Digitization Pilot: The Robert Matz Hospital Postcard Collection 

By Robin Naughton, Senior Digital Program Manager

The front of a postcard of Roosevelt Hospital.

The front of a postcard of Roosevelt Hospital. NYAM Collection.

matz_nycm_395v_watermark

The back of the postcard, with a message from a patient of the hospital. NYAM Collection.

We are excited to launch a new digital collection, The Robert Matz Hospital Postcard Collection.

Dr. Robert Matz donated about 2,000 hospital postcards to The New York Academy of Medicine Library in several installments between 2015 and 2019. Dating from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, the postcards were organized into three sub-collections: New York City (NYC), New York State (sans NYC), and United States (sans New York).  To create metadata for the postcards, the Library started a project where volunteers researched and captured data about each postcard. New York City was the first sub-collection completed by the volunteers. It was the perfect sub-collection to use for an internal digitization pilot project.

A digitization pilot project is a great opportunity to showcase part of a much larger collection and to test innovative ideas.  For the pilot, 118 postcards were selected from the NYC sub-collection of 962 hospital postcards. Hospital postcards were selected representing all five boroughs (BronxBrooklynManhattanQueens, and Staten Island) to highlight the variety of hospitals, building architecture, and cultural value of the postcards.  The number of postcards selected for each borough is approximately 10 to 12 percent of the total number of postcards for that borough.  For example, Manhattan has the largest number of postcards of the five boroughs and the largest number of postcards in the pilot. The pilot offers an opportunity for users, researchers, potential funders, and the public to explore what has already been digitized, and to learn more about the collection.

Borough # of Postcards in Pilot
Bronx 15
Brooklyn 26
Manhattan 55
Queens 10
Staten Island 12
Total 118

The process of digitizing the postcards provides an opportunity to test new and innovative ways of imaging the collection. For this collection, the opportunity to capture four postcards at once was an innovative approach to digitizing the collection.

The postcard setup in the digitization lab.

The postcard setup in the digitization lab.

The software used for internal digitization was Capture One, which offered many opportunities to enhance the imaging workflow. One such opportunity was to divide the capture area into quadrants so that one shot could capture four objects and ultimately create four images. Rather than taking eight shots for four postcards (front & back), the process reduced the work to only two shots for all four postcards. To do this, variants (duplicates of the raw images) were created in Capture One and the settings applied to each shot.  This method improved the efficiency of digitizing the Matz postcards and provided a significant enhancement to the Digital Lab’s workflow for small, flat objects.

Image capture of four objects (front).

Image capture of four objects (front).

matz_nycbk__023_025_028_30v_watermark

Image capture of four objects (back).

The Robert Matz Hospital Postcards Collection pilot project provides a glimpse into what is possible and available if the entire collection were digitized. Digitizing 2,000 postcards and creating metadata so that users can explore the collection in multiple ways will take time and resources, but the Library is excited about the opportunity.

Take some time to explore the collection and learn more about each of the hospitals represented in the pilot.  If you’d like to explore additional postcards, reach out to the Library.

Explore the Matz Collection here.

Sir William Osler: A Bibliophilic Benefactor

Osler_watermark

Photograph of William Osler. Osler, W., & Pollard, A. W. (1923). Incunabula medica: A study of the earliest printed medical books 1467–1480. Oxford: Bibliographical Society. NYAM Collection. 

December 29, 2019, marks the centenary of the death of Sir William Osler (1849–1919), arguably the most important and most loved physician of his era. Osler received his medical degree from MGill University in 1872, and joined the medical faculty there in 1874. A decade later he moved to Philadelphia to chair the department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1889 he was one of the founders of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, serving as its first Physician-in-Chief and as the first professor of medicine at the newly opened medical school. In 1905, he left the United States to become the Regis Professor of Medicine at Oxford, a position he held for the rest of his life. An accomplished teacher of clinical medicine, Osler established the medical residency program at Hopkins and made sure that students had ample opportunity to interact with patients at the bedside. His textbook, The Principles and Practice of Medicine, first published in 1892, appeared in multiple editions and was the standard textbook of internal medicine for decades. (National Library of Medicine, 2013).

Osler was also an extraordinary collector and lover of books, and in addition to amassing the collection that became the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University, he bestowed gifts on both his friends and on institutions. The Library of The New York Academy of Medicine has him to thank for two of its most treasured items.

Late in February of 1906, Osler sent a postcard to Walter Belknap James (1858–1927), along with a copy of William Harvey’s 1628 De motu cordis, the text in which Harvey describes the circulatory system and the motion of the heart and the blood. Harvey’s work, probably the most important text in the history of physiology, was notoriously difficult to find. In the Bibliotheca Osleriana, Osler recounts his hunt for a copy of the book:

Feb. 17, 1906; I had been looking for a copy for nearly ten years.  Pickering and Chatto sent one to-day, which they had bought for £30 at the sale of Dr. Pettigrew’s library. Though a poor copy, measuring only 7 3/8 x 5 3/8 inches, I took it.  Feb. 19, two days later, they sent me another (this one) from the library of Milne Edwards… I took it too, and passed on the other to Dr. Walter James who gave it to the Library of the Academy of Medicine, New York. (Osler, Francis, Hill, & Malloch, 1929, p. 4)

As can be seen in the image of the postcard below, Osler marketed this copy to James rather differently:

Dear James, That is a nice de Moto Cordis is it not? I had it & another copy here last week to look over and take my pick. There has not been another copy offered in England since 1895 when an imperfect copy was sold at Sotheby's for 10 guineas. Then these two turned up. My copy is from Milne Edwards library in Paris. It is an excessively rare book. Rosenthal tells me he has not had a copy offered in Germany for years. Yours sincerely, Wm Osler

Postcard to Walter Belknap James from William Osler, February 1906. NYAM Collection.

Good copy or not, the gift of the Harvey definitely enhanced the Library’s holdings, and was joined later in the 20th century by a second copy of the 1628 edition when Robert Levy gave his library of books by and about William Harvey to the Academy Library.

