The Legacy of a St. Luke’s School of Nursing Alumna

The trials of life can crush one’s spirit or force one to overcome and create something exceptional out of the rubble. Mary Breckinridge, a 1910 St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing alumna, is a fine example of later. Born into a Kentucky family of influence and means, Breckinridge was well educated and well-traveled. She was married in 1904 and widowed by 1906, at age 26. She then completed St. Luke’s nursing program and worked teaching French and hygiene in an Arkansas women’s college. In 1912, she married the president of that school and had two children with him, but her daughter was premature and did not survive; her son died suddenly two years later at age four.

Additional struggles broke the marriage beyond repair and she left her husband in 1918 and worked as a public health nurse while awaiting a posting with the American Red Cross in France. She arrived there after the armistice of WW I and helped to initiate a program to provide food and medical assistance for children, nursing mothers, and pregnant women. While in France, she also spent time in England, observing the conditions of children and mothers there, and became convinced that American women in rural areas would benefit from the help of trained midwives. Ad educational visit to Scotland demonstrated how to provide medical care to a dispersed population.

Returning to the United States, she relocated to Leslie County, Kentucky, which had the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. Here Breckinridge, pictured left, introduced nurse-midwives into the region with the founding of The Frontier Nursing Service in 1925, eventually bringing maternal and neonatal death rates down well below the national average. In 1929, The Frontier Nursing Service staff started the American Association of Nurse-Midwives, a precursor of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and the first American school of midwifery in New York in 1932. Mary Breckinridge served as director of the FNS until her death on May 16, 1965.

Spotlight on St. Luke’s Early Years: Admissions

In today’s world, the only way to check into a hospital, without an emergency, is for a doctor to arrange for some kind of test or surgical procedure. But in the 19th century, hospitals functioned a bit like today’s walk-in clinics, at least in regards to admission. A person could come to the Hospital, speak with the Admitting Physician and request treatment for ‘X’ problem. But there were rules governing who would be accepted or refused.

By 1859, St. Luke’s published the first of their annual reports, which included reports from the Board President, The Pastor/Superintendent and the House Staff, along with lists of donations, occupations and diseases of those treated, and the publication of rules – for staff for patients and for visitors, and for Admission. Admission rules separated out patients with certain diseases. Those with contagious diseases were refused admission – this was a common practice for private hospitals at this time. The 1904 annual report is the first year the Hospital reported which applications were declined under the Rules of Admission, and their numbers. Ten persons were declined admission due to contagions like Erysipelas, scarlet fever and scabies.

Another group – the chronic or incurable – included paralytics, rheumatics, the mentally ill, incurable cancer patients, and those with an opium habit or delirium tremens, where also refused admission. Chronic cases in acute attack might be accepted, but were discharged once they returned to the ordinary health of one in that condition. Incurable cases might be admitted, but “only at the discretion of the Executive Committee of the Hospital.” These were also probably discharged as soon as they regained what was ordinary health for that condition. In 1904, 128 cases were refused admission to St. Luke’s for one of these reasons.

One exception to the rules was pulmonary consumptives (tuberculosis). In the 19th century, consumption was considered a hereditary disease, rather than a contagious one. The 1859 report of the Board of Managers, explains, “To provide for the incurably ill, particularly of this class, was one of the objects of the Hospital, and therein to supply an urgent want in the community… there was no resort for consumptives, so numerous in our climate, that St. Luke’s, as a church institution, felt bound to open to them her doors.“


The woman’s tuberculosis ward at St. Luke’s Hospital, circa 1900

The Pastor’s report often notes the comfort, and at times cure, these patients received, and their expressions of gratitude. In 1891, nine years after the discovery of the tubercle bacillus by Dr. Robert Koch, St. Luke’s accepted control over the House of Rest for Consumptives in the Tremont section of the Bronx, eventually moving all its patients to the main hospital and selling the property to support their care. Throughout the years annual reports note that consumptives made up to a quarter of the total census of patients in any given year.

