Held at: Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
(This biographical note was taken directly from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia's finding aid for Acc. 1989-105-01)
Samuel X Radbill was born in Philadelphia in 1901. He spent his childhood in Eastwick, and graduated from South Philadelphia High School. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1924. He interned at the Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster in 1924 and in 1925, became resident at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He married Frances Hoffman, a South Philadelphia schoolteacher, on December 27, 1925, and opened practice in their first home in January 1926. By 1930, Frances had given up teaching to work as his nurse, which she did until his retirement in June 1982.
Radbill began his medical career as a general practitioner. While the bulk of his practice was with children from the beginning, he did not officially become a pediatrician until 1938, when he was certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. He became a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and joined the pediatrics staff at Philadelphia General Hospital as well.
During the early 1930s Radbill helped found and run three free local pediatric clinics in Philadelphia (located at Patterson School, Wolfe School, and the McKean-Carey School) in addition to his regular practice. He maintained evening office hours at least three days a week until his retirement.
In World War II he served as an examiner for the local draft board until enlisting for active duty in 1942. When he was called up in January 1943 as a Captain, his assignments included service as Chief of the Communicable Disease Section at Ashburn General Hospital in McKinney, Texas. He also served as Chief of Medical Service and Venereal Disease Control Officer at Fort Crockett, Galveston, Texas. He also conducted a civilian pediatric clinic at the fort.
Radbill’s professional activities were extensive, including membership in both major medical associations and several historical associations, and service on numerous committees related to these groups. In medicine, his memberships included the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania, and the Philadelphia county Medical Society, serving at different times on the Board of Directors, as vice-President, and as Chairman of the Library committee. He helped organize PCMS’s Education and Scientific Trust, and served on the Executive Committee of that Trust, which coordinated the Greater Philadelphia Health Fair in1964 and 1965. Radbill also acted as a Philadelphia county Medical Society delegate to the Pennsylvania Medical Society for a number of years in the late 1960s and served as Chairman of the Philadelphia county Medical Society’s Bicentennial Committee in 1975.
Radbill was perhaps better known as a medical historian and collector of bookplates and old and rare medical texts than as a pediatrician. He described his fascination with books as beginning while he was in college and credits the old medical texts he began to collect with prompting him to take up the study of the history of medicine. He believed that the study of medicine’s past was useful to its practice in the present and encouraged many of his professional colleagues to examine the history of their specialties. Sometimes, he was able to combine these concerns, helping to organize the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Pediatric History Club, organizing several exhibits on the history of medicine and of pediatrics at meetings of the American Medical Association and the American Association for the History of Medicine, and participating enthusiastically in all activities of the Section on Medical History of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Radbill acted as an expert on medical history and the history of pediatrics, particularly in the context of institutional care, at both medical meetings and at meetings of associations such as AAHM. He lectured on medical history and on pediatrics both past and present at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and at Philadelphia General Hospital and published numerous articles on medical history in both medical journals and historical publications. Topics included the history of child abuse, teething, measles, institutional care of children in Philadelphia from the eighteenth century onwards, the practice of pediatrics in ancient Mesopotamia and medieval Europe and the lives of medical luminaries such as Benjamin Rush and Robley Dunglison. Radbill had contacts with many of the most prominent historians of medicine as well as with other doctors interested in medical history.
Radbill’s collecting interests did not confine themselves to the United States. He collected bookplates and traded in stamps, documents, coins and medical texts with scholars and collectors from throughout Europe as well as Japan and China. His main collecting interests were bookplates and medical texts, and he formed close friendships with a number of other collectors on other continents, supplemented with several trips to Europe. He and other American collectors aided those in Europe with mailings of food, coffee, and luxuries such as stockings in the postwar period as well as swapping collectibles. Radbill concerned himself with the needy in Philadelphia as well, combining a fondness for his old neighborhood of Eastwick with a concern for the development of health care for the city’s needy in his chairmanship of the Philadelphia District, West Area Health and Welfare Council Subcommittee on health Services for Eastwick in 1958 to 1959, as part of the Eastwick redevelopment project. He also involved himself deeply in the affairs of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, to which he was elected a fellow in 1943. In addition to his participation in the College’s Section on Medical History, for which he served at different times as both clerk and chairman, he was a member of the Council and the Bicentennial committee and was a longtime member of the Library Committee. He was concerned with shaping the direction of the development of the library as well as with specific administrative matters. Radbill’s contributions to both his vocation and his avocation were recalled by other physicians, Fellows of the College, and by other medical historians at a memorial gathering at the College shortly after his death in November 1987.
