Dr. Lee & U-ta-wa-un

A few weeks ago I posted a news clipping about U-ta-wa-un touring in Vermont with Dr. Lee-o-netto as a member of his troupe. Today’s post will cover a nice little treasure relating to this tour. It was located by my good friend Salmon, who is a total research hound. Once he found this artifact, he tracked down the owner and purchased a digit copy for me so I could post it on this blog.

K’chi Wliwni Nidoba

This document is a bit unusual for the time period since it is written using an early version of the “writing machine” or what folks of my generation would recognized as a typewriter.



Selected Transcription

Waterbury, VT, July 21, 1889
[from Frederick Luce in Waterbury, VT to Eva Ellinwood of Cambridge Vermont, before their 1890 marriage]

Dr. UT-A-WA-U-NA and his tribe of red men have been encamped here for two weeks selling indian medicine and each night they have given an outdoor sort of farce or play, there has been a crowd there every night, not because there was any merit to the acting for there was not but because it was free I suppose. I took it all in one night and was disgusted with myself for being such a goose although I learned a lot of news such as why is an old maid is like a bad lemon? Not worth a good squeeze, and many others too long and flat to repeat.


It is clear this gentleman is not a fan of “Indian Entertainments”. However, he has provided us with a wonderful view of the troupe touring in Vermont this year.
I have no way of knowing if this summer tour was planned out in advance or if they planned only to stay in one place until the money dried up and then move on to a new location. They have been camped in Waterbury for about two weeks. Perhaps there will be more news clippings in a local paper there. If time allows, it might be worth contacting a local historical society to see if diaries or journals survive covering this time period. You never know what juicy little bits and pieces might be found in other personal writings.
Mr. Luce is not impressed, but it seems a large number of locals are or perhaps they are just starved for any kind of entertainment. In either case, Mr. Luce tells us there has been a crowd at the camp every night since they arrived. He also tells us the show is free, which he suggests is the main cause of the nightly crowds.
So, the troupe is providing free entertainment to the locals consisting of a play or as he put it a farce, sprinkled with humor to keep the crowd in a good mood. A part of the show would include pitches for their medicine. It seems to be the entertainment that brings in the crowd and the “Indian medicine” they sell which brings in the profits.
Another Indian Doctor of the time period, John W. Johnson, once stated the medicine he sold while in a traveling medicine show would cost them a couple cents to produce in the back of their wagons during the day and they sold it for a dollar a bottle at the nightly shows. John’s story suggests this could be a very lucrative profession indeed.
At this time, it appears U-ta-wa-un and Lee-o-netto are engaged in a classic “Traveling Medicine Show”. Many members of the public considered these show folks to be quacks and snake-oil salesmen, in many cases rightly so. It does not surprise me to find a colorful character like U-ta-wa-un doing this. However, this seems out of character for Lee-o-netto, who appears at other times to be a respected healer specializing in women’s care. I can’t help but wonder what might have influenced her choice to hit the road with U-ta-wa-un the summer after her marriage to Charles Dodge. Perhaps she was looking for a financial boost to help establish a solid practice back home in New York. Perhaps Marleah suggested it was an experience every doctress should have early in their career. Perhaps it was something else.

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Canyon Wolf 
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Categories: Analysis, Culture, Documentation, Entertainments, Family-Kanistanaux | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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