Monday, February 28, 2011

The Old Army Medical Museum and the Watch and Ward Society

NMHM (Reeve 85182-73)

A new blog post over at the Massachusetts Historical Society - "Discovering the New England Watch and Ward Society" - highlights the Godfrey Lowell Cabot papers and their research value in the recent publication by Neil Miller: Banned in Boston: The Watch and Ward Society’s Crusade against Books, Burlesque, and the Social Evil (Boston: Beacon Press, 2010). The Watch and Ward Society monitored illegal and illicit behavior in Boston, wielding considerable political influence between 1878-1967.
Among the Watch and Ward Society material is this mention of the "Old Army Medical Museum," captured here from the MHS post by Anna J. Cook:

On 16 April 1918, J. Frank Chase, the secretary of the Watch and Ward, wrote a letter describing his visit to the Old Army Medical Museum in Washington D.C. for a screening of “Fit to Fight,” a propaganda film that was part of the military’s attempt to combat “the Social Diseases.” While he approved of the general effort, Chase was critical of certain aspects of the film:

Realizing the difficulties of the subject and how mistakes are inevitable and the diversity of opinion even among good people as to the details and the methods of doing this necessary work, I am loathe to criticize the work accomplished. Yet, I must urge one criticism of the method. It concerns the unwisdom [sic] of putting on exhibition at the very beginning or at all the picture of a nude woman of full front view, as is done in this film.

While he acknowledges the “nude” is, in fact, a statue of Venus, he argues that its manner of display is troubling. It “does not declare itself as a statue until after such a time as gives the mind a chance to conclude ‘Here is the picture of a naked woman,’ and to gasp at the boldness.”It is unclear from the existing correspondence whether anyone in the War Department was similarly offended by the film, or whether Chase’s objection to it had any effect on future screenings.

Check out the rest of the post here.

You are invited! Walter Reed Society reception in Medical Museum, 2 March, 1100-1300

You are invited to a reception at the Medical Museum and learn about the
future of the Walter Reed Society!

Visit the Medical Museum in Bldg. 54 to enjoy exhibits featuring
battlefield medicine in Iraq, human anatomy and pathology, and the final
hours of President Lincoln, and more.

Then, talk to Walter Reed Society leadership about their unique mission
now and in the future.

Light refreshments will be served.

Date: Wed., March 2, 2011

Hours: 1100-1330

The Walter Reed Society was founded in 1996 to benefit Walter Reed Army
Medical Center (WRAMC) and its educational, patient, treatment, and
research activities. The Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
registered in the District of Columbia. All friends of WRAMC are welcome
to join.

Contact Information:

Walter Reed Society, Inc.
PO Box 59611, Walter Reed Station
Washington, DC 20012-9611

Horace Greeley Jacobs collection now online

The finding aid for the Horace Greeley Jacobs Collection (OHA 199.5) has been uploaded to the NMHM website here.

The Jacobs collection contains 25 items documenting to the life of Horace Greeley Jacobs, including those related to his service to the Union during the Civil War. Two of the most unique documents are a letter Jacobs wrote to his mother from Camp 19 on May 31, 1862 and a short narrative titled "Thoughts on the Battle Field" (c. 1864). The finding aid includes a biographical note about Jacobs from his years in the Union Army (he joined at 16) through to his death in 1910.

This is a small collection, but part of what makes it unique is that the Museum's anatomical department already contains material relating to Jacobs, specifically his left humerus (AFIP 0384696), which was donated when Jacobs was injured during the war.

A few images relating to Jacobs:

SP 103
Excised head and portion of shaft of left humerus, comminuted by a musket ball.

Jacobs, Horace G. 2LT, G, 6, ME

Doctor: Bliss, D.W. & Otis

Battle: Rappahannock Station, 7 November 1863

CP 1669B

CP 1669A

Letter of the Day: February 28

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 1285

February 28, 1896

Mr. Charles H. Ward,
Ward’s Natural Science Establishment,
Rochester, N.Y.

