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John Hill Brinton papers

Identifier: MSS 2/269

Scope and Contents

The papers of John H. Brinton, spanning 1853 to 1896, consist of a ledger, patient visiting lists, general business papers, and a letterbook. These papers span more than forty years of Brinton's medical career; especially well documented in the collection are Brinton's years as a Civil War surgeon and Superintendent and Director of General Hospitals in Nashville, Tennessee.

Series 1 contains a ledger from Brinton's early practice. The ledger, spanning 1853 to 1859, contains a chronological listing of his patients, including services rendered, charges, and amount of payment. The ledger also contains an alphabetical index of patient names. Some of the entries in the ledger are of interest, such as a 50.00 charge to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company on 17 July 1856 for "services on day of accident at Camphill". Another entry reveals that Brinton received 50.00 for a neck and lung operation performed on General Samuel Bayard; a note in the ledger explains that payment was "Rec'd from Genl Bayard at Washington just before [the Battle of] Chancellorsville where he was killed".

Brinton's physician's visiting lists from 1856 and 1873 are in Series 2. These small, leather bound printed volumes were used by physicians to keep track of patients they visited and to schedule future appointments. The visiting lists contain an almanac, table of signs, and a list of poisons and their antidotes, as well as blank leaves for recording memoranda, obstetric engagements, and addresses of patients and nurses. Series 2 also contains Brinton's 1878 calendar in which he listed some of his appointments and engagements.

General business papers from the Civil War period are contained in Series 3. Some of the material is from May 1864, when Brinton was sent to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to take charge of a shipment of medical and hospital supplies; included are special requisitions for supplies, brief journal entries from this period, and correspondence with Brinton Stone, Assistant Curator of the Army Medical Museum. Also of note is Brinton's "Morning Report" of 24 September 1864, in which he lists the number of sick and wounded at Winchester, Virginia.

Also contained in Series 3 is a bound volume containing "Orders Letters" from Brinton's tenure as Superintendent and Director of General Hospitals in Nashville, Tennessee. This volume contains copies of correspondence and telegrams sent between Brinton and Assistant Surgeon General R. C. Wood. Most of the correspondence concerns the number of sick and wounded, requests for hospital and medical supplies, and arrangements for the transport of woundedjsoldiers to less crowded hospitals. Other topics of interest include the use of local churches and hotels as makeshift hospitals, Brinton's drive to secure equal funding for the negro ward in the hospital, his attempt to avoid an impending smallpox epidemic through vaccination, and an incident of fraud by one of the surgeons in the hospital. Brinton's letterbook, containing correspondence spanning 1889 to 1896, is in Series 4. The letterbook contains general correspondence, most of which is from Brinton's patients and their family members, who express their gratitude for Brinton's expertise and kindness. Other letters are from colleagues who request advice on surgical procedures or refer patients to Brinton. Among the personal letters in the letterbook are letters of sympathy on the death of Brinton's son, George, in 1891. Of special interest is a letter from J. M. Da Costa which was sent while he was visiting Vienna, Austria; in the letter, Da Costa reflects on the period when he and Brinton conducted post graduate study in Vienna. Other correspondents include J. C. Wilson, William W. Keen, and George E. De Schweinitz.

The letters in the letterbook are in chronological order and are numbered; the letterbook contains an alphabetical index of correspondents which lists the numbers of the letters sent by that individual.


  • 1853 - 1896


Biographical / Historical

John Hill Brinton, Philadelphia surgeon, was born in 1832. Brinton was the son of George and Margaret Brinton. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1850 and received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in 1852 at the age of twenty. After serving as a surgeon during the Civil War, he married Sarah Ward in 1866. Brinton died in 1907.

After earning his medical degree from Jefferson, Brinton spent time abroad conducting post graduate study with J. M. Da Costa. Upon his return to Philadelphia, he became a lecturer on operative surgery at Jefferson. In 1856, at the young age of 24, Brinton was honored by being elected a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Brinton began his service in the U.S. Army in August 1861. After participating in several campaigns, he was assigned to the Office of the Surgeon General in Washington, D.C. During his tenure in the Surgeon General's Office, Brinton was designated to establish an Army Medical Museum. In 1864, Brinton was made Superintendent and Director of General Hospitals in Nashville, Tennessee.

After resigning from military service in February 1865, Brinton returned to Jefferson Medical College as a lecturer. In 1882, he succeeded Samuel D. Gross as Professor of the Practice of Surgery and Clinical Surgery and held this position until 1906, when he was made professor emeritus. In addition to his professorship at Jefferson, Brinton was a visiting surgeon to St. Joseph's Hospital, Philadelphia Hospital, and Jefferson College Hospital. Although Brinton wrote little during his lifetime, he gave several addresses and lectures. In 1869, he presented the Mutter Lecture at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; his topic was surgical pathology and gunshot wounds. In 1891, he completed his personal memoirs from the Civil War period, which were published posthumously in 1914.


.8 Linear feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

The papers of John H. Brinton were purchased by the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia from the Philadelphia Autograph Company in April 1959.

The collection was processed and catalogued in 1992.
John Hill Brinton papers
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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