Manuscripts and Archives of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Katharine R. Sturgis papers Edit


MSS 2/355


  • 1948 – 1979 (Creation)
  • 1852 – 1985 (Creation)


  • 8.64 Linear feet (Whole)

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  • Abstract

    Katharine Rosenbaum Guest Boucot Sturgis was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1903. She received her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University and entered the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1935. She was forced to leave school when she contracted tuberculosis, but later resumed her studies and earned her medical degree in 1940. Sturgis became a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1951 and was elected its first female president in 1972. The Katharine R. Sturgis papers house the personal and professional papers of Katharine R. Sturgis. This collection dates from 1852 to 1985, with bulk dates from 1948 to 1979, and includes medical papers (manuscripts and reprints) by Sturgis, many related to lung cancer; notes and texts for speeches and addresses given by Sturgis; reports and memoranda from various institutions and associations; professional correspondence, both with individual colleagues and related to involvement with various groups and institutions; and diplomas and certificates awarded to Sturgis throughout her career.

  • Processing Information note

    The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

    This collection was minimally processed in 2013-2014, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.

    Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections," the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages in 16 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 4 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections or complete any preservation work.

  • Conditions Governing Access note

    This collection is open for research use.

  • Conditions Governing Use note

    Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Archives with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.

  • Preferred Citation note

    [Description and date of item], [Box/folder number], MSS 2/0355-01, Katharine R. Sturgis papers, 1852-1985, Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

  • Administrative history

    Katharine Rosenbaum Guest Boucot Sturgis was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1903. She received her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University and entered the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1935. She was forced to leave school when she contracted tuberculosis, but later resumed her studies and earned her medical degree in 1940. After her internship at the Woman's Medical College Hospital and a residency at Herman Kiefer Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, Sturgis returned to Philadelphia to teach at the Woman's Medical College. Throughout her career she conducted research in the early detection of lung cancer and tuberculosis, and later in life, she waged a vigorous campaign to inform the public of the hazards of smoking. Sturgis became a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1951 and was elected its first female president in 1972. She was forced to retire one year later due to health problems. During her distinguished career, Sturgis also served as the first female president of the Philadelphia County Medical Society and president of the American College of Preventive Medicine. Sturgis died in 1987.

  • Scope and Contents note

    This collection is arranged into four series: “I. Professional service and consulting, 1945-1985,” “II. Writings, addresses, and teaching, 1945-1979,” “III. Personal, 1884-1985,” and “IV. Samuel B. Sturgis, 1852-1979.”

    Series “I. Professional service and consulting” dates from 1945 to 1985, with bulk dates of 1950 to 1975, and contains records of Sturgis’s professional activities and involvement. The series is divided into seven subseries: “Ia. College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 1964-1975,” “Ib. Medical Advisory Board of Girard College, 1973-1976,” “Ic. Philadelphia County Medical Society, 1956-1979,” “Id. City of Philadelphia, circa 1955-1974,” “Ie. Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1953-1965,” “If. Patient visits, 1949-1956,” and “Ig. Professional correspondence, 1945-1985.” Each subseries is arranged chronologically.

    The first five subseries (Ia, Ib, Ic, Id, and Ie) contain records relating to Sturgis’s activities with various medical institutions and health-related organizations. Records of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia focus around her fellowship and presidency, including correspondence and event-planning materials. Records of the Medical Advisory Board of Girard College focus mainly on the efforts of the college to obtain comprehensive medical services for its students, and includes board minutes and related memoranda, correspondence, and legal agreements. Records of the Philadelphia County Medical Society mainly consist of correspondence and minutes relating to air pollution. Work with the City of Philadelphia was more varied, focusing on air quality, lung cancer, tuberculosis, and anti-smoking initiatives. These records also document the annual chest x-ray program in place in Philadelphia at the time. The records of the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania document Sturgis’s time as a professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine, but mainly consist of annual departmental reports, as well as some records on traineeships and fellowships.

    The records of subseries “If. Patient visits,” dating from 1955 to 1956, contain patient notebooks and evidence Sturgis’s work with lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. The notebooks track patient progress over a number of years and include notes on their health and diagrams of their lungs.

