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St. John W. Mintzer papers

Identifier: MSS 2/019

Scope and Contents

This extensive collection of the papers of St.John Watkins Mintzer documents the life and career of a 19th century physician, soldier, and businessman. Although the bulk of the papers concern his administration of Civil War hospitals, the collection also contains information about the operation of Philadelphia's eclectic medical schools, the work of the Freedmen's Bureau in Texas and Mississippi, and some unusual business ventures of the day.

Materials preserved in Series 1 concern Mintzer's family and personal life, his medical education, and his personal correspondence (1849-1912). In addition to some family correspondence, this series also contains Mintzer's passport, marriage certificate, and diplomas, biographical information, and information on his wife and two children. One curious item in the personal correspondence is a letter, dated 28 May, 1849, from a Richmond firm, Pulliam and Sloan, listing prices for slaves. The collection of personal correspondence also contains a letter, dated 12 August 1863, from William Craig to Mintzer giving a detailed description of the action and casualties of the 26th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, during the Battle of Gettysburg (1-3 July, 1863). Philadelphia physicians are represented in the collection by a small but notable folder of letters, 1894-1895, from David Denison Stewart, a Fellow of the College of Physicians, concerning Mintzer's health and final illness. Included are an assessment of Mintzer's health by W.W. Keen, whom Stewart apparently consulted, and letters describing Stewart's views on abortion. Mintzer's correspondence also contains one undated letter from Constantin Hering.

Series 2 gives information about Mintzer's brief tenures at the Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania and Penn Medical College. There is a small collection of letters, 1853-1855, from John Fondey, whose faculty appointment at the Eclectic College Mintzer seems to have promoted. Mintzer's stormy relationship with Penn Medical College is documented through his correspondence, 1853-1854, with Abraham Livezey, Dean of the Faculty. This series also contains admission cards to Mintzer's lectures at the two schools.

Information about the incorporation and objectives of the proposed American Medical Museum of Philadelphia is preserved in Series 3. Mintzer was very active in promoting this project and seems to have campaigned tirelessly for its incorporation.

The bulk of the Mintzer Papers is contained in Series 4 which documents Mintzer's activities during the Civil War. Series 4.1 is a fine collection of letters, 1860-1863, Mintzer wrote to his friend and business associate, Thomas E. Vinduzer in Philadelphia. Most of these letters were written while Mintzer was with the 26th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, in Virginia or in charge of the U.S.A. General Hospital at McMinnville, Tennessee. These letters not only give a fine account of Mintzer and his experiences but also describe daily camp life and give some information about Mintzer's false teeth business venture. One letter, dated 8 May, 1863, gives a brief account of the Battle of Chancellorsville (2 May, 1863).

Series 4.2 is an extensive collection of correspondence, official orders, reports, and documents for the requisitioning and receipt of medical and hospital supplies from Mintzer during his term as Surgeon with the 26th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers (1861-1863). These documents give a detailed, statistical view of daily medical administration of a Civil War company. One notable item is Mintzer's 5 July 1862 extensive report to the Surgeon General concerning camp life and experiences.

Similar materials are preserved in Series 4.3 through 4.6; each series deals with a different phase of Mintzer's military career and his administration of the U.S.A. General Hospitals at McMinnville, Tennessee (1863-1864), Beverly, New Jersey (1864), South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1864-1865), and York, Pennsylvania (18641865). The McMinnville hospital papers include an interesting account of the unconditional surrender of the hospital to the Confederate forces on 3 October, 1863. The collections of administrative materials from the Beverly and South Street hospitals are very small since Mintzer was in charge of those facilities for only brief periods. The collection of documents from the hospital at York are, however, very extensive. In addition to conveying hospital and stores supply information, these papers also contain information about laundresses employed by the hospital, detailed ward measurements and a ground plan of the hospital complex, and even an 1865 issue of the camp newspaper, "The Cartridge Box". Included in Series 4.6 is an 1864 edition of the U.S. War Department's printed regulations for filing returns of ordnance and ordnance stores; this item explains the nature and purpose of many of the reports and official documents preserved in Series 4. Several photographs of the York hospital are preserved in Series 11.

Mintzer's experiences after the war with the U.S. War Department's Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands are documented in Series 5 (1865-1870). The Bureau was created to administer lands, arbitrate disputes, and assure the rights of the freedmen. Series 5 describes conditions in Texas after the Civil War through correspondence and Mintzer's reports on the general health of the freedmen. Some financial correspondence, concerning Mintzer's private interests and investments in Texas, is included. The situation of the freedmen in the Vicksburg, Mississippi, area in 1867 is also described. An extensive collections of photographs of the Vicksburg area, including images of the estate of Joseph Emory Davis, eldest brother of Jefferson Davis and accounted one of the wealthiest men in the South, is preserved in Series 11.

Series 6 documents the various business and financial ventures with which Mintzer was involved during his life. There are a few items relating to his false teeth business with Thomas E. Vinduzer and also a small collection of correspondence and related materials, 18721877, concerning the production of the Sluthour Pump and the Oscillating Pump Company, formed by Mintzer to market the invention. Other business ventures, including Mintzer's brief experience as Acting Superintendent of the American Department at the 1873 Universal Exposition in Vienna and his investment in the Automatic Overseaming Buttonhole Machine Company in the 1880s, are described through correspondence and other materials.

Series 7 through 9 are quite small collections of documents. Series 7 contains Mintzer's application materials for a position on the Board of Examining Surgeons of the U.S. Department of the Interior's Pension Bureau in 1893. Series 8 is comprised of some miscellaneous legal subpoenas and summonses, 1863-1871. Property records relating to Mintzer's home, "China Hall", in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, are preserved in Series 9.