The Samuel X Radbill papers evidence Radbill’s deep and unrelenting interest in the history of medicine, particularly the history of pediatrics and dermatology, folklore, ancient medicine, medical art and medical bookplates. Of note, are three of Radbill’s personal collections related to the history of medicine: collections of pamphlets, brochures and articles; medical art and other pictorial works; and medical journals and texts--all dating from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. In addition, there are research notes, manuscripts and typescripts for articles and books written by Radbill, as well as a small group of miscellaneous personal papers, most of which relate directly to his research and writing.
The collection dates from 1635 to 1987 (bulk: circa 1800 to 1985) and is divided into six series. The first three series house materials collected by Radbill that are related to the history of medicine: “Pamphlets, brochures and articles,” “Medical art and other pictorial materials” and ”Medical Texts and Journals.” Researchers should note, there are several languages represented in the first three series, most notably English, Latin, French, German, Hebrew and Japanese. Following, are three series that more directly evidence Radbill’s personal efforts to conduct research on the history of medicine as well as to organize his collections: “Research and writing,” “Personal card catalog” and “Personal papers.”
The materials housed in this collection dovetail with other Samuel X Radbill paper and book collections held at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
Please refer to individual series descriptions for more information on the content of this collection.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.
- Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
- College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
- Philadelphia General Hospital.
- Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the College of Physicians of Philadelphia Historical Medical Library with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.
Radbill’s large and varied collection of “Pamphlets, brochures and articles,” which comprise series one, suggests that he had a greater interest in learning about the medical practices of the past than in collecting antiquities for their own sake, though the series does date from as far back as 1635 to 1987. The series is organized very loosely by subject, which reflects Radbill’s original filing system. Despite its subject based arrangement, because materials lack any comprehensive order within subject groups, the series takes on a rather miscellaneous nature. In fact, dates and types of printed material range significantly within subject groups and even within particular folders. For example, Radbill commonly intermingled eighteenth or nineteenth century printed materials on the then contemporary medical practices on a given topic with twentieth century articles written on the history of that topic. As such, researchers interested in particular subjects are advised to review the whole subseries and/or subject group. Please note that materials are in several languages including English, Latin, German, French and others.
The series is divided into four basic subseries: “Pediatrics,” “Hospitals,” “Assorted subjects,” and “Uncatagorized.” Researchers should note, that due to processing time constraints, subseries are not definitive; some topics, particularly those related to pediatric history, can be found throughout the entire series.
The first subseries, “Pediatrics,” is the largest subseries, reflecting Radbill’s lifelong interest in pediatric medicine. The pamphlets, brochures and articles date from 1701 to 1986, and cover dozens of topics related to pediatrics and child rearing. There are pamphlets regarding midwifery; vaccinations; common childhood diseases, like rickets and measles; and infant feeding and wet nursing. Unfortunately, the materials have no real comprehensive arrangement - the content of folders across the subseries overlap in terms of date and specific subject matter. However, folders are arranged chronologically based on the earliest pamphlet identified in each folder. Researchers are encouraged to review the entire subseries and should also cross reference the “Assorted subjects” and “Uncategorized” subseries for more pediatric pamphlets.
The next subseries, “Hospitals,” houses an assortment of annual reports, brochures and promotional materials, and hospital histories on children’s and other hospitals in the United States and abroad. The series is arranged in loose alphabetical order according to type of hospital, name of the hospital and/or its geographic location. The series dates from 1696 to 1987.
The third subseries, “Assorted subjects,” dating from 1698 to 1987, houses pamphlets, brochures and articles on a wide-assortment of medical topics that are arranged alphabetically by subject. Researchers will find files on bookplates, curiosities, dermatology, folklore, India, infant feeding and other pediatric subjects, doctor Abraham Jacobi and other physicians, Jewish physicians and customs (including medical references in the bible), measles, medical art, milk and milk production, rickets and vaccinations, just to name some of the subjects with more robust representation. Additionally, there are files containing letters of famous doctors and other people, which were collected as autographs, and files containing biographies on multiple physicians. Please review the box and folder list for additional subjects. Other pamphlets related to many of these topics can be found in the “Pediatrics” and “Uncatagorized” subseries.
Finally, the subseries, “Uncatagorized,” contains pamphlets, brochures and articles on a variety of currently unidentified topics from 1635 to 1986. The materials housed here likely relate to topics covered elsewhere in the series and should be cross referenced in any search.
A note about the series’ original order: Radbill maintained the pamphlets in numbered boxes, often with handwritten inventories of the box’s contents filed inside. These box numbers and inventories presumably correlate to a currently unidentified catalog of the materials. In addition, some pamphlets were already grouped/identified by subject, such as “pediatrics,” “dermatology,” “folklore,” “hospitals,” etc. During processing, especially because item level processing was not possible, care was taken to NOT divorce the pamphlets from their original box numbers or subjects, in the event the catalog should be discovered. Inventories, likewise, were kept in the files. However, the original box numbers were NOT used in formulating the series’ current arrangement. In fact, to do so would have been difficult. It appeared that some numbered boxes were missing, while other box’s numbers were simply lost. Furthermore, without a corresponding index, locating specific information within the collection based on Radbill’s box numbers would have been next to impossible. Even so, when known, the original box numbers and/or subject was transcribed onto the front left of folders; his filing system could be recreated, should a catalog or index be discovered.
