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Records of the Philadelphia Dermatologic Society

Identifier: MSS 3/007
The collection of the Philadelphia Dermatological Society contains minutes, corporate documents, secretarial correspondence, membership and financial records, and material relating to the Atlantic Dermatological Conference, principally the meetings held in Philadelphia. It presents a fairly comprehensive view of the activities and interests of the organization through about forty of its ninety years of existence. The early records apparently have not survived; except for a copy of the 1923 by laws, this collection spans the years 1936-1980.

The existing minutes of the monthly and annual business and scientific sessions of the PDS, November 1936 April 1979, are contained in Series 1. Business meeting minutes are more complete; however, there are none between May 1953 and May 1963, nor for much of 1968/69, 1974/75, and 1975/76. Scattered files of clinical case presentation protocols and scientific transactions, October 1962 April 1979, provide interesting insight into the practice and progress of dermatology.

Surviving corporate documents, filed in Series 2, include several drafts and printed versions of early by laws, 19231968, as well as copies of the articles of incorporation, approved July 15, 1970, and proposed corporate by laws, November 1971. The final version, modified and apparently accepted in October 1972, is not included. Rules of the Society, unchanged (even the dues) at least from 1935 to 1965, outline rotation in office and order of business. A detailed outline of the extensive duties of the secretarytreasurer, compiled by President James Graham in 1967, is also included in this series.

Series 3 contains correspondence, largely of some seventeen secretary treasurers from 1948 to 1979. (Refer to Appendix 1 for a partial list of secretary treasurers). Since the same members rotated through the various offices, otherjoffices are also represented. Correspondence between June 1953 and October 1959 is missing, and that relating to membership or finance has largely been filed with Series 4 or 5 respectively. The letters illustrate the varied responsibilities of the secretary treasurer's office outlined in Series 2, as well as the activities and attitudes of the Society, and its relationship to other dermatological organizations (Atlantic Dermatological Conference, American Dermatological Society, International Congress of Dermatology, and Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology).

Membership lists from 1943 to 1956 and 1965 to 1970 have been retained in Series 4, along with completed applications and some related correspondence, 1940-1957 and 1960-1977. Occasional information relating to members, deaths and changes of address, for example, may be found within the correspondence in Series 3.

A fairly solid financial record of the organization survives in Series 5. Two check books cover the entire period from 1944 to 1973. A ledger covering the early years, 19361962/63, includes annual statements, dues [i.e. membership] lists, and a record of military service in World War II. The ledger is updated by audited financial reports for the years 1967-1972, 1974, and 1976-1979. Files of additional financial records and correspondence, 1963-1979, have also been retained.

Series 6 reflects PDS involvement with the annual Atlantic Dermatological Conference, of which it was a founding member. Included are a copy of the original articles of agreement, summaries of Executive Council actions 1923-1965, and uneven files of material relating to specific conferences, primarily those held in Philadelphia (1943, 1959, 1966, 1973, 1980.) Variously included are Executive Council minutes; programs; and material on planning, finances, attendance, local arrangements, etc. Additional Conference material appears throughout the PDS business minutes and correspondence files.

Series 7 houses files on such miscellaneous topics as the 1941 censorship of Dr. Patricia Drant by the Philadelphia County Medical Society for "advertising," and an 18-question 1966 membership survey, with responses, regarding affairs of the Society. Also included are two newsletters of the Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology, 1971-72, which include by laws changes, officers, and a list of members.

Supplementary files of miscellaneous material (programs, publications, etc.) of the Philadelphia Dermatological Society, the Atlantic Dermatological Conference, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology may be found in the general collections of the Library of the College ofjPhysicians of Philadelphia.


  • 1936 - 1980



3 Linear feet (8 boxes)

Biographical / Historical

According to pioneer member Herbert J. Smith, M.D., the Philadelphia Dermatological Society was founded, probably in 1900, by six of the leading dermatologists in America: Drs. Louis A. Duhring (father of Philadelphia dermatology,) Arthur Van Harlingen, Henry W. Stelwagon, John V. Shoemaker, Milton B. Hartzell, and Jay Frank Schamberg. Although its early records have been lost, its significance as a gathering of giants in a major world center of dermatology is evident throughout Friedman's History of Dermatology in Philadelphia (Froben Press, 1955.)

Incorporated on July 15, 1970, the Society's purposes, as stated in the articles of incorporation, were establishment of an association of specialists in the field of dermatology and related fields on the basis of good fellowship; collection and dissemination of information and the presentment of scientific material relating primarily to dermatology and allied fields; fostering of professional zeal and higher professional standards; furthering, by study, analysis, experimentation, research and publication, the knowledge of disease and the application of such knowledge to the prevention and treatment of disease; and generally the elevation of standards in the field of dermatology.

Early meetings of the Society were held monthly from October through May at members' hospitals or the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, with case presentations followed by "spirited" discussion, a format retained at least until 1979. The 1968 by laws specified a minimum of six regular meetings, including an annual meeting in May for election of officers. A Scientific Program Committee, first chaired by Dr. Meyer L. Niedelman, was formed in November 1959.

After 1935, membership included associate, active, and honorary categories, with active membership restricted in 1946 to diplomates of the American Board of Dermatology and Syphilology. At the organization's 50th anniversary, in 1951, membership totaled 82; by February 1979 it had risen to 194. The Society has remained active to the present time [1990].

In 1923, the New York, New England, and Philadelphia Dermatological Societies established a joint annual meeting to be known as the Atlantic Dermatological Conference. jOther eastern and Canadian groups joined the conference later, by 1980 a total of ten. Scientific proceedings of the annual conferences from 1925, and those of the Philadelphia Dermatological Society from 1921, were published selectively in the Archives of Dermatology until 1979.

The Philadelphia Dermatological Society was also responsible for the formation of a statewide organization, to be "a voice for dermatology in Pennsylvania," the Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology. The Academy was organized in 1968 by a committee of the PDS chaired by Harry J. Hurley, M.D. The Academy holds annual scientific meetings, and by 1986 it boasted a membership of 245.

Custodial History

The archival records of the Philadelphia Dermatological Society, 1923-1980, were donated to the Historical Collections of the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia by the Society in September 1989. Previously, the collection had been stored in the home of Dr. Peter Koblenzer, 1812 Delancey Place, Philadelphia.

The collection was processed and catalogued by Barbara Williams in 1990.

Since there was no original order discernible in this collection, and since the collection is so small, the records have been reorganized by type during processing. Duplicates and routine materials, such as dues receipts; cancelled checks; bank statements; deposit slips; bills or vouchers for such routine functions as printing, supplies, and secretarial services; and some routine correspondence have been removed.
Records of the Philadelphia Dermatologic Society

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