These rules on admission disappeared early in the 20th century as hospitals’ ability to recognize and control germs was established, and as out-patient clinics opened to treat patients that might not have been admitted to the Hospital’s care in prior years.


Disappearing Hospitals, Where Did They Go? Woman’s Hospital

Portrait of J. Marion SimsThe Woman’s Hospital, often considered the first hospital in this country dedicated to treating the diseases of women, opened on May 4, 1855 in a house on Madison Avenue. It was founded by the currently controversial J. Marion Sims, MD, pictured right, in concert with a group of influential New York City women. Sims arrived in New York in 1853 from his home in Alabama, where he developed a procedure to close vesicovaginal fistulas. He relocated to New York in hopes of improving his own chronic health condition.

At first, Sims was welcomed into the medical community of New York and invited to demonstrate his fistula procedure. Unfortunately, once local doctors learned the procedure, they lost interest in him. Sims was unable to establish a strong practice or find a hospital that would offer him operating privileges.

The wife of one of Sims’ few medical friends in the city offered to gather a group of interested and influential women to discuss the state of women’s health care in the city. Thirty-Five women met on February 6, 1855, the outcome of which was the establishment of the Woman’s Hospital Association. The group would move to establish and direct a hospital devoted to the reception and cure of women suffering from “diseases peculiar to their sex.” The Association set up a Board of Managers, referred to as the ‘Board of Lady Managers,’ comprised of thirty-five women, to guide the Hospital. An Executive Committee of seven women, appointed by the Board of Managers, managed the day-to-day affairs of the institution.

In 1857 the Hospital was re-incorporated by the New York State Legislature as the Woman’s Hospital in the State of New York, and re-organized under an all-male Board of Governors. The twenty-seven Governors were responsible for the overall concerns of the Hospital, including filling vacancies of non-female staff, enacting the By-Laws and organizing the Medical Department. Women, however, were still very much in charge of running the Hospital. The former Board of Lady Managers became the Board of Lady Supervisors, and managed the operations of the Hospital, including the appointment of nurses and other female attendants. A smaller Board of Lady Managers remained responsible for handling the day-to-day business of the Hospital. By 1887, the Board of Governors invited four women from the Board of Lady Supervisors to join them. They found this integration “to be most acceptable in its results,” and soon after the Board of Governors was reorganized and evenly divided between men and women.

Sketch of Woman's HospitalAs mentioned above, the first Woman’s Hospital was a rented four-story brownstone at 83 Madison Avenue, off 29th Street, pictured left. The brownstone held forty beds and welcomed its first patient in May of 1855. The response to the Hospital’s opening was so great, by fall of 1855 that another surgeon, Thomas Addis Emmet, joined Dr. Sims as the second surgeon on staff. It wasn’t long before the Woman’s Hospital Board was seeking larger accommodations to meet patient demand.

In 1858, approving the petition of Dr. Sims, the City of New York offered the entire block bounded by 49th and 50th Streets between Lexington and Park Avenues as a site for a new, larger hospital. Originally a Potter’s Field, or Stranger’s Burial Place, the plot was filled with coffins; more than 35,000 of them had to be removed. The first building, the Wetmore Pavilion, opened in 1867 and held seventy-five beds. A matching building, the Baldwin Pavilion, added in 1877, doubled that number. A Mr. Baldwin, who wished to remain anonymous, funded the construction of the second pavilion, contributing $84,000, provided the Association raised the balance of $50,000 to complete it.

Photograph of Woman's HospitalOver the years, the Board recognized the need to develop additional services. A post-graduate school of nursing admitted its first class in 1888. The establishment of a hospital pharmacy in 1881, a maternity ward in 1910, and a social services department in 1912 are examples of the additional services made available at Woman’s Hospital.

The 49th Street location proved to be an unsatisfactory one, as the ground tended to be wet, and the basement and ground floors had leaks and dampness. In 1902, all hospital services, except the Out-Patient Clinic, were suspended and the facility was sold. (On a side note, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel opened on this same plot in 1931.)

