Arthur H. Aufses, Jr. MD Archives Blog

Now Online: Selected Beth Israel Board of Trustees minutes and annual reports

The Arthur H. Aufses, Jr. MD Archives are excited to announce that the Beth Israel Hospital Board of Trustees minutes from 1889-1936 are now available online, as well as selected annual reports from 1893-1910 and the 1950s.  

This project was made possible by the 2023 Digitization Project Grant from the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO). We are very grateful for their support. 

What kind of research can you do with Board of Trustees minutes? 

Board of Trustees minutes document every major decision made by a hospital. This can provide a longitudinal look at how many aspects of Beth Israel have evolved over time.  Reading through the minutes for specific subjects over the course of years can provide a detailed narrative of what decisions were made and why. For example, the Archives have already used the minutes to provide a look at how the campus has developed in researching our ongoing Building Beth Israel series

Minutes are also a great resource to look at how Beth Israel responded to particular historical events, such as the 1918 Influenza Epidemic. Researchers have also used the minutes to track donations of money, supplies, and art to the Hospital, as well as to better understand the legacy of specific Trustees.  

List of professions of patients treated at Beth Israel Hospital in 1893
List of occupations of the patients treated by Beth Israel Hospital, from the Annual Report, 1893
Handwritten list of Board of Trustees members for 1897
List of members from the Board of Directors minutes, 1897
Cover of 1956 annual report with reproduction of mural and the title "A Record of Progress"
Cover of the 1956 annual report

What kind of research can I do with annual reports?  

Annual reports provide a great snapshot of the projects and people at a hospital in any year. They are a great resource for researchers who are interested in a particular year or period in Beth Israel’s history. They provide a detailed portrait of any department’s biggest accomplishments and track the progression of the hospital’s many milestones. While most of the Archives’ collections reflect institutional history, annual reports also provide an overview of the doctors and researchers who were working in various departments at any given time.  

How can I access these files?  

You can browse a listing of the Beth Israel Hospital annual reports and Board of Trustees minutes. This is a complete list of what is available in our physical archival collection, and all of these materials can be viewed on-site at the Archives.  

Material that has a plus sign next to it can be accessed online. Click the plus sign and select the item from the drop-down, and then select the thumbnail of the digitized materials in order to pull up a full PDF version of the item.  

Screenshot of catalog illustrating how to navigate to select files
Screenshot from catalog

Please note that the Board of Trustees minutes are closed for twenty-five years following their date of creation. Additionally, Beth Israel Medical Center appears to have discontinued creating annual reports sometime in the late 1990s. Only selected annual reports have been digitized, but all Beth Israel annual reports that are currently in the Archives collection are available for on-site reading room use. 

You can also find all the material digitized as part of this project here. Additional materials will be available at that link as they are added to our catalog throughout Fall 2023. 

More information on this project 

As part of the METRO Digitization Project Grant, additional materials from the Mount Sinai Beth Israel collection will be added to our catalog throughout Fall 2023, including photographs, World War I letters, and other documentation on the history of Beth Israel through 1969. You can read more about this project here

Authored by Stefana Breitwieser, Digital Archivist

Mount Sinai Beth Israel and the 1918 Influenza Epidemic – An Update

In a previous blog post, we looked at Beth Israel Hospital’s role in the 1918 Influenza Epidemic. Since then, we’ve done further research into the World War I correspondence in the Beth Israel records, as well as the Beth Israel Board of Directors and Committee minutes, which both provided rich details to supplement this history.  

In early March 1918, influenza had reached New York. By March 25, 1918, an unknown correspondent (likely Louis J. Frank, Beth Israel Hospital superintendent) wrote that there was “quite an epidemic in the City of Grippe,” referring to New York City as literally the “City of the Flu”. As World War I continued on, many Beth Israel workers had joined the war effort, and their correspondence with the hospital describes the epidemic on the front lines. The first wave of the flu was relatively mild, and on May 13, 1918, Dr. Alfred A. Schwartz of the American Expeditionary Force, reported as much from France: 

“I have been appointed Otolaryngologist to the contagious disease wards at the camp hospital and altho [sic] the title sounds like work, there must first be complications to the infectious diseases, and secondly…there must be some patients to have the diseases, and fortunately there is little to do.”  

As the second, more deadly wave swept the world, the topic of influenza became more pressing in the correspondence, and was increasingly addressed in the Board minutes. In the November 17, 1918, minutes, the Board noted that back on the home front in New York, Beth Israel attended to “50 to 60 cases of Influenza a day during the height of the epidemic and…our records of cures was high, and our record of deaths was very low.” This is a significant deviation from the previous blog post, which stated that only twenty-nine patients total were treated during the epidemic at Beth Israel. Sources conflict on this point. 

