“A Miner Moment” video highlights the life of Dr. Charles Briggs (1855-1933)

March 27, 2014

Here’s a video (3:47) we produced, highlighting one of our remarkable archival collections.

Charles M. Briggs, M.D., (1855-1933) was a physician practicing in the village of Fairport, NY, from 1880 until his death in 1933. The Charles M. Briggs collection consists mostly of personal diaries from his boyhood in West Macedon, NY. The diaries and objects belonging to Dr. Briggs were presented to us by his granddaughter, Betty Satterwhite Stevenson.

Dr. Charles M. BriggsCharles Briggs was the fifth of nine children. He attended the district school until he was 18, then entered a three-year college preparatory course at the Macedon Academy.

In the autumn following his graduation in 1876, Charles began a preceptorship with H. D. Vosburgh, M.D., of Lyons, NY. Charles’ medical studies with Dr. Vosburgh included regular duties at the Wayne County almshouse and asylum. In the autumn of 1877, Charles entered the Buffalo Medical College. After graduation, Briggs settled in Fairport, where he remained in medical practice for the rest of  his life.

The earliest of the 19 diaries in our collection is dated 1871, begun when Charles was just 15 years old. The entries in the diaries kept from 1871 to 1875 briefly chronicle his daily routine of chores, school work, family, and church life.

The diary for 1876 records Charles’ preceptorship with Dr. Vosburgh. Charles attended lectures by Dr. Vosburgh in the evening, while studying and attending to duties at the insane asylum at Lyons during the day. His duties included book and record keeping, showing visitors about the asylum, occasionally assisting in the restraint of some of the more vigorous inmates, and even waiting on tables when a large group of visitors was in attendance. He also had the opportunity to intermittently practice dissection on the corpses of deceased insane.

The diaries are fascinating, and provide unique insights into the life of a medical student in the 19th century.

We think the video is pretty good, too. Let us know what you think, because we’d like to share more “Miner Moments” with you in the future!

Posted by Susan Andersen


Recently Acquired Drawings of Erwin H. Austin

February 8, 2014

The Miner Library’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Section has recently been given the twenty-one pen and ink drawings by Erwin Hoyt Austin (1912-1976) that illustrated Joseph Garland’s The Story of medicine, published at Boston by Houghton Mifflin Co. in 1949. Narrating the history of medicine from classical Greece to the mid-20th century, Garland’s book was intended for an adolescent audience.

Austin title page

A native of Albany, N.Y., E.H. Austin worked his entire career as a designer and illustrator. During the 1940s and 50s, he was associated with the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Austin JennerWilliam Jenner visits John Hunter

In addition to his work for the Garland book, Austin illustrated L.C. Jones’ Spooks of the valley (1948), E.C. Cutting’s Whistling girls and jumping sheep (1951), J. Van Wagenen’s The golden age of homespun (1953), J.W. Hatch’s The Wee’s Tree’s Christmas (1956), and L.C. Jones’ Things that go bump in the night (1959). These drawings for Garland’s The story of medicine were presented to the Miner Library by the illustrator’s son, David Austin, of Rochester, N.Y.

Austin MortonW.T.G. Morton demonstrates ether, October 1846


A Recently Acquired Neurological Book from 1891

January 25, 2014

The Rare Books & Manuscripts Section of Miner Library recently acquired Paul Blocq’s (1860-1896) folio atlas of the spinal cord entitled, Anatomie pathologique de la moelle épinière. Co-authored with Albert Londe (1858-1917), this folio atlas of the normal and diseased spinal cord was published at Paris in 1891. A neurological classic, the Anatomie pathologique is illustrated with forty-six leaves of photographic plates.

