A Revolutionary Medical Clinic

  • Medicine & Health
  • 1786

Benjamin Rush, physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, opened a medical practice in Philadelphia in 1769. In 1786, he established the first free walk-in health clinic in the United States, the Philadelphia Dispensary. This organization also offered in-home visits for the poor who were too ill to leave their houses. An on-site apothecary compounded medicines of all sorts, which were offered to patients along with advice and therapies suggested by the dispensary’s physicians. Urban dispensaries like this one in Philadelphia were staffed largely by volunteers, and for many generations were the primary means of providing health care to the urban poor throughout the United States.

  • Robert Bremner, American Philanthropy (University of Chicago Press, 1960)
  • Charles E. Rosenberg, Explaining Epidemics, 156-157