The Long View From The Watonwan River

The Millenarian Odyssey of Pioneer Druggist Henry Wellcome

by William Hoffman

One of the world's largest biomedical research charities,
the Wellcome Trust, had its origin on the Minnesota frontier.


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A massacre and a mass hanging, a rain forest haunted by malaria, the canoe as therapeutic couch, the temperance movement, the spiritual power of burial mounds, the millennium and the Branch Dividians. One way to bring these terms together for biographical purposes is to draw a thread through them, a thread that will form part of the fabric of a life. But a life can also be imagined as a crystal with thousands of faces. The experiences and events represented by the faces are joined within. How they appear on the surface depends on your point of view.

The larger faces of the crystal of pioneer druggist Henry Wellcome are clear: his boyhood on the Minnesota frontier during the Civil War, his founding with Silas Burroughs of Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. in London in 1880, his establishment of the first research laboratory in the pharmaceutical industry, his pioneering medical fieldwork and archeological excavations in Africa, the scandalous breakup of his marriage, his knighthood, his vast medical museums and collections, and his unprecedented will, in which he left his pharmaceutical empire to charity upon his death in 1936. In 1932, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons said that no one had done more than Wellcome to make progress possible in the art and science of medicine.1 Four years later he was eulogized in this country as American pharmacy's gift to the world.2

A subtler perspective of Wellcome's odyssey would show parents in a Bohemian community not far from his boyhood home praying to St. Wenceslaus to save their children. On December 27, 1894 the New York Times reported that the village of Veseli in Minnesota [see neighboring New Prague] was being rapidly depopulated by an outbreak of diphtheria.3 Fifty-four of its 300 inhabitants had died, most of them children. "Frequently children die within a day after being attacked with the disease," the reporter wrote. "In some families five or six members have died. No measures have been taken to check the epidemic."

Outbreaks of diphtheria, the deadliest of children's diseases, were fairly common at that time. [see Steven Spielberg's new film Balto, the sleddog hero of the Nome Serum Run of 1925]. Though it was too late to save the children of Veseli, discoveries by the disciples of Robert Koch in Berlin and Louis Pasteur in Paris were about to revolutionize the treatment of diphtheria. Indeed, the first shipment of diphtheria antitoxin [1895, 23K] was already on its way to America.4 The serum was prepared in the new research laboratories and under the exacting standards of the British firm Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. Its destination was New York City, where diphtheria was claiming the lives of more than 2,000 children each year. Like the early supplies of the company's serum to London pharmacists and physicians, it was provided at a price below production costs.5,6

The decision to send some of the precious early supply of diphtheria antitoxin to America was an easy one for Silas Burroughs and Henry Wellcome. They were American citizens. Burroughs was a native of Medina, New York and a close friend of a former mayoral candidate of New York City, reformer Henry George. By 1894, he had only one more year to live. With a free hand at shaping the company, Wellcome's grand vision of pharmacy and medical science began to take shape. He established large research laboratories with medical staff in London to produce diphtheria antitoxin and develop new medicines. To succeed, Wellcome had to overcome the suspicion of the medical community toward manufacturing chemists. He also had to address antivivisectionist legislation before the British Home Office would register his laboratories to raise antitoxin in horses.6 But Wellcome was convinced that research would yield substances that would help doctors in their efforts to "lessen pain and postpone death."7

Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome's first successful formula had nothing to do with the drugs for fighting viruses, bacteria, malaria, heart disease and cancer that bear his name. The formula was for invisible ink. It was the culmination of a free-lance experiment in his father's drug store on Main Street of Garden City, Minnesota. S.C. Wellcome & Co. inhabited an old armory constructed for use during Indian raids. Wellcome was only nine years old when he was made captain of a team of boys assigned to cast bullets from melted pewter during the Dakota Uprising of 1862. He was just 16 when he placed an advertisement for "Wellcome's Invisible Ink" in the Garden City Herald. 8

The Watonwan river was the life-blood of the frontier settlement where Wellcome grew up. Its waters churned a neat succession of mill wheels around the village before joining the Blue Earth and Minnesota rivers that meander through the prairie and woodlands of southern Minnesota.9 It was none other than John Charles Fremont, the "Pathfinder" of the American West, who first charted the river's course. In 1838, the French cartographer Joseph Nicollet set out to survey the upper Mississippi River valley for the federal government.10 Fremont accompanied him. Indeed, when Garden City was platted in 1856, it was given the name Fremont in honor of the great explorer. That year, Fremont became the first Republican candidate for President.