Hospital services resumed in 1906, when a newly constructed Woman’s Hospital opened on West 109th Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, pictured left. The hospital functioned here until 1965, when it moved just a few blocks north into a newly constructed  building on the St. Luke’s Hospital campus at Amsterdam Avenue at 114th Street, pictured right.

In 1952, realizing that their histories and ideals were parallel, and that it would be beneficial to each to consolidate their resources, which would also strengthen medical services offered to the broader Morningside Heights community, the Board of Trustees of St. Luke’s and Woman’s Hospitals decided to merge.

On January 1, 1953, the Woman’s Hospital became the Woman’s Hospital Division of St. Luke’s Hospital. The Board added “Center” to the Hospital’s name in the mid-1960s to acknowledge distinctions between the different Hospitals. The Woman’s Hospital Board of Governors merged with the corresponding board at St. Luke’s, but the Ladies Associate Board, which handled day-to-day business of the Hospital, continued to meet for some years.

Architect’s drawing of Woman’s Hospital Division

In 1979, St. Luke’s Hospital Center merged with the Roosevelt Hospital forming St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. In 1997, the Hospital Center joined with Beth Israel Medical Center under the Continuum Health Partners banner. In 2013, the Continuum Health Partners merged with Mount Sinai Medical Center forming the Mount Sinai Heath System. The Woman’s Hospital Division on St. Luke’s Hospital campus continued as such for a few years, but eventually duplicated services throughout the combined System. Services re-located, former names were changed, and Woman’s Hospital was consigned to history.

The Woman’s Hospital finding aid is available online here.

Celebrating Two Notable Anniversaries in 2021

On St. Luke’s Day, October 18, 1846, the Rev William A. Muhlenberg announced to his congregation the of the Church of the Holy Communion that he believed they should established a church-related hospital in New York City to help support the poor in the community. He proposed that half of that morning’s collection be the first donation towards the goal of building such a hospital. Muhlenberg described the future hospital as a “Hotel Dieu,” – God’s Hotel, ‘a large hotel full of sick guests,’ or a “Christian family entertaining their guests, all of whom were sick.” After twelve years, and much fundraising, the doors to St. Luke’s Hospital opened to care for the sick poor of the City.

 

St. Luke’s Hospital’s 1858 site on W. 54th St.

Likewise, Mount Sinai Morningside’s sister hospital, Mount Sinai West, formerly Roosevelt Hospital, was also established to aid the city’s sick poor. James H. Roosevelt (1800-1863), experienced a life-altering illness that left him invalid. He decided to close his legal practice, cancel his wedding plans and devote his life to living frugally, carefully managing his fortune, to “establish … a hospital for the reception and relief of sick and diseased persons and for its permanent endowments.” Under the terms of James Henry Roosevelt’s will, the hospital was to be a voluntary hospital that cared for individuals regardless of their ability to pay. The Hospital opened in 1871 on West 59th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. At its opening, Roosevelt Hospital was considered one of the most modern hospitals in the country.

Roosevelt Hospital in 1871

This year, 2021, we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the founding of St. Luke’s Hospital, now called Mount Sinai Morningside, and the 150th anniversary of the opening of Roosevelt Hospital, now called Mount Sinai West. During a time of pandemic, it may not be possible to have a big bash to celebrate the contributions, sacrifices, and simple hard work completed by the staff of these two hospitals.  However, we can note the dates and celebrate in small ways, and be grateful for both hospitals that have provided dedicated health care, research, and innovations in medicine over so many years of service.

 

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.

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.

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.

Robert Abbe, Surgical Pioneer

Robert Abbe (1851-1928) was a surgeon and pioneer radiologist in New York City. He was born in lower Manhattan and educated in NYC’s public schools. He attended the College of the City of New York (S.B., 1870) and Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons (M.D., 1874).

Abbe was best known as an innovative plastic surgeon, particularly for developing a procedure for repairing hair lip deformities (now commonly known as the Abbe Flap), and for Abbe Robert_croppedpioneering the use of radium as a treatment for various medical conditions. His many published articles document the breath of his surgical experience and the successes he had using radium to treat patients.

