Alexander Hamilton and How Mount Sinai Got to the Upper East Side

I recently read a piece about Hamilton Square in the Roosevelt Island Historical Society’s From the Archives email. This park, which was named for Alexander Hamilton, existed on the Upper East Side of Manhattan from around 1807-1869. I found this fascinating since The Mount Sinai Hospital moved to Lexington Ave. and 66th St. in 1872. I knew that the City had ‘seeded’ this area with non-profit entities: Hunter College, many hospitals and schools, but I had never heard about the Square itself, which ran from 66th to 69th Streets between 3rd and 5th Avenues. Finally, Mount Sinai had a Hamilton connection, even though he died in 1804, 48 years before the Hospital was created!

Map of Hamilton Square from the New-York Historical Society

When the Square was broken up, The Mount Sinai Hospital (MSH) was located on W. 28th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenues. It had been founded in 1852 as the Jews’ Hospital in the City of New York (the name was changed in 1866) and had opened its first building in 1855. After the Civil War, the leadership realized that the facility was inadequate and the location less than ideal due to the growth of the City. On November 2, 1867 the Directors authorized the purchase of ten lots of land from 65th to 66th Street on the west side of Park (then 4th) Ave. and later added eight more lots there. But then on October 6, 1868, the City leased Mount Sinai twelve lots of land between 66th and 67th on Lexington Ave. for $1 a year for 99 years. Somehow, over the interim, the City and Mount Sinai had reached an agreement on the Hospital taking over part of the former Hamilton Square. The earlier lots were later sold, saving Mount Sinai thousands of dollars. On May 25, 1870, the cornerstone for the second MSH was laid.  The President of the Hospital, Benjamin Nathan, and Mayor Oakley Hall were there.  (Within two months, Nathan was murdered in his bed on a ‘dark and stormy night.’)

On May 29, 1872,  a dedication ceremony was held for the new Mount Sinai Hospital.  When the building opened, it had a greatly expanded capacity of 110 beds. The building was designed by the well-known architect, Griffeth Thomas, and cost $335,000 to complete. It had an operating room in the basement of the north wards, rooms for our newly created House Staff to live in, a meeting room for the Directors, and a synagogue. Lexington Ave. remained unpaved for two more years, and the Hospital never wired the facility for electricity. A telephone was installed in 1882; the number was “Thirty-Ninth St., 257”. It was at this site that Mount Sinai transformed into what we would recognize as a modern hospital, with medical education and research joining its core mission of providing patient care.

In typical Mount Sinai fashion, this facility quickly became too small. Additional buildings were built and major renovations were begun in 1882. In 1890, Mount Sinai added a building across from the Hospital on the north side of 67th St. for our nursing school and Out Patient Department. This building is the only remnant of Mount Sinai that remains there today. It later served as the home of the Neurological Institute, the Polish legation, and finally became a school for the Archdiocese of NY. The Mount Sinai Hospital moved from Lexington Ave. in 1904 to its current East Side location on 100th St., between Madison and 5th Avenues. The name of Hamilton continues on various buildings and neighborhoods of the City, making its most recent appearance on Broadway.

Tennis at Mount Sinai and Beyond

This started out as a story about Althea Gibson, the first African American to win at Wimbledon, which she did on July 6, 1957. It was also about a summer sport, and being outside – two things people today find important and hopeful. But, as often happens in the Archives, those stories reminded us of other stories, which are, of course, about Mount Sinai.

In 1950, Harlem-born Althea Gibson made her U.S. Open debut at a time when tennis was largely segregated. On July 6, 1957, when she claimed the women’s singles tennis title, she became the first African American to win a championship at London’s All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, aka Wimbledon. (Arthur Ashe was the first African American to win the men’s singles crown at Wimbledon in 1975. Ashe later had quadruple bypass surgery at St. Luke’s Hospital in 1979.) The Associated Press named Althea Gibson Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958. During the 1950’s, Gibson won 56 singles and doubles titles, including 11 major titles. Gibson retired from tennis and later became a professional golfer. She was voted into the National Lawn Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 1971 and died in 2003.

The Mount Sinai Hospital tennis courts on 5th Ave and 99th St, behind 5 E. 98th St., where KP is today.

