The Influence of Sunshine and Pure Air: New York City Parks and Public Health

By Emily Miranker, Project Coordinator

My first picnic of the summer was picture-book perfect. Norman Rockwell would have approved: my friends and I clustered on blankets sipping lemonade, lightly toasted by the sun and gently cooled by a breeze, occasionally tossing a stray ball back to a child or sharing tidbit of our cold chicken lunch with an eager puppy.

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Central Park’s Harlem Meer.  Photo:  Emily Miranker

The belief that public parks are “a fundamental need of city life,”1  goes very deep. The father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted ‑to whom (along with Calvert Vaux) New York City owes not only Central Park; but Prospect Park, Carroll Park, Fort Greene Park, the Parade Ground and Von King Park,2 commented that it was more than delight in nature that made parks so vital. There was a health benefit too. “The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.”3

The Park Association of New York City (today New Yorkers for Parks) took up Olmsted’s charge after his death. Several small associations banded together in 1908 to form The Parks and Playgrounds Association of the City of New York; primarily concerned with advocating for children with no outdoor spaces in their neighborhoods. This organization merged with the Battery Park Association and the Central Park Association to become the Park Association in 1928. “Our purpose,” they declared, was to advocate park extension, defense and betterment, as parks were “essential to the mental, moral and physical well-being of city dwellers.”4  The starting point was that ever persistent New York City need: land.

Our collection boasts a wonderfully-designed pamphlet from this period soliciting support for the Park Association.  The pamphlet argues for the maintenance of city parkland, and the acquisition and development of more land dedicated to greenspace.

The pamphlet includes a colorful fold-out map. On the map, green illustrates the city’s parks as of 1927, yellow, the land purchased and intended for park use but not yet developed, and red, land recommended for purchase by the 1927 Metropolitan Conference on Parks but not yet purchased by the city.

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Fold-out map published by the Park Association of New York City.  To Protect and Extend our City Parks for Posterity.  ca. 1927.

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Inside of pamphlet with introductory letter from President Nathan Straus.  To Protect and Extend our City Parks for Posterity.  ca. 1927.

The pamphlet’s call to action is to “make the yellow and red green.” Indeed, many of those patches on the map have since become green.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), whose mission to create and protect land for people ensuring healthy and livable communities is much like the Park Association’s just on the national scale, spends a fair amount of time bolstering their advocacy for parks with research on the health benefits they provide. In 2006, TPL released a white paper on the health benefits of parks, underscoring the argument that parks are a wise investment for communities.5 You can read the report online for percentages, statistics, financials, and citations of peer-reviewed work; but in brief: greenways enable people to exercise, improve mental health, offer vital space for child play, and contribute to the creation of stable communities

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A 2011 geographic map of the distribution of parks and playgrounds done by the Built Environment and Health research team at Columbia University.6

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Map of New York City parkland (the dark green) created by The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore rating system.7

A Fellow of The New York Academy of Medicine wrote on this very topic back in 1899. Dr. Orlando B. Douglas bemoans the lack of numbers to support his firm belief in the rejuvenating power of parks in The Relation of Public Parks to Public Health, written for the American Park and Outdoor Art Society. What he lacks in hard scientific data, he makes up for in poetic writing:

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Orlando B. Douglas’ The Relation of Public Parks to Public Health, published in 1899.

While he didn’t have the same kind of data to fortify his arguments available to TPL more than a hundred years later, Douglas supports his claims that “the public park system in cities resulted in diminishing the rate of nervous disease [and] the improvement of the general health in cities”9 with testimony from twenty-one other doctors throughout the state of New York. I imagine that Dr. Douglas would have been thrilled at our ability today to quantify the beneficial effects of parks; though his pamphlet is more enjoyable reading than modern white papers.

References

1.  To Protect and Extend our City Parks for Prosperity. New York: Park Association of New York City; 1929.

2. “Olmsted-Designed New York City Parks,” NYC Parks. Accessed June 14, 2016. https://www.nycgovparks.org/about/history/olmsted-parks

3. Frederick Law Olmsted, “The Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees,” The Saturday Evening Post, July 18, 1868.

4. To Protect and Extend our City Parks for Prosperity. New York: Park Association of New York City; 1929.

5. “Parks,” Built Environment and Health Research Group at Columbia University. Accessed June 14, 2016. https://beh.columbia.edu/parks/

6. “ParkScore: New York, NY,” The Trust for Public Land. Accessed June 14, 2016. http://parkscore.tpl.org/map.php?city=New%20York

7.  https://www.tpl.org/health-benefits-parks accessed June 14, 2016.

8.  The Relation of Public Parks to Public Health. Boston: Rockwell and Churchill Press; 1899.

 

Walt Whitman, ‘Manly Health,’ and the Democratization of Medicine

Today’s post is by Zachary Turpin, a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Houston. Back in April, The New York Times published an article announcing Mr. Turpin’s uncovering of a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series called “Manly Health and Training” written by the poet Walt Whitman under a pseudonym.  Learn more about Whitman’s health writings here in New York this coming Monday, July 18th at 6pm and join Zachary Turpin for his talk Up!: Manhood, Democratic Medicine, and Walt Whitman’s Secret Health Writings. The lecture is co-sponsored by The New York Public Library. Mr. Turpin will be joined by Dr. Isaac Gewirtz, Curator of The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection at The New York Public Library, for a conversation about Whitman’s interests in health and poetry.  The talk is free, but please register here.  

Near the beginning of “Manly Health and Training” (1858), Walt Whitman’s covertly published health and physiology tract, the poet says the following to the young men of America:

If you are a student, be also a student of the body, a practiser of manly exercises, realizing that a broad chest, a muscular pair of arms, and two sinewy legs, will be just as much credit to you, and stand you in hand through your future life, equally with your geometry, your history, your classics, your law, medicine, or divinity. Let nothing divert you from your duty to your body. Up in the morning early! Habituate yourself to the brisk walk in the fresh air—to the exercise of pulling the oar—and to the loud declamation upon the hills, or along the shore. Such are the means by which you can seize with treble gripe upon all the puzzles and difficulties of your student life—whatever problems are presented to you in your books, or by your professors. Guard your manly power, your health and strength, from all hurts and violations—this is the most sacred charge you will ever have in your keeping.

Whitman’s formal schooling ended at the age of 11, but he was never an anti-intellectual (quite the opposite.) Why, then, does he position exercise—and in particular, a muscular body—as more vital to readers’ lives than math, history, law, medicine, or spirituality? Is he sincere?

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Daguerreotype portrait of Walt Whitman, 1853.  Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library.

These are some of the questions I will attempt to answer in my upcoming talk at The New York Academy of Medicine (July 18th). But I will begin, here, by emphasizing that Whitman almost certainly means what he says.

In the U.S. in the mid-19th century, medicine was reaching the end of a long, slow shift in its epistemological foundations. What for centuries had been a stubbornly inductive system of assumption and a priori logic, had gradually come to rely more and more upon observation and deduction. By the time Whitman was secretly writing “Manly Health,” Americans were less likely than ever to approach their bodies as perfect creations, or illness as a mere deviation from perfection. Instead, physiologically the body had gradually been recast—based on extensive physiological observation—as an imperfect thing.

Gone was the Vitruvian man, of perfect geometric proportions:

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Leonardo da Vinci.  The Proportions of the Human Body According to Vitruvius (The Vitruvian Man.)  Image in the public domain.

In his stead, grew the “sciences”—which we now generally agree are pseudosciences—of physiognomy, phrenology, and eugenics. These pursuits combined complicated measurement and categorization with the belief that, based on variations of external physiology one could deduce the internal characteristics of personality, morality, and social worth. In part, such systems may be considered reactions to increasing cultural diversity in America. It is notable that the original theorists of many such systems were white; furthermore, American physiognomists and phrenologists tended to assign the highest values to classically white-European, or “Teutonic,” features: high foreheads, “noble” brows, “patrician” noses, and so on. Such values have had a deep effect on the social mores of the US—and not a few are still floating around today, as hard-to-eradicate racist rationalizations.

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Books like How to Read Character: A New Illustrated Hand-Book of Phrenology and Physiognomy published in 1874 were popular during Whitman’s lifetime.

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Frontispiece illustration in Joseph Simms’ Physiognomy Illustrated; or Nature’s Revelations of Character, published in 1891.

But beyond obsessions with racial and ethnic categorization, deductive reasoning had a further influence on American physiological discourse. It made it a democratic enterprise.

To put it plainly, if a body begins in imperfection, by definition it may be improved upon. The notion that the body is malleable—may be changed, manipulated, whittled down or built up—mirrors a longstanding American mythos of self-reliance, one that has its roots in the writings of everyone from John Smith and Jonathan Edwards, to J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Not to mention, Walt Whitman himself. Such a narrative of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is still present today, and in the field of health and wellness is perhaps more powerful than ever. The popularity of extreme cardiovascular workouts, cosmetic surgery, yoga clothing lines, self-help books, and diet narratives of all types—from “paleolithic” to “blood type” to “detox” to “alkaline”—are a testament to that. (And incidentally, they all have long histories in American fad dieting—Whitman would likely recognize a number of them.)

There is a further corollary here. If the body had come to be defined by its measurement and malleability (which it was, and arguably still is), and scientific observation grew to be a more widespread, middle-class pursuit (which it had), then nearly anyone with a pen and paper could theorize, publicize, and popularize their own “answer” to physiological problems. Such answers are overwhelmingly evident in 19th-century periodical literature, which is positively overflowing with fad diets, patent medicines, calisthenic regimens, baldness cures, skin bleaches, snake oils, and self-help narratives of all types.

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Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, formulated in Maine in 1849,  contained 65 milligrams of morphine per fluid ounce.  Image from our William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards.

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Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral, first produced by a Charleston druggist in 1865, claimed to cure coughs and contained an opium derivative.  Image from our William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards.