Dear Sir:

You will please prepare for this Museum, at your earliest convenience the following skeletons:

1 at birth. Received May 24, 18971 “ 1 month. Received Aug 7 18961 “ 2 months. Rec’d Aug. 7, 18961” 3 “ .
1 “ 6 “ . – Rec’d Sept 11, 1896 –1 “ 9 “ .
1 “ 1 year. Rec’d Sept 4 ,1897.1 “ 2 years.
1 “ 3 “ . –Rec’d June 22, 18961 “ 4 “ .
1 “ 5 “ .
1 “ 6 “ .

It is of course understood, that only skeletons of the known age, as indicated above, are desired for this Museum, as we already have quite a number of skeletons of unknown ages. They may be forwarded from time to time in small lots, and will be paid for as fast as received. In a short time I shall send you an additional order for some of 7 to 20 years of age.

You will also forward to this Museum:

A dislocating skeleton, Cat. Po. 7, No. 3. Rec’d Aug 7, 1896
A skeleton with muscles, Cat., p. 8, No. 4. Rec’d Aug 7, 1896
A larynx phantom, “ “ 43, “ 96. Received Mch 16/96
A preparation showing circulation of foetus, in a material not affected by heat. For this last preparation the Museum will ask for free entry, as soon as notified by you of shipment. Received Sept 11/96

Very respectfully,

D.L. Huntington
Deputy Surgeon General, U.S. Army,
In charge of Museum and Library Division

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Letter of the Day: February 27

Read Colonel C. L. Heizmann's endorsement from February 23

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 08162

War Department,
Office of the Surgeon General,

February 27, 1904

Brig. Gen. R. M. O'Reilly,
Surgeon General, U.S. Army,
Washington, D.C.


I have the honor to state in reply to endorsement of Colonel C. L. Heizmann, Assistant Surgeon General, U.S. Army, of February ___, 1905, reporting the fact of my absence from office and the cause, a copy of which has been furnished me, while his report as to the cause of my absence may be substantially correct, according to his information, I beg to mention in the same connection that I have been a great sufferer for a long time from catarrh and have been until about the 15th of February last under treatment of a specialist who gave me powders in which I found almost instant relief from pain, but my general health had been such that I consulted a physician, a friend, who came to my room, examined the powders I had been taking and destroyed them at once telling me that I had been taking poison, which accounted for my peculiar appearance and actions he had noticed, and from the effect of which drug it had taken me a long time to recover. I have only within the last week come to realize my condition and taken steps to commence life over again, as it were, by taking the pledge which I have never done before, and feel, after many years of honorable service, if given the opportunity, instead of being dismissed for drinking and disgraced

[Page two]

Gen. O’Reilly……………2.

for all time to come as my action my perhaps deserve, no one will ever again have cause to find fault with me, and of this I am confident.

Asking you kind consideration of my case for the sake of those dependent upon me as well as for my own sake, so far as consistent with your official duties,

I have the honor to be, sir,

Your obedient servant,
P. M. Kelly
Clerk, Class I.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dental Corps anniversary exhibit

Letter of the Day: February 26

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 07341

War Department,
Office of the Surgeon General,
Army Medical Museum and Library,

February 26, 1904

Messrs Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co
Paternoster House,
Charing Cross Road,
London, England


Please purchase for this Museum of Ross, Limited, 111 New Bond St. London, W., the following microscope, described on p. 23 of their booklet catalogue, viz:

No. 1 Standard Microscope complete with circular, centering and revolving detachable Mechanical Stage 4 3/4 ins. diameter, swing down Abbe Condenser 1.40 N.A., with centering screws, swing out Iris Diaphragm, with electrical revolving movement, rack and pinon substage, course and fine adjustments as previously described, rack and pinon to draw tube, 3 Eyepieces, 2/3 in., 1/6 in., and 1/12 in. Oil Immersion Objectives, Triple German-silver Nosepiece in mahogany case complete.

