Category: Brigham and Women’s Hospital Archives

Warren Museum’s Mystery Box Reveals a “Twilight” Story

By , July 25, 2019

Doctor’s Birthing Kit, circa 1910

Anesthesia history artifacts collected by Bert B. Hershenson, MD

Anesthesia history artifacts collected by Bert B. Hershenson, MD

This mysterious metal box filled with labeled glass bottles and anesthesia paraphernalia was one of the anesthesia history artifacts collected by Bert B. Hershenson, MD, Director of Anesthesia (1942–1956) at the Boston Lying-in Hospital (a Brigham and Women’s parent hospital). It was donated by Mrs. Hershenson to Harvard Medical School’s Warren Anatomical Museum in 1972 with no identifying information other than that it once belonged to a Viennese doctor “two generations ago.” A recent provenance investigation of the box and the objects inside, done here at the Center for the History of Medicine, indicated that the original owner was probably a turn-of-the-century obstetrician who may have been a practitioner of Dämmerschlaf or “Twilight Sleep.”

Picture of the March 7, 1915 Boston Sundat Post newspaper article, "Scores of Twilight Sleep Babies in Hub"

Boston Sunday Post, March 7, 1915. “Scores of Twilight Sleep Babies in Hub”

Twilight Sleep was introduced in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. A combination of morphine, to mitigate pain, and scopolamine to cause amnesia, was given by injection to women in labor. Its effectiveness in preventing pain was minimal. Its true effectiveness was in causing many women to forget the pain and the subsequent extreme, sometimes violent, behavior the drug combination often caused. In 1914, reports of “pain free” deliveries in Europe gave rise in the U.S. to the National Twilight Sleep Association, which successfully campaigned for the widespread adoption of the technique. However, in 1915 Mrs. Francis X. Carmody, a leader of the organization, died in childbirth. Although probably unrelated to the drugs, news of her death and subsequent safety concerns caused a fall from favor of Twilight Sleep in America and the end of the Association. Newer variations on the technique did continue through the 1960s until the advent of the natural childbirth movement.

Object list:

Metal box (for easy sterilization) from medical supply house Medicinisches Waarenhaus: Berlin

Esmarch type inhaler (style introduced in 1877). The wire mask covered by a cloth kept chloroform from touching the patient’s face.

Chloroform, a surgical anesthetic.

Erogotin, used to treat excessive bleeding and to speed up labor.

Camphor, traditionally used as a topical analgesic, or to control nausea.

Morphium, for pain relief.

Unidentified bottle, with the handwritten word “injection’ in German.

Dr. Vomel brand catgut, probably used for tying off the umbilical cord.

Warren Anatomical Museum Collection, Center for the History of Medicine
in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

BWH Unlocks Historic Hospital Reports, 1875–1979

By , June 30, 2016

"1933. Boston, Mass. P.B.B.H. Dr. Cushing at the desk in the south office room." Harvey Cushing at his desk in his post-retirement office. Photographer: Richard Upjohn LightDid you know that Brigham and Women’s Hospital was created by the merger last century of four famous Boston institutions? The legacy of these four, whose combined history dates back to 1832, is reflected in the name—Brigham, for the Peter Bent Brigham and the Robert B. Brigham Hospitals—and Women’s for two women’s hospitals, the Boston Lying-in and the Free Hospital for Women (collectively known since 1966 as the Boston Hospital for Women).

The BWH Medical Library and Archives has sponsored the digitization and posted online complete runs of the annual reports for two of these venerable ancestors, the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, (1913–1979) and the Free Hospital for Women, (1875–1965) which represent some of the richest resources available, not only for information on BWH history, but also on the evolution of medicine as practiced at hospitals. (The reports for the Boston Lying-in Hospital, 1875–1966, will be available online later this year.)

Gone Fishing

If you can’t imagine yourself reading any annual report if you didn’t have to, you might change your mind for these. The presentation of information about the financial and professional activities of organizations in the 19th and 20th centuries was very different from that which we are familiar with in the 21st. Not the same thing at all. Since modern company reports also serve a marketing and publicity function, the resulting publication can sometimes have the flavor of a hyperbole sandwich with a dry statistical filling. Presented with a graphically sophisticated brand identity and an abridged writing style, modern annual reports are designed for an Internet-connected world which reflects the probability of reaching, not only its board of trustees and investors, but also a largely unknowable, skim-and-click audience.