The second series, “Medical art and other pictorial works,” offers a wide assortment of medical imagery including original engravings and lithographs; medical bookplates; tear sheets, magazine and newspaper clippings; occasional photographs; as well as lithographic and other reproductive prints. With the exception of the engravings and bookplates, there is very little original art work in the series. The assemblage of imagery, like the previous pamphlet collection, evidences Radbill’s voracious interest in medical history and pediatrics, rather than in art collecting in its own right. Images include children; the interior and exterior of hospitals in the United States and abroad; portraits of doctors; images of doctors and nurses administering treatment, especially vaccinations; and images of mothers and their children. The series also includes lots of reproductions of famous paintings, such as Thomas Eakin’s “The Gross Clinic” and numerous paintings by Mary Cassatt. The series is in loose alphabetical order by subject, with a few folders filed according to artist name, journal or publisher. The images date from 1736 to 1985, but most are undated. Please review the entire container list for more details.
The third series houses Radbill’s collection of “Medical texts and journals,” which date from 1654 to 1935. There is a small selection of what are presumed to be medical school notebooks, texts and/or doctor’s journals from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In addition, there are published medical texts and other related books. Please refer to the box and folder list for more details.
Samuel X Radbill, in addition to his work as a medical doctor, was a noted scholar of medical history. His research interests focused on numerous topics within the larger subject of pediatric history, but also included the history of dermatology, medical folklore, medical bookplates and other topics. The papers date from 1920 to 1987. The “Research and Writing” series documents his historical research and is divided into seven subseries: “Manuscripts and research notes,” “Typescripts,” “Translations,” “Lectures,” “Published articles, book reviews and editorials,” “Other Authors,” and “Audio/Visual materials.”
Radbill’s copious research notes and manuscripts for his books and articles were often first composed on small squares of paper (sometimes even his prescription pad) and stored in shoe boxes according to topic or manuscript. These notes are housed in the first subseries, “Manuscripts and research notes.” The subseries opens with pediatric topics, followed by more general alphabetically arranged subjects, including dermatology, Mesopotamia, Thomas Jefferson University and whooping cough. Unfortunately, it is not immediately apparent exactly what constitutes a manuscript verses research notes.
In the next subseries, “Typescripts,” is a large sampling of annotated typescripts for Radbill’s books, articles and book reviews, which were later published or at least submitted for publication. The typescripts are arranged alphabetically by title or subject, and files are often augmented with related correspondence and notes. The correspondence frequently pertains to conducting research, editing or publication for a particular piece or research topic.
Radbill was also a master of many languages, as evidenced by his efforts to translate notable texts on medicine and the history of medicine, housed in the third subseries, “Translations.” There are numerous annotated typescripts, related correspondence and notes for Radbill’s translations of Bokay’s The Story of Pediatrics, Munz’s The Jewish Physicians of the Middle Ages: A Contributoin to the Cultural History of the Middle Ages, Pediatrics in Greece and Rome by Sophokles Ghinopoulo, Peiper’s Chronicles of Pediatrics, Rhaze's On the Diseases of Children and others.
Following, are a small group of annotated typescripts for “Lectures” on pediatrics and medical history, which Radbill delivered at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania and other venues.
Next, is the subseries “Published articles, book reviews and editorials.” The published items consist of reprints, tear sheets, photocopies and other published versions of Radbill’s research and writing. The materials are grouped as follows: articles arranged according to subject or topics; reprints of specific articles; reprints from specific journals; assorted, unidentified reprints; and lastly, entire journals containing one or more pieces by Radbill.
Lastly, researchers will find the subseries “Other authors” and “Audio/Visual research materials.” “Other Authors” houses published and/or typescript versions of research and writing that was sent to Radbill for review and/or critique. Many files also contain related correspondence and notes. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by author name. The “Audio/Visual research materials” subseries consists of a microfilm copy of John Peachey’s Diseases of Infants and Children and a cassette tape recording of Dr. Rashkind’s 1986 Memorial Service.
Series five houses Radbill’s personal card catalog system. There are three catalogs: General books, arranged alphabetically by author; books about book plates, arranged alphabetically by author; and pediatric books, also arranged alphabetically by author. It is not certain to which collection of books the card catalog was created to give access to.
The final series in the collection houses a small amount of miscellaneous personal papers. Of note is some random correspondence about Radbill’s and others’ research and writing on medical history and some files related to Radbill’s affiliation with the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please review the box and folder list for more details.