Staffing was amongst the most pressing issues at this time – with much of the medical staff overseas, Louis J. Frank, himself recovering from the flu, commented in a letter from October 23, 1918: “Our whole force is gone. If you were to come back today, you wouldn’t find a familiar face…From a house staff of 15 we have been reduced to a staff of five, and of the five, three have been laid up on account of influenza.” He goes on to describe the issue of hiring enough nurses, which was making him “frantic.” Superintendent Frank was a proponent of the conscription of women, “especially those women who have the vote,” to counteract staffing shortages in nursing in the war and at home. 

The Board of Directors’ minutes reflect similar staffing concerns. The minutes for November 17, 1918, stated: “During the epidemic the Surgical Staff consisted of one man, the others became infected with the disease. On the Medical side we only had two men, the others also sick.” This appears to have resulted in redeployment of other clinical workers, and the Board resolved on “the discontinuance of the work of the Polio Department on account of the epidemic of Influenza and Pneumonia to release the doctors and nurses connected with the clinic for the more important work.” The minutes also noted that the “pupil nurses” from Beth Israel Training School for Nurses (today’s Phillips School of Nursing at MSBI) “after their day’s work was over, did extra work in the district on these cases, spending an hour or two on emergency cases requiring special care.”  

The close of 1918 marked a turning point. With the War over, and a dwindling number of cases following the peak of the second wave, the end was in sight. In a letter from November 27, 1918, Superintendent Frank wrote: 

“Things are getting into shape at the Hospital. We were considerably upset on account of the War, shortage of help, doctors, nurses, the Influenza epidemic, and the general anxiety, but with victory came a relaxation and we are now awaiting the homecoming of you men who have done so much to achieve this victory.” 

The Board also noted, grimly, on November 17, 1918, that Beth Israel was “the only Hospital [in New York City] that didn’t lose a nurse, a doctor, or an employee by death.” On January 19, 1919, the Board moved to give House Staff and pupil nurses bonuses for their contributions and made especial note of the nurses’ service: “pupil nurses…after their trying [work and school] day of 12 and many times 14 hours, went out in the tenement houses and did extra work for several hours. Of course, this work was not for patients of the Hospital, but it was nevertheless our work, for they were the poor sick of our neighborhood.” 

On November 23, 1919, the Board made note of the U.S. Public Health Service’s prediction that the influenza epidemic would return. Fortunately, this never came to pass. By 1920, the virus mutated to cause only ordinary cases of the seasonal flu, and the epidemic was effectively over. 

Sources:  

More resources on Mount Sinai Health System Hospitals and World War I are available here.

Authored by Stefana Breitwieser, Digital Archivist

May is the Mount Sinai Month for Buildings

By some remarkable coincidence, many Mount Sinai Health System buildings have been dedicated or opened in May.

The Beth Israel Hospital opened its first facility in a rented loft in May 1890 and then moved to 196 Broadway the next year. In May of 1892 they moved again, this time to 206 E. Broadway and 195 Division St. Beth Israel remained at this location until the completion of the Jefferson & Cherry Street building in 1902. Beth Israel did not have another May opening until May 15, 1966 when the Linsky Pavilion opened.

Beth Israel’s Jefferson and Cherry Street location

The Linsky Pavilion, which opened in May 1966

 

 

 

 

 

 

On May 17, 1855, a religious service was held to inaugurate the opening of The Jews’ Hospital in the City of New York, which became The Mount Sinai Hospital in 1866. Presiding at the inauguration was Rabbi J.J. Lyons, with Rabbis Leo, Sternberger, Rubin, Cohen, Waterman, Schickler and Tebrich serving as cantors.

The original building of The Mount Sinai Hospital

The second site of the Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Mount Sinai had outgrown this site, the Trustees decided to move uptown to the block of Lexington Avenue between 66th and 67th Streets. The cornerstone for the new hospital was laid on May 25, 1870 and the completed hospital was opened on May 29, 1872.

The 1904 building along 100th Street

Within 25 years, the Hospital had again filled its site and decided to move to its current home next to Central Park, between 100th and 101st Streets. The Park ensured that the hospital would not again get surrounded by the bustle of the City’s streets. The cornerstone for this new hospital was laid on May 22, 1901. In May 1922, Mount Sinai marked the completion of a massive expansion project that extended the hospital across 100th Street down to 99th Street. This included 1184 5th Avenue, which today is the oldest building on the Mount Sinai campus.

On May 23, 1952, The Mount Sinai Hospital celebrated the dedication of the Klingenstein Pavilion on 5th Avenue.

This was built as Mount Sinai’s Maternity Pavilion, and remains the home of our OB-GYN department. At the same event, the Atran Laboratory and the Henry W. Berg, MD Laboratory buildings were both dedicated as well.

The Klingenstein Pavilion on 5th Avenue

Vice President Ford and Walter Annenberg looking at the portrait of Mrs. Annenberg at the dedication in 1974

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, in perhaps Mount Sinai’s biggest dedication, on May 26, 1974, the new Mount Sinai School of Medicine welcomed Vice President Gerald Ford and the Annenberg family to celebrate the formal dedication of the Annenberg Building. When this building opened, it was the thought to be the largest space in this country devoted to medical education.