Garden City was in the heart of the country of the Dakota and Winnebago Indians.11 Wellcome's first encounter with them might have been along one of the narrow Indian footpaths that lined the riverbanks, pathways to adventure for barefoot white boys. A subsequent encounter, the 1862 uprising under Chief Little Crow, was a scene etched in his memory. For the first time, the Indians of the Great Plains lashed out against the westward migration.12 Some of Wellcome's companions were among the tomahawked.13 The plains would not see peace until after the Wounded Knee Massacre [73K] in 1890.

Garden City and Mankato were typical among the communities of the West in their hatred of the Indians. Abraham Lincoln was denounced for authorizing the mass hanging of only 38 Dakota warriors of 303 made eligible by the military court.14 The word "extermination" was bandied about freely in the newspapers. County commissioners sent for "negro bloodhounds" from the South to assist the "Knights of the Forest."14,15 It was not a favorable climate for a white boy to begin to entertain sympathy for the dispossessed Dakota, but Wellcome was the son of a missionary, and missionaries were the last bastion against white retribution on a grander scale.

Solomon Wellcome, Henry's father, left the granite hills of Maine and headed west in 1849 to join his older brother, Michael, in central Wisconsin.16 In 1850, he met and married Mary Curtis, the daughter of a devout Quaker family from Maine. Henry was born in 1853. When he wasn't struggling with the soil, Solomon preached to the local Menominee and Chippewa Indians. Another of Solomon's brothers, Jacob, joined the family in 1857. Jacob was a physician. After a few years he and his wife continued west and settled in the newly replatted village of Garden City. There, he set up his medical practice and launched a drug and general store business. Jacob led a celebration in Garden City the day of Lincoln's inauguration in 1861.17 In voting for the Republican ticket, he gave the nod to his old schoolmate in Maine, Hannibal Hamlin, the new vice president. A few months later, Solomon Wellcome hitched his horses to his "prairie schooner" and set out with his family to join Jacob.

Solomon took over Jacob's store when Henry was 13 years old. It is hard to imagine a better environment for a boy interested in chemistry than the prescription room of a frontier drug store, with its beakers, mortars, pestles, spatulas, scales, bottles and jars of chemical compounds and general lack of regulation. Henry spent a fair amount of time compounding medicine. Many of the prescriptions were written by his uncle, whose office was next door to the store.18 When he wasn't in the prescription room or in school, Wellcome was likely to be found at his uncle's side as the surgeon splinted a fracture or dressed a wound. He had been there during the Dakota uprising and received an early introduction to emergency surgery and human anatomy. (After the greatest mass execution in U.S. history, the bodies of the hanged Dakota were removed from their resting place and distributed to area surgeons for postmortem examinations.19) More than once Jacob found his nephew's nose buried in his medical books. Later, a scene representative of youthful curiosity about medicine was described by another Minnesotan, Sinclair Lewis [Main Street of Sauk Center, Lewis's boyhood home, 51K]: "Cross-legged in the examining chair in Doc Vickerson's office, a boy was reading 'Gray's Anatomy.' His name was Martin Arrowsmith, of Elk Mills, in the state of Winnemac."20

The proximity of Dr. Wellcome gave S.C. Wellcome & Co. somewhat more credibility in an age when patent medicines and cures were sweeping the land and traveling medicine shows were in their heyday. The arrangement also fused medicine and the emerging profession of pharmacy in Henry's mind. Jacob's friendship with a surgeon in Rochester east of Garden City helped Henry get a job at a local drug store in 1870. His friend was the father of William and Charles Mayo, the founders of the Mayo Clinic. William Worrall Mayo had his office above the drug store. Drs. Mayo and Wellcome were fellow examining surgeons for the draft during the Civil War [Mayo House, LeSueur, MN].21 Mayo had been an assistant to the great English chemist John Dalton in Machester. He came to the United States in 1845 and worked in the drug department of Bellevue Hospital [1822, 38K] in New York City before moving west.22 Half a century later, Bellevue Hospital received the first diphtheria antitoxin to arrive from Europe, compliments of Henry Wellcome, Mayo's protege.