A 20th century version, however, could include anything from a monologue on the dangers of complacency in the post-war hospital to a friendly story about a doctor’s fishing trip to Newfoundland.

46th Annual Report of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, 1959. Cover.At the old Peter Bent Brigham Hospital these yearly communications were written in narrative style and reflected the unscrubbed musings of the department head tasked with making the report. Along with the expected statistics on admissions and treatments, notes on staff, department activity highlights, research objectives planned and met, and publications, the hospital department heads, having a reasonable expectation of a limited audience for their words, often included anecdotes, editorial commentary on hospital policy, the history of their field, or the advancements in medical science as they were realized.

You can follow the footprints of many steps in the march towards modern medicine in these reports. The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital was in the vanguard of successful experimentation in heart surgery, the rise of neurosurgery as a specialty, the development of the “iron lung,” kidney dialysis, organ transplantation, antibiotics, and the professionalization of nursing. The Free Hospital for Women produced some of the most important advancements in medical science related to women’s health. You can also learn the effects on the staffs and the practice of medicine due to crises—local and global—such as epidemics, disasters, and war. For those of us interested in the lineage of the big and small ideas that became professional doctrine, a trip through the old-style hospital reports will be illuminating.

For example: One of PBBH’s most famous alums, neurosurgeon, Dr. Harvey Cushing, applied his graphomania (archivist’s diagnosis) to his surgeon-in-chief reports up until his retirement in 1931. Dr. C recorded the evolving organization of the new hospital’s surgery division. He spent 9 pages of his 1920 report discussing the success of the Brigham’s implementation of the new “residential system” introduced to American teaching hospitals by Dr. William Osler at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1890s, and the Brigham’s own novel adaptation to the Hopkins model—the “full-time service” idea. This idea allowed chiefs-of-service, assistant physicians and surgeons to have offices at the hospital in order to devote their undivided attention to it, rather than having more than one place of business. Imagine that.

Barrel of Apples

The Free Hospital for Women Annual Reports carry us back even further, to a time—flip-flopped from our 21st century experience—when hospitals were created by those whose higher social class expected at-home medical care, for those so poor their only option was to be treated at a hospital. In 1875, the Free Hospital for Women (and it really was free!) was opened with 5 beds “for poor women affected with diseases peculiar to their sex or in need of surgical aid” by a volunteer triumvirate of socially conscious medical men, church men, and well-to-do ladies.

The earliest FHW annual reports reveal just how dependent health care was on the “kindness of strangers” in the 19th century. Sponsor a bed for $150 (about $3300 in today’s money) and you got a seat on the governing board plus the option to decide who could be admitted as a patient to that bed. A substantial donation to the hospital got you your name listed in the annual report, similar to our contemporary custom, however, the definition of “substantial” has certainly evolved over the past century. The 1876 donor list reports contributions such as a “demijohn of whiskey”, “a barrel of apples,” “one ton of coal,” “a hair mattress,” — the lists are charmingly detailed. Donation reports of this nature were included in FHW annual reports through the 1930s.

Free Hospital for Women, Fearing Lab, Olive and George Van Siclen Smith, circa 1934.Filling a desperately needed niche, the Free Hospital for Women saw the rapid growth of the size of its physical plant along with its role in women’s health research. Its yearly reports offer the curious a chance to devour a banquet of data on the genesis and progression of ideas in women’s health. Just to mention a few, the FHW led in the adoption of antisepsis techniques in hospitals, opened the earliest cancer wards, achieved in-vitro fertilization, and created the birth control pill. Not bad for a place that started with 5 beds and a barrel of apples.

These type of narrative yearly reports ended at the Brigham in the early 1980s, soon after its four parent hospitals moved in together under one roof. The pace and complexity of such a large institution likely made continuing the more personal style of reports impossible.

