Mercy-Douglass Hospital records
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Barbara Bates Center for the Study of The History of Nursing [Contact Us]Claire Fagin Hall, 418 Curie Boulevard, Floor 2U, Philadelphia, PA, 19104-4217
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Barbara Bates Center for the Study of The History of Nursing. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
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In the late 19th century, healthcare revolutionaries, Dr. Nathan F. Mossell and Dr. Eugene T. Hinson, worked to overcome the ill treatment of African Americans by establishing a healthcare system that served to adequately train African American health professionals, and fairly provide treatment to patients. Dr. Mossell founded the Douglass hospital in 1895 to create opportunities for African-American “physicians and young women desirous of nurse training.” A decade after the establishment of Douglass Hospital, talks began amongst Dr. Hinson and other community members regarding the development of an additional institution “where the young physicians might have the greater opportunity for development.” In 1907, Dr. Hinson, together with a supporting community, inaugurated Mercy Hospital, and eventually appropriated state aid for its operations. However, not long after beginning operations, in 1931, both Mercy and Douglass Hospitals faced deep throes of a financial crisis. In 1938, first talks of a merger between Mercy and Douglass Hospitals were initiated. A decline hospital administrators’ morale stimulated thought on whether merging Mercy and Douglass Hospitals’ clinical and administrative efforts would result in better health care related services for the African-American community. Following the establishment of Mercy Hospital’s Reorganization Committee in 1940, committee members presented strong points in support of the merger between Douglass and Mercy hospitals. The hospitals were merged in March 1948, with Dr. Wilbur B. Strickland, a former army hospital administrator, serving as the first Medical Director of Mercy-Douglass Hospital. Consequently, the merger resolved the problems experienced by both hospitals in 1948.
Dr. Nathan F. Mossell, the first African American to graduate in medicine from the University of Pennsylvania, met with African American doctors and a small group of Philadelphia citizens on June 25, 1895, and conceived the idea “of a hospital where [African American] physicians might have an equal opportunity to practice, where [African American] patients could be cared for, and where [African American] nurses might be taught the art of healing the sick.” The Frederick Douglass Hospital and School for Nurses opened its doors for service on October 31st, 1895, in “a private three story dwelling” at 1512 Lombard Street. Dr. Eugene T. Hinson, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School’s class of 1898, joined the Douglass Hospital staff in 1898, with the aligned objective to create opportunities for “[African American] physicians and young women desirous of nurse training.” Before attending medical school in 1894, Dr. Hinson spent two years teaching, first at Gravity Hill in Maryland, and then the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia. After graduating from medical school in 1989, Dr. Hinson was refused entry into the University, Philadelphia General and the Presbyterian Hospitals internship programs, “even though [he] was an honor student, a taxpayer and a Presbyterian.” Nonetheless, Dr. Hinson’s professional shortcomings stimulated spirit behind the Episcopal Divinity School’s proposal for Douglass staff to acquire their site at 50th Street and Woodland Avenue as one of the properties during the hospital’s expansion. Douglass hospital continued to grow, and in 1908, acquired two more properties at 1522-34 Lombard Street. Dr. Hinson became a member of the Douglass board in 1900, and held his tenure as a board member for five consecutive years. A decade after its opening, Douglass hospital set up new departments, and increased its patient number, year by year. In 1909, the Board of Managers at the Douglass Hospital decided that its financial condition was good, and constructed a $100,000 building at 1532 Lombard Street. Despite Douglass Hospital’s financial progress, in around 1920, the hospital’s failure to meet basic requirements resulted in Douglass Hospital’s de-recognition by the Philadelphia Federation of