Harvey_1628_watermark

Title page. Harvey, W. (1628). Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis et sanguinis in animalibus Guilielmi Harvei. Francofurti: Sumptibus G. Fitzeri. NYAM Collection.

In 1909, Osler again made a gift to the Academy’s collections. On June 16th, Osler sent Laura Smith, who worked in the library, a note relaying the following information: “Will you please tell your Superior, Mr. B [John Browne, the Academy’s librarian] that I hope to send him the Vesalius first edition this week.”

WOtoLauraSmith_96.16.1909_watermark

Letter from William Osler to Laura Smith, June 16th, 1909. NYAM Collection.

Osler had recently given a second copy of the 1543 edition of De humani corporis fabrica, Andreas Vesalius’ groundbreaking work on anatomy, to McGill, and decided that their other copy should make its way to the Academy, even going so far to say in his letter to Miss Smith that while Miss Charlton (of McGill) was “crying hard about it,” Osler was “obdurate and she was not good enough to be allowed 2 copies of so great a work” (personal communication, June 16th, 1909).

In the Bibliotheca Osleriana, Osler writes that he had in his possession at one time or another six copies of the Fabrica, also giving them as gifts to the Boston Medical Library Association; the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty, Baltimore; the Medical Department at the University of Missouri; and to his friend Llewelys Barker, who was professor of anatomy at the University of Chicago, as a wedding present. (Osler, Francis, Hill, & Malloch, 1929).

The Library’s copy still displays the inscription Osler wrote on the free endpaper of this copy when he gave it to McGill in 1903, “The original edition of the greatest medical work ever printed, the one from which modern medicine dates its beginning. W. O.”

Vesalius1543_WOinscription_watermark

Osler’s inscription on endpaper in De humani corporis fabrica (1543). NYAM Collection.

Our copy also retains the bookplates that track its movement from McGill to New York:

Vesalius_WObookplates_watermark

Bookplates in the 1543 edition of De humani corporis fabrica. NYAM Collection.

The Academy soon acquired two other copies of the 1543 Vesalius, one from the Edward Clark Streeter Collection and the other from Dr. Samuel Lambert, as well as two copies of the 1555 second edition. In fact, editions of Vesalius and related works soon became a major research strength of the collection, continue to be heavily used by readers, and are frequently shared with visiting groups and classes.

As 2019 draws to a close, the Library is grateful to its many friends and donors, who, following the spirit of Sir William Osler, continue to enrich our collections today. One hundred years later, the memory of Osler’s generosity reminds us that these books still matter.  Generations of earlier readers held the Osler copies of the Harvey and Vesalius in their hands over the course of hundreds of years before they finally landed on our shelves. It is a privilege to be able to continue to share them.

 References

National Library of Medicine. (2013). William Osler: Biographical overview. Retrieved from https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/spotlight/gf/feature/biographical-overview

Osler, W., Francis, W. W., Hill, R. H., & Malloch, A. (1929). Bibliotheca Osleriana: A catalogue of books illustrating the history of medicine and science. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press.

 

Holiday Recipes from Our Cookery Collection

By Carrie Levinson, Reference Services and Outreach Librarian

It’s that time of year, when big batches of sweet treats are put in the oven, entrées that can feed an army are lovingly prepared, and fun beverages are served all around. Perhaps you don’t know exactly what you’d like to serve at this year’s holiday dinner, or just want to mix things up a bit (with a little historical flair). With this in mind, The New York Academy of Medicine Library is offering a variety of recipes for your perusal from our adoptable Cookery Collection, holdings which span over 10,000 cookbooks, menus, and pamphlets and that include recipes from ancient Rome to mid-century America.

We start off with a festive drink, a “beautiful flavoured punch”, from one of the oldest American cookbooks. Robert Roberts’ The House Servant’s Directory: A Monitor for Private Families (originally published in 1827; our edition is from 1828) was the first commercially-produced book in the United States authored by an African-American (Langone, 2002). It includes an etiquette guide for servants as well as useful household receipts.

TO MAKE A BEAUTIFUL FLAVOURED PUNCH. Take one dessert-spoonful of acid salt of lemon, half a pound of good white sugar, two quarts of real boiling water, one pint of Jamaica rum, and a half pint of brandy, add some lemon peel or some essence of lemon, if agreeable, four drops of the essence is enough; then pour it from one pitcher to another twice or thrice to mix it well. This will be a most delicious and fine flavoured punch.

Recipe “to make a beautiful flavoured punch” from Robert Roberts’s House Servant’s Directory: A Monitor for Private Families (1828). NYAM Collection.

Moving onto some main course inspiration, these recipes for roast goose and apple stuffing come from the December 18th, 1933 issue of A & P weekly menus from the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company.  The menus, which span the years from 1933-1935, include meal ideas for four people as well as complementary recipes and advertisements; some weeks have a theme and some simply list different recipes the consumer might find appealing.

Menu for a Special Christmas dinner, along with recipes for Roast Goose and Apple Stuffing.

December 18, 1933 menu from Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. A & P Menus: Prepared and Proven in the A & P Kitchen. 1933–1935. NYAM Collection.

Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery, or, the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry, & Vegetables (1804) is the first cookbook known to be written by an American, and was originally published in 1796. Simmons included the first recipes for items like johnnycakes and custard-style pumpkin pie and substituted American ingredients for British ones (Stavely and Fitzgerald, 2018). She also included a recipe for New Year’s Cake, seen here.

NEW YEAR'S CAKE Take 14 pound flour, to which add one pint milk, and one quart yeast, put these together over night, and let it lie in the sponge till morning, 5 pound sugar and 4 pound butter, dissolve these together, 6 eggs well beat, and carroway seed; put the whole together, and when light bake them in cakes, similar to breakfast biscuit, 20 minutes.

New Year’s Cake recipe from Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, or, The Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry, & Vegetables (1804). NYAM Collection.

Need more ideas? Check out the full Holiday Recipes addition to our Adopt a Book Cookery Collection, and help support the care and preservation of these rare and unique materials!

