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Records of the United States Marine Hospital

Identifier: MSS 1/002-01

Scope and Contents

The bulk of this extensive collection of records of the United States Marine Hospital in Philadelphia is comprised of the hospital's records of incoming patients seeking treatment and relief (1875-1909). Most of these records were kept by Surgeons James M. Gassaway and George W. Stoner. The collection also includes reports of the hospital's activities, correspondence, property returns and supply records, and some miscellaneous material, including issues of the U.S. Surgeon General's "Bulletin of the public health".

Series 1 contains records of patients treated through the Marine Hospital, primarily during the period 1876-1883 although there are a few records from 1898 and 1909. This series consists of some clinical records of individual cases, listing patient's name and age, disease, and temperature (August November 1881, June July 1883, October 1906, and April and October 1909); discharges (July 1880September 1883, January 1898, and October 1909); permits for hospital or office relief, certifying each seaman's employment on board ship, payment of dues, and right to treatment (January 1876-January 1877, January 1878-November 1883, January 1898, and April and October 1909); prescriptions (October 1875-May 1877, July 1879-September 1883, and April and October 1909); and rejections of applications for treatment, generally due to fraud or nonpayment of dues (January 1878-November 1879, July 1880-September 1883 and January 1898). Most of these records are filed in a numerical sequence by case or permit number; this sequence approximates chronological order. The administrative year of the hospital began on 1 July, so the numbering of permits begins from that date within each year. The series also contains two seamen's time books, kept by the masters of the vessels "Ida Florence" and the "Annie W. Carey", recording the names and dates of employment of each sailor and payment of hospital dues (1879-1882 and 1881-1882).

Monthly summary reports of relief provided by the Marine Hospital are contained in Series 2. Each hospital which housed seamen was required to file a statistical report on illnesses and injuries treated each month. In addition to reports on office relief from the station at Philadelphia, the series contains reports from Pennsylvania Hospital and the hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania, Jefferson Medical College, and the Protestant Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. The series also contains annual reports on surgical operations performed at those four hospital (18761878 and 1880), and a few examples of other reports, including an 1864 list of Marine Hospital patients at Pennsylvania Hospital and Episcopal Hospital.

Series 3 contains seven folders of correspondence, filed chronologically, concerning patients or station supply matters (1877-1885, and 1888).

A few examples of the hospital's property returns (18761881) and supply requisitions and invoices are housed in Series 4.

The bulk of the miscellaneous material in Series 5 is composed of mimeographed issues of the U.S. Surgeon General's "Bulletin of the public health", a weekly summary of reports on disease and mortality from marine hospital stations around the country (1878-1879). There are also some examples of bills of health (1863-1931) and entries of merchandise (1871 and 1877); some undated examination questions and responses, possibly for applicants to the Marine Hospital Service; and an 1882 house diet list from Jefferson Medical College Hospital.


  • 1875 - 1909


Biographical / Historical

On 16 July 1798, the United States Congress established the Marine Hospital Service under the Treasury Department for the benefit of sick and disabled members of the mercantile marine. Each seaman was assessed a tax of 40 cents per month, and these dues were fed into a hospital fund which paid for the Service. The first marine hospital opened at Washington Point, Virginia, in 1800.

The Service was reorganized in 1870. Its activities were standardized under the Supervising Surgeon. The Service was divided into stations with functioning marine hospitals and relief stations where seamen were admitted to local hospitals for treatment; Philadelphia was a relief station of the first class. Each station of this type was under the supervision of a Surgeon. Duties of this officer included: examination of applicants for relief; prescription of medicine; issuance of permits for hospital relief; maintenance of records of the hospital; inspection of hospitals where seamen were admitted; observation of all quarantine regulations; and reporting of any outbreaks of disease. The Surgeon had authority over all staff and was responsible for the efficient conduct of the station and maintenance of its hospital stores. The Surgeon also supervised office relief, the treatment of seamen who did not require hospitalization. By 1881, board, nursing, and medicine were furnished solely by the Hospital of Jefferson Medical College, but by 1886, the hospital functions at Philadelphia were assumed by the German [later, Lankenau] Hospital.

In 1885, national quarantine duties were added to the Surgeon's responsibilities. By 1893, medical officers at each station worked closely with consuls to oversee the sanitary conditions of incoming vessels, cargo, and crew. In 1902, the name of the Marine Hospital Service was changed to the "Public Health and Marine Hospital Service" to reflect the growing concern with quarantine regulations, hygienic standards and research, and inspection of immigrants. In 1912, the Service was absorbed into the U.S. Public Health Service which held responsibility for all nonmilitary aspects of public health and disease.


9 Linear feet (22 boxes)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

This collection of records of the United States Marine Hospital at Philadelphia was donated to the Historical Collections of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia by Samuel X Radbill in 1984.

The collection was processed and catalogued in 1989.
Records of the United States Marine Hospital
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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