Have the instruments carefully packed, and receive, pay for, and forward to this Museum, with separate bill, in the usual manner.

Very respectfully,
C.L. Heizmann
Col. Asst. Surgeon General, U.S.A.
In charge of Museum & Library Division

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Chronology of Medical Museum names

1862 Army Medical Museum (cf Henry, The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology: Its First Century, p. 11)

1883 Army Medical Museum & Library Division of the Surgeon General’s Office (cf Henry, p. 79; a Deputy Surgeon General is appointed in charge of the Division, but a curator remains in charge of the Museum)

1946 Army Institute of Pathology established; AMM becomes department thereof (cf Henry, p. 266)

1949 Armed Forces Institute of Pathology established; AMM presumably becomes Medical Museum of the AFIP (cf Henry, p. 284-5)

1974 Armed Forces Medical Museum (cf AFIP Annual Report, p. 11; “When the Institute was reorganized in August, a reorganization of the Medical Museum was also effected, creating a Museum Support Services in addition to the existing staff elements. At the same time the name of the Museum was changed to Armed Forces Medical Museum.”)

1988 National Museum of Health and Medicine (cf AFIP Annual Report, p. 150; “In December, the AFIP Board of Governors officially changed the designation of the museum from the “Medical Museum of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology” to the “National Museum of Health and Medicine of the AFIP.”)

Reminder about Museum closing and moving

Due to BRAC, the Museum will be moving in 2011 along with all of the rest of Walter Reed medical center. The exhibit floor will close this spring. Researcher access to collections will end this spring, as we begin packing the collections for the move which will take place over the summer. There will be no access for research at least through September 2011 and possibly longer. A new Museum building is being constructed at the former Walter Reed annex in Forest Glen, MD.


Letter of the Day: February 25

War Department,
Surgeon General's Office,
U.S. Army Medical Museum and Library,
Corner of 7th and B Streets SW.,

February 25, 1902

Dr. Wm. C. Mitchell
608 California Building
Denver, Col.

My Dear Doctor:

Replying to your letter of the 22nd inst. I regret to say that I have no culture of Xerosis bacillus (Neisser), nor do I know just where you can obtain a culture, but I would suggest that you address a letter to Dr. A.C. Abbott, University of Pennsylvania, either of whom would be more apt to have a culture of this organism than anyone else in the country, I think. Regretting that my letter should be so unsatisfactory,

Sincerely yours,
Walter Reed
Major & Surgeon, U.S. Army

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Letter of the Day: February 24

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 02047

February 24, 1897

Captain W. C. Gorgas,
Assistant Surgeon, U.S. Army,
Fort Barrancas, Florida.

Dear Doctor:

The very small fragment of warty growth from beneath the tongue of Commissary Sergeant Kieffer, has been received and examined microscopically. While a larger piece of the tumor would have enabled us to arrive at a more positive conclusion, I feel quite safe in saying that the microscopical structure of the aforesaid small fragment is that of a mixed cell sarcoma having a dense fibrous capsule.

A slide containing two or three small sections is sent to you by this mail.

Very sincerely,
Walter Reed
Surgeon, U.S. Army,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rediscovered photographs

Today I've been stabilizing and doing some research in the Crynes Collection (OHA 143.02). This collection documents the life, and particularly the military career, of Major Sylvester F. Crynes MC, a pathologist with the 217th General Hospital during WWII.

Before donating his papers, Major Crynes' family digitized 400 35mm slide from his time in northern France during WWII. They are uniquely beautiful and I wish I could post them all, but I'll settle for a just a handful.