References

Langone, J. (2002). Introduction to the Feeding America project. Retrieved from https://d.lib.msu.edu/content/introductory_essays/?book=43

Stavely, K., & Fitzgerald, K. (2018, January 12). What America’s first cookbook says about our country and its cuisine. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-americas-first-cookbook-says-about-our-country-its-cuisine-180967809/

The Women’s Field Army: A Precursor to the American Cancer Society

By Carrie Levinson, Reference Services and Outreach Librarian

On November 7, The New York Academy of Medicine had its Annual Discourse, where Dr. Otis W. Brawley, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Oncology and Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, delivered a fascinating talk on cancer disparities and the status of anti-cancer efforts in the United States. Part of his message was that, while there are differences in diverse populations, increased awareness leads to better outcomes.

Educating the public about cancer, its symptoms, and its treatment was also of great concern to the members of the American Society for the Control of Cancer (ASCC), an organization founded in 1913 with ten doctors and five laypeople, when the disease was not widely talked about and had high mortality rates. The organization’s mission was to bring the looming specter of cancer out of the shadows and into the light, and to do that, they wrote numerous articles in both popular periodicals and academic journals, produced their own bulletin, Campaign Notes, and recruited doctors around the United States to educate patients (American Cancer Society [ACS], 2019).

While these efforts helped, they only involved about 15,000 people across the country by 1935 (ACS, 2019). In 1936, the new campaign was born to get volunteers to help spread vital information: the Women’s Field Army. The ASCC specifically recruited women “because the types of cancer that strike women hardest—cancer of the uterus and breast—may be cured in seventy per cent of the cases if taken in time” (New York City Cancer Committee [NYCCC], 1936).

ASCCC_HospitalServiceProgramOfTheWomensFieldArmy_1942_April1942_watermark

Some of the Women’s Field Army in Service, April 1942. American Society for the Control of Cancer (1942). Hospital service program of the Women’s Field Army: The American Society for the Control of Cancer, Inc. [Pamphlet]. New York, NY: Author.

Among other educational literature, the ASCC produced pamphlets promoting the Women’s Field Army. One item from 1936, used to recruit members, tells the story of a woman who started to suspect she might have cancer based on the New York City Cancer Committee’s materials, such as billboards, subway cards, and editorials in the newspaper (NYCCC, 1936). After learning more and eventually receiving the treatment she needs, she joins the Women’s Field Army so that she, too, can be a “crusader in the fight against cancer.” Other pages in the pamphlet emphasize the critical role that various women have played in helping others receive the care they need, from Maud Slye’s cancer research to Dr. Elizabeth Hurdon, founder of the Marie Curie Hospital in London (NYCCC, 1936).

NYCCC_ForAllWomen_1936_MadameCurieMaudSlye_watermark

Short descriptions of Marie Curie’s and Maud Slye’s research. New York City Cancer Committee (1936). For all women: Presented by the Women’s Field Army of the American Society for the Control of Cancer [Pamphlet]. New York, NY: Author.

A wartime NYCCC pamphlet encourages different divisions of the Women’s Field Army to set up hospital service programs as a part of the War Service Program, and describes their challenges and triumphs. The preparation and use of surgical dressings and bandages, which the Women’s Field Army determined were greatly needed, are explained in detail, from production to transportation (American Society for the Control of Cancer, 1942).

NYCCC_ForAllWomen_1936_OrganizationPlan_watermark

Map of the organization plan of the NYC Cancer Committee divisions of the Women’s Field Army. American Society for the Control of Cancer (1942). Hospital service program of the Women’s Field Army: The American Society for the Control of Cancer, Inc. [Pamphlet]. New York, NY: Author.  NYAM Collection.

Divisions and programs like Women’s Field Army greatly expanded cancer awareness; the organization is credited with increasing the number of individuals involved in cancer control from 15,000 to at least 150,000 in three years (ACS, 2019). Although the American Society for the Control of Cancer changed direction after World War II (you may know it better now as the American Cancer Society) and the Army no longer exists, it serves as an important reminder of how a group of determined volunteers can change the way we think of, and treat, cancer—or indeed any disease—today.

References

American Cancer Society (2019). Our history. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/about-us/who-we-are/our-history.html

American Society for the Control of Cancer (1942). Hospital service program of the Women’s Field Army: The American Society for the Control of Cancer, Inc. [Pamphlet]. New York, NY: Author.

New York City Cancer Committee (1936). For all women: Presented by the Women’s Field Army of the American Society for the Control of Cancer [Pamphlet]. New York, NY: Author.

The Michael M. Davis Papers and Economics in Medicine

By Carrie Levinson, Reference Services & Outreach Librarian

Recently, the Academy hosted a talk between Paul Krugman and Tsung-Mei Cheng, entitled “Priced Out: The Economic and Ethical Costs of American Health Care.” This event focused on Uwe E. Reinhardt’s latest book, which discusses today’s U.S. healthcare system. Krugman and Cheng delivered lively and nuanced explanations of why our system is so expensive, especially compared with other similar countries, the morality involved in having costs so high, and some potential solutions.

Michael_Davis_watermark

A photograph of Michael M. Davis from Michael M. Davis: A tribute, by Alice Taylor Davis and Gertrude Auerbach (1972?). NYAM Collection.

The debate about healthcare in the United States is not a new one, however. One notable medical economist whose collection is one of the most interesting in the Academy’s library, Michael Marks Davis, advocated for comprehensive medical care and national health insurance, and worked in many prominent organizations and committees throughout his career, including the Rockefeller Foundation, the Julius Rosenwald Fund, the Committee for Research in Medical Economics, and the Committee for the Nation’s Health (New York Academy of Medicine, n.d.).

Davis donated his collection of papers and reports in 1962. This collection is important because, among other things, it provides source material for studying some of the most significant historical legislative advances in the United States, as well as social trends of the 1920s through the 1960s, aspects of medicine and health in other countries, and confidential and other unpublished reports that likely are not duplicated elsewhere. Below is a short description of the kinds of material that can be found within these papers, originally compiled by Lee Ash (1967).