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Ad published in The Practical Druggist and Pharmaceutical Review of Reviews, volume 5, number 5, 1899.

Walt Whitman’s newly rediscovered self-help narrative, “Manly Health and Training,” is unique in its importance to the history of American physiological and medical thought, but it was by no means unusual for its time. In my upcoming talk at the Academy, I look forward to talking more about its discovery, its place in Whitman’s life’s work, and its implications for American literary and medical discourses.

Anatomical Illustrations: A Round-Up from our Visualizing Anatomy Workshop

Kriota Willberg, the author of today’s guest post, explores the intersection of body sciences with creative practice through drawing, writing, performance, and needlework.

On Mondays in June, I taught a drawing class in collaboration with staff at The New York Academy of Medicine Library.

The Visualizing and Drawing Anatomy workshop was open to artists as well as first time drawers willing to be challenged by the visual complexity of the human body in a short four-week course. Using the Academy’s historical collection as reference and instruction, artists and hobbyists learned to draw the body and found inspiration in the variety of illustrations.

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Historical Collections Librarian Arlene Shaner shared her knowledge about the collection with participating artists.

Working with rare books, a live model, and short presentations about the musculoskeletal system, workshop participants practiced looking through the skin to the model’s bony structures and large muscle groups.

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Drawing muscular anatomy on the model, we can compare a living body to images from historical texts.

Participants drew the model’s anatomy in class, and practiced during the week by doing various homework assignments.

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Artists drawing in our Hartwell Reading Room from our live model.

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Whit Taylor’s in class sketches of muscular anatomy from the live model.

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A second sketch by workshop participant Whit Taylor.

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Debbie Rabina’s in class sketch of the live model.

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Allison White’s in class sketch of muscular anatomy from the live model.

Some homework used copied images from Vesalius and Dürer as subjects to anatomize with skeletal and muscular systems.

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Susan Shaw’s homework of anatomized Dürer images.

One of the participants proposed earning some extra credit, and anatomized two characters drawn by cartoonist Josh Bayer.

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Susan Shaw did a great job of re-configuring these skeletons to suit Josh Bayer’s iconoclastic drawing style.

Josh Bayer’s original cartoon can be viewed here.

Working with the historical collection as a teaching tool was very gratifying. I found new points of interest in familiar images, and developed a deeper appreciation for the artists and anatomists who generated so much rich material.

I love watching people draw.  As I watched this group work with the collection and the live model, I could observe and celebrate their growth during the course of the workshop. Witnessing the hard work, diligence, and growth of this group was truly inspiring!

Deafness as a Public Health Issue in the 1920s & 1930s (Part 2 of 2)

Today we have part two of a guest post written by Dr. Jaipreet Virdi-Dhesi, the 2016 Klemperer Fellow in the History of Medicine at the New York Academy of Medicine and a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. She is working on her first book, Hearing Happiness: Fakes, Fads, and Frauds in Deafness Cures, which examines the medical history of hearing loss and “quack cures” for deafness. Some of these cures are explored on her blog, From the Hands of Quacks. You can find her on twitter as @jaivirdi.

Promotional photo by the New York League for the Hard of Hearing and its hearing clinic for testing and examination (The Bulletin, Dec. 1935)

Promotional photo by the New York League for the Hard of Hearing and its hearing clinic for testing and examination (The Bulletin, Dec. 1935)

The New York League for the Hard of Hearing launched several campaigns during the 1930s addressing the “psychological aspect” of acquired deafness mentioned by Wendell C. Phillips. Since deafness is an invisible affliction, Phillips emphasized the deafened person often feels isolated and unable to adjust to the sensory change, especially if the hearing loss occurred suddenly. Other otologists agreed as many patients narrated similar stories: their hearing was perfectly fine and normal, then one day something happened and they became deaf, and the process of coming to terms to the newfound deafened state was a difficult one. Illness such as influenza, pneumonia, meningitis, diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles, or ear abscesses were usually the culprit. So too were heard injuries, age-onset deafness in the elderly, misuse of drugs such as quinine, a poor diet (including too much sugar), and other ordinary factors:

“It is well to bear in mind the effects of hair-dyes, excessive smoking or drinking, and indeed, improper underwater swimming and diving. Vigorous blowing of the nose is also frequent causes of hearing impairment.”[1] 

Otologists claimed individuals needed to take responsibility for their hearing—to conserve what hearing one had, through proper diet, lifestyle, and hygiene, before it disintegrated. This was a remarkable shift from the 1920s “prevention of deafness” campaigns that concentrated on a screening program of early detection and medical care. While constant surveillance was still promoted, the late-1930s campaigns transformed hearing loss into an affliction that could easily be treated or managed by good habits.

Pamphlets reveal how parents were encouraged to become more “ear-minded” toward their children, that is, to pay attention if their child exhibits any signs of hearing loss, to avoid a circumstance in which a neglected hearing issue ends up turning a deafened child into a problem.

Advertisement for the New York League Hard of Hearing (The Bulletin, 1934).