The reports are freely available and searchable online via the above links or through the Harvard Hollis Library catalog. Permalinks:

Free Hospital for Women Annual Reports http://id.lib.harvard.edu/aleph/006087774/catalog

Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Annual Reports http://id.lib.harvard.edu/aleph/001931080/catalog

 

 

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Archives Collections—Spotlight

By , May 28, 2016

Remembering Brigham’s women volunteers of World War I via a storied artifactBrigham and Women's Hospital Archives, BWH c3, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records. Volunteer workers in the Home Work Department of the New England Surgical Dressings Committee workrooms at 238 Beacon St. (Residence of Mrs. L. Carteret Fenno). Left to right: Miss Elizabeth Train, Mrs. Hatherly Foster, Jr., Mrs. Charles Rowley. [Photo is stamped with date "MAR 17 1918". Photo purchased for BWH archives from Historic Images, Memphis Tennessee, via eBay.]

“An organization called the Surgical Dressings Committee has started work in the Zander Ward of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. The office, workroom, storage and packing rooms are all in the ward. Here fifty different surgical dressings are prepared for the small French hospitals. There are over 300 volunteers from Greater Boston who work in groups for several hours each day under the supervision of trained nurses, the work being inspected by the hospital surgeons. After sterilization, the dressings are packed for transportation in hermetically sealed tins. These are placed in wooden boxes, of a size and shape to be easily handled.”

This American Journal of Nursing article published in December of 1915 announced the start of an organization whose work became so important to saving the lives of wounded soldiers that Dr. Harvey Cushing, 1st Surgeon-in-Chief of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and leader of Base Hospital #5, the Harvard military hospital unit serving in France during WWI, Surgical Dressings Plaque3awas moved to create a memorial tablet for it with the intention of permanently embedding it in the walls of his hospital. The 3 foot tall plaque—gold engraved letters in bronze mounted on stone—was installed just outside the Zander Ward and dedicated in a formal ceremony on May 25th 1923. It was removed and placed in storage at an unknown point years later, probably during one of the hospital’s many remodeling projects. Currently the plaque is cared for at the Center for the History of Medicine in the Countway Library as one of the treasures of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Archives Collections. The engraved text reads:

“To commemorate the pioneer work of the Surgical Dressings Committee. Through their labors, which centered in this building October 1915 to June 1918, eighteen million dressings made by six thousand women throughout New England were assembled, sterilized, sealed in tins, and shipped to Europe for the wounded of the allied armies.”

The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in July of 1923 reprinted “The Boston Tins,” Cushing’s address at the unveiling of the plaque. In it he described the two approaches necessary for one to convalesce from the devastation of war: forgetfulness—and remembrance.

“…to dwell upon such bright episodes as glow from the background of our otherwise somber recollections—the times and occasions when people did sane, wholehearted and unselfish things in behalf of a stricken world. Many of these things were done by women.”

We know much about the things done by the women of the Surgical Dressings Committee and of Cushing’s efforts to memorialize them, A letter book, bound, containing documentation about the WWI Surgical Dressings Committee and a tablet erected in its honor.from the letters, receipts, and recollections assembled and bound in a scrapbook by Dr. Cushing himself. In 1972, someone doing a closet cleaning in a hospital conference room found and discarded the dusty volume.  Luckily, an observant surgical resident, recognizing its historic value, rescued it from the trash. He recently donated the scrapbook back to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital for the Archives.

The 100th anniversary of the “Great War” seems an opportune time to be reminded, thanks to the plaque and the scrapbook, that the name, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, reflects a legacy, not only of caring for women patients, but also for the historic service of its women staff and volunteers.

Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records Opened for Research

By , July 14, 2014
April 30, 1913 - Informal Dedication of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital

First staff with Sir William Osler at dedication of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, April 30, 1913.

The Center for the History of Medicine and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library are pleased to announce that the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records, 1830– (inclusive), 1911–1980 (bulk) are now formally open for research. A guide to the collection can be read via this link: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HMS.Count:med00057

The collection of historic material related to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (PBBH), one of the parent hospitals of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, includes photographs, memorabilia, business records, and historic publications that were created before its merger with Boston Hospital for Women and Robert B. Brigham Hospital in 1975, and while it operated as a division of the Affiliated Hospitals Center (AHC) until 1980. (In 1980 the three AHC divisions were moved into the same new facility and unified under the new name, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School.)