Letter of the Day: February 23

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 08162

War Department,
Office of the Surgeon General,
Army Medical Museum and Library,

February 23, 1905

To the Surgeon General,
U.S. Army


Referred to your endorsement of the 14th inst. I have the honor to inform you that my letter of the 9th inst. recommending the discharge of Patrick M. Kelly, Clerk, Class I, in this office, was based upon the following facts:

1st. Mr. Kelly came to this office on the morning of November 19, 1904 in an intoxicated condition, was totally incapacitated for work, and I sent him home. He remained absent until December 10, 1904, and upon his return was forgiven on his promise that the same condition would not occur again.

2nd. On the morning of February 6, 1905, Mr. Kelly reported for duty in a state of intoxication. He was again sent home and has been absent ever since that time.

Very respectfully,
C.L. Heizmann
Col. Asst. Surgeon General, U.S.A.
In charge of Museum and Library Division

Col. C.L. Heizmann, Asst. Surg. Genl. U.S.A.
M.W. Bayliss, Clerk, Class IV, S.G.O.
Convis Parker, Asst. Mess., &Supt. Building

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Letter of the Day: February 22

Fort Columbus, N.Y.
Feb. 22, 1895

Hoff, John Van R.
Maj. and Surgeon, U.S.A
Post Surgeon

Reports that 1st Lieut. Fremont P. Peck, Ordnance Dep't., U.S.A. was fatally injured at the Ordnance Proving Grounds, Sandy Hook, N.J., Feb 19, 1895, by the explosion of a 4 7/10 inch Hotchkiss Rapid fire gun which he was then testing, furnished an account of accident, and autopsy and states that he forwarded, by mail, to the Army Medical Museum the pieces of metal removed from Lieut. Peck's body.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New book on craniology collectors is out

The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America's Unburied Dead
By Ann Fabian
University Of Chicago Press (October 15, 2010)

Judging from Amazon's Look-Inside feature,while the Army Medical Museum is discussed regularly, the author did not actually use the Museum's archives, instead working from the Surgeon General's Office records in the National Archives, and correspondence transferred to the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives.

Available in the Museum's archives are Curatorial Records which cover the subject especially

OHA 13

* Curatorial Records: Incoming Correspondence (Loose), 1862-1894
* 2.5 cubic feet, 5 boxes.
* Finding aid, arranged, inactive, unrestricted.
* Correspondence, arranged alphabetically, from the first two decades of the Museum's existence. The series ends when the Museum began a correspondence numbering system (see Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence). Includes letters sent to curators John Brinton, George A. Otis, D.L. Huntington, John S. Billings, and Walter Reed. Most of the incoming correspondence from this period is currently missing.

OHA 15

* Curatorial Records: Letterbooks of the Curators, 1863-1910
* 8 cubic feet, 17 boxes.
* Finding aid, arranged, inactive, unrestricted.
* Bound volumes of outgoing correspondence by curators John Brinton, George A. Otis, D.L. Huntington, John S. Billings, Walter Reed, James Carroll, and F.F. Russell. See Curatorial Records: Outgoing Correspondence (Loose) for other outgoing correspondence that was not recorded in these books.

OHA 25

* Curatorial Records: Smithsonian Correspondence, 1867-1887
* .5 cubic foot, 1 box.
* Finding aid available, arranged, inactive, unrestricted.
* Incoming correspondence, mostly from Smithsonian Secretaries Joseph Henry and Spencer Baird, relating primarily to the exchange of specimens between the Museum and the Smithsonian. George A. Otis, D.L. Huntington, and John S. Billings were curators of the Museum during this time. See Museum Records: Accession Records and Curatorial Records: Letterbooks of the Curators for related correspondence.

OHA 26

* Curatorial Records: Special Correspondence, 1862-1887
* .75 cubic foot, 2 boxes.
* No finding aid, arranged, inactive, unrestricted.
* Box 1: Correspondence relating to photography and photographic services at the Museum between 1862 and 1885. Includes correspondence of curators George A. Otis, D.L. Huntington, and John S. Billings and Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes. Box 2: Correspondence relating to the craniology collection and craniometric/anthropometric measurement at the Museum between 1862 and 1887, mostly sent to curators Otis and Billings.