Series 1: Medical Economics and Medical Sociology

  • Material on medical care costs and studies by, for, and about the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care, including confidential reports; also material on state, industrial and cooperative medical plans, comprehensive group medical plans, and union health programs.

Series 2: Medical Care in the United States

  • Materials including confidential reports made for foundations in the United States; material on rural economic conditions from the 1930’s through the 1950s, and on rural health problems and programs, material on medical education, hospitals, and medical personnel.

Series 3: Legislation and Legal Aspects

  • Materials on legislation since 1950, and publications, reports, correspondence, and ephemera relevant to legislation prior to 1950, public assistance and child welfare, mental health, and state legislation, including sickness and disability insurance programs to be paid for by the state, and original texts of bills.

Series 4: Organizations

  • Samples of special reports, annual reports, and letters to and from Dr. Davis concerning the work of various organizations, grouped into the following sections: Professional Organizations, General Organizations, International Organizations, and Political Organizations.

Series 5: Medical Care in Foreign Countries

  • Public documentation and correspondence with leaders and private physicians concerned with social medicine and public health abroad; a good deal of material focusing on the National Health Service Act; published and unpublished reports from many other countries.

Series 6: Personalities

  • Correspondence, notes, comments, clippings, personality evaluations, and memorabilia to, from, and about all of the leaders Dr. Davis associated with in his work.
Article with graphs looking at illness and income

Article with graphs looking at illness and income in Volume 21 of the Michael M. Davis papers. NYAM Collection in Public Health in Modern America, 1890-1970 .

These short descriptions don’t even begin to cover the richness of the Davis collection. With over 400,000 pieces (Ash, 1967), it might seem insurmountable to researchers, but that’s not the case. We have an excellent finding aid that goes into more detail about the materials and how to find them, as well as giving detailed biographical information on Dr. Davis. Not enough for you? You may recall our blog post about our partnership with Gale to digitize material related to public health in America. Well, this entire collection can be found in Gale’s new database Public Health in Modern America, 1890-1970! If your institution doesn’t subscribe to it, you can make an appointment to view it at our library.

Conversation and arguments about healthcare costs and structure are unlikely to stop anytime soon, but with collections such as Davis’s available to those who are interested, we can understand the history of such discussions in going forward.

References

Ash, L. (1967). The Michael M. Davis Collection of Social and Economic Aspects of Medicine. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 43(7), 598–608. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1806900/

New York Academy of Medicine (n. d.). Library of social and economic aspects of medicine of Michael M. Davis [Finding aid]. New York, NY: Author. Retrieved from https://www.nyam.org/library/collections-and-resources/archives/finding-aids/ARM-0003.html/

Monstrosity and Motherhood in Seventeenth-Century English Print

By Hannah Johnston, Library Volunteer 

While today many of us would relegate monsters to fantasy books and Halloween decor, to people in seventeenth-century England, monsters were very real. Fantastical beasts were thought to inhabit the far corners of the world, but perhaps more astonishing were the “beasts” born right at home.[1] Narratives of “monstrous births” could be found in pamphlets, balladry, and even medical books, and the infants in question ranged in these texts from frightening spectacles to prodigal symbols. Of course, many of the babies deemed “monstrous” were not, in fact, monsters. For every “actual” monster – serpents, flying infants, rabbits birthed by a human woman – there was a birth which in the modern era could be explained by numerous common as well as rare conditions.[2]

Nevertheless, this fascination with abnormal births can tell us quite a bit about the many ways early modern people conceptualized and dealt with bodies that defied categorization; among these was the child’s relationship with its mother. The placing of blame on mothers for their own monstrous births reflects a frustration with the lack of understanding of the female body, as well as an interest in encouraging “proper” behavior in women.

False Lover Rewarded

The False Lover Rewarded, 1760? Huntington Library 289786, EBBA 32528. Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Most people in the 17th century would learn about a monstrous birth from cheap print sources such as pamphlets and broadside ballads. Broadside ballads in particular were incredibly popular, affordable, and widely available to the public. Often sold by female “hawkers” on the street, broadside ballads could be bought by just about anyone and were written to entertain as well as inform.[3] While some ballads were based on true (if exaggerated) events, many were entirely works of fiction. Ballads overall were more concerned with entertainment and moral policing than exploring the functional causes of abnormal births. Sensationalist in nature, they often focused on the spectacle of a single birth, and were often framed as a divine punishment for the mother’s sins or flaws.

The Lamenting Lady

The Lamenting Lady, 1620? Magdalene College – Pepys Ballads 1.44-45 EBBA 20210. Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

While many ballads focused on the physical aspects of infants’ bodies, the way some births occurred were seen as monstrous in and of themselves. “The Lamenting Lady,” published circa 1620, was one such ballad, focusing on the story of a “[lady] of degree” who, despite having beauty and a comfortable lifestyle, could not bear a child.[4] One day, a “poore woman” came to her door with her two children to beg for money. The woman could not fathom why “Beggers [sic] have what Ladies want,” and became irate with the beggar, asserting that she had had her children as a result of being unfaithful to her husband.[5] To punish the woman for her jealous behavior, the beggar woman promptly cursed her:

And for these children two of mine

heaven send thee such a number

At once, as dayes be in the yeare,

to make the world to wonder.

For I as true a wife have beene,

unto my husbands love:

As any Lady on the earth,

unto her Lord can prove.[6]

Because of her unkindness towards the poor woman, the wealthy woman was cursed to give birth to three-hundred and sixty-five children in succession.[7] “The Lamenting Lady” was, of course, a fictional account. However, this chastising tone is common to even the true (or at least more believable) accounts of monstrous births. Balladry, while interested in the causes of monstrous births, was centered on using them both to entertain and to discourage the behavior that was thought to cause them.

While pamphlets and ballads were focused mostly on the spectacle aspect of monstrous births, many books, in particular medical or midwifery manuals, sought to explore their cause. Aristotle’s Masterpiece was one of several works to try to answer the pressing question of where monstrosity came from. An amalgam of earlier works by various authors, the book was first published in 1684 and remained widely popular among curious readers through the early 20th century.[8] The author (or compiler) of the work is unknown, having used “Aristotle” as a pseudonym, likely to invoke authority.[9]

Example of a "monster" in Aristotle’s Masterpiece

Example of a “monster” in Aristotle’s Masterpiece, or The Secrets of Generation displayed in all the parts thereof… London, 1684. NYAM Collection.

Among many topics pertaining to sex, pregnancy, and childbirth, included in the Masterpiece was a chapter on the causes of “monstrous conceptions.”[10] Many people believed that a monstrous conception could be caused by a birth ill-timed with the stars, or a flaw in the “seed” of either parent.[11] The Masterpiece, while acknowledging these to be true, noted another important factor in an abnormal birth – the thoughts of the parents, particularly of the mother.[12] Already a popular concept by the Masterpiece’s publication, the theory of maternal imagination stated that the pregnant mother’s feelings, experiences, and thoughts could impact the development of her child.[13] While in line with the representations of monstrous births in balladry, the theory of maternal imagination sought to explain how the mother’s actions could physically alter her unborn child’s body. In particular, an infant could become “monstrous” if its mother were to wish for, think about, or look upon a thing or person to excess. The theory of maternal imagination would have supported the interpretations of monstrous births seen in cheap print, where mothers’ sins marked the bodies of their children.

Together, the representations of monstrosity in cheap print and in books suggest an interest in finding someone to blame for the curiosity, fear, and occasional tragedy associated with abnormal births. Seventeenth-century English print constructed a connection between the actions of mothers and the bodies of children that served to entertain, inspire fear, and encourage moral behavior in mothers-to-be.

References

[1] Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature (New York, NY: Zone Books, 1998), pp 173–214.

[2] For flying: “The False Lover Rewarded” (London, UK: 1760), EBBA; For rabbits: See the well-known case of Mary Toft, who (falsely) claimed to have given birth to rabbits. Glennda Leslie, “Cheat and Impostor: Debate Following the Case of the Rabbit Breeder,” The Eighteenth Century 27, no. 3 (1986): 269–86.

[3] Patricia Fumerton and Anita Guerrini, ed. Ballads and Broadsides in Britain, 1500–1800 (Oxon, UK and New York, NY: Routledge, 2010).

[4]The Lamenting Lady, Who for the wrongs done to her by a poore woman, for hauing two children at one burthen, was by the hand of God most strangely punished, by sending her as many children at one birth, as there are daies in the yeare, in remembrance whereof, there is now a monument builded in the Citty of Lowdon, as many English men now liuing in Lowdon, can truely testifie the same and hath seene it,” 1620? EBBA.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Mary Fissell, “Hairy Women and Naked Truths: Gender and the Politics of Knowledge in ‘Aristotle’s Masterpiece,’” The William and Mary Quarterly 60 No 1, “Sexuality in Early America,” Jan 2003, pp 43–74; Pseudo Aristotele, and John How, Aristotle’s Masterpiece, Or The Secrets of Generation displayed in all the parts thereof  (London, England: 1684).

[9] Fissell 47.

[10] Aristotle’s Masterpiece 51.

[11] Ibid 52.

[12] Ibid 51.

[13] Daston & Park 192.

Opium in the Library: Remedy & Reverie in the 18th and 19th Centuries

By Hannah Johnston, Library Volunteer

Writing on opium and opioids in the 20th century, particularly in the United States, was often characterized by an interest in the mechanisms of addiction, a growing concern for public health, and a widespread and a deep-rooted fear of the “dope evil.”[1] Only two centuries earlier, however, the “dope evil” was instead “a safe, and noble Panacea.”[2] While there was certainly an understanding of the addictive nature of opium and, to some extent, concern over its safety, many writers in the 18th and 19th centuries were simply fascinated by the drug.

Two works in particular, The Mysteries of Opium Reveal’d by Dr. John Jones (1645–1709) and The Seven Sisters of Sleep by botanist Mordecai Cubitt Cooke (1825–1914), showcase this interest in the origins, nature, and various uses of the drug. While differing in their goals and their opinions on the primary benefits of opium, both works demonstrate some of the ways eighteenth- and nineteenth-century writers grappled with a substance unlike any they had previously encountered. In conversation with each other, The Mysteries and The Seven Sisters can reveal how changing ideas in medicine, culture, and politics influenced the perception and use of opium in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Considered one of the first comprehensive works on the effects and mechanisms of opium, The Mysteries of Opium Reveal’d aimed to demonstrate how, when used effectively, the drug could be a reliable and incredibly useful medicine.[3] Dr. John Jones first explained the origins, nature, uses, and possible misuses of opium.[4] Jones’ book was what one might expect from an eighteenth-century English medical book—while he did devote time to discussing the history and recreational use of opium, he was most deeply invested in unearthing the mechanisms by which opium “lulls, sooths, and, as it were, charms the Mind ….[5]

Jones_Mysteries of opium reveald_1700_plate1_watermark

A table of opiate dosages to give to various populations of men and women from John Jones’s Mysteries of opium reveal’d (1701). NYAM Collection.

More than a hundred years later, in the mid-19th century, Mordecai Cubitt Cooke wrote a very different kind of opium book. The Seven Sisters of Sleep focuses on seven narcotic drugs – opium, tobacco, cannabis, betel nut, cocaine, datura (a genus of hallucinogenic plants), and fly agaric (a psychoactive mushroom) – allegorically described as the “sisters” of the Queen of Sleep, who each ruled over different portions of the world.[6] Six of Cooke’s twenty-six chapters were devoted to opium in various respects, and the appendix of the book included tables and information on the use and trade of opium on a global scale.[7] While Jones was more concerned with the proper way of producing opium, dosage for various ailments, and outlining the drug’s exact effects on the body (he noted that opium primarily impacted the stomach), The Seven Sisters was primarily focused on recreational or regular use of the drug, and offered personal accounts of experiences with opium as well as comprehensive reports of opium use, particularly in China.[8]

Cooke_SevenSistersOfSleep_1860_370_watermark

A table of opium and its substitutes, from Mordecai Cubitt Cooke’s The seven sisters of sleep: Popular history of the seven prevailing narcotics of the world (1860). NYAM Collection.

Cooke_SevenSistersOfSleep_1860_368_watermark

A table estimating the amount of people taking narcotics around the world, from Mordecai Cubitt Cooke’s The seven sisters of sleep: Popular history of the seven prevailing narcotics of the world (1860). NYAM Collection.

Writing on the possible pitfalls of opium use, Jones argued that opium “does not diminish or disable the Spirits by any means whatsoever… when duely and moderately used. Cooke, however, addressed several rather terrifying side effects of the drug.[9] He devoted his twelfth chapter to the dangers of opium, describing in vivid detail the horrifying dreams had by some opium users and noting the occurrences of violent psychotic breaks fueled by opium use.[10] While both works discuss the “noxious principle” of the drug, Cooke devotes far more discussion to its potential for misuse, perhaps reflecting a growing understanding and worry about opium’s addictive nature.[11]

Both works made a point to discuss the place of opium on the global stage; the differing ways each author approached the subject, however, reveal the rapidly increasing role of opium in British imperial activities around the world. Jones’ discussion of this subject is limited mostly to the origins of opium, where he notes the relative quality of opium sourced from different countries.[12] Cooke’s work, on the other hand, was published after the Opium Wars between Britain and China of the previous two decades, and reflects the importance of opium in British imperial growth. He described the ways that different ethnic groups used opium, particularly in Asia, and included reports on the rates of opium use throughout different parts of China.[13] Although largely refraining from the demonizing Chinese opium users, which often happened in late 19th century Britain and the United States, Cooke’s writing suggests a British fascination with opium as a cultural import as well as a recreational drug.

The Mysteries of Opium Reveal’d and The Seven Sisters of Sleep reflect the many ways in which views on opium have changed over the last three hundred years. All in all, both writers were invested in defending the use of opium, and noted the many pleasurable effects the drug had on mind and body. However, the ways in which these effects were described by each writer show how the changing political and cultural climate altered the place of opium in the public mind and on the global stage. These works can offer us a glimpse into the worldviews and events that informed the evolving understanding of opium, its uses, and its dangers.

This blog post was written to complement The New York Academy of Medicine’s  Opioid Symposium, held on Friday, September 20th, 2019. You can also “adopt” The Mysteries of Opium Reveal’d, featured in this blog post, and other related works, to help ensure their care and preservation. See more information about this here

References

[1] Several articles in [Lawrence Boardman Dunham clippings and correspondence albums], Dec 1926 to Sept 1932, Volume 1, Manuscripts, New York Academy of Medicine Library, New York, NY.

[2] Dr. John Jones, The Mysteries of Opium Reveal’d (London: 1701), 1. All emphasis original unless stated otherwise.

[3] Ibid; Richard J. Miller and Phuong B. Tran, “More Mysteries of Opium Reveal’d: 300 Years of Opiates,” Trends in Pharmacological Sciences 21 (August 2000), 299–304.

[4] Jones, 1.

[5] Jones, 216.

[6] Mordecai Cubitt Cooke, The Seven Sisters of Sleep: Popular History of the Seven Prevailing Narcotics of the World (London: 1860), 1–5.

[7] Ibid, 357–371.

[8] Ibid, 163–180, 357–371.

[9] Jones, 81.

[10] Cooke, 163–180.

[11] Jones, 1; Cooke.

[12] Jones, 6.

[13] Cooke, 132–148, 366–368.

Get Your Primary Sources! Public Health in Modern America & Archives of Sexuality & Gender, Part III

By Robin Naughton, PhD

The New York Academy of Medicine Library has closed stacks, and as such, the serendipitous nature of browsing the shelves and discovering a gem stuck between two unlikely neighbors is limited to the librarians working in the Library. Thus, it is important that we provide patrons with access to the material in ways that they too can explore. This is a major goal of the Digital team, and it is made possible through a variety of digitization projects. Most recently, the Library partnered with Gale, a Cengage company, to digitize materials for two mass digitization projects: Public Health in Modern America, 1890-1970 launched in June 2019 and Archives of Sexuality & Gender, Part III: Sex and Sexuality, Sixteenth to Twentieth Centuries launched in February 2019.  Within the past year, the collaboration with Gale has helped the Library to digitize over 6,600 items, which represents almost a million images created.

Contributions

The Library contributed archival collections, and rare and historical materials for each project, providing users with access to major primary sources.

PHIAF0004-C00000-B0209700-00020

Bouton, S. M. (n. d.). Old Doc Politics is back again. New York: Public Relations Bureau Medical Society of the State of New York. Pamphlet in New York Academy of Medicine Library collection; digitized for Public Health in Modern America database.

Public Health in Modern America includes:

  • The Committee on Public Health of the New York Academy of Medicine – a collection of correspondence, reports, minutes, and documents on the significant work of the committee with New York’s health department and leading figures in public health. It is a collection about the New York Academy’s contribution and role in public health at the time.
  • Library of Social and Economic Aspects of Medicine of Michael M. Davis – a collection of the work of Dr. Davis in the early twentieth century, covering topics such as healthcare, medical economics, social security, legislation, and more.
  • Selected Public Health Pamphlets – over 2,200 pamphlets on various aspects of public health from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.
Sanger_cover_cropped

Sanger, M. (1913?). What every girl should know. Reading, PA: Sentinel Printing Co. Book in New York Academy of Medicine Library collection; digitized for Archives of Sexuality & Gender database.

Archives of Sexuality & Gender includes:

  • Monographs – over 1,500 monographs on a variety of topics dealing with sex, sexuality, and gender.
  • Mary Ware Dennett Case Collection – an archival collection of the court case against Dennett for writing “The Sex Side of Life,” a pamphlet about sex for young people.
  • Correspondence between Eugen Steinach and Harry Benjamin – a collection of over forty years of correspondence about rejuvenation, including letters, postcards, diagrams, and photographs.