Tennis has a long, up-and-down history at Mount Sinai. The first tennis court was built at the Hospital in the late 1800’s, back when the Hospital was still located at Lexington Avenue and 67th St. Space was tight, so the court was built between buildings, and the only way to get to it was to climb through a window on one of the wards. (Fortunately, a gong would sound whenever an Attending arrived at the Hospital, so the players were warned to get back inside.) In 1904, Mount Sinai moved uptown to 100th St., and it took 20 years before tennis returned. The growing House Staff asked the Trustees to build tennis courts that they could use for exercise. The Trustees

A small pewter trophy belonging to Noreen McGuire, School of Nursing Class of 1932. The trophy was for winning the tennis tournament in 1929.

eventually agreed in June 1923 and two courts were built on the southeast corner of 99th St and 5th Ave. Mount Sinai had purchased the land for future expansion needs, but had recently completed major additions to the campus and had no immediate plans to build. The courts were used by the Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing for gym classes, and nurses and doctors could sign up to play when a court was free.

The Aufses Archives has a wonderful interview with Gus Burton from 1988. Mr. Burton joined Mount Sinai’s staff in 1948, first as an x-ray file clerk, and then later trained as a technician in the Dept. of Radiology. What initially attracted him to work at Mount Sinai was because there was a tennis court. Here is how he described it:

Burton: …Back in those days the buses that ran along Fifth Avenue were owned by a company called the Fifth Avenue Bus Company. They had double deckers. The top deck was so that you could ride the bus for a nickel. At the time I was a student at NYU and sometimes I would take the bus down because the classes were at Washington Square. It was almost like a bus tour going down Fifth Avenue, seeing all the different places, and I saw the Hospital. I wasn’t impressed with the hospital so much, but where Klingenstein is there used to be tennis courts. At that time I was an avid tennis player, and I could see these people playing tennis. I thought it was very, very interesting, because I had found that there weren’t many places to play tennis in New York and here these people were running around playing tennis. Eventually, one day I was coming back home and I got off the bus. It was approaching the end of the semester and I said I need to find some kind of work for the summer. It was raining pretty hard, so I ran under the canopy that they had by the [Guggenheim] Pavilion. So I said, let me just check in here and see what’s going on. In those days, they didn’t really have what you call a personnel office. I guess they called it an employment office. They had about one or two clerks and the person who ran it, a Mr. Kerr (?). I just walked in and asked them if they had any jobs available. Said Mr. Kerr, “we may have some available in the radiology department. We’ll refer you to the person there who is looking for somebody and see what happens.”

So I went over and I was interviewed by a Dr. Joan Lipsay. She was the second in command in the radiology department. She was just really impressed that I came along and, sure, we’ll take you and they hired me as an X-ray file clerk. So I have always said in the years since then, that I had enough sense to come in out of the rain.

Interviewer: Did you ever get to play tennis?

Burton: Well, I found out after I started working here that those tennis courts were for the professional staff, the doctors and the nurses, and they were the ones I had seen playing on them. It so happened that one of the radiologists on our staff was an avid tennis player, he used to play out there frequently so I was able to get with him and I did get a chance to play on those tennis courts.

Unfortunately for Mr. Burton, the tennis courts were closed later in 1948, when Mount Sinai began the process of building the Klingenstein Pavilion along 5th Ave. It would be 65 years before tennis came back to Mount Sinai, but this time it was in a much different form. In 2013, it was announced that The Mount Sinai Medical Center was now the official medical services provider for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the U.S. Open. In addition, Alexis C. Colvin, MD, from the Leni and Peter W. May Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, would serve as the USTA’s Chief Medical Officer. In 2020, this continues to be the case. Every now and then, a mini-tennis court is built in the Guggenheim Pavilion lobby to showcase the Hospital’s role with the USTA, and for a brief moment, tennis is played again at Mount Sinai.

Florence Nightingale’s 200th!

This year the world marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910.) Her name is known around the world and nurses everywhere enjoy the fruits of her labors today. She lived a long time ago in a very different world, but she enunciated the basic philosophy of modern nursing, and introduced statistics into the study of disease.

