Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 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
Dr. John Heysham Gibbon (1871-1956), originally of Charlotte, North Carolina, was a Philadelphia surgeon and professor at Jefferson Medical College. He was the younger son of Dr. Robert Gibbon, a Confederate veteran of the Civil War, and Mary Amelia Rodgers. Dr. Gibbon’s paternal grandparents, Dr. John Heysham Gibbon and Catherine Lardner Gibbon (1799-1874) were originally from Philadelphia, but moved their family to Charlotte when Dr. Gibbon was appointed assayer to the United States Mint in that city in 1838. Catherine’s family were Quakers and related to several prominent Philadelphia families through her mother, including the Shephards and the Biddles. During the Civil War, Catherine was living in North Carolina, but maintained correspondence with her unmarried sister, Frances Lardner, who was still living in Philadelphia. Three of Catherine and John Gibbon’s sons joined the Confederate army when North Carolina seceded, however their third son, also named John Gibbon, was a graduate of West Point and maintained his loyalty to the Union. This John Gibbon was wounded at Gettysburg and later in the war was promoted to general (see HSP collection 2031). A career army man, he was later involved in the frontier wars with several Native American tribes as well as the Seattle anti-Chinese riots of 1886. After the Civil War, the Gibbon family appears to have resumed their former close relationships, with General John Gibbon and his immediate family (especially his daughter Frances Moale Gibbon) maintaining an active correspondence with that of his nephew, Dr. John H. Gibbon of Philadelphia.
Dr. Gibbon’s mother, Mary Amelia Rodgers Gibbon, died in 1877 when he was six years old and his older brother Robert was eleven. Their father remarried to Corina Pressley Harris in 1879. In 1889, Dr. Gibbon relocated to Philadelphia where he attended Jefferson Medical College (now the Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University). He received his medical degree in 1891 and worked at various local hospitals until 1898 when he joined the Army as a surgeon during the Spanish-American War. For a time he was stationed at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri where he met Marjorie Young (1872-1956), the daughter of General Samuel Baldwin Marks Young (1840-1924), a Civil War veteran and personal friend of President Theodore Roosvelt. The two began a lively correspondence and, after the end of the war when Dr. Gibbon resigned from the army and took up a position at Pennsylvania Hospital, they were married in San Francisco, California in 1901. The young couple settled in Philadelphia with a house in town and one at Lynfield Farm in nearby Media, Pennsylvania. Nine months after they were married, their only daughter Marjorie Young Gibbon Battles (1902-1999) was born, followed in quick succession by brothers John “Jack” Heysham Gibbon, Jr. (1903-1973), Samuel Young Gibbon (1905-1987), and Robert Gibbon (1908-1975).
In 1917, with the United States’ entry into World War I, Dr. Gibbon volunteered as a surgeon with the American Expeditionary Forces. He was commissioned as a major and sailed for France in May 1917 with the medical unit from Pennsylvania Hospital. During the war he was stationed at Evacuation Hospital No. 10 near Le Treport, France as well as two months at Casualty Clearing Station 61 near the front lines at the Belgian town of Poperinghe. Dr. Gibbon maintained a prolific correspondence with his wife and four children throughout the war. He was sent home in December 1918, more than a month after the armistice, and resigned his commission in January 1919, having achieved the rank of colonel. In September-October 1918, Marjorie Young Gibbon and her children stayed at Lynfield Farm in Media because of the influenza pandemic, where they were able to avoid the disease that claimed the lives of many friends.
After the war, Dr. Gibbon resumed his post as professor of surgery at Jefferson Medical College, where he served until 1930, when he was named professor emeritus. Dr. Gibbon’s son John Jr. also graduated from Jefferson Medical and went on to have an illustrious surgical career of his own, developing the heart-lung machine which revolutionized open-heart surgery by allowing blood to circulate and oxygenate while bypassing the heart and lungs. Dr. John Heysham Gibbon, Sr. died in 1956 followed by Marjorie, his wife of over fifty years, only a week later.