When the fictional Martin Arrowsmith introduces himself to Max Gottlieb at the state university, he tells the eminent professor of bacteriology that he did pretty well in organic chemistry. Gottlieb dispatches him: "Organic chemistry! Puzzle chemistry! Stink chemistry! Drug-store chemistry! Physical chemistry is power, it is exactness, it is life."23 Dalton knew from the table of atomic weights he developed that his atomic theory could have enormous practical value. Among other things, it could lead to a precise system of weighing components of compounds for medicine. Atomic weight was the key to preparing exact dosage.24 The fact was not lost on his assistant, Mayo. Nor was the fact lost on Wellcome after Mayo gave him lessons in chemistry and physics.25 It is not an accident that Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. became the industry leader in developing the chemical and biological assays used to standardize a therapeutic dose.

Mayo urged his student not to settle for the life of a small-town druggist. In a visit to the Mayo Clinic in 1935 for treatment of colitis, from which he had suffered for many years, Wellcome did not mince words about his debt: "I owe whatever success I have attained in the world to Dr. William Worrall Mayo, who took an interest in me and gave me my start."26 Wellcome's start was at the Chicago School of Pharmacy. When the school was destroyed in the great Chicago fire of 1871, he returned to Rochester and was promptly shunted by Mayo to the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, the nation's first and best. There, he met Silas M. Burroughs, a sales representative for the local wholesale druggist John Wyeth. The debut of the unicorn, the symbol of Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. selected by Wellcome, was just a matter of time.

After his graduation in 1874, Wellcome took a job with the New York drug wholesaler Caswell, Hazard & Co. Two years later, he joined another New York firm, McKesson & Robbins. The drug industry was reforming itself. One of its innovations was a new style of traveling salesman who ventured far and wide on the new railways to provide service. The best among them were assigned the additional responsibility of investigating raw materials for drugs. Wellcome was sent to explore the rain forests of Peru and Ecuador, ask about Indian remedies and bring back samples of herbs, roots and bark for testing. [Latin American Plants Program, Dept of Botany, Smithsonian Institution] The company wanted to expand its line of gelatin-coated pills. McKesson & Robbins also was worried about the growing shortage of cinchona. Cinchona bark is the source of quinine, long known for its medicinal effects against malaria. As the time, quinine was the most important medicine in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia.

In June 1877, Wellcome and a companion arrived at Guayaquil, the main shipping port of Ecuador.27 They took a steam launch up a branch of the Guayaquil river to Pueblo Nuevo. There they mounted mules for the trek through the upland forests and over the cordillera. Sun-bleached human skulls had been placed as caution signs along the rocky chasms. Wellcome was constantly reminded of the eruptive violence of the Andes, the threat of an earthquake or rock slide. Eventually, they were forced to dismount and continue with the Indians on foot. Another ascent and their destination was in view. From a spur, they looked down on the interandean plateau spread out before them, "a boundless undulating sea of wilderness...a gorgeous expanse of matted verdure."28 An Indian guide sorted the tints of reflected foliage with his schooled eyes. "Cascarilla," he cried! Bark!

As Wellcome recorded a detailed description of Cinchona succirubra [74K] in his journal, the "cascarilleros," the bark collectors, set about felling trees and removing the bark at the command of their boss. Within minutes, the cream-colored alkaloid turned dark red from exposure to the air. The Indians packed the bark quickly to prevent its deterioration. Each bale weighed about 150 lbs., a maximum load for a man or a mule. Each was tethered to an Indian who carried it to a transfer warehouse several hundred miles away. There, a mule would shoulder the load to Guayaquil. The gorges were strewn with the skeletons of Indians who had lost their balance along the narrow path.29

Malaria was everywhere. It was disastrous to the Quechua Indians. Their poor nutrition made them vulnerable. An old Indian took Wellcome aside. He said that at the time of the Spanish conquest his people were robbed of their possessions, had since then served as slaves, and were now made "human sacrifices to furnish health to the white foreigners."30 Wellcome noted that "it is only by extreme poverty, or obligation as peons, that they are induced to enter the bark forests to encounter the dangers for the meager pittance of ten to twenty-five cents per day."31 For two centuries, the cinchona forests of Ecuador had been stripped for the benefit of Europeans and North Americans. Wellcome saw clearly that their time was running out. He believed that the "ruinous system of destroying the trees" would lead to their extinction unless a serious effort was mounted to plant new ones.

