Who was responsible for the treatment of sick children in the countryside during the second half of the 19th century? This paper investigates the medical complaint accusing the rural population of only reluctantly bringing their sick offspring to academic physicians. The following analyses the role Franz v. Ottenthal (1818–1899), a ‘representative’ of a private rural medical practice, played in the specialised medical market attending to childhood diseases.
An exemplary survey of Ottenthal’s medical records for patients from the age of one to 14 years throughout the 1890s has shown that children contributed a relevant percentage of the whole of the physician’s patient distribution. It may therefore be assumed that Ottenthal knew how to successfully merchandise his specific therapies. On the demand side, however, parents of sick children were not solely reliant upon this physician. Evidence from the medical records provides information as to when parents regarded medical self-help as no longer supporting the recovery of their children, the cures of lay healers failed, or cases when parents were not satisfied with the therapeutic treatments other physicians had to offer and therefore consulted Ottenthal.