Mintzer's activities and involvement in various non professional organizations, such as the Welsh Society and the Franklin Institute, are documented in Series 10 (1855-1893). There is very little material in this series other than certificates of membership, some printed materials, and occasional items of correspondence.

The Mintzer Papers also contain a fine, small collection of photographs, mostly mounted albumen prints or tintypes, in Series 11. Aside from images of Mintzer himself, most of the photographs of individuals are not identified. The collection does, however, contain three photographs of the U.S.A. General Hospital at York, Pennsylvania, from Mintzer's time there as well as twenty three views of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and its environs, probably dating from 1867, the time of Mintzer's work in that area for the Freedmen's Bureau. [See the attached list for a detailed catalogue of these photographs.]

Some miscellaneous printed items, 1851-1885, and a large collection of calling cards and invitations, probably relics of Mintzer's European trips in 1867 and 1873, are preserved in Series 12.


  • 1847 - 1912


Biographical / Historical

St. John Watkins Mintzer, Philadelphia surgeon and businessman, was born in Philadelphia in 1829. In 1889, late in life, he married Frances Wallace, a physician; they had two children, Watkins F. (b.1889) and Anna Maria (b.1892). Mintzer died of cancer of the throat at his home, "China Hall", in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on 26 December, 1894.

Mintzer appears to have attended medical lectures at both Jefferson Medical College and the Homeopathic Medical College, but he received his M.D. from the Philadelphia College of Medicine in 1850. He received an additional degree, Doctor of Eclectic Medicine, from the Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1854.

Following the completion of his studies, Mintzer began to teach. He was Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at the newly incorporated Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania from 1851 to 1853; in 1853, he became Professor of Institutes and Practices of Surgery. In 1852, Mintzer was named a trustee of the Eclectic. Mintzer seems to have severed his connections with the Eclectic at the College's suggestion in July, 1854.

Mintzer's career at the Penn Medical College is difficult to document. He was elected to the Chair of Anatomy in September, 1853, and appears to have given lectures on anatomy in the Female Session during the autumn of 1853. Mintzer does not appear to have been paid for his employment, however, and left the College, probably at the end of the fall session.

Mintzer also spoke on syphilitic diseases at the fifth annual meeting of the National Eclectic Medical Association, held in Worcester, Connecticut, in May, 1854.

During the years after leaving the eclectic schools, Mintzer's activities are uncertain. He was a motivating force behind the organization of the American Medical Museum of Philadelphia; although incorporated by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1854, the museum does not appear to have ever opened, and the project was abandoned in 1857. In conjunction with Thomas E. Vinduzer, Mintzer also formed a company to sell false teeth at this time. This enterprise persisted through the Civil War.

St. John W. Mintzer was appointed Acting Surgeon for the 1st Regiment, Washington Brigade, on 20 April, 1861, and Assistant Surgeon on 11 May, 1861. By June, he had become Surgeon to the 26th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, and was present while this unit was campaigning in Virginia. He held this post during the Battle of Chancellorsville and was present at battles fought under General Joseph Hooker. In June, 1863, Mintzer was appointed Surgeon of the U.S. Volunteers and was in the Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee. In July of that year, he was given the charge of the U.S.A. General Hospital at McMinnville, Tennessee. That hospital surrendered unconditionally to the forces of the Confederate States of America on 3 October, 1863. In April, 1864, Mintzer was appointed Surgeon inChief to the General Hospital on South Street, in Philadelphia; he was also subsequently commissioned to establish a hospital at Beverly, New Jersey, in the summer of 1864. On 24 August, 1864, Mintzer was again reassigned and took charge of the General Hospital in York, Pennsylvania; he held the post of Surgeon in Chief of this hospital for the duration of the war.

After the war, Mintzer was assigned to the U.S. War Department's Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, Department of Texas, and went to Galveston as Surgeon in Chief of the State of Texas in October, 1865. He was transferred to the Department of Mississippi at Vicksburg in March, 1867. He was relieved of duty and mustered out of service on 24 May, 1867.

After his service in the Freedmen's Bureau, Mintzer's movements again become uncertain, although he probably travelled to Paris in 1867. Upon his return to Philadelphia, he seems to have abandoned the medical profession and turned rather to business ventures. He became involved with the promotion of an invention called the "Sluthour Pump" and organized the Oscillating Pump Company in the 1870s to market this product. Mintzer was president of the company and exhibited the Sluthour Pump at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. The company was sold in 1877. In 1873, Mintzer was commissioned as Acting Superintendent to receive, open, and arrange the American Department's exhibits at the Universal Exposition in Vienna, Austria. In the 1880s, Mintzer became a stockholder in the Philadelphia based Automatic Overseaming Buttonhole Machine Company; this company appears to have failed in 1886.

Late in his life, circa 1885, until his death in 1894, St. John W. Mintzer maintained an active medical practice in Philadelphia.


3 Cubic Feet (9 boxes)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

The Mintzer Papers were donated to the Historical Collections of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia by Robert L. Trescher of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker, and Rhoads on 20 October, 1986. Earlier owners of the papers are not identified, although it seems likely that the collection was in the possession of St.John W. Mintzer's daughter, Anna M. Mintzer, at some point. A detailed inventory of the collection was made by Marion B. Sandell of Wayne, Pennsylvania, in 1973. Several items listed on this inventory were not included in the collection at the time of its donation. An appraisal of the collection was made by Catherine Barnes in October, 1986.

The collection was processed during May and June, 1989. During processing, duplicate materials (particularly in Series 4) were removed and discarded.

Separated materials - oversize

Flat file no. 1, drawer 1

Contents: 8 certificates and diplomas
St. John W. Mintzer papers
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