Blocq title-page

The preface was written by J. M. Charcot (1825-1893), who headed the neurological service at La Salpêtrière, and whose preparations were photographed for this atlas by Blocq and Londe. Paul Blocq had been a pupil of Charcot and was a rising figure in French neurology when he died at the age of thirty-six. During his brief career, Blocq wrote authoritative articles on Parkinson’s Disease and senile plaques. Soon after the Anatomie pathologique appeared, Blocq published a second major neurological atlas, the Atlas der pathologischen Histologie des Nervensystems (Berlin, 1892), co-authored with the French bacteriologist Victor Babès. Blocq’s colleague, Albert Londe, headed the photographic service at La Salpêtrière.

Normal spinal cord

Normal spinal cord

Blocq’s and Londe’s atlas of the spinal cord is the most recent addition to Miner Library’s fine collection of 18th-20th century neurological atlases.


Dr. Calvin Crane’s Quaker Remedies

January 7, 2014

The Rare Books & Manuscripts Section has recently acquired a wooden patent medicine display case manufactured in 1901 (or soon thereafter) for the Penn Drug Co., Chicago, Ill., for the purpose of displaying the firm’s full line of over-the-counter specifics. Measuring 25 x 40 x 26 cm., the glass fronted case displays thirty-six boxes of remedies in three cascading tiers. Each box contains a glass bottle, often a full complement of pills, and printed directions for their use.

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Dr. Calvin Crane’s Quaker Remedies are supposed to derive from formulae prepared by Calvin Crane, a Quaker physician and ancestor of Edward M. Crane, one of the firm’s founding partners. Dr. Crane’s remedies were intended to cure a wide range of bodily disorders, from liver disease to piles, from croup to bronchitis, from nervous debility to gonorrhoea.

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The Penn Drug Co. was incorporated late in 1900 by Edward M. Crane, general manager of the Thompson Carriage Co., Oshkosh, WI, and Charles A. Wakeman, a druggist in Oshkosh. The firm was headquartered in Chicago and remained in business into the 1920s. This particular display case appears to have belonged to James G. Hughes, a druggist in Ashland, Vt.

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A 19th-Century Practice in Letters

August 26, 2013

The Rare Books & Manuscripts Section of the Miner Library recently acquired a small collection of correspondence – some twenty letters in all – sent to Herman Reeve Ainsworth, M.D. in the 1870s and 80s. Ainsworth was an 1866 medical graduate of New York University, who practiced his entire career in Addison, Steuben County, New York. A physician of some standing, Ainsworth was president of the Steuben County Medical Society in 1874 and served as vice-president of the Medical Society of the State of New York between 1905 and 1907. He was also a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Ainsworth1

Nine of the twenty letters written to Dr. Ainsworth are from patients. They provide a somewhat startling view into smalltown and rural medical pratice late in the 19th century. In an age before telephones or motorized transportation, patients who lived some distance from their physician’s office needed to contact him or her through the mails. In one moving letter dated 24 August 1895, the husband of a patient in nearby Woodhull, N.Y. writes, “Dear Sir I want you to come up and see my wife. She is sick. Bring along your instruments to make an examination of her womb. I want you to day. Be sure and come.”

Ainsworth2

A letter from a female patient across the border in Little Marsh, Tioga Co., Pennsylvania, indicates the difficulties or delays patients might experience in getting their medication: “Dr. Ainsworth: I think your medicine has helped me, but I need more … If you could send me some medicine to Woods-Corners Monday, I can get it as my brother will be there. If not, send me a prescription.”

Ainsworth3

Some of Ainsworth correspondence pertains to billing. The father of one of his patients wrote Ainsworth on 4 June, 1893: “I think it a bout time I paid you for treating our girls eyes. Send in your bill.”

The difficulties of a rural practice during the 1890s is revealed in the latest dated piece of correspondence in the collection. The daughter of one of his patients in a nearby town chides Ainsworth: “You could not have regarded my mother’s condition as serious, when you never came to see her. She might have died. The people around here will now surely say, as they did last winter, you must be afraid you were not going to be paid for your services.”