Together, these two products represent significant digitization making rare and unique materials available. Researchers can now go deep in ways not possible prior to digitization. For example, the material has optical character recognition (OCR), which means that researchers can search for a term and discover all the places where that term exists within a text, across the collection, or across the product, which includes collections from other collaborators. In addition, the products offer options to jump to diagrams, photographs, and other material types within a given item.  Thus, researchers now have direct access to substantial databases of primary source materials that they can analyze in novel ways.

External Digitization Process

Creating these products took tremendous amount of collaboration among multiple organizations and people.  For the Library, these products required the external digitization process, which was one process out of many that made it possible to seamlessly digitize this material. The external digitization process included an intricate tracking of each item digitized from the moment it was identified and taken off the shelf to moment it was returned to its place on the shelf.

The external digitization process workflow describes the steps involved.

Gale Production Process

External digitization process flowchart, created by the author.

Green indicates start and end.  White indicates steps in the process.   Yellow indicates that there are additional processes involved with their own workflows. Red indicates that there is an issue that needs to be resolved.

External digitization projects make it possible for the Library to digitize materials on a large scale and make the content available to universities and research institutions from Gale. It also makes the products created available to patrons in the Library. Thus, patrons visiting the Library can have access to these databases while in the Library.

Interested in using these databases in the Library? Click here to find out how to make an appointment to visit.

“Alas, Poor Daft Jamie’s Pickled!”: Poetry Concerning the Resurrectionists

By Carrie Levinson, Reference Services and Outreach Librarian

You may have heard about “Resurrection Men” – people who robbed graves and even killed people to fill the unprecedented demand for cadavers in medical schools in the nineteenth century. You may have even heard the names William Burke and William Hare: two of the most notorious body-snatchers and murderers who ever lived. But did you know that there is poetry about these bizarre and tragic events?

 The New York Academy of Medicine Library has a digital collection, The Resurrectionists, which contains broadsides, ballads, pamphlets, poetry, and other literature concerning Burke and Hare, their accomplices, and their victims. Since it is National Poetry Month, we’ve decided to feature some of the poetry contained in this collection.

First, however, a little bit of background. William Burke and William Hare were two ne’er-do-wells in 1820s Scotland who enjoyed drinking and working as little as possible (Barzun, 1974). When another occupant in their lodging house passed away from natural causes, they sold the body. Soon they found that bodies for the medical schools (particularly, the anatomy and physiology class in Edinburgh taught by Dr. Robert Knox) were in high demand, but not in ready supply. To capitalize on this newly-discovered stream of funds, the group quickly turned to murder. Their first victim was likely a miller by the name of Joe, and more followed (Barzun, 1974).

Unfortunately for them, Burke, Hare, and their accomplices made a number of mistakes resulting in their capture: they murdered a prostitute by the name of Mary Paterson, who was a client of one of the doctors and whom he recognized (though he kept quiet at the time); they also killed a well-known and -liked young man known in town as Daft Jamie, whose disappearance was immediately noted and speculated upon (bringing suspicion upon Dr. Knox as well); and they also began to quarrel amongst themselves. Their arrest came after a couple who knew their last victim, Mrs. Docherty, went to the police (Barzun, 1974).

 

 

 

Hare was offered immunity to testify against Burke and Helen MacDougal, Burke’s mistress. After the trial, deliberations took less than an hour: Burke was declared guilty, while MacDougal went free. Burke’s punishment: he was to be publicly hanged, his skin to be tanned and sold in strips, and his body to be dissected and then lectured upon, much like the bodies he had murdered for profit (Barzun, 1974). Burke was hanged on January 28, 1829, and his skeleton is still on view in the Anatomical Museum of the Edinburgh Medical School. Hare left Edinburgh in disguise and soon disappeared. One enduring legacy was a new verb, to burke, originally meaning to kill by smothering (in order to leave a good body to dissect!), and now broadened to mean to suppress.

 

A huge amount of literature was generated from these morbid events, including, arguably, the genre of crime fiction (Barzun, 1974). Here are a few examples of the poetry: one, an elegy for William Burke, and two poems lamenting the death of Daft Jamie (Jamie Wilson).

Elegy__page_2

We hope you will peruse this collection and marvel at the many effects Burke and Hare’s dastardly deeds had on the law, medicine, and literature. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to write a poem of your own!

  References

Barzun, J. (1974). Murder for profit and for science. In J. Barzun (Ed.), Burke and Hare: Resurrection men: A collection of contemporary documents including broadsides, occasional verses, illustrations, polemics, and a complete transcript of the testimony at the trial (pp. v-xii). Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.

Finding Cause in Street Cleanliness:  The Citizens’ Association of New York Report of 1865

By Anne Garner, Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts

It’s 1863. New York’s streets are dismal.  Downtown, the scents of manure, garbage and chemicals permeate the air.  The streets are littered with debris, and in some places, are navigable only by wading through standing water. The gaps between cobblestones catch sewage and other dirt discharged from nearby tenements.

Public health statisticians estimate that New York has upwards of 200,000 cases of preventable and needless sickness every year. The Board of Health, controlled by corrupt politicians, is ineffective.  In newspapers like Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News and Harper’s Weekly, the condition of New York’s thoroughfares is a punchline. Editorials, cartoons and newspaper stories blame immigrant populations, the poor, and an indifferent municipal government. [1]

1BoardofHealth

T. Bernhard Gillam, “The Streets of New York,” Harper’s Weekly, February 26, 1881.

What to do?  In December of that same year, a group of citizens met with Mayor Gunther, the recently elected reform candidate to consider the city’s social problems. The following year, these concerned citizens formed the Citizens’ Association of New York, dedicated to a cause they describe in simple terms: “public usefulness.” [2]  The organization quickly determined that physicians should play a prominent role in sanitary reform, and organized the Association’s Special Council of Hygiene and Public Health. [3]

In May of 1864, the Council embarked on a street-by-street sanitary inspection of New York City. Medical inspectors – all physicians—were assigned to 31 districts throughout the city in an attempt to gather detailed information about New Yorkers and their living conditions. For seven months, the inspectors visited every household in Manhattan and used a nine-page survey as their guide. [4]

​​During the course of the survey, the inspectors filled seventeen volumes of observations and notes comprising the most “precise and exacting account of a city’s health and social conditions ever compiled.” Many of these notebooks, including some remarkable hand-drawn maps, are available at The New-York Historical Society. The image below is taken from the Society’s archives and shows a tenant house for 200 people at 311 Monroe Street, in the 9th District. [5]

7thward-NYHS

Record of Sanitary Inquiry, 7th ward, 9th District, {BV Citizens’ Association}. Reposted with permission of the New-York Historical Society.

