Lancaster University, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, and the Wellcome Trust have organized a conference in Dwight, Illinois for “transnational perspectives addiction, temperance, and treatment in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”
The “I’ve been to Dwight” meeting (July 14-17), is being held at the home of the Keeley Company, the history of which serves as a unique lens to approach the topic:
Though nearly forgotten today, the Keeley Company, based in Dwight, Illinois, distributed its “gold cure” for the alcohol, tobacco and drug habits by post and from franchised clinics across North America, Europe and Australia between 1880 and 1966. The company’s popular, international success ensured that its founder, Dr. Leslie E. Keeley, was among the world’s most famous physicians at the turn of the twentieth century. Keeley however, faced constant accusations of quackery from the forces of professional biomedicine, particularly the BMA and the AMA. Nonetheless, tens of thousands of satisfied patients from around the globe were convinced that his “gold cure” had rid them of their alcohol and drug habits and “I’ve Been to Dwight” was a catchphrase they used to explain their sobriety. After Keeley’s death in 1900, the company worked to conform to shifting standards of biomedical practice, but competition from state-run sanitaria led to its closure in 1966.
Because of its global presence, its difficult relationship with the medical mainstream and its tenacious popularity among ordinary people, marking the closure of the Keeley Company begs many historical questions and it urges us to answer them in broadly critical, comparative and/or transnational terms.
The keynote speaker will be Dr. Sarah Tracy, historian of medicine from the Department of the History of Science at the University of Oklahoma.
The conference program can be found here.
The village of Dwight, Illinois is directly in between Chicago and Bloomington, and is a short train ride from the city.
Some further online resources about the Keeley Cure: