Staff Finds: L. Vernon Briggs, the Scrapbooker

By , March 30, 2015

While processing the papers of L. Vernon Briggs, Center staff located two records center cartons containing six scrapbooks.

L. (Lloyd) Vernon Briggs (1863-1941) was a medical reformer and psychiatrist active in Boston in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He worked closely during the 1890s with Walter Channing at the latter’s private sanatorium in Brookline, Massachusetts. Briggs was a prominent advocate for reform of the asylum system in Massachusetts, including revision of the procedures for committal and requiring formal training in psychiatry for asylum physicians and attendants. Briggs was called in as a psychiatric consultant on several prominent cases, including a post-mortem evaluation of the case of Leon Czolgosz, who shot President William McKinley in 1901 on the grounds of the Pan-American Exposition.

The six scrapbooks reflect the wide range of Briggs’ interests, including newspaper clippings on cases and relevant events such as arrests or trials, personal correspondence, and news items concerning his family. The scrapbook from which the pages below were scanned, for instance, documents the 1906 case of James A. Garland. Garland was a wealthy resident of New York City and Boston who became involved in a widely publicized legal case in 1900. He and his wife, Mary Louise Tudor, went through a dramatic divorce – and then a much quieter remarriage in 1904. Garland became terminally ill two years after the remarriage. At the end of his life, he was brought by special train from New York City to Massachusetts to secure the attendance of Briggs. Despite the well-publicized medical care of Briggs and other physicians, Garland died in September 1906.

The scrapbooks also contain records reflecting Briggs’ work to change state laws affecting the insane; his trips to Europe to visit with various medical authorities; and his more local interests, such as family history and local Massachusetts history.

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