The Aufses Archives has copies of two of Miss Nightingale’s books: Notes on Nursing and Notes on Hospitals. The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing, which existed from 1881-1971, had a small collection of Nightingale letters that they had gathered over the years. Some of these were given to the Columbia University School of Nursing in 1953, as shown in the image below.

      From the Aufses Archives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospitals, schools of nursing, archives, and history of medicine collections will be marking the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale this year with celebrations, blog posts, exhibits and lectures. Here are links to just a few of those celebrations going on this year:

Nightingale: Lady and Legend at the National Library of Medicine: https://circulatingnow.nlm.nih.gov/2020/05/12/nightingale-lady-and-legend/   This includes this note on sources: The National Library of Medicine’s holdings of Nightingale materials are (unsurprisingly) extensive, with over seventy printed titles and editions. In addition, the Library holds a group of Nightingale letters written between 1845 and 1878, all of which may be read as part of the Florence Nightingale Digitization Projectand a copy of an oral history interview conducted by M. Adelaide Nutting (herself a giant in the history of nursing) in 1890. A transcript is available at http://oculus.nlm.nih.gov/2935116r.

A blog post on the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Nursing ties to Nightingale: https://www2.hshsl.umaryland.edu/hslupdates/?p=4177

A blog post at the UCLA Library about the Elmer Belt FN Collection and other Nightingaleiana we have and use: https://www.library.ucla.edu/blog/special/2020/05/11/happy-birthday-florence-nightingale

Finally, there is a special exhibit at the Florence Nightingale Museum in London called Nightingale in 200 Objects, People & Places  https://www.florence-nightingale.co.uk/200objects/  Sadly, the Museum is closed due to the pandemic and is struggling financially. As they note:

Nursing, washing your hands and evidence based-healthcare, pioneered by Florence Nightingale, have become more important than ever before and we’re calling upon our friends and supporters to help us preserve her story and legacy.

The Care in Cardiac Care

In October of this year, The Mount Sinai Hospital announced the opening of the new cardiac unit, the former Cardiac Care Unit (CCU), now located on KCC 6 in the Klingenstein Clinical Center. There are 20 beds, ten of which are the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) and ten are step-down beds, the Cardiac Step Down Unit (CSDU). Unlike the other ICU units, the ten ICU beds are all private rooms. The entire unit is beautiful, with a receptionist desk as you get off the elevator.

It just so happens that last year, the Aufses Archives received a small set of papers from Barbara McPeek Mulhearn, RN, Class of 1962 of The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing. Among those items was information about Mulhearn’s role in creating the first Cardiac Care ICU at the Hospital, which opened in 1968. Her title was Assistant Nursing Supervisor in charge of the Ames Coronary ICU, an eight bed unit on the 4th floor of KCC. The Unit opened February 19, 1968.

Shown below are two pieces from the collection: a drawing of a heart held in a person’s hands with the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley typed over it. This was sent to Mulhearn from “her first I.C.C.U. staff,” in appreciation from them “and the many patients you will help along the way.” Also shown here is a letter from Dr. Cynthia Kinsella, the Director of Nursing at The Mount Sinai Hospital at the time, thanking Mulhearn for her efforts and encouraging her as they neared the Unit opening.

Fifty years on, the caring legacy continues.

 

A Nursing Manual from 1957

The Arthur H. Aufses, Jr. MD Archives recently received a copy of the 1957 Mount Sinai Nursing Department Manual of Nursing Procedures from Gail Singer Lyon, member of the Class of 1962 of The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing. Manuals like these have value because they show what the patient experience and medical care were like then, and they provide a sense of what the duties of a nurse were at a given point of time. The Archives has many such manuals from 1931 up to the present day, and they provide great information on how nursing, medicine, and hospitals have changed over this span.

While the Archives has other copies of this edition of the Manual, what makes this copy special are the extras that Ms. Lyon has included with her volume, from inserts to doodles. The manuals were given to the students to govern their practice when they were in the clinical areas of the Hospital. It includes detailed instructions on everything from Abdominal Binders to Wall Suction, Method of Using. Throughout the Manual, when it is necessary to provide examples using the names of doctors, the procedures referred to them as Dr. Roe and Dr. Moe.  The patient is, of course, John or Jane Doe. Ms. Lyon wrote hints and additional information on the pages of her volume, and also inserted forms and updates to the policies.