The remainder of the correspondence in the Ainsworth collection was written to him by other physicians regarding patients Ainsworth had previously seen. No phone calls, no e-mails – simply a letter that required a response through the same lengthy medium: the U.S. Mail.


Three Recently Acquired Pieces of Ephemera

June 24, 2013

The term “ephemera” refers to printed matter intended to be of use only a short time and then discarded. Examples of ephemera include theatre programs, restaurant menus, railway schedules, or even valentines. Although never meant to be seriously collected – as are books, manuscripts or prints – ephemera have long been recognized as invaluable documents for historical study. Perhaps one-quarter of the 8,000 titles in the Miner Library’s Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine is comprised of ephemera, ranging from printed collections of receipts for home remedies, to lecture announcements, instruction on the use of contraceptives, illustrations of healthier fashions for women accustomed to be bound in stays and hoops, or patent medicine advertising.

At the fair held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Ephemera Society of America, recently held in Old Greenwich, Ct., we acquired 131 pieces of ephemera for the Atwater Collection. Three of these are single leaf circulars that advertise hair preparations.

Hair Gebhardt1

Professor Gebhardt’s Stimulating Hair Tonic was manufactured by H. Gebhardt and Isaac D. Lutz, who maintained a “hair dressing saloon” in Harrisburg, Pa., during the 1850s. The tonic is recommended on the circular illustrated above for “dressing, strengthening, and preserving hair from falling off, and a certain remedy for removing scruff, dandruff, tetter [i.e., eczema] or any disease which may originate on the scalp.”

Hair Lewis

The “druggist and perfumer” J. Mahlon Lewis prepared Lewis’ Eglantine Excelsior in New Bedford, Ma., during the 1850s and 1860s. This circular advertises Lewis’ hair preparation on the recto, and products such as eau de cologne, cosmetic lotion, and Lewis’ Improved and Highly Perfumed Charcoal Tooth Paste on the verso. It is interesting to note that the hair dresser depicted in the woodengraving on the recto is African American. Does this figure represent Lewis, or an employee?

Hair WallaceDr. Chaussier’s L’Imperatrice, a product given a fictitious French origin and an Italian name to enhance its marketability, was manufactured by the Wallace Brothers, Manchester, N.H., in the mid-1860s. “It has long been known,” the reader of this circular is informed, “that the hair, by mental exertion, by excitement, by disease and imperfect circulation, looses its vitality, turns gray and falls off.” Dr. Chaussier’s patented preparation prevents this assault on the scalp. Directions for the product’s use are provided in French and English.


Two 18th-Century Obstetrical Texts

April 27, 2013

The Rare Books & Manuscripts Section has recently acquired two obstetrical texts — both published the same year. From a Paris bookseller, we recently purchased Michel Chevreul’s (1754-1845) Précis de l’art des accouchements, a summary of child-bed delivery written for the instruction of midwives published at Angers in 1782. We know little about the author, other than the fact that he was a physician and surgeon in Angers (Maine-et-Loire dept.) and that he inspected the activity of midwives in the Généralité de Tours. Curiously, the boards and backstrip of this volume are covered with part of a vellum leaf from a volume of Gregorian chant.

The author of our second acquisition, Raphael Johann Steidele (1737-1823), was a well-known surgeon and obstetrician in Vienna and the author of several obstetrical treatises. From a bookseller in Copenhagen, we purchased Steidele’s Abhandlung von dem unvermeidenlichen Gebrauch der Instrumente in der Geburtshülfe (A treatise on the unavoidable use of instruments in obstetrical delivery) published at Vienna in 1782.

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The allegorical vignette on the title-page of Steidele’s Abhandlung depicts Lucina, the Roman goddess of childbirth, presiding over the delivery of a young woman reclining on a couch. The goddess is assisted by putti who hand Lucina an obstetrical forceps and other instruments used in delivery.

