post, a Student in Medicine now in London from this City, is recommended to me, as a Gentleman who will readily 28and faithfully procure me the Machine—him I shall direct to wait upon your Excellency for the money3

I hope Mrs: & Miss Adams arrived safe & in health—also that you all continue to enjoy this great blessing—

Mrs: Crosby joins in most respectful regards to you & them, with your most Obedient & / most Humle: Servant

Ebenr: Crosby

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency John Adams.—”


Born in Braintree, Dr. Ebenezer Crosby graduated from Harvard in 1777, completed his medical education at the University of Pennsylvania, and served as surgeon at George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolution. After the war he established a practice in New York City and in 1785 was appointed professor of midwifery at Columbia College, a post he held until his death in 1788 (Thacher, Amer. Medical Biog., 1:57). Crosby would spend time with JQA after the younger Adams’ arrival in New York (JQA, Diary , 1:295, 296, 303).


The “Female-Apparatus” that Crosby sought is generally called an “obstetrical phantom,” a mannequin of a pregnant woman’s torso used to teach midwives and physicians the mechanics of childbirth. The device that Crosby purchased was likely made of wood, leather, and canvas and was necessary to his teaching because cultural restrictions would have made it impossible to use a live subject for instruction (Michael W. Propper and Virginia G. Campen, “Wooden Woman: Cherchez le Fantôme!,” OB/GYN World, April 1985, p. 2–5).


JA replied on 3 Sept. 1785 that Dr. Wright Post, then studying in London and later a noted physician and professor of surgery at Columbia College, had procured the apparatus at a cost of seventeen guineas, leaving a balance of twelve guineas that he should pay to Charles Storer (LbC, APM Reel 107; DAB ). For Crosby’s settlement of the account, see AFC , 7:5, 53.