The Gibbon family correspondence dates from 1808 to 1987, with bulk dates of 1890 to 1930, and contains the letters, postcards, and other associated material of the family of Dr. John Heysham Gibbon. Dr. Gibbon was a Philadelphia surgeon and professor at Jefferson Medical College, who also served as an Army surgeon in France during World War I. The majority of the collection consists of loose handwritten correspondence to and from the immediate Gibbon family as well as some of their extended relations. Included with these letters are a number of photographs, postcards, pencil drawings, and other assorted ephemera. This collection documents several important historical events and American social history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as the interpersonal relationships of the Gibbon family. Highlights include the World War I letters of Dr. John Gibbon to and from his wife and children, a series of letters from Theodore Roosevelt to General Samuel B. M. Young, and the Civil War-era letters of Catherine Lardner Gibbon to and from her sister Frances Lardner. Most of the correspondence in this collection is written by Dr. Gibbon and his wife, Marjorie Young Gibbon. However, other significant portions of the collection consist of material originating with their daughter, Marjorie Young Gibbon Battles; Marjorie Young Gibbon’s father, General Samuel Baldwin Marks Young; and Dr. Gibbon’s grandmother, Catherine Lardner Gibbon. The collection is divided into five major series which correspond to the five main authors or originators of the material, as well as a sixth series that consists of unidentified and miscellaneous materials. Within each series, the letters are arranged alphabetically by major correspondent and then chronologically.
Series I. Dr. John Heysham Gibbon
Series II. Marjorie Young Gibbon
Series III. Marjorie Young Gibbon Battles
Series IV. General Samuel B. M. Young
Series V. Catherine Lardner Gibbon
Series VI. Miscellaneous
Gift of Mrs. Winthrop H. Battles; 1992 acquired
- Correspondence--United States--1910-1920
- Gibbon, John H. (John Heysham), 1871-1956
- Gibbon, John Heysham Jr., 1903-1973
- Gibbon, John, 1827-1896
- Influenza epidemic, 1918-1919--United States--History
- Jefferson Medical College--History
- Social life and customs--20th Century
- United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Correspondence
- World War, 1914-1918--Home front
- World War, 1914-1918--Hospitals--France
- World War, 1914-1918--Personal correspondence
- World War, 1914-1918--Personal narratives, American
- Young, Samuel Baldwin Marks, 1840-1924
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Megan Evans.
- Finding Aid Date
- ; 2015
- Processing made possible by a generous donation from Maxine and Howard Lewis.
Series I. Dr. John Heysham Gibbon dates from 1883 to 1956 and contains correspondence and other materials authored by Dr. John H. Gibbon as well as correspondence sent to him by various friends and family members. The largest group of letters in this series consists of those sent by Dr. Gibbon to his fiancé and later wife, Marjorie Young Gibbon. These letters document their courtship and subsequent relationship almost from the very beginning. It appears that while they were separated, Dr. and Mrs. Gibbon wrote to one another several times a week and often at least once a day. With the exception of the letters between 1917 and 1918, most of the letters were written during the summer months, when Mrs. Gibbon and the children left the city for vacation (usually to Rhode Island or the family’s cabin in Maine) and Dr. Gibbon had to stay behind and work.
But the largest section of his correspondence to his wife and children is from May 1917 to December 1918 when he was stationed with the United States Army in France. For the majority of the time he was stationed at Base Hospital No. 10 in Le Treport, France, which was relatively well removed from the front lines of battle. In his letters, Dr. Gibbon describes his daily activities while posted at the hospital, although he does not go into any great detail about the surgical work he performed. The hospital at Le Treport was little more than a cluster of tents and huts and was often overcrowded but seems to have been relatively well equipped and lasted through the war unscathed by German bombing.
Dr. Gibbon also spent two months at Casualty Clearing Station No. 61 near the Belgian town of Poperinghe, which was not far from the front lines. Conditions here were much rougher with constant muddy conditions and near nightly bombing raids on the nearby town. Dr. Gibbon reported often being on his feet for twelve to sixteen hours at a time on the busiest days at No. 61 but he complained the most about the days where he had few or no patients since the down time increased his longing for home. During one particularly intense night of bombing, he reported that he and another officer were required to sleep in shallow ditches covered with sheet iron.
The letters he sent home from his time in France often contained postcards, clippings, photographs, and other mementos, including Christmas programs and a piece of canvas from the wing of a German airplane which crashed near the hospital. Some of his letters from this time are in French, especially those to his daughter, Marjorie, in an effort to encourage her studies, even from afar.