Charities. Furthermore, in 1927, Douglass Hospital lost its endorsement for nurse training. However, in the latter part of the year, Douglass Hospital still erected a new nursing, despite not meeting regulatory standards. Two years later, in 1929, Douglass Hospital had also been dropped from the state’s accredited list recognizing training schools for nurses, and was only “conditionally approved by the American College of Surgeons with respect to meeting the minimum requirements of a Class-A hospital.” In the 1930s, Douglass Hospital faced deep financial challenges that constrained their ability to provide affordable healthcare services. The hospital had to decide, after several years of operation in financial deficit, to “curtail the treatment of free patients.” The first few years of the 1940s showed more promise for Douglass Hospital’s future. Following Dr. Douglass Stubbs appointment as Medical Director of Douglass Hospital in 1942, Douglass Hospital was re-endorsed by the American College of Surgeons, and newly endorsed for preceptor resident training. Furthermore, in 1942, the Community Chest of Philadelphia acknowledged Douglass Hospital for attempting to cooperate with the proposed Merger with Mercy Hospital, and permitted the institution, on June 1st, to join the Chest to receive its first annual grant. However, Douglass Hospital’s progress was short-lived as the hospital failed to meet basic requirements set by the Pennsylvania State Board of Medical Education and Licensure, which subsequently removed the hospital from the list of approved institutions for interne training. In 1948, the Douglass building no longer served of purpose since the merger of Mercy and Douglass Hospital - the Douglass Hospital’s building closed, and operations remained at Mercy Hospital’s site.
In 1905, Dr. Hinson left the board of Directors at Douglass Hospital, and, with the help of other community figures, began laying plans for “a new “progressive” hospital” that would “provide young physicians with a greater opportunity for development than what was offered at Douglass under Dr. Mossell.” On December 1905, a group of Douglass physicians met to reorganize a new progressive hospital, and acquired a private dwelling on the Northwest corner of 17th and Fitzwater Streets. In 1907, Mercy Hospital opened its doors for service, and, within the first few months of operation, appropriated state aid. In 1908, there was a significant shortage in Mercy hospital’s inventory of medical supplies. Furthermore, the hospital’s financial conditions made it impossible for administrators to pay hospital employees, and meet other capital-related financial obligations. In 1912, Mercy Hospital set to expand operations, and was approached by the Episcopal Divinity School at 50th Street and Woodland Avenue regarding the possibility of using their site as a new location for Mercy Hospital. Mercy Hospital purchased the west Philadelphia building in 1919 for $130,000, expanded the Nursing School, and established an Interne Training Program. The Mercy Douglass Board of Managers made an attempt to increase the community’s awareness of Mercy Hospital by instituting a series of community based lectures on health and sanitation in various churches. While Mercy Hospital experienced financial difficulties in the 1930s, it solicited funding from the Rosenwald fund through a success fundraising campaign, which made it possible for the hospital to construct a new modern home for nurses. By 1931, Mercy’s Hospital’s Nursing School had increased student enrollment to forty. In 1940, Mercy Hospital established a reorganization committee that presented strong arguments in favor of a merger with Douglass Hospital. Mercy Hospital initially rejected the proposed merger in interest of harmony. The board of Directors took another vote on March 1941, and repudiated the merger on the grounds of avoiding a “divided” and uncooperative environment. Dr. Henry M.Minton, who led Mercy Hospital as the Superintendent, resigned after twenty five years of service. The hospital’s reorganization committee decided to abolish the office of Superintendent, and divided the affairs of the hospital into a Business Administrator and Medical Director. In 1946, Mercy Hospital received a $50,000 gift from Mr. Lessing Rosenwald “to tide it [Mercy Hospital] over its difficulties.” Following the merger of Mercy and Douglass Hospitals, Mercy Hospital’s site remained operational, and housed the merged institution.