As he was writing up his findings about cinchona and the numerous botanical specimens he brought with him, Wellcome struck up a correspondence with his old classmate, Burroughs. Burroughs had started his own company in London with the idea of introducing the new compressed medicines into Europe. The fundamental technology behind most of the millions of pills swallowed every day was invented not by a pill maker, but by an accomplished British artist and explorer.32 For a quarter century after Waterloo, William Brockedon was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy. A founder of the Royal Geographical Society of which Wellcome became a member, Brockedon was exasperated by the friable and gritty graphite in the pencils he used for his sketches of the Alps. He devised a method for reducing the graphite to fine powder and compressing the powder to yield lead of superior quality. A drug firm saw another application and hired him. In 1843, Brockedon was granted a patent for "Shaping Pills, Lozenges and Black Lead by Pressure in Dies."33

Ironically, Brockedon's method of compacting bulky powder into lozenges or tiny biconvex discs, like aspirin tablets, made greater headway in America than in England.34 Burroughs perceived the problem to be one of marketing. He knew that compressed medicines were easy to administer and transport and were fully active under extreme conditions. These would be important qualities for medicines in the age of imperial Britain. Unsure whether to join him as a partner, Wellcome visited his uncle, Isaac, in Yarmouth, Maine. Isaac was a preacher and publisher and also ran a small drug store.35 Since Wellcome was being paid well by McKesson & Robbins, Isaac advised his nephew to dismiss his grandiose ideas. Then Wellcome wrote to his friends, the Mayos, back in Minnesota. The Mayos knew that private physicians in England "were still rolling their own pills" and urged him to accept the offer.36 In 1880, Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. was incorporated in London. Wellcome was 26 years old.

By his 30th birthday, Wellcome was already a wealthy man. The company's compressed drugs were an instant success. Wellcome put together an engineering staff to design machinery that could make compressed products with an unprecedented standard of precision. The market responded. Soon, the sun would never set on the enterprise. The company opened new offices all over the British Empire and beyond, in Sydney, Cape Town, Milan, New York, Montreal, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, and Bombay [136K].37 The new headquarters office on Snow Hill, designed and furnished by Wellcome, won praise from London critics.38

When the 16-year-old Wellcome was satisfied with his formula for invisible ink, his next act was an expression of innate faith. He marched to the offices of A.J. Manley's Garden City Herald and took out a 10-line advertisement for a product he described as "The Greatest Wonder of the Age!" It was 1869, two years before P.T. Barnum announced the opening of "The Greatest Show on Earth." A commercial dynamo was liberated in the aftermath of the war, and advertising supplied the fuel. The Victorian prime minister William Gladstone once remarked that the phenomenal growth of the United States was reflected in the work of its advertisers.39 He had a case in point right in his midst. As much as anything else, Wellcome was an advertising man and promoter. He knew advertising worked. The patent medicine boom was solid proof of its power. But patent medicines had damaged the reputation of pharmacy. Wellcome was among the leaders in restoring it. He advertised liberally, but only in professional journals and trade magazines.40

The most famous of Wellcome's promotional schemes were his medicine chests and first-aid kits and belts. These items, designed by Wellcome himself, were packed with his "Tabloids," a termed he coined to describe the company's compressed medicines.41 They found their way into King Edward VII's automobile, the home of his neighbor Wilkie Collins, the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis, and the saddlebags of Theodore Roosevelt.42 Tabloid kits and cases were especially prized by the polar explorers. Roald Amundsen, Robert Scott, Robert Peary and Richard Byrd all carried them. In 1929, some 9,000 miles due south of the site of S.C. Wellcome & Co., Byrd established the "Wellcome Dispensary" at his base Little America on the Ross Ice Shelf [60K].43 Forty years later, anti-nausea medication bearing the name Wellcome traveled to the moon with the Apollo 12 astronauts.