The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital collection includes much of its early administrative data, going back as far as 1902, when the corporation to construct the hospital was formed and its close relationship with Harvard Medical School began. All of the hospital’s Annual Reports (1913–1979), Executive Committee Meeting Minutes (1912–1980), and Board of Trustees meeting records (1902–1975) tell the story of the growth of a major metropolitan hospital from its opening in 1913 through the development of modern medicine during the greater part of the 20th century. The collection also includes records of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing (1912–1985), which became one of the preeminent training programs for nurses in the United States. Other hospital publications codify hospital procedures and standards over time, and the newsletter, Brigham Bulletin, adds depth to the hospital’s biography with weekly, more personal stories about the individuals and events that made the organization unique.

PBBH campus 1913

The collection includes 1911 construction records for the original 225-bed, pavilion-style hospital built along Francis Street in Boston, as well as for later additions.

Photographs comprise the largest portion of the collection and provide thousands of images of hospital, staff, and activities from 1911–1980. The archival collection includes images of some of the individuals whose work at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital significantly advanced medical science and education, including: Dr. Francis Moore, considered the “father of modern surgery;” Dr. Harvey Cushing, first PBBH Surgeon-in-Chief, an innovator in neurosurgery; Dr. Samuel A. Levine, a key figure in modern cardiology; Nurse Carrie M. Hall, a leader in the evolution of professional nursing education; Dr. (Brigadier General) Elliott C. Cutler, second PBBH Surgeon-in-Chief and Surgeon-in-Charge of the European Theater of Operations during WWII; Dr. Carl Walter, who developed a way to collect, store, and transfuse blood; and Dr. Joseph E. Murray, the 1990 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. He, along with his team of PBBH medical pioneers achieved the first successful kidney transplant in 1954.

Francis D. Moore MD, in surgery at the Peter Bent Brigham HospitHarvey Cushing in Scrubs, circa 1930sPBBH Dr. Samuel LevinePBBH_Carrie Hall_002a

CutlerMoscow_1943a_Sharf_003BPBBH Walter BloodBag c1954PBBH Murray Nobel Prize

Many interesting hospital related artifacts are part of the collection. A menu and china from founder Peter Bent Brigham’s restaurant, a World War I service flag and many of Nurse Carrie Hall’s service medals from the same war; mid-century nurse’s uniforms, caps, and capes; scrapbooks, audio recordings, newspaper clippings, old medical instruments, student notebooks from the nursing school, and the contents of the PBBH 1963 time capsule are some of the widely various objects that can be found here.

The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records, 1830– (inclusive), 1911–1980 (bulk) is the last of the major collections of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Archives to be cataloged and opened to the public for historic research. The online finding aid to Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records joins those for the other parent hospitals of the Brigham and Women’s, including the Boston Lying-in Hospital Records, 1855–1983 (Bulk 1921–1966), Free Hospital for Women Records, 1875–1975, Robert B. Brigham Hospital Records, 1889–1984 (Bulk 1915–1980), and the Affiliated Hospitals Center (Boston, Mass.) Records, 1966–1984. To view those online collection guides as well as the guide to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Records, 1900– go to this page: https://www.countway.harvard.edu/chom/brigham-and-womens-hospital-archives

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Archives Opens 1963 Time Capsule

By , July 9, 2013

A Box of Hopes and Achievements

PBBH President Alan Steinert handing off 50 year Time Capsule

At the 50th anniversary gala on May 20, 1963, PBBH President Steinert symbolically hands over the time capsule to the hospital’s youngest trustee, J. Linzee Coolidge, for safekeeping. The 11″ x 15″ metal box was later deposited in State Street Bank to wait out the decades.

In 1963, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (PBBH), a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School and a parent hospital of the current incarnation, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), celebrated its 50th anniversary. One way staff marked the occasion was with a time capsule—a small box sent through time as a gift to the future celebrants of the hospital’s 100th anniversary. As they wished, the BWH Archivist, along with members of the BWH administrative staff and the trustee originally tasked with looking after the time capsule in 1963, opened it. Inside, we found a collection of objects and documents that capture their message of pride in the hospital’s achievements, and their great hopes for the future.

Boston Herald Headline Clipping from May 16. 1963. Gordon Cooper's Spaceflight.Reflecting the optimism of the new “space age”, the box included a newspaper clipping about astronaut Gordon Cooper’s May 1963 spaceflight, along with 50th anniversary celebration souvenirs saved from press articles, special scientific sessions, the opening of new facilities, award ceremonies, and alumni reunions. They also included a reel-to-reel tape recording of a hilarious satirical musical play by staff called “Through the Years.”

