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Records of the Office of the Secretary of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

 Collection
Identifier: CPP 1/002-01
This collection of records, spanning 1854 to 1909, consists of backup files maintained by the secretaries of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia to provide additional documentation of College meetings. The collection includes rough drafts of minutes, attendance sheets, ballot forms, election tallies, and correspondence. Also present are recommendations of physicians for fellowship, amendments of by-laws, lists of books donated to the Library, and resolutions; much of this material is written on small slips of paper which presumably were handed to the secretary during meetings. In many cases, these records provide a more accurate and candid description of the tone and proceedings of College meetings than do the official College minutes, which were frequently reduced and edited. Included in the collection are the records maintained by five secretaries of the College: W. S. W. Ruschenberger (1854), Alfred Stille (1854-1857), Edward Hartshorne (1858-1861), Richard A. Cleemann (1879-1884) and Thomas R. Neilson (1896- 1914). During Alfred Stille's term as secretary, Thoaas Dent Mutter first approached the College with his desire to establish a pathological museum. At a special meeting on 19 June 1856, the College formed a coamittee to consider his proposal, but little progress was made due to Mutter's sudden departure from the country. Apparently, some Fellows were disturbed by Mutter's "disappearance" and felt that he had made an offer to the College only to withdraw it. At the meeting on 4 March 1857, a letter froa Mutter, then living in Nice, was read to the College. The letter, which appears in Stille's records but is not copied into the official College minutes, explains that Mutter was required by ill health to retire to a warmer climate, but before leaving had created a trust which would provide the funds necessary for the establishment of the museum. In his letter, Mutter makes it clear that he always intended to keep his promise to the College, Mutter's lengthy correspondence and a document from his lawyer explaining the conditions of his trust are filed with the minutes from the 4 March 1857 meeting. Also of note in the minutes of 1856 and 1857 are several letters from Thomas F. Betton. Betton wanted to donate his library to the College, as well as set up a "Betton prize" to be administered by the College. In his letters of 3 September 1856 and 1 October 1856, Betton describes the numerous stipulations that had to be •et before he would make his donation. The College held a special meeting on 17 September 1856 and formed a committee to consider Betton's offer. The committee, perhaps disgruntled by Betton's demands or by his failure to attend a meeting arranged by them, refused to pursue the issue any further. Betton, obviously insulted, submitted a letter of resignation to the College which he later withdrew. Betton reaained a Fellow until his death in 1875, and his library eventually was donated to the College under less stringent conditions (see minutes of 7 October 1857). Much of the controversy surrounding Betton is not revealed in the official College minutes; at the meeting of 6 November 1856, it was decided that "Betton's communications be not published [in the minutes]". The minutes of special •eetings provide great insight into some of the more pressing matters facing the College over the years. Occasionally these meetings were called in response to medical emergencies, such as the cholera epidemics in Pennsylvania (1854) and in Panama (1903); other meetings were held to discuss legislation affecting the medical profession, such as a proposed bill which would establish a national board of medical censors (see minutes of 24 April 1855). Special meetings were held frequently during 1903 and 1904 to discuss "the growing demand of the Library for increased space" (see minutes of 21 January 1903). This was an especially volatile period in the history of the College; Fellows were strongly divided on the issue of whether the College should remain on 13th and Locust Street or build at another location. The issue of "removal or non-removal of the College" resulted in nuaerous pass~ate debates, many of which do not appear in the official College minutes. For example, the rough minutes of 13 Deceaber 1904 state that James V. Ingham was "called to order by Dr. LeConte for being improperly personal in his remarks...[Ingham] had gone too far...[and] withdrew what he had said". In a letter to secretary Thomas R. Neilson, dated 21 Deceaber 1904, Ingham requests that this part of the minutes be omitted. His pleas were successful; the official minutes contain no record of the incident. S. Weir Mitchell is well represented in this collection; included aaong the records are holograph copies of important resolutions submitted by Mitchell during College aeetings (1882-1903). Also present are several pieces of correspondence, as well as his holograph meaoir of Thomas Dent Mutter (4 May 1859). Of special interest is a report prepared by Mitchell for a meeting held on 30 March 1904 to discuss whether or not the College should move to the 22nd Street location. The typescript report, which contains numerous corrections and additions, describes the area surrounding the lot in great detail and urges the Fellows to consider building there. Also included in the collection is correspondence from other notable figures such as George Bacon Wood, John L. Cadwalader, Joseph Leidy, Samuel Lewis, J.M. Da Costa, S. w. Gross, and William W, Keen.

Dates

  • 1854 - 1909

Creator

Extent

2.4 Linear feet (6 document boxes)

Overview

The office of the Secretary of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia was created during the organization of the College in 1787. The Secretary is the appointed officer of record. His original duties were to record the minutes and transactions of the College and preserve its documents and correspondence.

This collection of records, spanning 1854 to 1909, consists of backup files maintained by the secretaries of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia to provide additional documentation of College meetings.

Biographical / Historical

The office of the Secretary of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia was created during the organization of the College in 1787. The Secretary is the appointed officer of record. His original duties were to record the minutes and transactions of the College and preserve its documents and correspondence. In 1834, the Secretary was also empowered to keep lists of the fellows and provide them with certificates of membership. In 1863, the responsibility for notifying officers and committee members of election or appointaent devolved upon the Secretary. An annual report on the fellowship became part of the Secretary's responsibilities in 1870. At this time, a related office, the Recorder, was created to keep the minutes of all scientific sessions. The office of Recorder was abolished in 1914, and a salaried position, the Clerk, was created under the Secretary; the Secretary devoted himself to matters of fellowship while the Clerk preserved the minutes and papers of the College. The position of Clerk was abolished in 1925, and his duties were returned to the Secretary. In 1990, the Secretary was empowered to perform "all the duties appropriate to his or her post as the elected recording officer of the College and assure the duties and powers of the President in the absence or temporary incapacity of both the President and President-Elect".

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The source of this collection of records of the secretaries of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia is unknown. The collection was catalogued and processed in 1991.
Title
Records of the Office of the Secretary of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Repository Details

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

Contact:
19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States
215-399-2001