Skip to main content

George Bacon Wood letters to Caroline Wood

Identifier: MSS 2/039-03

Scope and Contents

This collection, spanning 1856 to 1858, consists of signed autograph letters sent by George Bacon Wood to his wife, Caroline, while she was visiting family in Greenwich, New Jersey. In these letters, Wood describes the events at home in Philadelphia, including his lectures at the University of Pennsylvania; the visits of friends, family members, and students; the progress of his latest book; and meetings of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Other letters in the collection were written when Wood attended the 1856 and 1858 sessions of the American Medical Association, held in Detroit and Washington, D.C., respectively.

At the time the letters were written, Wood was working on a new book, A treatise on therapeutics and pharmacology (1856), which he refers to in his letters as "Miss Therapeutics". In his letter of 31 August 1856, Wood discusses the distribution of the book and its dedication to Franklin Bache. At the same time, Wood was preparing the fifth edition of his A treatise on the practice of medicine; in his letter of 20 October 1857, he claims that "Mr. Lippincott is anxious to get [it] out as soon as possible". Several other visits from publisher J. B. Lippincott are documented in the letters.

Wood's letters also contain information about the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. He mentions Thomas D. Mutter and his gift to the College on several occasions. In his letter of 25 June 1856, Wood discusses the rumors surrounding the extent of Mutter's gift and he mentions the "Mutter and Betton business" in his letter of 29 October 1856. Wood wrote on 6 November 1856, "for the present there is, I hope, and end of these benefact[ors?], though I should not be surprised if, after all, something good should grow out of Dr. Mutter's proposal".

Wood also frequently mentions other Fellows of the College, including his friends Franklin Bache, Thomas Story Kirkbride, and Caspar Wistar. In his letter of 15 October 1857, Wood describes a visit to the Mitchell home, presumably the home of John K. Mitchell and his son, S. Weir Mitchell, who was only twenty eight at the time. In the letter, Wood describes the poor health of the elder Mitchell, who had suffered a stroke in 1856. In another letter of 5 October 1858, Wood writes that he has received a note "containing Dr. Weir Mitchel's [sic] card". The letters of May 1856 and May 1858 were written during Wood's attendance at the annual sessions of the American Medical Association. Wood, president of the organization from 1855 to 1856, describes how he surrendered the office to Zina Pitcher and gave a farewell speech at the 1856 meeting in Detroit. The 1858 session, held at thejSmithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., is described in Wood's letters of May 1858. Wood mentions meeting Paul F. Eve, president of the American Medical Association from 1857 to 1858, and Harvey Lindsly, who was elected the new president of the organization at the Washington, D.C., meeting. Also of special interest is Wood's letter of 6 May 1858, in which he provides a detailed description of the exterior and interior of the United States Capitol.

Other letters of note include Wood's correspondence of 31 August 1856 in which he mentions that he will be giving the address at the laying of the foundation stone of the new Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane. Also of interest is Wood's letter of 23 October 1856, which mentions an injunction against the author and publisher of "Eclectic Dispensatory". Wood could be referring to one of two works by John King, The eclectic dispensatory of the United States of America (1852) or The American eclectic dispensatory (1854). As Wood explains in his letter of 29 October 1856, the injunction was granted and the sale of the book was suspended. Wood, who authored a book with a similar title, The dispensatory of the United States (1833), does not mention why the injunction was requested.


  • 1856 - 1858


Biographical / Historical

George Bacon Wood was born in Greenwich, New Jersey, on 12 March 1797; he was the son of Richard and Elizabeth Bacon Wood. George B. Wood married Caroline Hahn (d. 1867) on 2 April 1823. Wood died in Philadelphia on 30 March 1879.

In 1815, George B. Wood received his A.B. from the University of Pennsylvania. He then studied medicine under Joseph Parrish and attended courses at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his A.M. and M.D. from the University in 1818. Wood's thesis was on dyspepsia. After his graduation, Wood lectured on materia medica at Joseph Parrish's Association for Medical Instruction.

George B. Wood was one of the founders of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in 1821. He was Professor of Chemistry at the College (1822-1831), then Professor of Materia Medica and Pharmacy (1831-1835). Wood resigned from the College in 1835, to become Professor of Materia Medica and Pharmacy at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1850, he became Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the University and held that position until his retirement in 1860. Wood was Attending Physician at Pennsylvania Hospital (1835-1859) and President of the Board of Managers (18741879). From 1850 to 1860, Wood was also chairman of the Committee on the Revision of the United States Pharmacopoeia. In 1865, he helped to organize the Auxiliary Faculty of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Wood wrote several books, including The dispensatory of the United States (1833), The history of the University of Pennsylvania (1834), A treatise on the practice of medicine (1847), and A treatise on therapeutics and pharmacology, or materia medica (1856).

George B. Wood became a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1827 and was President from 1848 to 1879. Wood was also a President of the American Philosophical Society (1859-1879) and the American Medical Association (1855-1856).


3 folders

Language of Materials


Custodial History

The letters of George Bacon Wood to Caroline H. Wood were separated from Wood's undated holograph manuscript, "Notes on the subject of Christianity in India", catalogued as 10d/151, on 8 October 1991; the source of the letters is uncertain, but the collection may have been donated to the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia by Horatio C. Wood, the donor of the manuscript, in September 1942.

The collection was processed and catalogued in 1991.
George Bacon Wood letters to Caroline Wood
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

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