He served as a surgeon at the New York Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital, Roosevelt Hospital, and the New York Babies Hospital, and was also a professor of surgery at the Women’s Medical College of New York, The New York Post-Graduate Medical College, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

In his free time, Abbe enjoyed drawing, painting oil portraits, and watercolors, and the emerging art of photography. During his later years he spent summers in Bar Harbor, Maine where he developed an interest in the Native American population of the area. He began collecting Native American tools and artifacts that he found in the area and in Stone Age relics he found on Mount Desert. He dreamt of creating a museum to display his extensive collection, and raised funds to do so.  Unfortunately, he did not survive to see his dream fulfilled; the museum, which carries his name and still operates, opened a mere five months after his death of anemia at age 77, most likely due to handling radium.

A small collection of his papers and many reprints of his articles are open to researchers at the Mount Sinai Archives.  The collection guide is available on the Archives web site,   http://icahn.mssm.edu/about/ait/archives/collection/robert-abbe.

James H. Roosevelt and the founding of Roosevelt Hospital

(This post was written by Nancy Mary Panella, Ph.D., Archivist Emeritus, St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals)

James Henry Roosevelt, whose bequest founded the Roosevelt Hospital, was the son of James Christopher Roosevelt (1770-1840) and Catherine Byvanck Roosevelt (1773-18??). He was also a distant cousin of President Theodore Roosevelt.

James H. Roosevelt

James H. Roosevelt

James Henry was born at his family’s home on Warren Street in lower Manhattan on November 10, 1800. Following his earlier education in neighborhood schools, he enrolled in Columbia College, where his studies included law, and was graduated from there in 1819.  He subsequently set up a law practice in New York City.

With his studies behind him, and his law practice established, he stood on the threshold of a promising life: Described as a young man of pleasing appearance, brown hair, above-average height and with a gentle and courteous demeanor, he was well-to-do, brilliant, and engaged to be married to Julia Boardman, who was from an old New York City family.

But, suddenly, an illness that left him physically disabled struck, ending his plans for both career and marriage. The exact nature of the illness is unclear: Some speculated that it was lead poisoning from a home remedy for a cold, concocted of hot milk into which lead shot had been boiled. Others think he fell victim to poliomyelitis.

In any case, largely incapacitated, he abandoned his law practice. Not wanting to ‘burden’ Julia Boardman with his disability, he broke his engagement to her. (Neither married and both remained lifelong friends; in fact, one of the few bequests he made, outside of the one to his nephew, James C. Roosevelt Brown, and the monies left to found The Roosevelt Hospital, was an annuity for Ms. Boardman, whom he also named as executrix of his will.)

James Henry then embarked on a life not just of physical limitations, but also of frugality and austerity, devoting much of his time and interests to real estate dealings and to the management of his securities; he thus increased his worth substantially. It is thought that he conserved and increased his funds for one specific purpose: to support “the establishment in the City of New York of an [sic] hospital for the reception and relief of sick and diseased persons.” Whatever the reason, when he died in 1863, he left in excess of one million dollars toward that objective.

The hospital to be founded under the terms of his will was to be a voluntary hospital that cared for individuals regardless of their ability to pay. It seems reasonable to suppose that having himself suffered from illness, he realized the plight of those who might at the same time be afflicted with both sickness and destitution.

It is said that James Henry was never morose or gloomy. He maintained an active interest in the life about him and in the affairs in which he could not participate. He enjoyed the companionship of a host of friends, one of the closest being Julia Boardman.

Although James Henry Roosevelt’s remains were first buried in his family’s vault in the New York City Marble Cemetery, they were moved to the Roosevelt Hospital grounds when a monument to him was placed there in 1876. Moved twice again on the hospital grounds (hospital expansion required the moves), in late 1994 his remains were exhumed, and in the spring of 1995 re-interred in the New York City Marble Cemetery. Julia Boardman’s remains were interred in the same cemetery, but in her father’s vault.

 

 

New Mount Sinai Archives Exhibit on Recent Acquisitions and Treasures

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 the Roosevelt nursing scrapbook in the middle.

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 msarchives@mssm.edu.