What a Boy Scout Merit Badge Tells Us About the History of Public Health

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

This month, the Boy Scouts of America celebrated its 106th birthday. To mark the occasion, we are featuring at a pamphlet from our collection, called simply Public Health.

In 1922, the Boy Scouts published the pamphlet as one of a series designed for scouts to study in order to receive merit badges. Though as the pamphlet states:

“It would defeat one of the purposes of these merit badge tests if any attempt were made in a pamphlet of this character to so completely cover the requirements as to remove the necessity for the boy to use his own initiative and show his resourcefulness in seeking sufficiently complete information and practical experience to enable him to successfully pass the test.”1

What was on the test? The cover explains:

The cover and inside cover of Public Health, 1922.

The cover and inside cover of Public Health, 1922. Click to enlarge.

We can’t resist a close up of the cartoon at the bottom of the cover, showing how boy scouts with knowledge of public health best practices chase away causes of disease, from bad sanitation and drainage to flies and mosquitoes to “general disorder and filth.”1

A close-up of the cartoon on the cover of Public Health, 1922.

A close-up of the cartoon on the cover of Public Health, 1922.

The Boy Scouts of America still offer a merit badge in public health. Interestingly, many of the requirements are strikingly similar to their 1922 counterparts. Today’s scouts must explain disease transmission (though diseases have changed from tuberculosis, typhoid, and malaria to E. coli, tetanus, AIDS, encephalitis, salmonellosis, and Lyme disease). Instead of drawing a house-fly and showing how it carries disease, boy scouts today have to discuss how to control insects and rodents to prevent them from introducing pathogens.2

The major difference between today’s test and that of 1922 is the addition of a question about immunization. Today’s scouts must define the term and discuss diseases that can and cannot be prevented through immunization. In 1920, 7,575 Americans died of measles, 13,170 died of diphtheria, and 5,099 died of pertussis.3 In 1922, the only vaccine recommended for universal use in children was smallpox. By the end of the 1920s, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus joined that list, followed by polio, measles, mumps, and rubella in the 1960s and 70s.3 Today, there are 15 vaccine-preventable childhood diseases.4

While many of the same public health issues have remained at the forefront since 1922, our means of responding to them have progressed. If there is still a test for a public health merit badge in another 94 years, one hopes that the questions will reflect even more advances in prevention and control of disease.

References

1. Public Health. Boy Scouts of America; 1922.

2. Public Health. Available at: http://www.scouting.org/Home/BoyScouts/AdvancementandAwards/MeritBadges/mb-PUBH.aspx. Accessed February 10, 2016.

3. Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999 Impact of Vaccines Universally Recommended for Children — United States, 1990-1998. MMWR Wkly. 1999;48(12):243–248. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00056803.htm#00003752.htm. Accessed February 10, 2016.

4. Vaccines: VPD-VAC/Childhood VPD. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/child-vpd.htm. Accessed February 10, 2016.

#ColorOurCollections Roundup

By Rebecca Pou, Archivist; Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian; and Anne Garner, Curator
Social Media Team, New York Academy of Medicine Library

#ColorOurCollections-bannerfinal

#ColorOurCollections week is winding down, but it has been so much fun we want to do it again. We propose making it an annual event for the first week of February.

More than 215 libraries and cultural institutions participated, representing 7 countries (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand). We’ve been absolutely blown away by the amazing coloring sheets shared by contributors and the range of their sources; coloring selections came from incunables, natural histories, botanicals, children’s classics, anatomical atlases, university yearbooks, patents, and much more. While most of the content came from printed works, manuscripts, sketches, stained-glass windows, plates, and mosaics also provided inspiration. To more fully explore the cornucopia of coloring content, just take a look at the list below.

This document includes images shared by organizations on websites, Pinterest boards, and Flickr and Facebook albums (and is organized by these locations). Many organizations shared #ColorOurCollections images one at a time via Twitter and Instagram. While these are not listed here, they are reflected in our Pinterest board.

We apologize if we inadvertently left your #ColorOurCollections contributions off this list. Please comment below with the organization name and link to your images, and we will update the list accordingly.

Thank you to the institutions that contributed to #ColorOurCollections and to all the talented coloring enthusiasts out there who participated! We hope you enjoyed learning more about our collections. Though the week is nearly over, please keep the submissions coming. With the amount of colorable content released this week, it is safe to say we can keep coloring until next year!

#ColorOurCollections, Day 5

#ColorOurCollections-bannerfinal

It’s the final day of #ColorOurCollections, a week-long special collections coloring fest we’ve organized on social media. We are sad to see it go, and thank everyone who participated. Enjoy the final day of sharing and coloring items from nearly 200 cultural institutions from around the world (see our ever-growing list).

Every day on our blog, we’ve featured #ColorOurCollections coloring sheets from our library, along with content from participants worldwide. And don’t forget to download our full #ColorOurCollections coloring book.

Today’s coloring sheets come from Ulisse Aldrovandi (featured earlier this week) and another great naturalist, Conrad Gesner. Gesner (1516-1565) was from Switzerland and contributed to fields including medicine, linguistics, botany, and zoology. His most famous work is the Historia Animalium, an enormous five-volume encyclopedia on animals. The Academy is lucky to have a beautifully hand-colored copy of the volume on birds, Historiæ animalium liber III, which was the subject of a blog post. Fortunately for #ColorOurCollections, our copies of the 1551 Historiæ animalium Liber I, and the 1563 German translation Thierbuch are uncolored.

Lynx from Aldrovandi's De quadrupedib. digitatis viviparis, 1637. Click to download the PDF coloring sheet.

Lynx from Aldrovandi’s De quadrupedib. digitatis viviparis, 1637. Click to download the PDF coloring sheet.

Elephant from Gesner, Historiae Animalium, Liber I, 1551. Click to download the PDF coloring sheet.

Elephant from Gesner, Historiae Animalium, Liber I, 1551. Click to download the PDF coloring sheet.

This afternoon, we will post a list of all the coloring books, pages, and albums shared by #ColorOurCollections participants—keep your eyes on this space! This morning, we have three we are excited to spotlight.

Indiana University’s Lilly Library posted its coloring book yesterday. The dragon turned weapon may be one of the most astonishing illustrations we’ve seen in some time.

Roberto Valturio. De re militari. Verona, 1472. U101 .V2 vault. Courtesy of The Lilly Library, Indiana University.

Roberto Valturio. De re militari. Verona, 1472. U101 .V2 vault. Courtesy of The Lilly Library, Indiana University.

The Cooper Hewitt also posted a coloring book yesterday. If you are gung-ho about adult coloring books, this one will be right up your alley. It is full of stunning Katagami patterns.

Katagami, Water Pattern, late 19th–early 20th century; Designed by Unknown ; Japan; cut mulberry paper treated with persimmon tannin and silk thread; 41.3 x 28 cm (16 1/4 x 11 in.) Mat: 45.7 x 35.6 cm (18 x 14 in.) Frame 50.2 x 39.7 cm (19 3/4 x 15 5/8 in.) 19 x 34.2 cm (7 1/2 x 13 7/16 in.); 1976-103-111 http://cprhw.tt/o/2CLkk/. Courtesey of Cooper Hewitt.

Katagami, Water Pattern, late 19th–early 20th century; Designed by Unknown ; Japan; cut mulberry paper treated with persimmon tannin and silk thread; 41.3 x 28 cm (16 1/4 x 11 in.) Mat: 45.7 x 35.6 cm (18 x 14 in.) Frame 50.2 x 39.7 cm (19 3/4 x 15 5/8 in.) 19 x 34.2 cm (71/2 x 13 7/16 in.); 1976-103-111 http://cprhw.tt/o/2CLkk/. Courtesey of the Cooper Hewitt.

Finally, we don’t know how we’ve gotten this far into the week without featuring the coloring book from the New York Public Library. Librarians from across the library’s divisions teamed up to select public domain images from the library’s collections. We have yet to see someone color in these hieroglyphs—are you up to the challenge?

[Rappresentazione zodiacale in tre quadri consecutivi]. Image ID: 425361. Courtesy of the New York Public Library

[Rappresentazione zodiacale in tre quadri consecutivi]. Image ID: 425361. Courtesy of the New York Public Library

We thank everyone for coloring with us this week. Keep those markers and colored pencils in a safe place: we plan to bring back #ColorOurCollections the first week of February, 2017.

#ColorOurCollections, Day 4

#ColorOurCollections-bannerfinal

It’s the fourth day of #ColorOurCollections, a week-long special collections coloring fest we’ve organized on social media. We are astonished by the week’s popularity: more than 160 organizations are participating (See our growing list).

Every day on our blog, we will feature #ColorOurCollections coloring sheets from our library, along with content from participants worldwide. You can also download our full #ColorOurCollections coloring book.

Today’s coloring sheets come from Dutch anatomist Govard Bidloo and English horticulturist Elizabeth Blackwell.

The atlas of Bidloo (1649-1713), published in 1685, attempted to show the body in a quite different way from his predecessor, Andreas Vesalius. The skeleton in this image is depicted climbing out of his open grave, hourglass in hand and silky shroud tossed recklessly aside. Bidloo’s talented artist Gerard de Lairesse studied with Rembrandt but embraced a more neoclassical tone than his teacher.

Skeleton in Bidloo's Anatomia hvmani corporis..., 1685.

Skeleton in Bidloo’s Anatomia hvmani corporis…, 1685. Click to download a PDF of the coloring page.

Elizabeth Blackwell was a triple-threat: the author, artist and engraver published her Curious Herbal in 1730, which quickly became an invaluable resource for apothecaries and doctors well beyond the 18th century. Blackwell undertook the publication of the book to raise funds to release her husband from debtor’s prison. During visits at Highgate Prison where he was installed, he supplied the names of the book’s plants in Greek and Latin. Many copies of the book were hand-colored by Blackwell herself. This one is begging to be hand-colored by you!

Orange tree in Blackwell's A Curious Herbal, 1739.

Orange tree in Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal, 1739. Click to download a PDF of the coloring page.

Today, we’d like to feature the work of the colorers! There are a tremendous number of colored images to choose from—take a look at our Pinterest board for more. (We also have a board of images from participating institutions just waiting to be colored.)

If Twitter and Instagram are any indication, some of the most popular pages to color come from the Smithsonian Libraries coloring book, tied to its new exhibit “Color in a New Light.”

We’ve seen a number of takes on J. Romilly Allen’s Celtic art in pagan and Christian times (page 169):

#colorourcollections

A photo posted by Benicia Library (@benicialibrary) on

And we love this painted frontispiece from Plastik; Sinfonie des Lebens by Oswald Herzog (1921).

Pintando en acuarela // painting in watercolor today #colorourcollections #watercolor

A photo posted by Gigliola Miori Della Rosa (@missdellarosa) on

The Chemical Heritage Foundation’s vintage ad for DDT was too enticing for Twitter user Miss N. Thrope to pass up:

Nicole Kearney turned Biodiversity Heritage Library Australia’s image of a bearded dragon into a work of art:

The National Library of Medicine went astronomical for its first #ColorOurCollections contribution. Twitter user Michelle Ebere was up to the challenge:

Instagram user @artofstriving took her inspiration from an image from Walter de la Mare’s Down-adown-derry: A Book of Fairy Poems with illustrations by Dorothy P. Lathrop (1922), shared in the University of Missouri Libraries’ coloring book.

Keep the coloring coming! And stay tuned: tomorrow, our final #ColorOurCollections post will include a list of all of the coloring books created and shared this week.

#ColorOurCollections, Day 3

#ColorOurCollections-bannerfinal

It’s the third day of #ColorOurCollections, a week-long special collections coloring fest we’ve organized on social media. Yesterday, we reached more than 125 participating cultural institutions! (See our growing list.)

Every day on our blog, we will feature #ColorOurCollections coloring sheets from our library, along with content from participants worldwide. You can also download our full #ColorOurCollections coloring book.

Today’s coloring sheets come from the works of the Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi, who documented living (and mythical) things of all sorts, from gentle, clover-eating rabbits to fearsome dragons. Aldrovandi (15221605) was a professor at the University of Bologna, and in 1568 he founded a botanic garden there. His interest in the natural sciences led him to gather specimens across Italy for study and inclusion in his natural history museum. Pope Gregory XIII, a relative, provided financial support for his works, but just four volumes were published before his death. Both books featured here, Serpentum et draconum historiae libri duo… and De quadrupedib.’ digitatis viviparis…, were published posthumously.

Rabbit in Ulisse Aldrovandi, De quadrupedib. digitatis viviparis, 1637. Click to download the PDF coloring sheet.

Rabbit in Ulisse Aldrovandi, De quadrupedib.’ digitatis viviparis …, 1637. Click to download the PDF coloring sheet.

Dragon from Ulisse Aldrovandi, Serpentum, et draconum historiae libri duo, 1640.

Dragon from Ulisse Aldrovandi, Serpentum, et draconum historiae libri duo, 1640.

Our featured coloring books of the day come from two institutions that, like us, focus on the history of medicine.

The Dittrick Museum’s coloring book may be the first one ever made to feature a picture of lice removal (from Hortus sanitatis, 1491). It also has other images from works of anatomical and natural history.

Lice removal. 1491. Hortus sanitatis. Mainz, Jabob Meydenbach. Courtesy of the Dittrick Museum.

Lice removal. 1491. Hortus sanitatis. Mainz, Jabob Meydenbach. Courtesy of the Dittrick Museum.

We love the coloring book from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)’s Historical Collections & Archives. Who can resist the skull on the cover, from Antonio Scarpa’s 1801 Saggio di osservazioni e d’esperienze sulle principali malattie degli occhi?

Scarpa, Antonio. Saggio di osservazioni e d’esperienze sulle principali malattie degli occhi.Pavia: B. Comino, 1801. Courtesy of OHSU Special Collections & Archives.

Scarpa, Antonio. Saggio di osservazioni e d’esperienze sulle principali malattie degli occhi.Pavia: B. Comino, 1801. Courtesy of OHSU Special Collections & Archives.

Yesterday’s shared coloring sheets also featured bookbinding and typography. The American Bookbinders Museum offered five images from its collection, including this pattern from Der Buchbinder:

From Der Buchbinder.

From Der Buchbinder.

UW-Milwaukee Special Collections featured typography on its Tumblr, historiated initials from a 1902 printing of The Psalter or Psalms of David from the Bible of Archbishop Cranmer. You can download these initials, along with another whole coloring book from the university.

Historiated R by C. R. Ashbee for his 1902 Essex House Press printing of The Psalter or Psalms of David from the Bible of Archbishop Cranmer. Courtesy of UW-Milwaukee Special Collections.

Historiated R by C. R. Ashbee for his 1902 Essex House Press printing of The Psalter or Psalms of David from the Bible of Archbishop Cranmer. Courtesy of UW-Milwaukee Special Collections.

We also have to point out our only French participant thus far, Bibliothèque Bourguignonne. Their Pinterest album features some truly adorable chickens, including this one:

Coq Padoue argenté. Basse-cour, faisanderie et volière : l'élevage à la Croix-verte, Autun, par Et. Lagrange,... Nouvelle édition. 1892. Courtesy of Bibliothèque Bourguignonne.

Coq Padoue argenté. Basse-cour, faisanderie et volière : l’élevage à la Croix-verte, Autun, par Et. Lagrange,… Nouvelle édition. 1892. Courtesy of Bibliothèque Bourguignonne.

Keep following #ColorOurCollections on social media (don’t forget Facebook!), and keep an eye on our Pinterest boards, which feature images to be colored and colored-in sheets. On Friday, our final #ColorOurCollections post will include a list of all of the coloring books created and shared by participants.

#ColorOurCollections, Day 2

#ColorOurCollections-bannerfinal

It’s the second day of #ColorOurCollections, a week-long special collections coloring fest we’ve organized on social media. Yesterday, the number of participating cultural institutions grew from nearly 60 to nearly 100—thanks to all who are taking part (see our growing list)!

Every day on our blog, we will feature #ColorOurCollections coloring sheets from our library, along with content from participants worldwide. You can also download our full #ColorOurCollections coloring book.

Today’s coloring pages come from Bartolomeo Scappi’s Opera. Renaissance chef Scappi (ca. 1500–1577) cooked for six popes and was installed as chef at the Vatican while Michelangelo was completing the Sistine Chapel. His famous cookbook, first published in Venice in 1570, contains more than 1,000 recipes as well as charming and detailed illustrations showing the kitchens, implements, and culinary tools of a high-end Italian household. Here are two his illustrations; you can find three more in the full coloring book.

Scappi_Opera_cooking_1596

Coloring page from Bartolomeo Scappi’s Opera, 1596. Click to download the PDF coloring sheet.

Coloring page from Bartolomeo Scappi's <em>Opera</em>, 1596.

Coloring page from Bartolomeo Scappi’s Opera, 1596. Click to download the PDF coloring sheet.

Yesterday’s offering of #ColorOurCollections images was extraordinary. Today, we are thrilled to feature two coloring books and two image collections. The Massachusetts Historical Society’s book has fantastic images from its archives, including “Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Transparent Eyeball.”

"Ralph Waldo Emerson's Transparent Eyeball." Christopher P. Cranch journal, p. 10, 1839. Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

“Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Transparent Eyeball.” Christopher P. Cranch journal, p. 10, 1839. Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s coloring book offers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to color a manticore.

Manitchora from The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpants by Edward Topsell. London, 1658. Courtesy of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Manitchora from The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpants by Edward Topsell. London, 1658. Courtesy of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

We also love the image collections from DPLA and the Folger Library. Here’s a favorite DPLA offering:

Illustration from The history of the Caribby-islands , 1666. Courtesy of DPLA.

Illustration from The history of the Caribby-islands, 1666. Courtesy of DPLA.

And a Hamlet illustration from the Folger:

Illustration by John Austen for a 1922 edition of Shakespeare's Hamlet (ART Box A933 no.30). Courtesy of the Folger Library.

Illustration by John Austen for a 1922 edition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (ART Box A933 no.30). Courtesy of the Folger Library.

In New York? Want to color with others? The New York Botanical Garden’s Mertz Library is hosting #ColorOurCollections coloring parties on Wednesday, February 3 and Friday, February 5, from 12pm–2pm.

Keep following #ColorOurCollections on your favorite social media outlets, and keep an eye on our Pinterest boards, where we are pinning images shared by participating special collections along with images colored by fans. On Friday, our final #ColorOurCollections post will include a list of all of the coloring books created and shared by participants.

#ColorOurCollections Begins!

It’s the first day of #ColorOurCollections, a week-long special collections coloring fest we’re organizing on social media. More than 50 institutions (see our growing list) will share images from their collections for you to download and color from now through Friday. You are invited to share your results using the hashtag.

Every day on our blog, we will feature two #ColorOurCollections coloring sheets from our library, along with content from participants worldwide. You can also download our full #ColorOurCollections coloring book.

Our first coloring sheet shows the five types of unicorns depicted in Pierre Pomet’s 1694 Histoire generale des drogues. The horns of these mythical creatures were believed to have medicinal properties, although, as Pomet admits, “unicorn horn” was usually the tusk of a narwhal. For more on Pomet and unicorns, read this blog post.

Click to download the PDF coloring sheet featuring the unicorns in Pomet, Histoire general des drogues, 1694.

Click to download the PDF coloring sheet featuring the unicorns in Pomet, Histoire general des drogues, 1694.

Our second coloring sheet features another horned animal, found in Gesner’s Historia animalium, Liber I. As we know, rhinoceroses do not have horns on their backs; Gesner’s rhino can be traced back to a 1515 print by Albrecht Durer, which was unsurprisingly not drawn from life. As unicorns and horned-back rhinos don’t exist, there’s no need to strive for realism. We’d love to see the most fantastically colorful beasts you can imagine! Don’t forget to tag @nyamhistory and include #ColorOurCollections.

Click to download the PDF coloring sheet featuring the rhino in Gesner, Historiae Animalium, Liber I, 1551

Click to download the PDF coloring sheet featuring the rhino in Gesner, Historiae Animalium, Liber I, 1551

We are thrilled that special collections across the pond agreed to join #ColorOurCollections, even with the Americanized spelling in the hashtag. Last week, the University of Strathclyde’s Archives and Special Collections, Europeana, and the Bodleian Libraries all released coloring books. Click on each organization to download, print, and color.

Page 4 of the coloring book from the University of Strathclyde’s Archives and Special Collections, featuring Tscep von wonders, Brussels, 1514?

Page 4 of the coloring book from the University of Strathclyde’s Archives and Special Collections, featuring Tscep von wonders, Brussels, 1514?

How do special collections decide which images to select for coloring? James Madison University Libraries Special Collections described their process on their blog. We especially love the Alice and Wonderland title page. Download their full coloring book.

A coloring page selected by James Madison University Libraries, featuring a 1910 illustrated copy of Alice in Wonderland.

A coloring page selected by James Madison University Libraries, featuring a 1910 illustrated copy of Alice in Wonderland.

Our final feature of the day comes from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries who will keep you coloring for years! Enjoy their unbelievable Flickr album with more than 1,000 images representing their member libraries. Still want more? Enjoy the coloring sheets on their Pinterest board, which you can also download in coloring book form.

A coloring sheet from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, featuring Seguy, Papillons, 1925.

A coloring sheet from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, featuring Seguy, Papillons, 1925.

Keep following #ColorOurCollections on your favorite social media outlets. And take a look at our Pinterest boards, where we are pinning images shared by participating special collections along with images colored by fans.

Coming Soon at the Center: Gessner, Coloring, Lobotomy, Digital Humanities

The coming weeks are busy ones for the Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health. We hope you’ll join us for these upcoming events.

Ann Blair

Ann Blair

This Saturday, January 30, at 11 am, Harvard historian Ann Blair will give a free Bibliography Week lecture, Credit, thanks, and blame in the works of Conrad Gessner (1516-1565).” Blair will show how the Zürich physician and natural historian used the print medium to promote his forth-coming publications. Gessner also sought contributions of manuscripts, images, and help from scholars all over Europe. Register online.

February 1-5 is #ColorOurCollections Week, a special collections coloring fest we’ve organized on social media. More than 30 institutions will share images from their collections, and followers are invited to color the images and share their results. Email us at library@nyam.org for more details; we’ll add your institution to our Twitter list if you’d like to participate. Watch the hashtag and join in the fun! And watch this space: We’ll feature coloring content on the blog all next week.

Collections Care Assistant Emily Moyer and Archivist Rebecca Pou #ColorOurCollections.

Collections Care Assistant Emily Moyer and Archivist Rebecca Pou #ColorOurCollections.

Miriam Posner

Miriam Posner

On February 9 at 6 pm, Miriam Posner, University of California, Los Angeles, will offer a free lecture Walter Freeman and the Visual Culture of Lobotomy.” Between 1936 and 1967, Freeman, a prominent neurologist, lobotomized as many as 3,500 Americans. Freeman also took patients’ photographs before their operations and years—even decades—later. Posner will detail her efforts to understand why Freeman was so devoted to photography, using computer-assisted image-mining and analysis techniques. This lecture will appeal to a wide-range of interests, including medical photography, data analysis, mid-twentieth century America, and the history of mental health. Register online.

Heidi Knoblauch

Heidi Knoblauch

The following day from 1 pm–5 pm, Posner will be joined by Heidi Knoblauch, Bard College, for a “Digital Humanities: Visualizing Data” workshop. The program will begin with a discussion of what people mean when they say “digital humanities,” followed by a hands-on section on how to find and structure data using Palladio, a tool for visualizing humanities data. The workshop costs $25 and is limited to 30 participants. Register online.

We hope to see you online and at our on-site events!

Dr. David Hosack, Physician to Hamilton and Burr

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

With Hamilton-mania sweeping the nation, we’re not throwing away our shot to discuss the physician present at the infamous 1804 Hamilton-Burr duel, Dr. David Hosack.

Hosack was born in New York City in 1769. Like Alexander Hamilton, he attended Kings College (now Columbia University), then transferred to Princeton. After graduating in 1789, he received his medical education from the University of Pennsylvania.1 He briefly practiced in Alexandria, Virginia and New York, then went to Edinburgh and London to further his medical education. These travels both increased his medical knowledge and nurtured his interest in botany and botanical gardens. In 1801, this life-long interest led to Hosack’s founding of the Elgin Botanical Garden, the first garden of its kind in the United States, located where Rockefeller Center stands today.1,2

By 1794, Hosack had returned to New York City. He formed a medical practice with noted physician Samuel Bard and gained a reputation for the successful treatment of yellow fever.2 As his practice grew, he counted among his patients New York’s elite. Not only did Hosack provide care for Hamilton and his family (including at the deathbeds of both Hamilton and his son, Philip, after their two deadly duels), he also served as physician to Aaron Burr and his daughter and close confidant, Theodosia Burr Alston.3 Our collection includes numerous manuscript materials from Hosack relating to his practice, including copies of a letter to Theodosia and one to her husband, Joseph Alston. These letters give a sense of Hosack’s warmth and dedication to his patients.

Theodosia Burr Alston, 1802. Portrait by John Vanderlyn. Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society.

Theodosia was an educated woman; her father supervised her rigorous studies. In 1801 at age 18, she married Joseph Alston, 22, a member of the South Carolina legislature and a future governor of the state. After the birth of their son Aaron Burr Alston in 1802, Theodosia’s health declined.4

Hosack’s letter to Joseph Alston from June 12, 1808 begins: “Mrs. Alston having been under my care as her physician, you will naturally expect from me some account of her situation.” Theodosia had recently traveled to New York, and text that follows describes the effect of her journey on her health:

When she arrived she was much exhausted by the fatigue of her voyages—added to the diseases under which she labors—but by change of climate I hope she is likely to be benefited—her appetite tho still bad is somewhat improved—the pain on her right side and shoulder still continue troublesome, attended occasionally with violent spasms of the stomach and her other complaints, I mean those of the womb, remain as before—her general appearance is somewhat improved. My attentions hitherto have been directed to the general state of her health, when that is mended she will be enabled to make use of such remedies as are calculated to remove her local diseases—with the views of improving her strength. I have advised her to pass a few weeks at the Ballston Springs—she has already made some use of the waters and finds them to agree with her—but drinking them at the springs will be more serviceable to her—they are especially calculated to improve her appetite and strength, and in some instances have been found beneficial in obstructions both of the liver and womb which are her complaints—yesterday she left New York on her way to the springs—should any thing of importance occur and I receive information of it, you may expect again to her from me.

I am Dear Sir with respect and esteem

Your

David Hosack

Recto and verso of a copy of David Hosack's letter to Joseph Alston. In: D. Hosack. Copies of Letters and Documents 1801-1826.

Recto and verso of a copy of David Hosack’s June 12, 1808 letter to Joseph Alston. In: D. Hosack. Copies of Letters and Documents, 1801-1826. Click to enlarge.

By August 20, Theodosia’s health improved sufficiently that Hosack provided her with one of the remedies mentioned in his letter to her husband two months prior. The copy of the letter to Theodosia (written in a messier hand than the one to her husband) tells her what to eat and avoid while on the medication (“be careful to avoid acids and stimulant foods—lemonade, the acid fruits – spices,” instead eating “soups – milk – eggs – arrowroot – tapioca – rice – puddings etc.”). Hosack also recommended that two to three baths per week would “be useful in lessening your pain at the same time that it will give more effect to the medicine now directed.”

David Hosack’s August 20, 1808 letter to Theodosia Burr Alston. In: D. Hosack. Copies of Letters and Documents, 1801-1826. Click to enlarge.

Theodosia died young, but not due to her lingering post-partum health problems. In January 1813, just seven months after the death of her son, she was aboard the ship Patriot when it disappeared off the coast of Cape Hatteras on its way to New York. While stormy weather most likely caused the ship’s loss, some believed that pirates were to blame.4,5

Portion of page 59 of the January 12, 1913 New York Times. Click to enlarge.

Portion of page 59 of the January 12, 1913 New York Times. Click to enlarge.

David Hosack died of a stroke in 1835.1 His son, pioneering surgeon Alexander Eddy Hosack, took on much of his father’s practice, including the care of Aaron Burr.6,7 Alexander’s New York Times obituary noted:

It is said that on one occasion [Alexander Hosack] asked Mr. Burr if he did not experience contrition at times for having shot Hamilton. Burr, with an expression of stern feeling, replied with emphasis: ‘No, Sir; I could not regret it. Twice he crossed my path. He brought it on himself.’

Aside from his treatment of elite patients like Burr, Alexander Hosack (1805–1871) made a name for himself through his medical endeavors. Like his father, he received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, after which he worked as a doctor in Paris for three years. He was the first doctor in New York City to use ether during surgery, and he developed a number of surgical instruments. In addition, he helped establish the Emigrants’ Hospital on Ward’s Island.6

The Hosack name lives on at the Academy. In 1885, the estate of Celine B. Hosack, widow of Alexander, bequeathed $70,000 to the Academy for a new building or an auditorium within that building.8 The original Hosack Hall was on West 43rd Street, in the Academy’s home from 1890 until 1926. When the Academy moved to its current location in 1926, the new auditorium retained a name deeply embedded in American and medical history.

Left: Hosack Hall on West 43rd St. Image in Van Ingen, The New York Academy of Medicine: Its first hundred years, 1949. Right: Hosack Hall Today, at 1216 Fifth Avenue.

Left: Hosack Hall on West 43rd Street. Image in Van Ingen, The New York Academy of Medicine: Its first hundred years, 1949. Right: Hosack Hall today, at 1216 Fifth Avenue. Click to enlarge.

References

1. Jeffe ER. Hamilton’s physician: David Hosack, Renaissance man of early New York. New-York J Am History. 2004;Spring(3):54–58. Available at: http://www.alexanderhamiltonexhibition.org/about/Jeffe – Hamiltoss Physician.pdf. Accessed January 15, 2016.

2. Hosack AE. A memoir of the late David Hosack. Lindsay & Blakiston; 1861. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?id=o4A22YJI53YC&pgis=1. Accessed January 19, 2016.

3. Garrison FH. David Hosack. Bull N Y Acad Med. 1925;1(5):i4–171. Available at: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2387360&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract. Accessed January 15, 2016.

4. James ET. Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 1. Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 1971. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?id=rVLOhGt1BX0C&pgis=1. Accessed January 19, 2016.

5. Mystery of Aaron Burr’s daughter baffles a century. New York Times. http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1913/01/12/100604845.html?pageNumber=59. Published January 12, 1913. Accessed January 15, 2016.