Tabloid medicine chests also found their way into the supply packs of the African explorer Henry Morton Stanley, perhaps Wellcome's closest friend. Like Mark Twain, Wellcome was a great admirer of Stanley's. Both men took a special interest in efforts to restore his health when the explorer and journalist became seriously ill at the turn of the century.44 After Stanley's death in 1904, his wife entrusted to Wellcome the task of silencing a blackmailer who threatened to reveal her husband's illegitimate birth in Wales.45 In the preface to her husband's autobiography, published in 1909, Lady Stanley expressed her gratitude to "Mr. Henry S. Wellcome, Stanley's much-valued friend, for the great encouragement and sympathy he has shown me throughout the preparation of this book for the press."46 In 1931, Wellcome established the Lady Stanley Memorial Hospital and Welfare Centre in Makona, Uganda.47

The commercial success Wellcome enjoyed virtually from the moment Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. was born was strictly a means to an end. In Arrowsmith, the passion for science and drive for commercial success are represented as mutually exclusive traits in the American character. Wellcome was not a practicing scientist, but he combined them. By 1897, the year the novel opens with a boy reading Gray's Anatomy in an examining chair, Wellcome's abstractions had already started to take concrete shape. First, he founded the Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratories, pioneering the idea that pharmaceutical research can lead to improved medicines.48 Soon afterward,49 Wellcome's name was associated with a research laboratory for the study of tropical diseases in Khartoum [Gordon Memorial College, 41K]in the Sudan, a floating research laboratory (the "Culex" [39K]) on the upper Nile river, a hospital dispensary at Kampala, Uganda, a bureau of scientific research and museums of medical science and medical history in London, a publication fund for translating English medical books for Chinese students, and research laboratories in New York.50

If the tropical rain forests are nature's storehouse for the raw materials used in many medicines, they are also the evolutionary hothouse for parasites, bacteria and viruses that cause human disease. Wellcome pioneered organized research of African tropical diseases. [The Wellcome Trust Tropical Medicine Resource WWW Server] An experience during his first trip down the Nile river at the turn of the century caused him to enter a research field almost guaranteed to yield no profits for proprietary drugs. Wellcome was one of the first civilians to visit the Sudan after Anglo-Egyptian forces under Colonel Herbert Kitchener brutally crushed the Mahdists at Omdurman in 1898. By then, country was rife with malaria, smallpox and famine. Millions had died. As he later reported to a Congressional committee, on one of the small islands in the Nile in northern Sudan, Wellcome came upon a wretched scene.51 The island's inhabitants were bent and prostrate frames of sagging skin. But they had a lifeline. Neighbors from the shore, their traditional rivals, came over and fed them, milked their goats and nursed their young. The experience was proof to Wellcome that "in times of distress, the whole world is akin." [Carter Center initiatives in the Sudan] He recognized that isolated communities like the one on the island would offer advantages for the investigation of how disease develops and how it might be prevented. Khartoum, he thought, would be the ideal base for the systematic collection and analysis of specimens.

In 1910, the year he became a British subject, rejoining his distant ancestors, Wellcome's native land came calling. He was asked by U.S. Secretary of War J.M. Dickinson if he would be willing to visit the Panama Canal Zone and write a report about the sanitation work being undertaken by Colonel William Gorgas.52 The Taft administration viewed Gorgas' work as vital to the success of the engineering project, but the man in charge, Colonel George Goethals, was a penny pincher who questioned Gorgas' methods. Pressure was building in Congress to cut the appropriation for sanitation.

Gorgas was in the midst of a campaign to rid the region of mosquitos. The Cuban physician Carlos Juan Finlay had suggested in 1882 that the Stegomyia fasciata (later renamed Aedes aegypti[104K]) was the carrier of yellow fever, the deadly "yellow jack." [Gorgas Hospital, Ancon, Canal Zone, 41K] In 1894, the English parasitologist Patrick Manson had deduced that the malarial parasite is transmitted by the mosquito. Four years later, his countryman, Ronald Ross, dissected an Anopheles mosquito and found Plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria. Dickinson knew that Wellcome would be the ideal consultant.