Advertisement for the New York League Hard of Hearing (The Bulletin, 1934).

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Advertisement for the New York League for the Hard of Hearing (The [Hearing] News, October 1935)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In other words, the “problem of deafness” became less about the triumphs of medical cures for hearing loss or social organizations providing communication services, but more about conserving one’s hearing before it was gradually diminished. Themes for “Better Hearing Week” especially reflect this: the 1937 theme was “It’s Sound Sense to Conserve Hearing,” while the 1938 was “Help Conserve Hearing.”

Front page of the October 1937 issue of The Bulletin magazine, promoting the National Hearing Week, with reprints of letters from FDR.

Front page of the October 1937 issue of The Bulletin magazine, promoting the National Hearing Week, with reprints of letters from FDR

The American Society for the Hard of Hearing also launched their own campaigns. In 1937, the organization listed a four-point program publicizing their mandates: the prevention of deafness, the conservation of hearing, the alleviation of social conditions affecting the hard of hearing, and rehabilitation. In addition to popular radio broadcasts on the National Broadcasting System, 327 feature articles and 189 editorials were released in over 1600 newspapers.

“Hearing through Life,” a national campaign launched by the ASHH (Hygeia, October 1937).

“Hearing through Life,” a national campaign launched by the ASHH (Hygeia, October 1937).

The publicity campaigns of the 1920s and 1930s were really about transforming public perceptions of the hard of hearing and deafened as handicapped persons, rather than as “defectives”—an important observation in light of the eugenicist concerns of the period. But they were also about addressing hearing impairment not as a social or educational issue, but as a public health issue, one that required cooperation between different levels of civic infrastructures. As otologist Edmund Prince Fowler noted in 1940, the hearing impaired “should never be dismissed with the thought, “Nothing can be done.”[2]

Promotional photo for the League’s “Children’s Auditory Training Project” campaign of the 1940s (The Bulletin, Nov-Dec, 1949)

Promotional photo for the League’s “Children’s Auditory Training Project” campaign of the 1940s (The Bulletin, Nov-Dec, 1949)

Special thanks are owed to Arlene Shaner at the NYAM Library for her generous research assistance and lively conversations.

References

[1] Samuel Zwerling, “Problems of the Hard of Hearing,” Hearing News (January 1938).

[2] Bulletin of the New York League for the Hard of Hearing, 18.7 (November 1940).

Deafness as a Public Health Issue in the 1920s & 1930s (Part 1 of 2)

Today we have part one of a guest post written by Dr. Jaipreet Virdi-Dhesi, the 2016 Klemperer Fellow in the History of Medicine at the New York Academy of Medicine and a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. She is working on her first book, Hearing Happiness: Fakes, Fads, and Frauds in Deafness Cures, which examines the medical history of hearing loss and “quack cures” for deafness. Some of these cures are explored on her blog, From the Hands of Quacks. You can find her on twitter as @jaivirdi.

In 1935, physician Francis L. Rogers of Long Beach read a paper addressing the worrisome statistics of deafness. One study discovered nearly thirty-five thousand Americans were deaf. Another found that out of a million people tested for their hearing, 6% had significant hearing impairment. Yet another study reported three million people had some kind of hearing impairment. This “problem of deafness,” Rogers emphasized, “is primarily of public health and public welfare.” Not only were there too many people failing to adequately care for their hearing, but many cities, schools, and governments lacked the proper infrastructure to educate the public on the importance of hearing preservation. Indeed, as Rogers stressed: “Today the three great public health problems confronting the world are heart disease, cancer, and deafness.”[1]

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A window display in Detroit (Hearing News, June 1942)

The notion of deafness being statistically worrying as a public health issue actually dates to the late nineteenth century, especially to the work of otologist James Kerr Love of Glasgow. Love conducted several statistical studies of the ears of deaf schoolchildren, discovering that the majority of them were not completely deaf, but had some level of “residual” hearing. With proper medical treatment, the hearing could be intensified enough to warrant a “cure.” For other cases, children could be taught to make use of that residual hearing through invasive training using acoustic aids and other kinds of hearing technologies.

Love’s research concluded that many deafness cases could actually be relieved if the ears of children were examined early and frequently—that is, deafness could be prevented. His “prevention of deafness” concept was influential for the new generation of otologists in America, especially those who were members of the New York Academy of Medicine’s Section of Otology during the first three decades of the twentieth century.

To raise awareness on the necessity of proper medical examinations and frequent hearing tests, these otologists collaborated with social organizations such as the New York League for the Hard of Hearing, which was established in 1910. The League was a progressive group catering to the needs of hard of hearing or deafened persons who were raised in a hearing society rather than in a D/deaf community and communicated primarily with speech and lip-reading rather than sign language. Composed mostly of white, middle-class, and educated members who lost their hearing from illness, injury, or progressive deafness, the League strove to construct hearing impairment as a medical issue. They argued hearing impairment was not an issue of education or communication, but rather a handicap.

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An otologist examining a young patient’s ear (Hygeia, June 1923)

The collaboration between New York otologists and the League eventually created a national network of experts, social services, teachers, physicians, and volunteers who banded together to address the so-called “problem of deafness.” That is, the problem of how to best integrate the hard of hearing, the deafened, and to some extent, even the deaf-mutes, into society. One key achievement of the League was the establishment of hearing clinics to properly assess hearing impairment, especially in children, to ensure medical care could be provided before it was too late. This project was primarily spearheaded by Harold M. Hays (1880-1940), who was recruited as president of the League in 1913, becoming the first active otologist collaborating with the League. After the First World War, Hays set up a clinic for treating hearing loss in children at the Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital.

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Group hearing tests of schoolchildren, using an audiometer. Headphones are used first on the right ear, then the left. (Hygeia, February 1928)

Hays claimed that hearing impairment might be a handicap, but “the sad part of it is that 90 percent of all hearing troubles could be corrected if they were treated at the proper time.” With regular hearing tests, this was possible. Yet, as Hays argued, regular hearing tests were not considered on par with other hygienic measures under public health services:

We are saving the child’s eyes! We are saving the child’s teeth! Is it not worth while to save the child’s ears?”[2]

During the 1920s, Hays’ activism for regular hearing tests was so instrumental that in 1922, the League’s newsletter, The Chronicle, told its readers “we believe that the League would justify its existence if it did no other work than to prevent as much deafness as possible.”  To achieve this mandate, the League launched a large public campaign to raise awareness on the importance of medical care. Indeed, in one report for the League, Hays remarked that with the increased publicity, there were 10,000 calls to the League in 1918 alone inquiring about aural examinations. A steady increase in patients would follow: 17 clinic patients in 1924, 326 in 1926, and then 1,531 in 1934.

Another publicity campaign spearheaded by the League was the establishment of “Better Hearing Week” in 1926, a week-long awareness program (later renamed “National Hearing Week”). Held in October, the campaign included symposium discussions on the “Problems of the Hard of Hearing,” including topics on the relationship between the physician and his deafened patient, how the deafened could build their lives, and even on newest technological developments in hearing aids. October issues of The Bulletin (the renamed League newsletter) and the Hearing News, the newsletter of the American Society for the Hard of Hearing (ASHH) included reprints of letters from prominent leaders supporting the mandates of “Better Hearing Week,” including letters from President Roosevelt and New York Mayor LaGuardia.

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Advertisement for Western Electric Hearing Aid, the “Audiophone.” These before-and-after shots were powerful for demonstrating the effects of “normal” hearing, sending the message that outward signs of deafness, such as the “confused face,” could easily disappear once being fitted properly with a hearing aid. (Hearing News, December 1936)

The 1920s publicity campaigns were primarily focused on fostering ties between otologists and the League, in cooperation with hospitals and schools. In 1927, the League purchased audiometers and offered invitations to conduct hearing tests in schools across New York, so children with hearing impairment could be assessed accordingly. Two years later, the League worked with Bell Laboratories to further substantiate the conviction that deafness was a serious problem amongst schoolchildren and that something needed to be done.

At the same time otologists across America established joint ventures between organizations like the America Medical Association and the American Otological Society. They formed committees to write reports to the White House on the national importance of addressing the “prevention of deafness.” Wendell C. Phillips (1857-1934), another president of the League and the founder of ASHH, particularly emphasized the need to address the “psychologic conditions and mental reactions” of the deafened patient, for the tragedy of acquired deafness meant it is a “disability without outward signs, for the deafened person uses no crutch, no black goggles, no tapping staff.”[3] It was an invisible handicap that needed to be made visible if it was to be prevented, if not cured.

References

[1] The Federation News, August 1935.

[2] Harold M. Hays, “Do Your Ears Hear?” Hygeia (April 1925).

[3] Wendell C. Phillips, “Reminiscences of an Otologist,” Hygeia (October 1930).

Apply for our 2017 Research Fellowships

Does a one-month residence in The Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room, immersed in resources on the history of medicine and public health, sound like a dream come true?

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The Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room

The Academy Library offers two annual research fellowships, the Paul Klemperer Fellowship in the History of Medicine and the Audrey and William H. Helfand Fellowship in the History of Medicine and Public Health, to support the advancement of scholarly research in the history of medicine and public health. Fellowship recipients spend a month in residence conducting research using the library’s collections.

Applications for our fellowships are being accepted now through late August for fellowships that may be used at any time during 2017.

Preference in the application process is given to early career scholars, although the fellowships are open to anyone who wishes to apply, regardless of academic status, discipline, or citizenship. While both fellowships are for researchers engaged in history of medicine projects, the Helfand Fellowship emphasizes the role of visual materials in understanding that history.

Applications are due by the end of the day on Friday, August 26, 2016. Letters of recommendation are due by the end of the day on Monday, August 29, 2016. Applicants will be notified of whether or not they have received a fellowship by Monday, October 3, 2016.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian, at 212-822-7313 or history@nyam.org with questions or for assistance identifying useful materials in the library collections.

17th Century Recipes, Fit for a Gala

By Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian

The New York Academy of Medicine hosted its annual fund-raising gala at the Mandarin Oriental on June 14th.  Gala attendees had the opportunity to sample two treats based on recipes from one of our favorite manuscript receipt books.

The Academy Library has 37 manuscript receipt books, most of which contain a mix of culinary, medicinal and household recipes. Some of them have been featured already on our blog (see earlier posts on Mother Eve’s Pudding, and English Gingerbread). The Recipes Project also featured an interview with Anne Garner, our Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, about the print and manuscript historical recipe books in our collection.

One of our favorite manuscripts is A Collection of Choise Receipts from the late seventeenth century. Inspired by a recipe for Black Cherry Water in the manuscript, Pietro Collina and Matt Jozwiak created a signature cocktail, the “Choise Cherry Crush,” for gala guests. You can try your hand at mixing one up if you are so inclined.

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The adapted recipe for the Choise Cherry Crush, adapted from A Collection of Choise Receipts (1680)

The drink was inspired by this 1680 recipe:

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“Black Cherrie Water,” A Collection of Choise Receipts, 1680.

On their way out at the end of the evening, guests received bags with a pair of almond cookies also adapted from a recipe in Choise Receipts.

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The finished  give-away almond cookies, pictured with their recipe, adapted from A Collection of Choise Receipts (1680)

There are several recipes for cookies or little cakes made with almonds in the manuscript.  My favorite, “The Lady Lowthers Receipt for to make Bean Bread” a cookie that very much resembles a macaron in texture, takes its name from the slivered almonds that look like little beans that are mixed into the dough.

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“Lady Lowthers Receipt, for to make Bean Bread,” from A Collection of Choise Receipts, 1680.

The recipe for Almond Bisketts that we reproduced for the gala, however, seems to be missing a crucial ingredient: almonds!

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The front of the recipe postcard produced for our give-away cookies for the gala.

Only when examining the full page of the manuscript, on which a very similar recipe for Almond Cakes appears directly above the one reproduced on the postcard, does it become clear that the “half a pound of fflower” referred to in this recipe would be made from ground almonds.  The adapted recipe printed on the back of our card makes that clear.

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The adapted recipe, on the back of the postcard.

If you make a batch of these tasty cookies, let us know how they turn out!  Better yet, send us a picture and we’ll post it on Instagram.

Digitizing Medical Journals of State Societies

By Robin Naughton, Ph.D., Head of Digital

State medical journals digitized for the MHL collective project.

State medical journals digitized for the MHL consortium.

The New York Academy of Medicine Library is digitizing state society medical journals as part of a mass digitization project with the Medical Heritage Library (MHL), a digital curation consortium. The Academy Library is one of five collaborators on the project, along with the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; the Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard University; the Health Sciences and Human Services Library, University of Maryland; the Founding Campus; and the University of California at San Francisco.

Together, the MHL team is actively working to digitize 48 state society journals, more than 3,800 volumes that span much of the 20th century. Digitizing the state medical journals will provide open access to quality historical resources in medicine for researchers and the general public, letting them explore connections between medicine and society.

State medical journals digitized for the MHL collective project.

State medical journals digitized for the MHL collective project.

Evenly splitting the volumes among the MHL team makes the process of mass digitization more manageable and very collaborative. The Academy Library has already digitized almost 50% of the state medical journals assigned to it since Fall 2015. The journals are scanned by the Internet Archive (IA) and are publicly available as part of the Library’s and MHL’s collections on the IA site. Our digitized assets are open for anyone to access and use. Thus far, we have digitized journals representing 24 states and almost 238, 000 images.

The volumes are digitized in their entirety, showing the journals’ articles and  advertising. For example, in Alaska Medicine (vol. 29, 1987), as you read the article “Alaska State Hepatitis B Program – Past, Present and Future” by Elizabeth A. Tower, you can’t help but notice the advertisement for medical transcription. It is hard to resist the “Hello …. Museum of Primitive Civilizations and Hieroglyphs?”

Scan from Alaska Medicine, vol. 29, 1987.

Scan from Alaska Medicine, vol. 29, 1987.

State medical journals are valuable resources that should lead to many new and novel projects for researchers in the history of medicine. Look for more on the project as it progresses.

Explore our collection.

Get Crafty at the Museum Mile Festival on June 14

By Emily Miranker, Project Coordinator

When my office is perfumed by the smell of crayons and stocked with boxes of jumbo-sized sidewalk chalk, I know its Museum Mile Festival time. This year’s Museum Mile Festival takes place on Tuesday, June 14 from 6:00-9:00 pm, rain or shine.

Museum Mile (New York City’s Fifth Avenue from 82nd to 105th Street, which is technically three blocks longer than a mile) is one of the densest cultural stretches in the world.1 For the last 38 years, Fifth Avenue closes to traffic for a few hours on an early June evening. The eight major museums and their neighbors–that’s us!–throw open their doors and spill out onto the street in a block party.

Museum Mile at the New York Academy of Medicine. Courtesy of the Academy's Communications Office.

Museum Mile at the New York Academy of Medicine. Courtesy of the Academy’s Communications Office.

The first festival was held in 1979, the brainchild of the Museum Mile Association, to increase cultural audiences and garner support for the arts in time of great fiscal crisis in the city. The festival has since brought many New Yorkers and tourists to upper Fifth Avenue for the first time, and total attendance over the years has surpassed one million visitors.

Besides free admission to the museums along the mile, street performers, chalk drawing, live bands, balloons, and family-friendly activities abound. Dedicated to improving the health and well-being of people living in cities, the Academy has partners from the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence and Shape Up NYC joining us for the evening.

Getting physical with our community partners at Museum Mile. Courtesy of the Academy's Communications Office.

Getting physical with our community partners at Museum Mile. Courtesy of the Academy’s Communications Office.

The Library has planned some special crafts for the festival. We have the perennial favorite: coloring pages based on images from our collections. Feel free to download your own pages any time from #ColorOurCollections online.

Coloring sheets fro the New York Academy of Medicine Library. Photo: Emily Miranker.

Coloring sheets from the New York Academy of Medicine Library. Photo: Emily Miranker.

Among the treasures of our collection are the anatomical flap books. These are detailed anatomical illustrations superimposed so that lifting the sheets reveals the anatomy and systems of the body as they would appear during dissection. We created a simple DIY version of a flapbook inspired by these remarkable figures from the 1559 edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa totius anatomiae delineatio, aere exarata. The sheets are quite delicate, so it’s rare to see intact versions like this 400 years after they were made. Make your own flapbook with us during the festival.

Male flap anatomy from The Academy's copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Male flap anatomy from The Academy’s copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Female flap anatomy from The Academy's copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Female flap anatomy from The Academy’s copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Make this flap anatomy craft with us at Museum Mile! Photo: Emily Miranker.

Make this flap anatomy craft with us at Museum Mile! Photo: Emily Miranker.

And there’s nothing like using your own body to create art—finger print art!2

Make fingerprint art with us at Museum Mile! Photo: Emily Miranker.

Make fingerprint art with us at Museum Mile! Photo and artwork: Emily Miranker.

We look forward to seeing you at Museum Mile!

References

1. “Museums on the Mile.” Internet Archive Wayback Machine (June 2011). Accessed June 3, 2016. https://web.archive.org/web/20120101013336/http://www.museummilefestival.org/museums/

2. “Fingerprint Fun.” Bookmaking with Kids (June 2010). Accessed June 6, 2016. http://www.bookmakingwithkids.com/?p=1826

The Foresight of Trans-vision: An Innovative Anatomy of the Eye

By Anne Garner, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts

Early European anatomical lift-the-flap books made use of technologies available during the 16th century: woodcut and engraving, combined with manual cutting and pasting.1 Flap anatomies like Geminus’ Compendiosa (1559) allowed readers to peel away the layers of the body to reveal different organs, but these flaps were made of paper and opaque, and didn’t allow the reader to view the strata of the body simultaneously.

Female flap anatomy from The Academy's copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Female flap anatomy from The Academy’s copy of the 1559 English edition of Geminus’ Compendiosa.

Fast forward four centuries, when an innovation in printing technology let readers take a deep dive through the layers of the body all at once.

Anatomical illustrators used transparencies to show the layers of the body as early as the 1920s. J.E. Cheesman published Baillière’s Synthetic Anatomy, a series of 14 booklets, in London from 1926 to 1936. The series used a set of glassine sheets to show what lay beneath the surface of the skin.

Forearm in Cheesman, Baillière's Synthetic anatomy, 1926-1936.

Forearm in Cheesman, Baillière’s Synthetic Anatomy, 1926-1936. Click to enlarge.

Hand in Cheesman, Baillière's Synthetic anatomy, 1926-1936.

Hand in Cheesman, Baillière’s Synthetic Anatomy, 1926-1936. Click to enlarge.

In 1942, Richard Lasker patented a new printing process for Milprint Inc., a Milwaukee-based company. He called this new method trans-vision. Trans-vision allowed for the printing of images on the inner surfaces of folded sheets of transparent acetate. These sheets could then be piled on top of one another so that they overlapped, enabling a multi-layered view with the top sheets depicting the most superficial layers of an object and the bottom sheets the deepest level.2

The patent application for Lasker’s trans-vision process used a cutaway illustration of a mattress, with different layers of acetate offering views of the mattress’ filling.3 Trans-vision’s medical applications proved significantly more useful: it made possible the representation of complex anatomical relationships to health professionals and public audiences alike.

In 1943, Peter C. Kronfeld, an ophthalmology professor at the University of Illinois, published The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies. The book contains 34 color anatomical paintings printed using trans-vision.4 Each page offers a frontal and temporal view of the eye and its area, with transparent layers that can be peeled away by turning the pages. The paintings are printed on the inner side of the acetate to minimize damage from handling. The parts of the eye are numbered. Readers can use a bookmark key laid-in to identify the different parts by name.5

Figure I in Kronfeld, The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies, 1943. Click to enlarge.