    Subseries “Ig. Professional correspondence” dates from 1945 to 1985 and includes letters and correspondence, and other related professional materials on a wide variety of topics. Many of the files in this subseries contain correspondence with one or more individuals and can cover a variety of subjects over a period of time. Topics include speaking engagements, papers, recommendation letters, student fellowships, and more. Consulting and other work completed with various organizations is also significant here, including work done with the Lackawanna County Medical Society, the American College of Preventive Medicine, the American Medical Association, the Environmental Health Sciences Advisory Committee, the American Academy of Occupational Medicine, and the American Cancer Society. Correspondence and reports relating to her term as editor of the Archives of Environmental Health and as an accreditation surveyor at Yale University are also of note. Of particular interest among her consulting efforts is work completed with chemical manufacturer Rohm and Haas, which focuses on a large number of cancer-related deaths among their employees, as well as her involvement in a legal case relating to air pollution in Brookhaven, Pennsylvania.

    Series “II. Writings, addresses, and teaching” dates from 1945 to 1979. This series contains manuscript copies of articles and addresses, presentation papers and materials, notes, related correspondence, and teaching materials, such as lecture notes and x-ray films. Most of the materials in this series correspond directly to Sturgis’s work on tuberculosis, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases, especially those caused by air pollution and smoking. Some of the presentations and speeches focus on occupational health, colleague remembrances and tributes, and even her own life. This series also traces some of her work within radiology departments to survey adults for chest disease on a large scale. The lectures and teaching materials, which come from graduate courses at the University of Pennsylvania, reflect this work, specifically in relation to the use of x-rays in the fight against tuberculosis. The series also contains article reprints and clippings as well as statements made to various government departments challenging relaxed air pollutant regulations, evidencing her dedication to preserving clean air and exposing the dangers of air pollution to public health. This series is arranged chronologically.

    Series “IV. Samuel B. Sturgis” dates from 1852 to 1979, with bulk dates of 1914 to 1952. The records in this series belonged to Katharine Sturgis’ husband, Samuel B. Sturgis, and include correspondence, education materials, addresses, pamphlets, photographs, and other various records. Most of these originate as a result of Samuel Sturgis’s duties as head of the College of Physicians Department of Medical Art, for which Sturgis collected a great number of paintings, prints, and other artwork. Most of the correspondence is in regards to soliciting donations for the collection, consulting with other collectors or museums, or about Sturgis’s own personal collection. Catalogs and pamphlets from other medical art exhibits, including from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, can be found in this series, along with a large number of catalog lists created by Sturgis regarding the contents of the College of Physicians’ collections, although most are undated. There are also loose clippings and lists regarding College of Physicians Fellows who served during World War I, and correspondence with and regarding the Kerhuon Hospital Center and army hospital during World War I. Some of this correspondence is in regards to Sturgis’s status for possible service during World War II. Of note is some original artwork by Herman Faber. This series provides a wealth of evidence regarding Samuel B. Sturgis’s activities collecting artwork for the College of Physicians, and includes rich documentation of how he solicited to build the collection, as well as his activities with the College outside of the Department of Medical Art. The series highlights many of the accomplishments of Samuel Sturgis’s career, with pages from three scrapbooks made up of various letters, clippings, and photographs of significant events and people during his lifetime. This series is arranged chronologically.

    This collection is particularly important because it showcases the influential work done by Katharine Sturgis over the course of her career, leading up to her installment as the first female president of the College of Physicians. Her work emphasizing the dangers of smoking and air pollution is particularly well represented here, as well as many of her activities with different medical societies in Philadelphia. The correspondence helps detail relationships between the College of Physicians and other medical groups in Philadelphia, as well as relationships between Sturgis and her colleagues. This provides unique insight into the Philadelphia medical community and especially regarding opinions towards air pollution and smoking. The Samuel B. Sturgis papers reveal details on the development of the College of Physicians’ Department of Medical Art and the growth of that collection through his efforts as head of that department. Aside from highlighting Katharine Sturgis’s influential work on smoking and air pollution, this collection provides important information about the role of women in the medical community and the advances and challenges experienced by Sturgis in particular.