Arthur H. Aufses, Jr. MD Archives Blog

100 Years Ago: World War I Ends for Mount Sinai Unit

On January 11, 1919, the Mount Sinai Hospital affiliated unit, U.S. Army Base Hospital No. 3 was officially relieved of duty. The war was over for them. All told, they had treated 9,127 patients with 172 deaths (54 surgical and 118 medical, the latter due mainly to pneumonia related to the influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1918). On March 5th, the doctors and nurses returned to New York City. The enlisted men returned two and a half weeks later.

A ward at Base Hospital No. 3

The Hospitals of the Mount Sinai Health System in the First World War

Nurses and doctors of St. Luke’s Hospital Evacuation Hospital No. 2

April 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the entry of the United States into World War I. Like many institutions in American society, the American hospital system and its doctors and nurses were rapidly mobilized to join the war that had been raging in Europe since the summer of 1914. The Mount Sinai Archives has now installed a display in the Annenberg Building north lobby outlining the activities of the hospitals in the Mount Sinai Health System.

In New York City, The Mount Sinai Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital and The Roosevelt Hospital (today’s Mount Sinai West) all contributed to the war effort by establishing overseas units affiliated with their respective hospitals, and many doctors at Beth Israel Hospital volunteered individually. The records, photographs and correspondence on display in these cases reflect the experience of a war that defined a generation.

For the medical officers and administrators in charge of overseas hospital units, organizing effective hospital service on a scale never before seen was an immense logistical challenge. And for the individual doctors and nurses working with patients, who saw at close hand the terrible destruction inflicted by new methods of trench warfare and aerial combat, all while dealing with a world-wide pandemic of influenza, the war was an experience of medicine at its most fundamental, as they struggled under harsh conditions to relieve human suffering.

The items on display include images of the staff from the hospitals in their World War I roles; a scrapbook from Marion Moxham, a nurse from Ireland who joined with the Mount Sinai unit, Base Hospital No. 3; letters home from physicians to the Beth Israel Hospital administration; dog tags; a medal that was awarded to members of the Mount Sinai unit; images of the wounded and wards of St. Luke’s Evacuation Hospital no. 2 and a photo of the mascot of the Roosevelt Hospital group.

Dazian Who? A “Familiar Names” Mystery, Part 1 

Flyer with sketch of 16-story building with text that reads: "The New Beth Israel Hospital, 16 Stories, 500 Beds, Block Front, Livingston Place, 16th-17th Streets, the Tallest Hospital Building in the World"
Sketch of Dazian Pavilion exterior, circa 1929. At the time it was built, Beth Israel believed it to be “the tallest hospital building in the world.” (The final building only stood at thirteen stories.)

In our “Familiar Names: A ‘Who’s Who’ of Beth Israel Buildings” post, you may have noticed that one building is conspicuously absent: the Dazian building. Dazian, the original building on the Petrie campus, was simply referred to as the Beth Israel Hospital for the first part of its history, given that it was the only Beth Israel Hospital building at the time it was opened (to much acclaim) in 1929. During the 1950s and 1960s, the hospital went through a building boom, likely necessitating building names, and campus maps show that the Dazian Pavilion was labeled as such by 1963. But who was Dazian? You might think Beth Israel’s institutional records would hold a clue, but, after receiving several requests to provide the backstory, a few of archivists at the Aufses Archives had approached this research from different angles, and never turned up anything directly mentioning the building’s naming. Sometimes the answers to seemingly straightforward questions are simply not well documented. 

We strongly suspected that the building was named for Henry Dazian, a famed Broadway costumer from a prominent family. Henry Dazian was the third generation of his family to own the costuming business and had a history of philanthropy. He served as a trustee for the Actors’ Fund, which was established in 1882 to provide for the burial, retirement, and healthcare needs of those working in the theatrical professions, who were often denied access to services and charities during this period. He also donated to Beth Israel during his lifetime, particularly (and perhaps fittingly) in 1929 when the institution was fundraising to eliminate its debt following the construction of the building that would eventually carry the Dazian name some thirty years later. 

Upon his death in 1937, his estate created the Dazian Foundation for Medical Research. The Beth Israel annual reports indicate that the Foundation was an active donor throughout the 1950s. That said, there was no obvious indication in the records to confirm that the Dazian Foundation is the source of the name.  

We were hoping that the Henry Dazian Estate and Dazian Foundation for Medical Research records would hold clues for solving this mystery. In addition to its Beth Israel connection, the Foundation also worked with Mount Sinai doctors by, among other things, funding scholarships for refugee physicians during World War II. The collection was seeing increased interest from researchers, but it remained largely inaccessible because it was not completely processed. Processing became a priority, and when Tim Hayes, Levy Library Circulation Services Supervisor, joined the Archives for an internship, we were grateful that this collection received renewed attention. He processed this collection, which spans more than fourteen document boxes, and was able to keep an eye out for answers to some of our Dazian-related questions as he reviewed the material. Stay tuned for our next blog post, where Tim takes us on a deep dive of his research into this question. 

