New Archives Exhibit: “Hospital Trustees and the Making of New York City”

The Mount Sinai Archives has installed its latest quarterly exhibit in the lobby of the Annenberg Building. This season’s exhibit, “Hospital Trustees and the Making of New York City,” looks at the role of some of the trustees of the Mount Sinai Health System hospitals, accomplished figures who left their mark not only on their respective hospitals but on New York City as a whole.

One exhibit case contains photographs and memorabilia documenting the life and career of Charles H. Silver, who served for nearly five decades as President of the Board of Trustees at the Beth Israel Medical Center, the predecessor of today’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel. (Some of the highlights of the Mount Sinai Archives’ Silver collection have previously been featured on the blog.) The child of impoverished Lower East Side immigrants who worked his way up to wealth and influence, Silver was active in politics and philanthropy, chaired the New York City Board of Education, and was a pioneer of interfaith relations in a multicultural global city.

Buildings Private Pav 1904

Pictured: The original Mount Sinai Private Pavilion, built in 1904 with an endowment from the Guggenheim family.

The second exhibit case documents the legacy of the Guggenheim family at Mount Sinai. The role of the Guggenheims in New York City philanthropy is perhaps best known in connection with the Guggenheim Museum, but members of the family also played an important role at Mount Sinai, where they served as Trustees, donors, and vocal supporters from 1889 until the end of the 20th century. Since 1904, their name has been on Mount Sinai’s largest patient care building, a symbol of their dedication to the city and people of New York.

This quarter’s Nursing History exhibit, located underneath the stairs to Stern Auditorium, documents the participation of Mount Sinai School of Nursing graduates in the Spanish-American War and the Spanish Civil War, the latter of which marks its 80th anniversary this year.

From the Archives: Charles H. Silver and the Presidents of the United States

The Mount Sinai Archives continues to process a recently received collection of records and photographs that document the history of the Beth Israel Medical Center, today’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel. Among the many fascinating documents in this collection are a collection of photographs and news clippings that document the life of Charles H. Silver, who served for 35 years as the Chairman of Beth Israel’s Board of Trustees. The child of an impoverished Romanian Jewish immigrant family on the Lower East Side, Silver left school at age fifteen to become an office boy at the American Woolen Company, where he worked his way up the sales ranks and eventually retired as Vice President and Director.

Alongside his role as a hospital philanthropist, Silver was active in interfaith relations and worked to strengthen the relationship between New York City’s Jewish and Catholic communities, becoming a close confidante of Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, and his successor Terence Cardinal Cooke. In 1948 Silver served as chairman of the first Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, which raises funds for Catholic charities. In gratitude for his exceptional fundraising efforts, the proceeds of which would help support New York City’s Catholic hospitals, Cardinal Spellman presented him at the dinner with a surprise donation to Beth Israel. The Al Smith Dinner remains an important event in national politics, as it is traditionally the last event at which the two major-party candidates for President of the United States share a stage before the election.

Silver Charles H with Truman and HarrimanAbove: Charles H. Silver, Governor Averell Harriman, President Harry Truman and others at a ceremony in honor of Harriman.

Silver Charles H with Nixon, Humphrey, Cooke, Johnson, RockefellerAbove: Richard Nixon, Charles H. Silver, Hubert Humphrey, Terence Cardinal Cooke, President Lyndon Johnson, Margaretta “Happy” Rockefeller and Governor Nelson Rockefeller at the 1968 Al Smith Dinner.

In addition to his medical and political interests, Silver was a strong advocate of public education and served for six years as Chairman of the New York City Board of Education. The Silver collection in the Mount Sinai Archives includes photographs of Silver with every U.S. President from Truman to Carter, two of which are presented here. No full-length biography of Silver has yet been written, but his eventful career is an important part of the story of New York City in the twentieth century.