Philadelphia General Hospital Osler Memorial Committee records
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
The Osler Memorial Committee was formed in October 1939. The committee was appointed by David Riesman, President of the Medical Board of the Philadelphia General Hospital. The original members of the committee were chairman Robert J. Hunter, William G. Turnbull, and William E. Hughes; Riesman was an ex officio member. Later in the year, Marion Hague Rea, Abraham Cohen, William N. Bradley, and Jefferson H. Clark were selected to serve on the Osler Memorial Committee.
The committee held its first official meeting on December 6, 1939. The objective of the committee was to create a museum and memorial to Sir William Osler in the old autopsy house of the Philadelphia General Hospital and to organize a ceremony marking the dedication of the building. The dedication ceremony was held on June 8, 1940; in association with the dedication, the committee commissioned artist Dean Cornwell to paint a portrait of Osler. Cornwell's painting, "Osler at Old Blockley," had its premiere showing at the dedication. The committee also organized a special dinner for ex residents of the Philadelphia General Hospital, which was held on December 3, 1940.
After the completion of its duties, the Osler Memorial Committee was discharged in December 1940. At this time, it was decided that a new committee, the Osler Memorial and Blockley Historical Museum Committee, would be appointed to oversee the daily administration of the museum.
The records of the Osler Memorial Committee span 1894 to 1941; the bulk of the records date from 1940 to 1941. The collection consists of the files of Robert J. Hunter, chairman of the committee. Included in Hunter's files is material relating to the restoration of the old autopsy house at the Philadelphia General Hospital and its transformation into a museum and memorial to Sir William Osler. Also included are materials pertaining to the dedication of the building held on June 8, 1940. The collection contains correspondence, minutes, reports, notes, memoranda, programs, invitations, and drafts of speeches.
Series 1 contains Hunter's correspondence. The letters in Series 1.1 address the committee's attempt to retrieve historical records of the Philadelphia General Hospital from the Free Library of Philadelphia. Series 1.3 contains correspondence concerning the construction of a vault in the museum to hold these valuable records. Series 1.2 contains general correspondence. Included are letters from ex residents and contemporaries of Osler, many of which describe experiences at the Philadelphia General Hospital in the late nineteenth century. Also present are letters from Hunter in which he thanks individuals for their donations to the Osler Memorial museum; these letters provide a valuable record of the museum's accessions.
Correspondents in Series 1 include representatives of John Wyeth and Brother, Inc., a Philadelphia corporation that donated 5,000 toward the restoration of the old autopsy house; representatives of Ketcham and McQuade, the contractors who restored the building; artist Dean Cornwell; W. G. MacCallum and John L. Bower, contemporaries of Osler who spoke at the dedication; and Henry Ernest Sigerist, editor of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, who published an account of the dedication of the Osler Memorial in his journal. Series 2 contains minutes, memoranda, and reports to the Medical Board of the Philadelphia General Hospital which document the committee's activities. The minutes also provide a detailed record of museum accessions. Also present in Series 2 are Hunter's typescript and autograph notes pertaining to his work on the committee. Hunter's "Future Plans" folder contains several interesting miscellaneous items, including a 1913 photograph of Osler making the rounds at Bayview Hospital, and three typescript letters, signed, from Osler to William E. Parker, all dating from 1894.
Series 3 contains acceptance and regret letters from individuals who were invited to the dedication of the Osler Memorial, including former Philadelphia General Hospital residents and interns, officials from state and local government, prominent Philadelphia social figures, the presidents of medical colleges and universities, and representatives from hospitals and medical societies. Because of Osler's nationality and his association with McGill University, many of individuals on the guest list are Canadians. Miscellaneous material pertaining to the dedication of the Osler Memorial is contained in Series 4. Included are drafts of the program and drafts of speeches presented by Robert J. Hunter, W. G. MacCallum, John L. Bower, and others. In processing the collection, Hunter's original filing system was preserved as much as possible. When available, the labels Hunter wrote on his boxes and file folders were maintained; they appear in quotation marks on the finding aid. Pages in the collection that were highly acidic were photocopied onto acid free paper. The originals were discarded unless they contained any holograph markings, in which case the original was preserved in an acid free folder and kept with the photocopy.
The records of the Osler Memorial Committee were placed on permanent loan in the Historical Collections of the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia by the Philadelphia City Archives on 18 January 1978. The records are owned by the City of Philadelphia.
The collection was processed and catalogued in 1992.
The creation of the electronic guide for 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, 2009-2011.
- Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
- The creation of the electronic guide for 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.
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This collection is open for research use.
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