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Traill Green papers

Identifier: MSS 2/221

Scope and Contents

This collection of the personal papers of Traill Green (1813-1897), spanning 1845 to 1868, consists of correspondence, case descriptions of patients, a committee report, the transcript of a speech, excerpts from published materials, and other miscellaneous items.

Series 1, spanning 1845 to 1857, consists of letters written and received by Traill Green, many of which are drafts. Of special interest in the correspondence are Green's letters pertaining to the remains of a mastodon giganteum that were discovered in New Jersey in September 1851. Green had acquired these remains and was storing them in his house, hoping that an institution in Easton would purchase them. This plan was unsuccessful, and Green began contacting institutions abroad. In his letter of 20 January 1852 to Louis W. Zimmern of the Heidelberg Mineralogy Institute, Green suggests that the mastodon could be purchased or perhaps traded for minerals. In his second letter to Zimmern (31 January 1852), Green provides detailed dimensions, including a drawing, of the mastodon's bones and tusks. Also included is a letter (10 February 1852) to Sir Richard Owen, a British naturalist who later became Superintendent of the Natural History Department of the British Museum.

Much of the correspondence in Series 1 documents Green's vital role in the community of Easton. The letters of 11 July 1855, 29 August 1855, and 21 September 1857 relate to his position as the President of the Board of Directors of the Easton Cemetery. Three letters written in November 1856 document Green's involvement in the establishment of a high school for girls in Easton. In his letter to the Easton Board of School Directors, Green writes that "the spirit of the age, the position now occupied by females in social life, and the good name of our borough, all demand a female school of the first class". Also included is correspondence to and from Seth I. Tharp, the first director of Easton's Female High School.

Some of Green's correspondence pertains to medical issues; in a letter addressed to the Sanitary Committee of the Borough of Easton (25 August 1854), Green expresses his disapproval of the treatment of cholera patients. In the same letter, Green praises the nurses "who have been faithful in their office" during the cholera epidemic. In another letter, also addressed to the Borough of Easton, Green voices his concerns about the unsanitary condition of Spring Garden Street, his residence in Easton.

Series 2 contains case descriptions of two of Green's patients. Included is Green's report of a woman suffering jfrom an illness which caused convulsions and nausea (24 November 1854-29 June 1855); included in the report are the drafts of three letters to D. N. Reese, a physician Green was consulting in the case. Also present is a report of a man who dislocated the metatarsal bones in his foot (23 January 1857). This rare injury was attended to by Green and another physician, Edward Swift. The details of the case appear in Samuel D. Gross's System of Surgery (1859).

Miscellaneous material is contained in Series 3. The report of the Medical Society of Northampton County's Committee on "Clerico Medical Examiners" expresses Green's disapproval of clerics who attempted to practice medicine without the proper training and qualifications. Also of note is a transcript of a speech given by William C. Cattell, President of Lafayette College, on the dedication of Lafayette's observatory. Traill Green had donated the money for the building on the condition that his gift remain anonymous. In the speech, Cattell explains that he was "not permitted to give the name of the founder of the O[bservatory] but that [the founder's] name would ever be green in the memory of the friends of the college". Also contained in Series 3 is a brief genealogy of the Traill family.


  • 1845 - 1868


Biographical / Historical

Traill Green, the son of Benjamin Green and Elizabeth Traill, was born in Easton, Pennsylvania, on 25 May 1813. He was educated at Easton Union Academy and Minerva Academy, both in Easton, and he received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1835. After graduation, Green was appointed the physician of the Fifth Street Dispensary in Philadelphia.

Throughout his medical career, Traill Green maintained an interest in the natural sciences. Chemistry, mineralogy, paleontology, geology, and zoology were among his favorite fields of study. He practiced medicine in Philadelphia for less than a year before returning to Easton to teach chemistry at Lafayette College. In 1841, Green accepted a position to teach the natural sciences at Marshall College in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. He returned to Easton in 1848 as the Chair of the Chemistry Department of Lafayette College; also during this year, Green started a private practice in Easton.

Green was actively involved in the community affairs of his hometown. He was the first president of the Board of Directors of the Easton Cemetery and was a member of the Board of Control of the Easton School District from 1856 to 1866. During this time, Green became an instrumental figure in the establishment of a Female High School in Easton. Throughout his lifetime, he remained a strong proponent of equal educational and professional opportunities for women.

Green was made Dean of the Scientific Department of Lafayette College in 1869 and became a Trustee of the college in 1882. In addition to his academic pursuits, Green remained active in the medical profession. He founded the Medical Society of Northampton County in 1849, was elected president of the Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania in 1867, and became the first president of the American Academy of Medicine in 1876. In April 1876, Green became an Associate Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Traill Green died on 29 April 1897.


3 folders (42 items)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Small collections

Custodial History

This collection of Traill Green papers was purchased through a gift of the Samuel Lewis Circle by the Historical Collections of the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia from Carmen D. Valentino Rare Books Manuscripts on 20 September 1991.

The collection was processed and catalogued in 1991.
Traill Green papers
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Repository

19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States