For one thing, Wellcome was a friend of Manson's. Manson told him that the canal being built in Panama would become a hub for the spread of disease worldwide unless preventive measures were taken.53 In addition, Wellcome knew the dangers of mosquitos from personal experience. Twice his body had served as a temple wherein malaria exercised its awesome power.54 Compared to the lion, which he found to be "an exceedingly agreeable companion in camp life"55 if properly trained, tropical insect pests were an unrelenting menace. Kala-aza (leishmaniasis), transmitted by the bite of the Phlebotomus sand fly, was rampant along the upper Nile. Wellcome lost several of his medical staff on the Culex to kala-aza. Sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis) had swept through Uganda, its progress slowed only by the depopulation it caused. Winston Churchill, touring the country in 1907, reported "a sudden increase in the number of leopards"56 owing to the availability of human flesh from the hundreds of thousands of dead and dying victims. In 1903, British bacteriologist David Bruce found that sleeping sickness is transmitted by the tse-tse fly. Shortly afterward, the Wellcome Medical Hospital Dispensary was established in the Church Missionary Society's hospital at Kampala,57 where the epidemic was first identified.58 Then there was the dark prince of them all, malaria.

The last major victory against malaria came at the turn of the century when efforts commenced to control its carrier, Anopheles. In 1903, Wellcome appointed Andrew Balfour to head his laboratories in Khartoum and directed him to concentrate on the eradication of malaria. Balfour was equal to the challenge. He set up a "Mosquito Brigade" to drain and clear breeding grounds and created a clean water and sanitary system for the city. The Brigade's work paid off immediately. The death rate from malaria in and around Khartoum was cut by 90 percent.59 Khartoum became the healthiest city on the African continent.

In Panama, Wellcome found himself with Gorgas in a canoe. The canoe was at once Wellcome's spa and therapeutic couch. When he was a boy, he loved to canoe on the Watonwan river [Blue Earth Country Resolution Supporting Designation of a Canoe Route on the Watonwan River, 1995]. Later, he had a fleet of Indian canoes shipped to London for use on the Thames and was decorated when he saved the life of a companion.60 In 1886, his doctors ordered him to take a leave from his business or risk a nervous breakdown. He journeyed to Maine and retained the services of the Penobscot guide Lewey Ketchum.61 Ketchum had escorted Mark Twain, Hannibal Hamlin and other persons of note down the boiling Penobscot river. He was the successor of Joe Attien who Henry David Thoreau had immortalized in "The Maine Woods."62 But canoeing in Panama was neither recreational nor therapeutic. Gorgas took Wellcome on long cruises through the "reeking Panama swamps" to give him a visceral view of the task facing his staff.63 Wellcome was impressed by the imaginative, no-quarter strategies employed by Gorgas to destroy mosquito breeding places. Gorgas had reduced the cases of malaria and yellow fever to a fraction of what they were when he began his work in 1904. He proved that mosquito-borne diseases could be controlled in Panama, as he had in Havana before.

In his report to Dickinson, Wellcome wrote that Gorgas' work "reflects great credit and honor on American medical and sanitary science."64 A permanent medical and sanitation department at the Isthmus was "absolutely necessary" and research laboratories should be part of it, Wellcome insisted. His review had its intended effect. The allocation for sanitation was increased. But nearly two decades elapsed before his suggestion to build research laboratories received a hearing. In 1928, Wellcome testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in support of a bill authorizing a permanent annual appropriation for the Gorgas Memorial Laboratory [44K] in Panama. He bought 25,000 copies of the hearings from the Government Printing Office and had them rebound, handsomely illustrated, and distributed widely to generate support for the laboratory. He also had an edition translated into Spanish and distributed to Latin American governments.65