The first talks of a merger between Mercy and Douglass Hospitals were initiated in 1938, in attempt to find a solution towards fulfilling the large financial obligations of both Mercy and Douglass Hospitals. Doctors Russell F. Minton, Douglass Stubbs, and Arthur H. Thomas embarked on acountrywide tour to visit seventy hospitals largely controlled by African Americans. They concluded the medical situation of African Americans in Philadelphia at the time was by far the worst of all cities visited, with the exception of New York. The reorganization committee at Mercy Hospital in 1940 argued in favor of the merger suggesting that it would ease financial constraints, and provide the opportunity for physicians and patients to experience better healthcare related services. In 1941, the benefits of a merger between Mercy and Douglass hospitals became evident to both African American and White communities, who fully understood Mercy and Douglass Hospitals as institutions that provided opportunities for African American physicians and nurses. In 1946, a joint committee representing Mercy and Douglass Hospitals, as well as the Community Chest was established to investigate the idea of a merger. In July 1946, Dr. Eugene Hinson, one of the original founders of Mercy, was against the idea of a merger, and asked that the merger attempt be dropped. However, in 1947, the joint committee published their findings on the idea of a merger, and recommended Mercy and Douglass Hospitals merge to avoid financial instability, and eventually, closure. Mercy and Douglass Hospitals merged in March 1948, and was named the Mercy-Douglass Hospital. In addition to the merger, a group of notable physicians from teaching institutions were invited to aid the hospital in developing an adequate training program for residents, which led to Mercy-Douglass’ affiliation with the Children’s Hospital for pediatric training, Temple and Jefferson in radiology, and the University of Pennsylvania in surgery. The merger subsequently resolved the problems experienced by both hospitals. The school recessed from 1957 to 1958, reconvened for 1959, and then graduated its last class in 1960. Arrangements were made, however, to provide clinical training experiences for students from the Tuskeegee Institute School of Nursing and other schools which continued intermittently until the Mercy-Douglass Hospital closed in 1973.
References: Minton, R. F. "The History of Mercy-Douglass Hospital." Journal of the National Medical Association 43.3 (1951): 153-59.
Rudwick, Elliot M. "A Brief History of Mercy-Douglass Hospital in Philadelphia." The Journal of Negro Education 20.1 (1951): 50-66.
This collection was donated by the Alumnae Association of the Mercy-Douglass Hospital which took care of the hospital records after the hospital closed down in 1973. The collection consists mainly of records of Mercy-Douglass Hospital and its two predecessors, records of the school of nursing (predominantly its student files), and some 200 photographs related to both hospital and school. The collection provides important documentation of the black experience in nursing. The records of the alumnae association has been kept separately under MC 27.
Gift of the Alumnae Association of Mercy-Douglass School of Nursing.
- Alumnae Association of Mercy-Douglass School of Nursing.
- Mercy-Douglass Hospital (Philadelphia, Pa.).
- University of Pennsylvania: Barbara Bates Center for the Study of The History of Nursing
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Center staff, updated by Bethany Myers
- This collection was processed with funds provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission as part of the Nursing History Processing and Cataloging Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is unrestricted.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Center with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.
This series contains some historical information of the hospital, annual reports, and about 60 personnel files kept by the hospital.
This series includes history, annual reports, and correspondence.
This series contains history, annual statistical report to the Board, publications, and a big news clipping scrapbook.
This series documents the activities of both the Mercy-Douglass Hospital Auxiliaries Board and the Women's Board.
This series contains all administrative records of the school of nursing. Included are annual reports to State Board of Examiners, class lists, a class yearbook, correspondence with State Bureau of Professional Licensing and State Department of Public Instruction, student handbook, etc.
This series is purely of individual records of students. They are divided into three major groups belonging respectively to the three hospitals--Frederick, Mercy, and Mercy-Douglass. The student files are arranged chronologically in each group and then alphabetically by the students' last names within each time period.
This series contains miscellaneous material documenting the relations between the Mercy-Douglass Hospital and University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Visiting Nurse Society of Philadelphia, and one more organization.
This series contains 208 photographs grouped under the time periods of the three hospitals. Within each group, photographs are assorted under such subjects as "Buildings," "Facilities," "People (either students, interns, or staff)," and by all kinds of activities.Physical Description