St. Luke’s Hospital on 5th Avenue

The Mount Sinai Hospital was not alone in its fascination with May for buildings. On May 21, 1857, the St. Luke’s Hospital chapel opened at the Hospital’s first site and a year later (May 13, 1858) the hospital itself opened at 5th Ave between 54th and 55th Streets.

 

 

The Woman’s Hospital in the State of New York, which became the Women’s Division of St. Luke’s Hospital in 1952, also had a May dedication tradition. On May 4, 1855 the Woman’s Hospital was opened at 83 Madison Avenue. Almost 50 years later, on May 17, 1904, the cornerstone was laid at a new site at Amsterdam Avenue and 110th Street.

The first home of the Woman’s Hospital

The 1904 west side Woman’s Hospital building

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, on May 25, 1965 the Woman’s Hospital opened in a separate building on the St. Luke’s campus on Amsterdam Avenue and 114th Street.

From the Archives: The Unexpected Legacy of Beth Israel’s Small Hospitals

The creation of the Mount Sinai Health System in 2013, formed by the merger of the Mount Sinai Medical Center with Continuum Health Partners, brought some of New York City’s major hospitals together under a single organizational umbrella. The individual hospitals making up the Health System, however, often themselves incorporate multiple hospitals with which they have merged and affiliated over the years. As the Archives continues to collect, process and make available the records of the former Beth Israel Medical Center, we have acquired material relating to various smaller hospitals associated with Beth Israel. The records of these institutions provide a glimpse into the wide variety of small hospitals that existed in New York during the twentieth century.

Doctors Hospital aerial cropped

Doctors Hospital

Doctors Hospital was an exclusive voluntary hospital, founded in 1929 by members of New York City’s social elite, which catered to the needs of wealthy private patients. Its Upper East Side location on East End Avenue overlooked Carl Schurz Park and Gracie Mansion (pictured, at center). In 1987 it became part of the Beth Israel Medical Center and was briefly known as Beth Israel Hospital North before being renamed Beth Israel Medical Center Singer Division. It closed in 2004, and its building was torn down the following year; the site is now occupied by luxury residences. The minutes of the Doctors Hospital Board of Directors, recently discovered in offsite storage associated with Beth Israel, are now a part of the collection of the Mount Sinai Archives.

Jewish Maternity Hospital

The Jewish Maternity Hospital was founded in 1906. Located at 270 Broadway, it provided maternity care to the Lower East Side’s growing community of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. At the urging of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, which hoped to consolidate its medical activities during the lean years of the Great Depression, it merged in 1930 with Beth Israel, which had recently moved to a state of the art modern hospital on Stuyvesant Square. For some time the two institutions maintained separate wards within the hospital building, but by the 1940s the Maternity Hospital had been absorbed into the obstetrics department at Beth Israel. Three volumes of its patient registers, dated 1921-1933, are housed in the Mount Sinai Archives.

New York Lying-In Hospital / Manhattan General Hospital

The New York Lying-In Hospital already had a long institutional history, dating back to the yellow fever epidemic of 1798, when it moved in 1902 to a newly built home at 307 2nd Avenue on the northwest corner of Stuyvesant Square. The hospital’s time at this location was a productive one, during which members of the hospital staff pioneered the use of pharmaceutical pain management to ease the pain of childbirth. In 1932 the New York Lying-In Hospital left the site to become the OB-GYN department of the New York Hospital at its campus on the Upper East Side. The building on Stuyvesant Square became home to the proprietary Manhattan General Hospital. In 1965 the building was purchased by Beth Israel and became the Morris J. Bernstein Institute, a pioneering inpatient facility for addiction treatment. The building was sold in 1984 and is now an apartment complex, but its origin as a maternity hospital can still be seen in the elegant sculptures of infants displayed on its facade. The records of the Lying-In Hospital itself are in the Archives of the Weill Cornell Medical College, but the Mount Sinai Archives has a small assortment of records related to the Bernstein Institute during the period that it occupied the former Lying-In Hospital building.

Happy National Handwashing Awareness Week!

This week (December 4-10, 2022) is National Handwashing Awareness Week. As we all know, hand hygiene is a critical component of clinical care and patient safety. In this post we’ll be looking at handwashing campaigns at Mount Sinai Beth Israel over the years. (Click on the images for a larger view, or see the links below to view the item in our catalog.)

These materials come from a variety of resources we have in our collection, including the MSBI photograph collection, Beth Israel Pacemaker (which has not yet been digitized), and Eye on BI. You can also see more photos from the Infant Milk Formula Room and the 1981-1982 Handwashing Campaign.

You can also read more about the history of Beth Israel, including through the “Building Beth Israel” series. An interactive map of Beth Israel historical locations is also available.

Authored by Stefana Breitwieser