This post highlights some of those ‘extras’ that make this volume interesting.

This form shows the communications technology of the time. Note the bottom row for how a family would be reached in time of emergency.

A lovely drawing showing how to restrain a child

A doodle, clearly showing a woman wearing a Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing cap, with is many pleats in the front.

Mount Sinai and Planned Parenthood

New York Times, January 24, 1917

New York Times, January 24, 1917

On October 16th, Planned Parenthood of New York reached its 100th anniversary. It grew from a small birth control clinic created in Brownsville, Brooklyn by Margaret Sanger, her sister Ethel Byrne, and Fania Mindell. At the clinic, they distributed birth control, as well as pregnancy planning advice and information. Even though the three women were arrested for distributing obscene material and jailed, their efforts led to changes in the law allowing for birth control and sex education in the years to come. In 1921, the clinic became the American Birth Control League, which changed its name to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942.

What does this have to do with Mount Sinai? Margaret Sanger and her younger sister, Ethel Byrne, were nurses. Mrs. Byrne graduated from The Mount Sinai Training School for Nurses in 1909. The sisters did not always get along, but they were united in the believe of women having the right to plan their families. Mrs. Byrne protested her sentence and her jail term of 30 days and launched a hunger strike, which brought a great deal of attention to their cause. The hunger strike lasted for five days, and then she was forcibly fed by prison doctors. Mrs. Sanger and women civic leaders, including Anne Van Kirk, the Superintendent of The Mount Sinai Hospital Training School, appealed for her release. The Governor granted the request on February 1st when Sanger promised that her sister would never break the Comstock law again. Byrne was taken to her sister’s house for care, but this episode damaged their relationship. Byrne did not actively participate in the birth control movement after this.

Ethel Byrne’s later years were quiet. She moved to Massachusetts and returned to nursing. She died in 1955. In 1962, Alan F. Guttmacher, MD left his post as Chairman of OB-GYN at The Mount Sinai Medical Center to become the President of Planned Parenthood. The Mount Sinai connection continued.

Nurses Do It All!

In honor of National Nurses Week, the Mount Sinai Archives would like to recognize that for over 100 years, Mount Sinai nurses have been doing it all, and then some.  When she was a student at The Mount Sinai Training School for Nurses, Class of 1917, Sybil E. Elzas created a little notebook containing important things she needed to know on her clinical rotations, and then once out on her own as a graduate nurse.  (Most professional nurses at this time still did private duty nursing, not hospital work.)   The notebook was sized just right to slip into the pocket of her uniform’s apron. After pages and pages of definitions of terms and lists of operating room tray set-ups and dressings, towards the back of the book is a lone page noting the recipe for “Mount Sinai Hand Lotion.”   Why purchase something nurses could so easily make, and at reduced cost?!

 

Nurses, still making a difference at Mount Sinai, 100 years later.

Inside cover of the clinic notebook belonging to Sybil E. Elzas.

  Inside cover of the clinic notebook belonging to Sybil E. Elzas. She is shown here as a student while on rotation to Sloane Hospital. The recipe for the lotion is at the end of the volume.                                                                        

Mount Sinai lotion152

What’s in a Name?

The Class of 1905, where the first Nancy was a student.

The Class of 1905, where the first Nancy was a student.

This week I spent some time looking for an early graduate of The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing.  An email about the alumna, Nancy Morris, said she graduated from the School in the late 1890s.  As I scanned the class lists trying to find the exact year of her graduation, I found many names that seem distinctly old-fashioned, but no simple Nancys.  There was a Josepha, many Adas and Idas, an Alphasine, a few Mauds and Daisys, a Mehitable, an Igogereth, quite a few Minnies and Mabels, a Mynolia, and some Florences.  It was 1905 – 24 years into the School’s history – before I found the first Nancy, and they were few and far between for quite some time after this.

Just as an FYI, the most common name in our School of Nursing up until 1910 was Mary. This did not even make the top 50 girls’ names in 2013, according to Parents magazine.