Physicians’ Fee Bill

FEE BILL of the PHYSICIANS OF SPRINGFIELD, MO. As the prices of every kind of labor have greatly increased in this community in the last few years, we deem it a duty we owe to ourselves and families that there should be a fixed standard of charges for our services, which shall be in conformity with everything else in valuation…
Physicians’ Fee Bill – January 2, 1860

The Springfield physicians’ fee bill is a detailed listing of fees and services offered by physicians in Greene County, Missouri. The bill documents the types of treatments offered by physicians in 1860, and perhaps through pricing, the complexity or rarity of that type of service. It is interesting to note the cost of in-town visits compared to mileage costs for county visits, and the price difference between minor and more intensive surgeries.

The physicians justified this current fee adjustment because the price of all labor in Springfield had increased. Presumably, the bill reflects a price increase in physician services. Perhaps the increased population size of Springfield and the surrounding community, the threat of war, and increased violence of guerrilla warfare in the region had an impact on the services rendered in Springfield. For a better understanding of the economy of the Springfield and the Ozarks, consult the economic collections, specifically the John Doran diary, and surviving newspapers from Springfield and Rolla.1

Physicians in Springfield unified under one fee structure, indicating varying prices among the city’s physicians before 1860. It is unknown what caused this unification, and beckons further research and investigation. Finally, the bill notes that the physicians will no longer accept payment for yearly family services. The type of services rendered during this plan, and if this type of payment plan was universally rejected throughout the medical profession in 1860 is unknown. The meeting minutes for the Southwest Missouri Medical Society, may provide an interesting comparison for services rendered before and after the Civil War, and should be consulted. This physicians’ bill provides interesting details about the medical profession before the Civil War, and at the same time warrants future research on the topic.

Contributed by the Greene County Archives and Records Center

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  1. Few Springfield Civil War era newspapers survive today. They are available on microfilm at the Springfield-Greene County Library Center. Civil War era newspapers from Rolla are available on the Missouri Historical Newspaper Project.