Gorgas died in London in 1920 while on his way to study yellow fever in Africa. He was knighted on his deathbed by King George V. Twelve years later, the King bestowed the same honor on Wellcome himself.66 His knighthood was overdue, delayed by the nasty scandal surrounding his failed marriage. Upon his return to London from the Panama visit, Wellcome and his wife, Syrie, were separated. Gwendolin Maud Syrie Barnardo was the daughter of Dr. Thomas Barnardo, the famous patron of London's slum children. They met in Khartoum while Syrie was on a tour. Wellcome was captivated by the Doctor's "Queenie."67 Henry was 48 and Syrie 22 when they married in 1901 after a brief courtship. In 1903 they had a son, Henry Mounteney Wellcome. But neither was a match for the task of parenting. Henry was often out of the country and Syrie was a fixture in the London social scene.68

Wellcome was an imperious man. He expected to have things his way in his marriage as well as his business. His single-mindedness undoubtedly owed a great deal to his upbringing. Garden City was a hotbed of temperance [196K], the mark of an emerging rural middle class. Solomon, Jacob and Michael Wellcome were frequent speakers at the local temperance hall and at churches and meeting halls all along the river.69 The message was drummed into Henry. Industry, self-denial and self-control lead to moral fitness and economic success.70 The process should be experienced, displayed and advertised. Behavior imperfectly regulated is an unacceptable risk, so even moderate drinking is prohibited. Recreation is essential for the job ahead, but not play. Wellcome remained true to the creed of strict sobriety all his life and carried it relentlessly to his employees in England, Africa, Asia and the United States.71 At Jebel Moya, his archeological site in the Sudan, he refined the practice of the Mahdi, the self-avowed Muslim Messiah. The Mahdi had consumers of alcohol put to the sword. Wellcome ceremoniously conferred a peacock's feather on the heads of his workers who abstained from merrisa, the native beer.72 Richard Woolcome, Wellcome's 17th-century ancestor, ran a popular alehouse on Star Island, one of the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire and a holdout against the Puritans on shore.73 But Wellcome himself was nurtured in the fertile soil of rural evangelical reform.

An upbringing among temperance crusaders had its price, but there was more. The temperance wave that swept across the United States beginning in the 1840s had its origin in Maine,74 where it coincided with the Advent Awakening.75 William Miller, a farmer from Low Hampton, New York, began preaching in the 1830s that the second coming of Christ was imminent. The Messiah would come "as a thief in the night" and destroy the world by fire. Then He and the righteous would reign over a reconstituted earthly kingdom for a thousand years, the millennium, to be followed by the resurrection and judgment of sinners. Miller's cause was taken up by Joshua Himes, the abolitionist propagandist and dynamic young pastor of the Chardon Street Chapel in Boston. Their visits to Portland, Maine paid off handsomely. Soon, the state was peppered with Millerite communities and burning with revival. Among the converts were Michael, Isaac and Solomon Wellcome.76 They abandoned their Methodism and joined the movement. The early years of Adventism were the equivalent in print to the boom in televangelism during the 1980s. Himes' Signs of the Times was its "Hour of Power." Isaac was second only to Himes as an Advent publicist. With the publication of The History of the Second Advent Message in 1874,77 he became the movement's first historian.

Many Millerites disposed of their possessions in preparation for the apocalypse, which was calculated by Miller through his analysis of prophesies in the Book of Daniel to occur during the year of March 21, 1843 to March 21, 1844. When the year came and went, his calculation was revised. The end was set for October 22, 1844. The Wellcome brothers were not among the anointed that day who donned ascension robes and mounted the rooftops and hilltops of New England,78 but their enthusiasm for the Second Advent withstood the ridicule heaped on the Millerites after the Great Disappointment.

The radical millenarianism of Adventism's early days, which has not entirely disappeared [see James Haught's commentary on the connection of the Millerites to the Branch Dividians], faithfully expressed a need that has characterized millenarian movements throughout history, the migration to the "New Jerusalem."79 For many Yankee adherents of Adventism, the New World meant the largely uncharted West. Michael Wellcome was one of the first to leave, arriving in Wisconsin in 1846 to begin his labors as a preacher. Solomon set out for the "New Jerusalem" three years later. Like the Methodists, Adventists found regenerative power in the camp meeting.80 The journey to the "circle of the tents" was their hajj. What Henry Wellcome saw there was an unsettling departure from his everyday experiences at school, on Main Street and along the river. The camp meetings were emotionally charged affairs. Besides providing a place of worship and a forum for instruction and testimonials, they were an outlet for the pain and frustration over the bitter hardship of pioneer life. They were also a theater for pressuring confessions from backsliders. Huge posters illustrating hell and the four horsemen of the apocalypse were graphic reminders of what was in store for the unrepentant.

