On June 23, 1899, Paul Laurence Dunbar paid $20 toward a large medical bill from Dr. P. Augustus Johnson, who had treated Paul earlier in the year when he was critically ill with pneumonia in New York City.
For professional services rendered him for pleuro pneumonia from April 30th to date.
84 calls at $1.50 per call.
20 on acc't
Receipt from Dr. P. Augustus Johnson, June 23, 1899. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 2).
Six days later, Paul wrote a check for the remainder of the bill. During Paul's illness, Dr. Johnson insisted that he cancel all of his speaking engagements.
Paul Laurence Dunbar is ill with pneumonia at 131 West Thirtieth Street, where he usually stays when he is in New York. He was to read selections from his works in Albany on Monday evening, but Dr. P. Augustus Johnson, who was called in for the purpose of doctoring the patient so that he could fill the engagement, put a peremptory veto on the trip and all the other engagements Mr. Dunbar had for the ensuing ten days. Dr. Johnson is hopeful that Mr. Dunbar will pull through, but is taking no chances, and visits the patient three or four times a day.
"Paul Dunbar Has Pneumonia." The Sun (New York, New York). May 5, 1899. Page 1.
Paul Dunbar, who was to have lectured in Jermain Hall last night, will not be heard until some future date. Dr. P. A. Johnson telegraphed John E. Bruce, who with F. Z. S. Peregrino had the lecture charge that Mr. Dunbar was ill in New York with pneumonia. A large audience visited Jermain Hall last night where Mr. Peregrino announced that the lecture would not take place. Messrs. Bruce and Peregrino deeply regret that Mr. Dunbar was unable to come to Albany and will endeavor to have him come as soon as his health will permit.
"Paul Dunbar Didn't Appear." Albany Evening Journal (Albany, New York). May 2, 1899. Page 1.
Paul Laurence Dunbar is greatly improved in health, thanks to a robust constitution, the medical skill of Dr. P. Augustus Johnson and the faithful care of a devoted wife. Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar go to the Catskills for the summer. The poet will not attempt to resume his work for some time yet.
"About Literature and Literary People." The Colored American (Washington, D. C.). August 12, 1899. Page 7.
In addition to visits by Dr. Johnson, there were many other expenses related to Paul's illness. Paul and his wife Alice described these costs to his mother Matilda.
I am sparing no money to make Paul comfortable, easy and to ensure his speedy and complete recovery. Whiskey at a dollar a pint, champagne every day, two dollars and more each day for medicines, water bags, rubber sheets, bed pans, expensive meat nourishments, doctor coming often, a consultation of doctors, my board, his board and room rent, errand boys, all these things count up, as you know. I guess if we get out of this at an average of fifteen or more dollars per day, we will be doing very well, but I think it will be worse than that.
Alice Moore Dunbar to Matilda Dunbar, May 12, 1899. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 2).
So far, my illness has cost me about 500 dollars. That's pretty steep, but health is better than money.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Matilda Dunbar, June 26, 1899. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 2).
Besides his medical practice, Dr. Johnson was also active in New York politics, and he later became the president of a national association for African Americans in the medical field. When Paul visited New York two years later, he again had to consult Dr. Johnson.
I just want to scribble you a line. I got here all right and very little the worse for wear. My cough is still bad and the head cold runs on, but I believe I shall get through. Got my creosote and am now getting ready to start for Dr. Johnson's.
Have just been to Doctor. Got a couple of prescriptions and a scolding.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, March 18, 1901. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).