Constantine Hering and Calvin B. Knerr family papers
Held at: Drexel University: College of Medicine Legacy Center [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Drexel University: College of Medicine Legacy Center. 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
Constantine Hering, M.D., the father of homeopathy in America, was born on January 1, 1800 in Oschatz, Saxony, in Germany, the son of Magister Karl Gottlieb Hering who was both a musician and an author, and known for developing a “simplified system of teaching music to children, which was adopted by the schools in Germany,” (Eastman, p. 2). Hering’s earliest education was in classical studies, though he began his education in medicine at an early age at a surgical academy in Dresden in 1817. By 1820, he was studying at the University of Leipzig, where he became a dedicated practitioner of homeopathy and an advocate for Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathic medicine. Hering’s interest in homeopathy is traced back to a “dissecting wound” incurred during a postmortem examination, (Faber, p. 2). At the time of this accident such injuries were typically treated by amputation, but he refused and was instead treated successfully by homeopathy. Hering received the degree of doctor of medicine from the University of Wurzburg in 1826.
After his graduation from the University of Wurzburg, "he was appointed to go to Surinam, South America, by the King of Saxony, to make researches in Zoology and Botany,” (Eastman, p. 4). While there, he continued working with homeopathy, despite its lack of popularity, by lecturing in Paramaribo, working in a hospital and practicing in a leper colony.
In 1833, Hering immigrated to Philadelphia and opened a medical practice with a friend and former student, Dr. Bute. Together, they also founded the Hahnemannian Society of Philadelphia. In the years that followed, Hering actively promoted homeopathy and worked to create an appropriate school in which it could be taught. In 1835, along with several other doctors, he founded the North American Academy of Homeopathic Medicine in Allentown, Pennsylvania, often called the Allentown Academy, and served as its first president. The name of the Academy was changed to the North American Academy of the Homeopathic Healing Arts in 1836 and it continued until 1842. In 1838, the Homeopathic Medical Society of Philadelphia was founded and in 1848, with Drs. Jeanes and Williamson, Hering founded the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania. Hering’s "work in proving drugs was greater than that of any other physician,” (Eastman, p. 7) and he started the American Provers Union in 1852. In 1867, he started the Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia. Hering was also involved in the publication of scholarly journals and in 1835, he published the first issue of the American Journal of Homeopathy. Other journals, such as the North American Homeopathic Journal and the Philadelphia Journal of Homeopathy were established in 1851 and 1852, respectively. Hering continued to practice medicine until his death on July 23, 1880.
Hering was a prolific writer and published a number of book length works, some of which include: Domestic Physician, (1835), Effects of Snake Poison, (1836), Proposition to Suppress Homeopathy, (1846), American Drug Provings, (1857), The Logic of Homeopathy, (1860s), and Materia Medica (1873). In addition to his medical career, Hering’s “special hero was the great Paracelsus of whose works he had the finest collection extant [and which] were secured by and deposited in the library of the Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia," (Eastman, p. 8).
In a biographical sketch, Dr. Hering is described as “a model citizen and patriot, a humanitarian of the noblest kind, a German in soul and mind; once deeply rooted in home soil and richly nurtured by it to bloom and bring a thousand fold fruit among us here as an American citizen; a pioneer in a great and noble cause, the profession of healing in the best and truest meaning of the term," (Faber, p. 1).
According to one of his obituaries, Hering was married three times and had twelve children. His daughter, Melitta, married Dr. Calvin B. Knerr in 1873.
Calvin Knerr was born in 1847 in Claussville, Pennsylvania. He received a liberal arts education and taught briefly in a country school before pursuing medicine, which he did in 1865, graduating from Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia in 1869. While at Hahnemann, Knerr studied under Constantine Hering and the two became close friends. After graduating, he worked as Hering’s assistant, helping to edit Hering’s manuscript for The Guiding Symptoms of Our Materia Medica. Knerr was a devoted son-in-law, employee, colleague, and friend to Hering. He dedicated much energy to gathering, translating and preserving some of Hering’s papers and he also wrote and published Repertory of Hering’s Guiding Symptoms as well as a biography, The Life of Hering. Following Hering’s death in 1880, Knerr took over his practice. Calvin Knerr died in 1940.
Calvin and Melitta Hering Knerr had four children: Bayard, Harold, Mildred and Horace. Harold Knerr was a cartoonist and known for his comic strip, "The Katzenjammer Kids."