Another significant number of letters in this series were sent to and from his older brother, Dr. Robert Gibbon, Jr. and his sister-in-law, Louise Wilson Gibbon. Most of the content in these letters consists of sharing family and professional news, in the days before telephones were common. Robert had his practice in their hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, where he took over after their father, Robert Gibbon, Sr. died.
This series also contains a large number of letters from Dr. John Gibbon’s unmarried first cousin, Frances Moale Gibbon. Frances, or “Fanny” as she was called by the family, was the daughter of Dr. John's uncle General John Gibbon and his wife, Frances North Moale of Baltimore. Frances appears to have lived at various locations in Virginia and Maryland throughout the correspondence, sharing her home with her aging mother and her deceased sister’s two children. Her letters are of particular interest for their anecdotes about her father as well as an account of her escape from Berlin at the outbreak of World War I.
There are also letters in this series sent to Dr. Gibbon from various friends and cousins from Charlotte and other southern cities. These correspondents include Lila H. Jones, Emily Martin Norwood, and Adele Biddle Thomas. Lastly, there are a number of letters addressed to Dr. Gibbon from various friends and colleagues congratulating him on his various professional achievements, including his appointment to Pennsylvania Hospital and as professor of surgery at Jefferson Medical College.
This series is arranged alphabetically by major correspondent and then chronologically, with several folders of printed material and other ephemera at the end of the series.
Series II. Marjorie Young Gibbon dates from 1879 to 1956, with bulk dates of 1898 to 1956, and consists of letters and other materials authored by Dr. John Gibbon’s wife, Marjorie Young Gibbon as well as correspondence sent to her from various friends and family members. The majority of the letters in this series were written to Dr. John Gibbon, from May 1917 to December 1918 while he was stationed in France during World War I. Marjorie’s early letters to her husband document their courtship and engagement as well as their early years of marriage, including the trials and tribulations of raising four children and managing two houses. During the fall and winter while the children were at school, the family lived at their townhouse in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia while in the summer months she and the children retreated to their home at Lynfield Farm in Media, Pennsylvania. Marjorie often took the children on vacation over the summer to Rhode Island and Mount Desert Island, Maine, where the family had a cabin they named Camp Ouloncuit. As the children got older, they were often sent to summer camp or on vacation with extended family and friends, while Marjorie took her own trips. The letters in this series sent to her husband and children as well as her numerous datebooks document her various social and familial commitments. Of particular note are her letters to her husband from September to October 1918, which document her experiences of the Spanish influenza epidemic in Philadelphia.
Another significant portion of letters in this series are those sent to her daughter and eldest child, also named Marjorie, while she was away at boarding school at Dana Hall in Wellesley, Massachusetts. These letters demonstrate the close relationship the two shared.
Also of note in this series are letters to and from her other children John Jr., Samuel, and Robert Gibbon. Included is a folder of letters sent to Robert Gibbon from various school friends while he was at Princeton from 1924 to 1925. There are also several folders of mementos from when her children were small including hand-made birthday cards, letters to Santa Claus, and colored drawings.
Other correspondents of note include her sisters Edith Young Knight, Hannah Young Read (married to General George Read), Lillian Young Coxe, and Elizabeth Young Hanny. There are also two folders of letters in this series that were sent to Marjorie and Dr. John Gibbon from English and French friends during World War II. Of particular note are those to and from Marthe Colin, who was a friend of Dr. Gibbon’s from his time in France during World War I. When Germany invaded France, the Colin family had to flee their home in Metz in the northeast to Montpellier in the southern free zone controlled by the Vichy regime. Distressed by their predicament, Dr. and Mrs. Gibbon sent them a large package of food and supplies in 1940. The letters also recount the execution of her brother Pierre Colin, who was a member of the French resistance, at the hands of the Gestapo in 1944. The majority of these letters are written in French with some translation by Dr. Gibbon and include several photographs and newspaper clippings.
This series is arranged alphabetically by major correspondent and then chronologically, with several folders of memorabilia and two letter boxes of Marjorie Gibbon’s datebooks at the end of the series.