Now Online: Selected Beth Israel alphabetical files, including WWI letters

As we wrap up our 2023 Digitization Project Grant, we are pleased to share a final batch of newly digitized materials – a selection of textual records from the Beth Israel Medical Center alphabetical files, including over 80 World War I letters.

This project was made possible by the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO). We are very grateful for their support. You can find all the material digitized as part of this project here and materials will also become available in the Digital Culture of Metropolitan New York in the coming months. 

Alphabetical files 

The Beth Israel Medical Center alphabetical files represent a miscellaneous assortment of textual records from throughout the hospital’s history. Each file provides a small insight into one aspect of its organization, which taken together provide a rich material history of the institution. The selection chosen for digitization emphasized materials through the completion of the campus in 1969, and provides insight into the hospital’s management, campus planning, and newsworthy happenings. 

Like the annual reports and Board of Trustees minutes, organizational and management records in this selection provide insight into the day-to-day decision-making at Beth Israel for things large and small. The digitized material includes the Rules and Regulations of the Beth Israel Dispensary (1907), excerpts of minutes from the Phillips School of Nursing (1905-1912), minutes from department head meetings (1931-1935), by-laws of the Beth Israel Hospital Association (1947-1960), and directories for the house staff and visiting staff (1950s-1960s). 

Campus planning is also a major theme in these materials. From Dazian Pavilion (construction started 1922) to planning for the Linsky Pavilion (opened 1966) these materials closely track the progress, reasoning, and decision-making surrounding the evolution of Beth Israels footprint in the Lower East Side. Of note are a group of articles written by Louis J. Frank, Beth Israel Hospital Superintendent, which describe a range of his theories on hospital management at the time of the construction of the Dazian Pavilion. Topics range from medical humanitarianism to facility planning, from European hospital design to vegetarian hospital food services. 

Newspaper clippings (bulk 1909-1933) and press releases (1967-1968) also make up a significant amount of material and would be helpful to anyone interested in events at Beth Israel during those years. 

You can browse all the alphabetical files digitized as part of this project here. (Note that some clippings and articles by Frank are still under copyright. The materials will become available as soon as they reach public domain, largely on January 1, 2024.) 

World War I letters 

Included in the alphabetical files are three years’ worth of World War I letters (1917-1919) to and from Louis J. Frank. The correspondents are largely Beth Israel doctors deployed to military hospitals on the front lines in France.  

Postcard showing 14th-century gated monastary with garden at center
This postcard from Captain Leo B. Meyer, head of the BIH Medical Board, to Louis J. Frank pictures Base Hospital No. 3 at the Asile de Vauclaire, a 14th-century monastery-turned-military hospital and home to the Mount Sinai Hospital unit. Meyer was stationed there for much of the war. The Archives have a number of materials on Base Hospital No. 3.

Major topics include daily life of those serving in the war, surgery during battle (particularly limb salvage and amputation), x-ray training for military doctors, and reactions to the Armistice. News of Beth Israel is also frequent, particularly medical and nursing staff shortages, the needs of future and current military patients, accounts of various Beth Israel doctors at home and abroad, and the status of the new Beth Israel hospital building (future Dazian Pavilion). The Influenza Epidemic of 1918 is mentioned throughout, and there are also several references to the Mount Sinai Hospital unit.  

These letters are a valuable resource to anyone interested in the role of American doctors serving in World War I. You can browse the letters here

More information on this project 

The METRO Digitization Project Grant allowed us to digitize materials from the Mount Sinai Beth Israel collection for researcher access in our catalog throughout Summer and Fall 2023. You can read more about this project here and see our previous blog posts on our annual reports and Board of Trustees minutes and the Beth Israel photograph collection

Authored by Stefana Breitwieser, Digital Archivist

Now Online: Selected Beth Israel photographs

In light of recent news, the Arthur H. Aufses, Jr. MD Archives remains committed to preserving Beth Israel’s rich history. As part of our ongoing 2023 Digitization Project Grant, we have been digitizing a selection of photographs from the Mount Sinai Beth Israel photograph collection. This blog post seeks to recognize and celebrate Beth Israel employees over the years, naming and putting faces to just a few of the thousands of people who have contributed to the hospital’s history.  

This project was made possible by the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO). We are very grateful for their support. You can find all the material digitized as part of this project here

1930s, 1940s, and 1950s




More information on this project

As part of the METRO Digitization Project Grant, additional materials from the Mount Sinai Beth Israel collection will be available as they are added to our catalog throughout Fall 2023, including more photographs, World War I letters, and other documentation on the history of Beth Israel through 1969. You can read more about this project here, and see our previous blog post on our annual reports and Board of Trustees minutes

Authored by Stefana Breitwieser, Digital Archivist