Letter of the Day: February 21

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 08159

War Department,
Office of the Surgeon General,
Army medical Museum and Library,

February 21, 1905

To the Surgeon General,
U.S. Army


I have the honor to invite attention to the recent occurrence of two leaks in the ceiling of room 7 on the 3d floor of this building. These result from some obstruction to the carrying off of melted snow from the roof of the attic. The evil should be remedied at once, if possible, in order to prevent the occurrence of serious damage to the building in the future.

Very respectfully,
C.L. Heizmann
Col. Asst. Surgeon General, U.S.A.
In charge of Museum and Library Division

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Letter of the Day: February 20

U.S.A. General Hospital,
Davids’ Island, New York,
Feb 20th, 1863.


I send by today’s mail the histories of all the interesting surgical cases that I have been able to collect since the establishment of this Hospital, the preparation of which I undertook at the request of Surg. Simons, U.S.A. The morbid specimens accompanying the cases are few in number, owing to the fact that the man, who formerly had charge of the dead house, stole the majority of then, when he was discharged from the Hospital. Means were taken to have the man arrested, but they proved unavailing. Prof. James R. Wood, however, has some of these specimens in his museum, and I have written to him regard to them, but have received no answer. The box containing the remainder of the preparations will be expressed to you on Monday inst.

I am, General, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
S.W. Gross,
Surgn U.S.V.

Brig Genl. W.A. Hammond,
Surgeon General, U.S. Army

92 1046
94 1047
279 1048

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Letter of the Day: February 19

Genl. Field Hospital, Bridgeport, Ala, February 19, 1864

Surgeon General U.S.A.
Washington, D.C.


I have the honor to report that I have sent today to the Army Medical Museum by Adams Express two (2) morbid specimens with histories.

Very respectfully
your obedient servant
H.T. Agler
Asst. Surgeon U.S.V.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Letter of the Day: February 18

Fort Bridger Wyo.
February 18. [18]84.

Major D.L. Huntington.
Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir:

I have this day mailed to you a microscopic specimen of some epidermas[sic] scales in a case I have diagnosed as chromophytosis.

This specimen was prepared after one application of chrysophanic acid and green soap according to Piffard in Wood's Library. I sought for the parasite withe[?] a 1/4 objective before any applications were made, but was unable to satisfy myself of its presence.

I regret that it did not occur to me to mount a slide before treatment was commenced. The slide is poorly mounted but represents the earliest specimen prepared.

To all appearances the disease which has existed since 1878 has entirely disappeared after five or six applications of the above treatment.

Will you have the kindness to forward me the results of your examination.

Very respectfully
Your obdt servt.
W.C. Shannon
Asst Surgeon, U.S.A
Post Surgeon

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Folger Shakespeare Library's medical exhibit tour tomorrow

I saw this a couple of nights ago and it's an excellent exhibit. This bit is clipped from their e-newsletter.

Good for What Ails You
Folger Exhibitions: Beyond Home Remedy
In an era before emergency rooms and HMOs, women offered vital medical care to their families and communities. This "kitchen physic" included dressing wounds, setting bones, delivering babies, administering medicine, and producing homemade remedies for a wide range of illnesses, including the much-dreaded plague. Beyond Home Remedy explores the broad scope of female medical practice in early modern England and America and sheds new light on women's contributions.

through May 14
10am to 5pm, Monday–Saturday
Listen: Kitchen Physic
Learn More: Plague Water
Learn More: A Tudor Herbal
Personal Picks
Folger Fridays: Exhibition Tour
Join Rebecca Laroche, curator of Beyond Home Remedy, for a personal tour of the exhibition, which features a broad range of items from ingredient samples for early modern medicines to Martha Washington's cookbook.