Henry Wellcome never professed to subscribe to the tenets of Adventism. By the time he visited Isaac to seek advice on his career, he had already been tainted by exposure to the brilliance of pharmacy educators Joseph Remington, William Proctor and John Maisch in Philadelphia.81 He appeared to be safe from the creationist theology and apocalyptic anxieties of his father and uncles. But the demands of rigorous religious instruction during his most impressionable years in Garden City were not so easily sloughed off. Like his father, who wrote in the Herald, "I have wandered far from my native home--for a while upon the surging waters of the Atlantic--and have traveled through several states of our Union,"82 Wellcome was unable to dismiss the primal impulse inherent in millenarianism--the need to wander.83 In 1870, the year Wellcome left home, his father sold the family drug store and was ordained a lay minister in the Advent Christian church. In 1872, Solomon Wellcome logged 5,351 miles by his own account attending camp meetings.84 That he did so while battling a serious heart condition is proof enough that he was an Adventist with fear of the Lord and fire in the belly. The restlessness of his final years flowered with a vengeance in his son, an American exile and arguably the most travelled man of his time.

If Henry Wellcome was humorless, he had reason to be. The harsh puritanism of his boyhood shadowed him even in intimacy. Syrie was said to complain that he would enter her bedroom wearing only a raincoat.85 Shortly after her separation from Wellcome, she began an affair with William Somerset Maugham [Of Human Bondage [1MB], Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 1915] before he became exclusively homosexual. If this were not embarrassing enough to her proud husband, the worst was yet to come. Syrie had a child by Maugham in 1915.86 Wellcome immediately began divorce proceedings, naming Maugham as a co-respondent. But the damage had been done. Fleet Street had a field day with the scandal. Wellcome, who had been obsessive about protecting his private life, stood publicly humiliated.

Nearly half a century had passed when Wellcome revisited Garden City. It was 1921, and the town was bone dry. The philosophical heirs of his father and uncles had ushered in what H.L. Mencken was calling "the dry millennium." One of their instruments was a U.S. congressman named Andrew Volstead from nearby Granite Falls, just up the Minnesota river from Mankato. Wellcome was nostalgic about his boyhood home. He had it in mind to build a school and a library. He also wanted to built a mausoleum for his parents on the east bank of the Watonwan river. It was as if an echo had reverberated through the ages from the Indian burial mounds near his birthplace in Portage County, Wisconsin. Solomon Wellcome had taken his boys on expeditions to the fascinating monuments. The same mound country had nurtured John Muir and Frederick Jackson Turner. Henry's discovery of a stone arrowhead among the mounds marked the beginning of a trail that led to Jebel Moya in the Sudan, where Wellcome established and supervised the first major archeological dig in the interior of Africa early this century.87 [Pictures from the University of Chicago Expedition to the Sudan, 1904-05] It ended at the Palestinian town of Tell-ed-Duweir. There, in 1935, members of the Wellcome Archeological Research Expedition discovered the biblical city of Lachish [fortifications depicted on reliefs of Sennacherib, 174K] and the "Lachish Letters," 21 pottery fragments inscribed in Hebrew from the time of Jeremiah.88

In 1959, a combined auditorium, library, and meeting room built from an endowment left to the community in Wellcome's will were dedicated at what today is the Wellcome Memorial Middle School [see Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Schools].89 Ceremony speakers included Governor Orville Freeman, representatives of the Mayo Foundation, and Sir Henry Dale, Nobel laureat and chairman of The Wellcome Trust. Forty years later, art students at the school unveiled two murals they painted depicting the facade of "S.C. Wellcome Drug and Grocery Store," the headquarters building of Burroughs, Wellcome & Company on Snow Hill in London, and other landmarks in the life of their itinerant and illustrious benefactor.90

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