Eastman, Arthur M., MD. "Life and Reminiscences of Dr. Constantine Hering." Hahnemannian Monthly: August, 1917. (Box 12, Folder 13)
Faber, Herman. "Constantine Hering, MD: A Biographical Sketch by Herman Faber of Philadelphia." Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy: June-August 1915. (Box 12, Folder 8)
Hering, Carl. "Chronology of Events Concerning the Life of Constantine Hering of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania." International Hahnemannian Association: 1919. (Box 12, Folder 16)
This collection primarily houses the papers of Dr. Constantine Hering and his son-in-law, Dr. Calvin B. Knerr, both homeopathic physicians in Philadelphia, from 1820 to 1940. To a significantly lesser extent, it documents the North American Academy of the Homoeopathic Healing Arts, also known as the Allentown Academy, from 1835 to 1918, 1985 and 2003, as well as the Hering, Knerr and Husmann families from 1826 to 1970. The collection is comprised of correspondence, printed materials and publications, manuscripts, notes, diaries, medical school notebooks, family photographs, meeting minutes and other records, which evidence the life and work of Hering, Knerr and their families, as well as the practice and education of homeopathic medicine in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The collection is divided into seven series: “Constantine Hering,” “Calvin B. Knerr,” “Herring-Knerr Family Papers,” “Portraits and snapshots,” “Publications and printed materials,” “North American Academy of Homoeopathic Healing Arts,” and “Reference Materials.”
The “Constantine Hering” series dates from 1823 to 1880 and is divided into four subseries: “Hering Papers,” “Hering Personal effects – Collection #96,” “Hering correspondence and personal effects – Collection #97” and “Hering personal effects – Collection #98.” The first subseries is by far the largest and is primarily comprised of correspondence to and/or from Hering’s colleagues and family from 1823 to 1875. There are also autobiographical sketches, both in Hering’s hand and typescript translations by Calvin Knerr; a manuscript copy of his last will and testament; meeting minutes of the High Hahnemannians from 1870 to 1874; assorted manuscript notes; and other records. Much of Hering’s correspondence is written in German. Of note, is a telegram sent to Hering by another physician requesting consultation on a patient, and William Wheeler Hubbel's (a patient of Hering’s) claim of exemption from military duty in 1857 based on his contraction of "National Hotel Disease." The remaining three subseries house a wide assortment of items, including printed materials, ephemera and a book of autographs collected by Hering. The third subseries, “Hering correspondence and personal effects – Collection #97,” is particularly rich. In it is a manuscript version of an address given by Hering at the Allentown Academy in 1835, incoming and outgoing correspondence, a diary, notes and other writings by Hering, as well as multiple versions of his obituary. Among the notes and other writings are a few about patients and “A History of Hahnemann and His School.” Though this series contains Hering’s own papers, there are a couple of additions to the records, especially in the first subseries, which were created and/or compiled after his death by Calvin Knerr and/or his children. Please refer to the box and folder lists for more details.
The “Calvin B. Knerr” series, dating from 1864 to 1940, houses correspondence, diaries, and multiple notebooks from his time at Hahnemann Medical College. In addition, there is a file on Knerr’s publication, The Life of Hering, which includes a partial typescript and ephemera related to its publication; printers blocks used in the production of The Life of Hering; and multiple scrapbooks that he compiled on homeopathy and on the life and work of Constantine Hering.
The “Family Papers” series houses a small number of files created by and/or about Hering’s ancestors, his wife Therese, as well as a few of his children. In particular, there is a family tree, dated 1885; some correspondence; obituaries; and ephemera. The materials are arranged alphabetically by the name of the appropriate family member. Some files are subject files about the family member while others house correspondence or other records of which the family member is the author and/or recipient.
Following are “Portraits and Snapshots” of the Hering and Knerr families, and the Hering residence on north 12th Street in Philadelphia, among a few other images. A majority of images are photographs, though there are a small number of engravings.
The “Publications and Printed Materials” series is divided into two subseries: “Articles” and “Biographical Sketches, Memorials and Remembrances.” Under “Articles,” researchers will find examples and reprints of published articles by Constantine Hering and a few other authors on homeopathy. Numerous articles written by Hering are in German. The second subseries maintains biographical sketches and memorials about Hering or his wife Therese.
The “North American Academy of Homeopathic Healing Arts” series houses a small sampling of faculty meeting minutes, correspondence and other records related to the founding and history of the school. The subseries blends original institutional records with later additions by Hering’s son Carl, who devoted some time to researching the history of the school and Hering’s role in its founding. There are also newspaper clippings from 1935 and 1985 discussing the school’s history.
The final series, “Reference Materials,” houses photocopies of letters written by Hering to the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1830, 1831, 1869 and 1874; a printed copy of a letter to Frederick Rapp regarding medical treatment in 1834; translations and transcriptions of some family correspondence (Husmann, Wesselhoeft and Marianne Hering), which is found in the “Family Papers” series of the collection; snapshots taken of Hering's birthplace in Oschatz, Germany; snapshots of artifacts and other Hering related objects in DUCOM's collections; a newspaper clipping about a bank failure and the Allentown Academy from 1986; correspondence about this collection; information about an exhibit created in 1983/1984 about Constantine Hering; a [family biography] written by a Constantine Hering descendent, Martha Hering; and other miscellaneous information about the Hering family and their descendants.
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.
- Hahnemann, Samuel, M.D., 1755-1843
- Hering, Constantine, M.D., 1800-1880
- Knerr, Calvin B., M.D., (Calvin Brobst Knerr), 1847-1940
- Paracelsus, 1493-1541
- Drexel University: College of Medicine Legacy Center
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Courtney Smerz
- 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 to the folder level.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Drexel University College of Medicine, Legacy Center: Archives and Special Collections on Women in Medicine and Homeopathy with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.