6. Alexander Eddy Hosack, M.D. New York Times. http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1871/03/07/78760572.html.  Published March 7, 1871. Accessed January 15, 2016. 

7. Obituaries. Med Surg Report. 1871;24(734):262. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?id=_kKgAAAAMAAJ&pgis=1. Accessed January 19, 2016.

8. Van Ingen P. The New York Academy of Medicine: Its first hundred years. New York: Columbia University Press; 1949.

The Nightmare of Imminent Baldness

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

While visiting the Coney Island exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum (highly recommended), the caption of a photograph caught my eye:

“The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, the earliest organization of its kind, was founded in 1903 by Bernarr Macfadden, known as the “Father of Physical Culture.” An early advocate for outdoor exercise, Macfadden believed that taking a dip in the ocean during the winter could restore one’s immunity and stamina.”

The Academy Library has a substantial collection on the history of exercise, so it’s no surprise that we have more than 20 books by Macfadden. What was surprising was that two of the books are about the wellbeing of an unexpected physical characteristic—hair.

Bernarr Macfadden in the 1901 and 1922 editions of Hair Culture.

Bernarr Macfadden in the 1901 and 1922 editions of Hair Culture.

The 1901 edition of Macfadden’s New Hair Culture: Rational Natural Methods for Cultivating Strength and Luxuriance of the Hair begins with a disclaimer that wouldn’t sound out of place in a contemporary infomercial:

Disclaimer in Macfadden's 1901 Hair Culture.

Disclaimer in Macfadden’s 1901 Hair Culture.

The 1922 volume, Hair Culture: Rational Methods for Growing the Hair and for Developing its Strength and Beauty, does not include a disclaimer. But, like any great salesman, Macfadden lets us know that he’s not just the inventor of his method, he’s also a user:

I can assure the reader that I can speak with authority on the subject, from experiences with the particular condition which I, myself, have had. Several years previous to the writing of this book my hair began to fall out at an alarming rate.

I was greatly disturbed. The nightmare of imminent baldness was with me constantly.

I was in such a desperate frame of mind that I even bought a bottle of a hair remedy that was well advertised at the time, but after one application I threw it out an open window and began to apply my intelligence to the solution of the problem that then was indeed serious in my mind. …. The method that I finally evolved forms the basis of this book, and is gone into with painstaking detail.1

To maintain hair health, Macfadden recommends such procedures as scalp massage, regular brushing, “sun baths,” exposure to fresh air, removal of dead hair, and “mechanical and electrical stimulation” through “the use of a well made mechanical vibrator, using a broad soft rubber disk” (sadly, he does not include an image of such a vibrator).1,2

"Massaging scalp with a complexion roller." From Macfadden's 1901 Hair Culture, page 33.

“Massaging scalp with a complexion roller.” From Macfadden’s 1901 Hair Culture, page 33.

The 1901 edition includes an entire chapter on how to strengthen hair by pulling it: “Nothing gives the scalp the sensation of being so thoroughly and effectively awakened.” Inserting your spread fingers and closing them together “slightly raises the scalp from the skull, and at every point where the scalp is thus raised, the circulation is greatly accelerated.”2

"Inserted fingers closed lightly upon the hair." From page 38 of the 1901 Hair Culture.

“Inserted fingers closed lightly upon the hair.” From page 38 of the 1901 Hair Culture.

"Hair pulling treatment for men." From page 129 of the 1922 Hair Culture.

“Hair pulling treatment for men.” From page 129 of the 1922 Hair Culture.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Macfadden did not approve of applying heat or bleach to the hair. “If Nature gave a girl dark hair, she should accept the gift gratefully, remembering that some of the greatest beauties in history were also thus blessed.” But Nature could be improved upon in non-harmful ways, as through “the little curl-papers and curling kids”: “These are harmless enough, and if they make a pretty girl any prettier than Nature made her, they are entitled to three hearty cheers.”1

Macfadden did not approve of hot-dry apparatuses like the one shown on page 168 of the 1922 Hair Culture.

Macfadden did not approve of hot-dry apparatuses like the one shown on page 168 of his 1922 Hair Culture.

Learn more about Macfadden—his fitness empire; his scandalous tabloid; his cult, “Cosmotarianism”—in this 2013 Esquire article.

References

1. Macfadden B. Hair culture: rational methods for growing the hair and for developing its strength and beauty. New York: Physical culture corporation; 1922.

2. Macfadden B. Macfadden’s new hair culture: Rational, Natural Methods for Cultivating Strength and Luxuriance of the Hair. New York: Physical Culture Publishing; 1901.