"The exhibition cracks open our conventional sense of home remedies. We have countesses and duchesses and the serving women and everyone in between," she notes.

Fri, Feb 18

Meet at the First Folio display in the Great Hall.

About the Folger

Home to the world's largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger Shakespeare Library is a major center for scholarly research; a lively venue for performances, readings, and exhibitions; and a national leader in humanities education.


Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003

Get Directions

Plan a Visit

Public Hours:
Monday through Saturday:
10am to 5pm

Reading Room Hours:
Monday through Friday:
8:45am to 4:45pm
9am to 12pm
and 1pm to 4:30pm

Closed all Federal holidays. Become a Member Forward to a Friend(2) View the Calendar

Exhibit update. A single cell

(for those who haven't seen the exhibit, this is updated with new text written by the Human Developmental Anatomy Center staff, one of whom can be seen here).

NMHM joins History of Medicine Finding Aids Consortium

The History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is pleased to announce the latest release of its History of Medicine Finding Aids Consortium (, a search-and-discovery tool for archival resources in the health sciences that are described by finding aids and held by various institutions throughout the United States. As with the initial release the new content crawled consists of finding aids delivered as EAD, PDF and HTML from a diverse institutional cohort. NLM is the world’s largest medical library and a component of the National Institutes of Health.


The site now indexes over 1,600 finding aids from 12 institutions.


The new content contributors are:

  • Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center, Archives and Special Collections
  • Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Center for the History of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Boston Medical Library
  • Otis Historical Archives, National Museum of Health and Medicine
  • University of Pennsylvania Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing
  • Washington University, St. Louis School of Medicine
  • Yale University Library, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library


These institutions join the original consortium members:

  • NLM History of Medicine Division
  • Columbia University Health Sciences Library
  • Medical Archives, Johns-Hopkins University Medical Institutions
  • University of California-San Francisco
  • University of Virginia Health Sciences Library
  • Virginia Commonwealth University


For more information about the project or requests to join the Consortium, please contact John P. Rees, Archivist and Digital Resources Manager, NLM, at



Exhibit update. A single cell

So this is actually 2 years in the making 
it started as an concept to update the current exhibit
with some relevant current research on this old dusty
section of out of date cases cursed with this hospital blue 
i wind up using that to inspire a color pallette

its really a section of curiosities we have at the museum. 
skeletons, conjoined twins, cyclops baby and so
these specimens could and did serve as this section
of human dev anatomy
called a single cell...


there was not much info, label text, which was fine, but no supporting
information, one of my colleagues, Emily Wilson, an anthropologist in the
human developmental anatomy section had a great research topic
that dealt with the limb development, and also co wrote other areas of the exhibit, these panels
contain her
research which I believe was presented at last years Mayo Clinics Symposium.
Congratulatons to her on a great job. Here Ms. Wilson (pictured below) is preparing
the specimens for redisplay in the exhibit.
this redesign can elevate this exhibit to another level.
More to come...

Exhibit update. A single cell

Exhibit update a single cell

Today's Flickr photos have a common piece to them.


Besides being part of the New Contributed Photograph collection, there’s something in common with most of the pictures being sent up to our Flickr site today. Can you spot it?

Letter of the Day: February 17

Fort Shaw, M.T.

February 17th 1868.




I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication dated M.D.A. Dep’t of Dakota January 22d, 1868 stating it is the wish of the Surgeon General to secure for preservation in the army medical museum specimens of Indian Crania and Indian weapons and utensils as far as they can be procured of the different Indian Tribes; and giving directions ho these specimens are to be collected and forwarded +c.


In reference to which I would respectfully state that I shall willing lend my aid as far as possible in collecting specimens from the different Indian Tribes in this Territory.


There are no Indians residing within a radius of forty or fifty miles of this Post, the Sun River country being looked upon as neutral ground. Occasional parties of Bloods, Piegans, Pend D’Oreilles, Black Feet and other Tribes on hunting or horse stealing expeditions transverse this section of country but make no delay en route and seldom visit this Post. Nevertheless I shall not fail to avail myself of any means of communication with these Tribes with a view to secure specimens.


