The Bushnell Park Series -- Horace Wells  LbNA # 14795 (ARCHIVED)

Placed DateApr 30 2005
LocationHartford, CT
Planted ByWild Rover    
Found By Chrissy
Last Found Jan 20 2006
Hike Distance?


***Box went missing Autumn 2005. ***

Horace Wells was born in 1815 in Hartford, VT and apprenticed with some of the best dentists in Boston before moving to Hartford, CT where he became a lifelong resident. He had become known as the best dentist in Hartford over a short period, and championed the slogan, "The clean tooth does not decay!" which was used into the 20th century to encourage children to brush their teeth.

In 1844 Wells attended a public exhibition at Hartford's Union Hall on the effects produced by inhaling nitrous oxide ("laughing gas") presented by Gardner Quincy Colton. One of the volunteers accidentally injured his leg severely during the exhibition, but when asked by Wells about the pain, the man said the hadn't felt anything at all! It was that moment that eventually led to the development of anesthesia for surgery all over the world {1}.

The next day, Wells persuaded Colton to bring some nitrous oxide to his office and had Colton administer it to him while a colleague extracted one of Well's teeth. "I felt it no more than the prick of a pin!" Wells exclaimed afterwards. "Ah, a new era in tooth-pulling." Wells did not know it at the time, but he had discovered anesthesia not only for dentistry but for all practices of medicine as well {2}.

Wells began to use nitrous oxide in his dental practice but experienced some setbacks during surgeries as well as during public exhibitions. A dental apprentice of Wells named William T. Morton expanded upon Wells' idea of gas-induced anesthesia and began using ether to induce a painless sleep. Morton successfully employed ether in more than 160 cases for extracting teeth.

Wells felt that Morton had stolen his concept, and the two became bitter rivals. Wells also felt that his discovery had not given him the recognition he felt he deserved, which was true during his lifetime, but today Wells is known as a pioneer in the discovery and development of surgical anesthesia. He has been honored by the American Dental Association, The Medical Society of New York, The Connecticut State Assembly and the State Dental Commission, and in 1974 the State of Connecticut and the City of Hartford jointly commissioned the bronze sculpture of Horace Wells that stands in Bushnell Park.


This letterbox is part of the Bushnell Park Series planted by MayEve and Wild Rover. The series, which is made up of six (6) semi-micro boxes discreetly planted in this busy inter-city park, made its debut at the Spring Into April Drive on 04/30/2005. Be sure to get MayEve’s “Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch” letterbox already planted in Bushnell Park, and look for MayEve & RTRW’s “Opera At The Bushnell” letterbox planted at nearby Bushnell Center For The Performing Arts. ***NOTE: The only letterbox in the Bushnell Park Series with a log book is the Park River Pump House letterbox.


The tall bronze statue of Horace Wells is found along the park side of the pond, closer to the Pump House than the Carousel. Wells cuts a striking figure with his cape and cane. The monument base reads: "Horace Wells, The Discoverer of Anesthesia, December 1844." Put your back to the words on the base and look straight ahead to a large Sweetgum tree. Take about 35 steps to the base of this tree and climb upon its rooty base to the large owl house where you will find the Horace Wells Letterbox, whose wonderful stamp was carved by RTRW.


Thanks to MayEve for helping to make this idea for an urban park series a reality, and to Shutterbug for walking Bushnell Park to help find hiding places for these boxes. A very, very special thanks to RTRW for carving this wonderful stamp. --WildRover


{2} Horace Wells - 160 Years After The Discovery Of Anesthesia (1884-2006) by Wilson Denis Martins, PhD., Professor, PUCPR