Plastic Administration Set from 1963. Used for the infusion of fluids into the bloodstream,Several examples of new, leading-edge medical tools being used at the Brigham were packed in, too. There was a new plastic blood bag (invented at PBBH) which had recently replaced glass containers, a plastic syringe (disposable!) which had also replaced glass, a plastic administration set, a new type of dialysis catheter, as well as a gelfoam sponge used as a hemostat.

TimeMag2A signed copy of historian David McCord’s book about the hospital’s first 50 years titled, Fabrick of Man; a copy of Time magazine with a cover featuring Surgeon-in-Chief, Francis D. Moore, MD; the 49th PBBH Annual Report and the Report of the Friends of PBBH; as well as the 50th Anniversary edition of the Brigham Bulletin, immersed us in the life and concerns of the hospital in 1963.

Plan of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital campus in 1963.One huge preoccupation of the day was merger planning. In 1963, the project to unite several local hospitals with PBBH had already been underway for many years. This dream of merger wasn’t finalized until 1975, but they left us a map of the PBBH campus as it was in their day with hopes that by ours, the combined hospitals would be reflected in an expanded, ultramodern facility. (Completed in 1980 and still growing!)

Cortone and Solumedrol. Drugs researhed at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in 1963.Another preoccupation was innovation. Having pioneered the field of transplantation with the world’s first successful kidney transplant in 1954, PBBH surgeons in 1963 were ready to attempt their first liver transplant. A team-based approach to breast cancer treatment and replacement parts to repair the heart also fascinated PBBH surgeons. They sent us, via time capsule, an X-ray of the first caged-ball valve implanted in a human heart. Researchers sent a Wall Street Journal article about new tests they had developed for the early detection of kidney and bladder cancer, and several drugs that they were experimenting with, including antibiotics, steroids, and hormones used for cancer therapy.

PBBH 1963 Time Capsule Letter from the Pathologist, Gustave Dammin, MD.All of these items were fascinating, but the most exciting find in the 1963 time capsule was a ribbon-tied packet of personal letters from people in 1963 to be opened by their counterparts in 2013. The Chairman of the Board, President, Director, and Chiefs of Medicine, Surgery, Radiology, Pathology, and Urology all sent missives.

Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Nurse's Cap and School Graduation PinIn 1963, the Director of Nursing and of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing (1912–1985) was at the center of an evolution in the training of professional nurses. Along with her letter, she sent a copy of her speech accurately predicting the future of nursing education, as well as adding a PBBH nursing cap and a PBBHSoN graduation pin to the box.

Several others wrote letters too, for a total of 14 detailed glimpses into the minds and imaginations of hospital staff of 50 years ago. The reading of these letters 50 years later by the individuals to whom they were addressed was videotaped. You can listen to these or read each letter by following this URL: http://www.brighamandwomens.org/online/blueprint/time-capsule.aspx

Some of our favorite quotes from the letters:

  • “Automation will be abundant throughout the institution, and although solving many problems, will bring new ones with it.”
  • “…the continuing shortage of nurses…”
  • “My major problems have been securing sufficient funds to carry on our research program…”
  • “University medicine must … take a more active role in directing medicine and medical affairs outside of its four walls.”
  • “[Transplantation] should be regarded as the next great advance of human biology … I envy you the fact that fifty years later you will be able to say whether or not this dream came true.”
  • “The transition to a collegiate program of professional preparation [for nurses] will become a reality.”
  • “I prophesy the cure for cancer will not yet be found.”
  • “My dear Mr. President…”
  • “Gall stones will still exist to afford pleasure to the general surgeon.”
  • “[From] Station 21 V5 The Moon, 10 August 2013: …the Brigham [is] ready to return your reconditioned heart…I shall call you on your synophone as soon as I return. My crystal is x50279…”
  • “I sense that there is a thread of continuity that extends into the distant future, …headed in the direction of continued progress in medical science… in the teaching of medical students and the training of hospital residents, in the research laboratories, and in the care of patients.”

If you are in the neighborhood, drop in to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. There is an exhibit of some of the above named time capsule items near the gift shop on the 2nd floor which will be on display throughout Blueprint,” the hospital’s celebration of significant anniversaries of its parent hospitals in 2013 and 2014.

 

 

 

Panorama Theme by Themocracy