This survey, presented by medical inspector William Hunter to former New York Academy of Medicine President Joseph M. Smith, records the living conditions of a family of three recent Irish immigrants living in a three-story tenement on W. 14th Street in late October of 1864. The unit was comprised of David, age 30, described in the survey as an “intelligent but uneducated” gardener, Ellen, age 28, and Margaret, age 6. The survey suggests that all three family members had typhoid fever, likely contracted on their journey to America from Ireland just a few months before.  Though the family’s living conditions were described as “good,” Hunter notes that the six families in their apartment were living in close quarters in just six rooms, with only two windows as a source of light and ventilation, and in such proximity to the horse stable that the horse could freely wander into their hallway. [6]

Surveys of this depth and length were kept for every household throughout the city’s 31 wards.  Wards were frequently assigned to physicians who knew the neighborhoods and the residents.  Most of the residents were given a thorough medical exam, and the nuisances of their environment were recorded in detail. [7]  Each ward’s physician contributed a district report, summarizing their findings. Ezra Pulling, who was the sanitary inspector for the fourth ward, contributed a report on his district and his data was poured into the making of this extraordinary map, published along with the report in 1865.  ​

2CANY_reportcouncilhygiene_sanitarychartfourthward_ca1865_watermark

Map of the Fourth Ward of the City of New York. Report of the Council of Hygiene and Public Health of the Citizens’ Association of New York. New York:  Appleton, 1865.

3CANY_reportcouncilhygiene_sanitarychartfourthward_ca1865_watermark

Fourth Ward map, detail of Gotham Court

The long, rectangular building that you see here at the center of this detail is a tenant house called Gotham Court.  The stars here indicate that outbreaks of typhus and smallpox have occurred in the house.  Privies in the basement were discharged into subterranean drains or sewers that run through each alley and then outside through grated openings, blocking much of the waste. Inside, each individual has an average of 275 cubic feet.  If these dimensions are difficult to picture, imagine a closet 5 feet square and 11 feet high, allotted per person, for their body and for everything they own as well. Nineteen children were recorded as unvaccinated for smallpox (the only vaccine available at this time) here, and it was also noted that clothes were being manufactured in the building as well—clothes that were exposed to cases of typhus and measles. [8]

In another section of the map, we see a number of tenant houses north of the Bowery surrounded by stables, with a brewery and a coal yard at the east.  Less than 30 percent of the privies in this district are connected with drains and sewers, and at least ten of these, as marked on the map by black squares, are in extremely offensive condition. A number of these are indicated on the map below.

4ABOVEBOWERY_watermark

Fourth Ward map, detail of the Bowery

The impact of the publication of the Citizens’ Association report and the map itself was mixed. The report led to higher sanitation standards throughout the city, and forced the attention of government officials, who passed a law to create the Board of Health.[9]  Under this law, at least three of the Board’s nine commissioners needed to be physicians. Though the Council went to great lengths to visually and verbally document the city’s housing conditions, the Council didn’t investigate wage equity or the frequency and rate of unemployment. Historian Elizabeth Blackmar has argued that “the surveys fueled the movement for developing building codes and sanitary inspection as a means of guaranteeing better housing, but they also erased from discussion reflection on the larger economic relations that produced them.” [10]  In some cases, the report’s writers unfairly drew a line of causation directly from better living conditions to economic security, implying that given the right housing, the poor could flourish, independent of employment opportunities, fare wages, and access to healthcare.

In spite of its shortcomings, the report offered keen observations about the city’s conditions, and was instrumental in inspiring great reform in the city.  Today, IMAGE NYC, a project launched by the Academy with the CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research / CUNY Graduate Center earlier this year, embraces the methodology the Citizens’ Association deployed over 150 years ago, and largely for the same reason: to better understand the social determinants of health.  The site has an interactive map of New York City’s current and projected population, 65 and older.  Much like the Citizens’ Association map, the idea is to determine environmental risks and benefits to certain populations.  Here, instead of physicians canvassing the neighborhoods to note conditions, community members can use the 311 app to take pictures and send them to the city.

The Fourth Ward Map, published as part of the 1865 Report of the Council of Hygiene and Public Health, as well as the 1864 survey form documenting the household of the Irish immigrants living on 14th street, are on view in Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis, until this Sunday, April 28th.

References

[1] Bert Hansen. “The Image and Advocacy of Public Health in American Caricature and Cartoons from 1860 to 1900.”  American Journal of Public Health. Nov. 1997, v. 87, no. 11.

[2] Report of the Council of Hygiene and Public Health of the Citizens’ Association of New York. New York: Appleton, 1865, P. vii.

[3] John Duffy.  A History of Public Health in New York City 1625-1866.  New York: Russell Sage, 1968. Pp. 553-556.

[4] Report of the Council of Hygiene and Public Health of the Citizens’ Association of New York. New York:  Appleton, 1865.

[5] See also the excellent blog by Reference Librarian Mariam Touba of The New York Historical Society, here.

[6] Citizens’ Association of New York: Council of Hygiene and Public Health. Report of pestilential diseases and insalubrious quarters. New York: n.p., 1864.

[7] Duffy, p. 556.

[8] Report of the Council of Hygiene and Public Health…1865. P. 49-54.

[9] Duffy, 557.

[10] Elizabeth Blackmar.  “Accountability for Public Health: Regulating the Housing Market in Nineteenth-Century New York City.” In Hives of Sickness, edited by David Rosner. Rutgers University Press, 1995. Pp. 42-64.