To understand life in seventeenth century London, the diary of Samuel Pepys is required reading. Diarists of his caliber are rare finds for the historian; but when they are uncovered, other sources of material do not compare for the recoding of events and the flavor of life in the period.
In 1952, the distinguished Columbia University historian Allen Nevins and his colleague Milton H. Thomas published a four-volume edited version of the diary of George Templeton Strong. The original Strong papers, which run to nearly four and one half million words neatly written in blank notebooks and undiscovered by scholars for more than forty years after his death, provide an amazing look at life in New York from 1835 to 1875.
Since strong was a St. Luke’s trustee from 1852 to 1857, his entries abound with references to the hospital, to Dr. Muhlenberg, to Robert B. Minturn the first St. Luke’s president, and to many others associated with St. Luke’s and its beginnings. The diary provides particularly interesting reading for those who are now associate with St. Luke’s.
From his days as a Columbia student through a long career as a leading attorney, Strong faithfully recorded the period’s events, leaving an unparalleled record of observations about the great and small happenings in each day of these forty hectic years. The diary became public when a history of Strong’s firm, now known as Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft, was being written in the 1930’s, and later was given to Columbia University.
Volume III, which deals with the Civil War period, is the best known book in the series and is listed in the bibliography of most books written on the period. Strong served as a member of the pioneering Sanitary Commission, which provided the medical care and supplementary serviced needed by the Union army and the civilian population. In this voluntary capacity, he was on intimate terms with government leaders and with all of the principal military figures.
The diarist was a Columbia University trustee, and notes that he learned of his election to that body while attending a St. Luke’s meeting. His principle interest during his long association with his alma mater, were the School of Law and of Mines. He also points out his consternation about being named to the fund raising committee of the St. Luke’s board. A difficult task was his assignment by Muhlenberg to develop a motto for the hospital. Unfortunately, the diary does not indicate whether he finally did suggest “Corpus Sanare, Animan Salvare,” the motto found on the St. Luke’s seal. Ample references are found to the numerous technical and legal difficulties the St. Luke’s founders encountered and to the differences of opinion reflected by the various early trustees. His family physician was Dr. George A. Peters, for eight years a president of the St. Luke’s medical Board.
Because he was not writing for publication, Strong was free to open his mind to the diary and his views of people and events are not limited by worry over injuring anyone’s feelings. Never has the phrase, ‘one man’s opinion’ been more apropos.
Born to an old and patrician family, Strong, whose grandfather sailed with Robert Fulton on the “Clermont” on the world’s first steamboat ride on the Hudson, was on intimate terms with most of the rich and powerful men of the age. Lincoln was his close friend, as were John Jacob Astor, Peter Cooper, Washington Irving and future President Chester A. Arthur. His funeral in 1875 was attended by President Ulysses S. Grant; Astor was among the pallbearers.
A brilliant writer with a gifted pen and a reporter’s sense for detail, his notes on the minutia of family life and his descriptions of fires, trails, riots and people all form a clear and complete picture of the City he knew and loved. His detailed observations of the music and literature of the period and his analysis of sermons preached at Trinity Church, where he was a vestryman, show his broad grasp of subjects and his keep sense of the pertinent.
For those interested in the development of New York, its institutions and the people who turned it from a compact, if lively, port in 1835 to the bustling metropolis it was by 1875, the diary of St. Luke’s trustee George Templeton Strong is an invaluable source of information.
By some remarkable coincidence, many Mount Sinai Health System buildings have been dedicated or opened in May.
The Beth Israel Hospitalopened 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.
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.
The Mount Sinai Archives has received a large amount of new archival material over the last year, well over 186 feet of paper, photographs, and (sometimes) disintegrating leather-bound volumes. The bulk of these new collections contain material from Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital and Mount Sinai West (the former Roosevelt Hospital), but they also include items documenting the Beth Israel Medical Center, Mount Sinai Queens, The Mount Sinai Hospital and the Medical School. Organizing, preserving and making available such a great quantity of material is a complex and time-consuming task, but the effort is well worth it, because these collections include many important historic treasures. Those treasures are the theme for a new Archives’ display in the Annenberg Building lobby. Here are some highlights from the display.
What makes a historical document or artifact a ‘treasure’? Sometimes, historical records provide information on an important person or an institution. The 1854 Bible belonging to the Rev. Dr. William Muhlenberg, founder of St. Luke’s Hospital, is an example of that, as are the newsletters and Annual Reports of the various Mount Sinai Health System hospitals that we have received. Other times, an item can be a ‘treasure’ because it provides context for what life was like at a specific period of time, highlighting how things have changed, or perhaps showing how some things never change. The Fathers’ Book from the Woman’s Hospital in the early 1940s does that, as do the reports created by the Mount Sinai Environmental Sciences Laboratory that are displayed. And sometimes what makes an item a ‘treasure’ is just that there is something appealing, unique or unexpected about it. Who would think that the Mount Sinai Archives has a World War II era U.S. War Department issued Japanese phrase book, currently on display in the Nursing case below the Stern Auditorium stairs? It is part of the papers sent to us by the daughter of Esther Winkler Shapiro, Class of 1944.
Perhaps the most surprising treasure we found as we put this exhibit together were the photographs and documents tucked into the back of a scrapbook from the Roosevelt Hospital School of Nursing, which was formed in 1896 and closed in 1974. This scrapbook, wrapped in the traditional blue stripe of the Roosevelt uniform, was created by Evelyn I.V. Howard, Class of 1908. The last few pages of the book include photographs and notes from Nina Gage, RN, a classmate of Miss Howard’s. These pieces document Gage’s years at a Red Cross hospital at the Hunan-Yale School for Nurses in Changsha, China from 1908-1915. There are photos of the facility as well as students and faculty members.
A view of one of the display cases showing Rev. Muhlenberg’s Bible in the far left corner and the Roosevelt nursing scrapbook in the middle.
If you are nearby, please stop in and take a look at our display. If you would like additional information, please contact us at email@example.com.