Figure 1 in Kronfeld, The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies, 1943. Click to enlarge.

Kronfeld describes the project in The Human Eye’s preface:

It was at once obvious that the eye could advantageously be represented by this means, for it is a three-dimensional object in which great structural intricacy is combined with relatively small size. Ordinary drawings of its separate parts tend to isolate them too much from each other in the mind of the observer….The text has been so organized as to present not only a systematic account of ocular anatomy—taking up the various structures in a functionally logical order—but also a topographic treatment of the anatomy…which necessarily reveal the structures layer by layer in an order determined somewhat by the layers of dissection techniques.6

The paintings were made at twice the actual size by Gladys McHugh, an illustrator at the University of Chicago. The pioneering medical illustrator Max Brödel had been McHugh’s teacher and mentor at Johns Hopkins University, where she studied. It was Brödel who influenced McHugh to make her own dissections.

Figure II in Kronfeld, The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies, 1943. Click to enlarge.

Figure 2 in Kronfeld, The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies, 1943. Click to enlarge.

McHugh augmented her dissections of human eyes with specimens from pigs and monkeys. She describes her extensive dissection work in her introduction:

Over a course of time I obtained from baby autopsies ten good cases, making a total of twenty eyes and orbits. These I dissected layer by layer, making color notes and drawings from the fresh specimens. To develop a technique for separating the layers of the eyeball as intact semispheres, pigs’ eyes were employed. Also, to supplement my observation of the muscles and other structures not fully developed in the infant, monkey orbits were dissected.

As Professor Shelley Wall has argued, turning the pages in The Human Eye mimics the dissection process. As the layers on the recto side of the book are more deeply revealed with each page turn, the layers build on the opposite verso, allowing for the eye’s reconstruction.7 With The Human Eye, the union of format, technology, and material is harmoniously in sync.

Figues 3-6 in Kronfeld, The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies, 1943. Click to enlarge.

Figues 3-6 in Kronfeld, The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies, 1943. Click to enlarge.

Figure 14 in Kronfeld, The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies, 1943. Click to enlarge.

Figure 14 in Kronfeld, The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies, 1943. Click to enlarge.

Figures 19-22 in Kronfeld, The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies, 1943. Click to enlarge.

Figures 19-22 with bookmark key in Kronfeld, The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies, 1943. Click to enlarge.

By 1958, the book had enjoyed five editions.8 Students and educators embraced the text and its ingenious illustrations. In 1946, the trans-vision process was applied again to McHugh’s paintings in for The Human Ear in Anatomical Transparencies. Initially conceived as a wartime project useful to the aviation industry, the book’s value, as with The Human Eye, was in its power to demonstrate to both lay and specialized audiences the inner workings of organs not easily seen.

The finest examples of trans-vision printing occurred when the coffers of the pharmaceutical companies who published them were at their fullest. After The Human Eye and The Human Ear, medical illustrator Ernest Beck used trans-vision technology to produce more than 30 anatomical transparency projects published by Milprint for encyclopedias, pharmaceutical companies and other commercial concerns.9 A decade after Kronfeld, Ciba Pharmaceuticals published a 13-volume collection of anatomical illustrations using anatomical transparencies between 1953 and 1989. The illustrator of these, was a native New Yorker, fellow of the Academy, and former member of the Art Students League of New York. His name was Frank Netter.10

References

1. For more on this, see Andrea Carlino’s excellent Paper bodies: A catalogue of anatomical fugitive sheets, 1538-1687.

2. Wall, Shelley. “Mid-twentieth-century anatomical transparencies and the depiction of three-dimensional form.” Clinical Anatomy 23 (2010) 915-921. Accessed December 2015.

3. Wall, 917.

4. David Templeman, review of The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies by Peter C. Kronfeld. Optometry & Vision Science, 35 7 (1958). 388.

5. Wall, 919.

6. Kronfeld, Peter. The Human Eye In Anatomical Transparencies. Rochester, New York: Bausch & Lomb Press, 1943. iii.

7. Wall, 919.

8. David Templeman, review of The Human Eye in Anatomical Transparencies by Peter C. Kronfeld. Optometry & Vision Science, 35 7 (1958). 388-389.

9. Brierley, Meghan. Dialogue and Dissemination: The Social Practices of Medical Illustrators in the Pharmaceutical Context. Dissertation, University of Alberta. 2013. Accessed online May 31, 1916.

10. Frank Netter was the most prolific medical illustrator of the twentieth-century. During his more than sixty-years as a medical illustrator he produced more than 4,000 illustrations of the entire anatomic and pathologic character of the human body, system by system. His comprehensive and detailed illustrations, published in The Ciba Collection of Medical Illustrations, Clinical Symposia, and The Atlas of Human Anatomy educated generations of medical professionals and students all over the world.