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Dr. Edward Herbert Bemis

Dr. Bemis was born in Bethel, Vt. March 4, 1849.  He was the son of Enoch and Abigail (Bugbee) Bemis.  Edward Bemis grew up in Marlboro, NH where he went to public schools.  After school, he began business as an optician.  Being interested in the eye and its diseases, he went to New York City to be the pupil of Dr. Rowland B. Gray, a specialist of national reputation and president of the Long Island Medical Society.  He studied with him for a year.

In 1872 Edward Bemis married Marion E. French of Burlington, Vt.  They had six children: Myrtle, Edward, Etta, Mattie E., Jennie, and Avedna L.

Dr. Bemis came to Glens Falls in 1872 where he “continuously labored in treating diseases of the eye”.  Here his efforts were crowned by one success after another, until his reputation as an eye specialist  had become confined to no particular section of the eastern and New England States.  For a number of years after settling in Glens Falls, he spent summers attending to his patients here and winters in Florida except for six summers spent in Utica, N.Y.  In 1887 he gave his entire time to his immense practice at home.  His practice amounted to $30,000 annually and in addition to his home office, he had established and controlled through assistants, branch offices in Boston and New York City, which he occasionally visited.

Dr. Bemis hired Ephram B. Potter, a local architect, to design all of the new structures for his sanitarium complex.  Construction began in 1893.  The 2 buildings now know as Sherman Square Apartments, The Marion, 13 E. Notre Dame St.,  Marion Cottage, 5A and 5B Union St.,  Marion Annex, 7A and 7B, 28 Union St.  On March 7, 1894, Dr. Bemis purchased the Sherman mansion at the corner of Glen St. and Sherman Ave.  He used this house for the central reception center and his residence.  He remodeled the Sherman carriage house and called it Sunshine Cottage.  He also had a place called Bemis-On-Hudson, 4 miles south of Glens Falls.  A farm of  700 acres, furnishing garden supplies, dairy products, and livestock for the sanitarium.  He had The Bemis Sanitarium Omnibus that met all trains.  Board and room for people staying here for eye treatments cost $7.00 per week.  Activities and excursions were planned for the entertainment of the patients.

The sanitarium specialized in the treatment of eye disorders such as cataracts, glaucoma, eye scars, amourosis, atrophy of the optic nerve, detached retina, weeping eyes and granulated eyelids.  This 19th century health center boasted a new method of eye disorder treatment “without the use of the knife,” (surgery was a feared practice in pre-anesthetic eye treatment).  This was the so-called absorption method, which Bemis claimed to have perfected with his patented Magnetic Vaporizer, a machine that apparently hemorrhaged the eye, creating what was thought to be a cleansing action within the organ.  Patients were administered daily treatments prescribed by a staff of five doctors ( Dr. Bemis,  Dr. B. M. Palmer,  Dr. C. K. Beman,  Dr. C. W. Little, and Dr. C. A. Horton) over an extended period of time.  They were not allowed freely to board or take daily treatments away from the Sanitarium campus, until Dr. Bemis began to produce the Magnetic Vaporizer for mail order consumption.

In 1896, more than 58,000 treatments were given at the Bemis Sanitarium.  Daily treatments averaged 160.  Treatments were from $1.00 to $2.00 per day, according to the number of treatments necessary.  The patients came from 23 states and 3 foreign countries.  They were said to have spent more than $135,000 in Glens Falls.  Dr. Bemis was very successful in both the sanitarium and the mail order business.  In 1896, he made over $50,000.  Price list of Treatments

Dr. Bemis enlisted as one of his supporters Addison Beecher Colvin.  Mr. Colvin, a publisher of the local Glens Falls evening newspaper, the Glens Falls Times, local politician, banker, and philanthropist, was Treasurer of the State of New York, 1894-1898.  He was perhaps the most powerful local supporter Dr. Bemis could possibly have had.  Mr. Colvin published testimonials to Bemis’ work in the Times, repeatedly.

Some people apparently were pleased with their eye treatments.  Others were not.

Dr. Bemis died at his home either from a stroke or a heart attack on Dec. 9, 1901.  The Sanitarium closed shortly thereafter.


Gresham’s History of Washington County and the Town of Queensbury,

Gresham Publishing Company, Chicago, Ill., Richmond, Ind., and New York, N.Y. 1894 page 336

Bemis, E. H.  The Bemis Eye Sanitarium, Glens Falls, N.Y. The Home of the Original Absorption Treatment. Glens Falls, N.Y. Glens Falls Publishing Co. 1897

Glens Falls Multiple Resource Historic District  Theme: Bemis Eye Sanitarium

In the collection at the Chapman Historical Museum, Glens Falls, N.Y.

Newspaper article July 14, 1937

Vertical files, Chapman Historical Museum, Glens Falls, N.Y.

Vertical files, Folk Life Center, Crandall Public Library, Glens Falls, N.Y.

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