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Country tooth drawer

The country tooth drawer, c.1812-1817

Printed and published by William Davison
Copper engraving on paper, c.1812-1817

William Davison of Alnwick (1781-1858) worked as both a printer and a pharmacist in Alnwick, Northumberland. He copied this dental print of Edward Dighton (c1752-1819) and published it in Some Alnwick Caricatures c.1812-1817.

This print shows the village smithy. The blacksmith is pulling out an incisor using both hands on a large pair of blacksmiths' pliers! The blacksmith’s assistant is standing on a stool to support the patient's head against his chest, and to stop her moving.

The patient is gripping the blacksmiths nose, in pain no doubt, seated on a stool, while a one-eyed man is either keeping the bellows of the forge going, or waving an agricultural implement, possibly a billhook.

A boy with a very unhappy expression, possibly the woman's son, is either carrying a besom or using it to strike the blacksmith. Through the unglazed window is a cottage and an amused boy is watching the scene.

It is likely that in reality a village blacksmith or farrier would acquire a considerable degree of skill in extracting teeth, although they lacked any specialist dental equipment. Blacksmiths continued extracting teeth into the late nineteenth century and still do so in some parts of the world today.