Series III. Marjorie Young Gibbon Battles dates from 1907 to 1987, with bulk dates of 1907 to 1955, and contains letters and other material authored by John and Marjorie Gibbon’s only daughter, also named Marjorie after her mother. The largest portion of letters in this series was written by Marjorie to her parents while she was away at boarding school at Dana Hall in Wellesley, Massachusetts. These letters recount her courses of study, friends made, and struggles with home sickness as well as her two week stay in the school’s infirmary during her first term. Additionally, there are a significant number of letters to and from school friends during her time at Dana Hall. Another sizeable portion of letters in this series consists of those sent to and from her younger brothers, John, Samuel, and Robert Gibbon. Included in these folders are some letters sent to her brothers from extended family members and some friends. These letters between the siblings demonstrate their tight-knit family life and close relationships they enjoyed even as adults.
Of particular interest in this series may be Marjorie’s letters to her family while away on several trips to Europe and even one to Korea and Japan, written throughout the 1920s. These letters document her travel itineraries and interesting anecdotes and include a number of postcards and photographs. Also of interest in this series may be the folder of letters from 20-year-old Belgian soldier Georges Delhaye written from 1917 to 1918. These letters recount his living conditions as a soldier in the trenches as well as his hopes and fears for his family who were trapped in German-occupied Belgium. This folder also includes several postcards and photographs. His letters to Marjorie cease in June 1918 and his ultimate fate is unknown.
The rest of the letters in this series are written to Marjorie Gibbon Battles from various friends and extended family members. There are a few folders of printed and handwritten memorabilia that include photographs, a dance card, date books, and numerous party invitations with her notes about her impressions. This series also contains a folder of material pertaining to a biography of Niccolo Machiavelli, including chapter drafts, letters, and notes. There is also a manuscript biography of General John Gibbon called "The Iron Brigade General" written by Dennis Lavery and Mark Jordan that contains numerous margin notes and edits by Marjorie Gibbon Battles.
This series is arranged alphabetically by major correspondent and then chronologically, with several folders of assorted memorabilia and other printed material at the end of the series.
Series IV. General Samuel B. M. Young dates from 1884 to 1924 and contains letters and other materials authored by Marjorie Young Gibbon’s father and Dr. John Gibbon’s father-in-law, Samuel Baldwin Marks Young. General Young was a Union veteran of the Civil War and United States general during the Spanish-American War. Later in his career he was president of the Army War College, superintendant of Yellowstone National Park, and governor of the Soldiers Home in Washington, D.C. The majority of the letters in this series are written by Young to his daughter Marjorie. A sizeable portion of these letters were written to her and her sister Elizabeth while he was stationed in the Philippine Islands as military governor of Luzon from 1899 to 1901. The letters describe his daily routines and aspects of the American administration of the islands. Included with these are several photographs, postcards, clippings, and hand-drawn maps.
There are also a good number of letters and postcards in this series that date from General Young’s time as superintendant of Yellowstone in 1897 and 1907 to 1908. These contain some details about his daily routine and the administration of the park as well as numerous anecdotes and postcards.
Also of interest in this series is a folder of letters to and from President Theodore Roosevelt, a personal friend of General Young going back to their time in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Most of the letters are quite short and conversational.
This series is arranged alphabetically by major correspondent and then chronologically, with several folders of assorted memorabilia and other printed material at the end of the series.
Series V. Catherine Lardner Gibbon dates from 1808 to 1900, with bulk dates of 1808 to 1870, and contains letters and other handwritten materials authored by Dr. John Gibbon’s paternal grandmother, Catherine Lardner Gibbon. The majority of the letters in this series were written by Catherine living in Charlotte, North Carolina to her unmarried sister, Frances Lardner, who was still living at the Lardner family home in Philadelphia. Several of these letters contain detailed pencil drawings in the margins, presumably drawn by Catherine herself. The letters in this series dating from 1860 to 1865 are significant for documenting the sisters’ experiences during the Civil War.
Another significant portion of this series consists of letters authored by Frances Lardner and sent to her numerous Gibbon nieces and nephews, including General John Gibbon and Catherine Gibbon, who worked at the United States Mint in Philadelphia.
This series is arranged alphabetically by major correspondent and then chronologically, with several folders of assorted memorabilia and other handwritten material at the end of the series.
Series VI. Miscellaneous dates from 1863 to 1939 and contains unlabeled materials and those which do not readily fit into the other series of the collection. These materials include a collection of stamps from the United States and other countries, assorted clippings, blank postcards, and several photographs of unidentified subjects. The series is arranged chronologically.