The treatises of Chevreul and Steidele have been added to the Miner LIbrary’s collection of rare obstetrical books — a collection numbering more than 600 titles, a third of which were published before 1800.


William Smith Ely Civil War-era Surgical Kit – See it on YouTube

April 16, 2013
History of Medicine Moment — “William Smith Ely Surgical Kit”
William Smith Ely

Assistant Surgeon William Smith Ely
108th NY Infantry

Imagine graduating from University of Rochester in 1861 and being mustered into the 108th New York Volunteers as an Assistant Surgeon the following year. You’re 20 years old and haven’t even attended medical school yet!

This is the true story of William Smith Ely (1842-1911).

In this History of Medicine Moment (running 7:09…I guess that’s a bit longer than a “moment,” eh?), Christopher Hoolihan, Head of Rare Books & Manuscripts, shows us a beautiful and complete set of cased instruments, presented to Rochester physician, Dr. William Smith Ely by Dr. B. A. Vanderkieft, Ely’s cSurgical kitommander at Antietam and Annapolis. Two photographs taken of the field hospital at Antietam also are shown.

Watch the video to find out more about this pristine field kit and the preeminent role Dr. Ely played in the history of Rochester.


About Miner Library

Edward G. Miner Library is an academic health sciences library serving the University of Rochester Medical Center, including the Eastman Dental Center, School of Medicine and Dentistry, School of Nursing, Strong Memorial Hospital, University Medical Faculty Group, and members of the public in the eleven county area surrounding Rochester, New York.

This article was submitted by Susan Andersen


Newly acquired “Hospital Design & Construction”

February 28, 2013

The Rare Books & Manuscripts Section of the Edward G. Miner Library has recently acquired Hospital Construction and Management published at London in 1883. This folio-format volume was authored by the military physician Frederic John Mouat, M.D. (1816-1897) and the noted British architect Henry Saxon Snell. The authors note in their preface, “There is no systematic work in the English language on the arrangement, management, and construction of hospitals, in their hygienic, administrative and structural relations.” The authors attempt to remedy this deficiency in a volume illustrated with fifty-five lithographed plates that provide views and plans of civic, military and university hospitals in England, Scotland, France, Germany and even India, where Mouat distinguished himself in a career spanning thirty years.

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This work of Mouat and Snell is the most recent addition to a small but distinguished collection of books on hospital design and constructon at Miner that includes such works as Claude-François Duchanoy’s Projet d’une nouvelle organisation des hôpitaux, hospices, et secours à domicile de Paris (Paris, 1810), Maximilian Jacobi’s On the construction and management of hospitals for the insane (London, 1841), Florence Nightingale’s Notes on hospitals (London, 1863), Franz Oppert’s Hospitals, infirmaries, and dispensaries (London, 1867), Sir Henry Burdett’s four-volume Hospitals and asylums of the world (London, 1891-93), etc.


A 17th-Century Obstetrical Acquisition

October 15, 2012

The Rare Books & Manuscripts Section of the Miner Library has recently acquired a 17th century obstetrical text by the French surgeon Jacques Bury. Entitled Le Propagatif de l’homme et secours des femmes en travail d’enfant (The propagation of man and assistance to women in childbirth), Bury’s text was published at Paris in 1623. In one hundred and twenty pages, Bury provides a theory of reproduction and explains the management of pregnancy, the varying presentations of the fetus, and the immediate care of newborns. The text is illustrated with twelve engravings depicting the fetus in utero at delivery.

Le Propagatif de l’homme is a very scarce work. There are only three recorded copies in European libraries. The Miner Library holds the only recorded copy outside Europe. Bury’s treatise is the most recent addition to the Miner Library’s outstanding collection of 17th-19th century books on obstetrics and gynecology.

Rebound in full calf sometime during the 19th century, the Miner copy of Bury’s Propagatif bears the bookplate of the French physician François Moutier, author of L’Aphasie de Broca (Paris, 1908).


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