Actg. Asst. Surgeon Hitz has been furnished with an official copy of your communication and expresses his willingness to cooperate in securing these specimens.


Very Respectfully

Your ob’t. Servant


F.L. Town

Bre’t Lieut. Col. + Surgeon, U.S.A.


Surgeon Jno. E. Summers U.S.A.

Medical Director, Dept. of Dakota

St. Paul, Minn.

Yellow Fever and Walter Reed

This is the text for an exhibit at the Pentagon I did about two decades ago...

Yellow Fever and Walter Reed

Yellow fever is caused by a virus transmitted by a mosquito. This disease has menaced communities since before the founding of the United States. Yellow fever was first described by Joam Ferreyra Da Rosa in 1694. The origin of the term "yellow fever", however, is obscure. Some feel the name reflects the symptoms since the virus destroys liver cells and causes jaundice which is a yellowing of the skin and eyes. Others feel that the name refers to the yellow quarantine flag flown by ships carrying the disease, especially since the fever apparently travelled from Africa on slave ships which were notorious carriers of the fever.

Yellow fever has a wide variety of symptoms including headaches, backaches, nausea and fever. The most disturbing symptom is bloody vomiting which gave the disease the vivid name of "the black vomit". The disease has a fatality rate between 10 and 15% but is less virulent in children. Currently, the disease is incurable and attentive nursing and rest are the only treatments.

Walter Reed was born in Virginia in 1851. In 1869, Reed graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in medicine and studied at Bellevue Medical Hospital in New York. He joined the Army Medical Corps in 1875 and spent most of the next two decades at frontier posts. In 1893, Reed began serving as curator of the Army Medical Museum and professor of bacteriology and clinical microscopy at the Army Medical School. As part of the Surgeon General's Office staff in Washington, Reed was assigned to investigate typhoid fever in 1898 and then yellow fever a year later.

Reed was the first man to prove the mechanics of infection of yellow fever. Prior to his work, several novel ideas had been considered.

For instance, Benjamin Rush, the noted Philadelphia physician, believed the disease was caused by rotten coffee. Others held that "miasmas" or bad airs were the cause. However, throughout the century, glimpses of the true means of transmission had been noted. In 188 Dr. Josiah C. Nott of Alabama suggested that mosquitoes might be the vector or carrier of the disease. Carlos Juan Finlay of Cuba strongly advanced this idea although current theory held that "fomites" or household articles were somehow infected with the disease.

In 1899 during the wake of the Spanish-American War, Reed headed a team investigating the cause of yellow fever. The team, composed of Dr. James Carroll (also of the Army Medical Museum), Dr. Aristides Agramonte and Dr. Jesse Lazear, convened at Columbia Barracks near Havana, Cuba. Their first accomplishment was to quickly rule out a recently-proposed bacterial theory. Then, using volunteers, the team tested the fomite theory with articles fouled with the effusions from yellow fever victims. This theory, too, was proven wrong. After a prison outbreak when one prisoner was infected and died but the eight other prisoners were not infected, researchers could not suggest a method of transmission other than mosquitoes. Finlay had provided mosquitoes for testing and Dr. Lazear began experiments with them. By having a mosquito bite them, Lazear successfully infected Dr. Carroll and a volunteer soldier named Dean in August. Lazear may have been testing his theory on himself for he was infected and died on September 25, 1900. Lazear's notebooks enabled Reed to study the data Lazear compiled. Reed realized that the Aedes aegypti mosquito carried yellow fever but only under certain conditions. The mosquito must bite a yellow fever victim during the first three days of an attack, incubate the virus in its body for at least twelve days and then bite another person to pass on the disease. This discovery enabled the United States to essentially eradicate yellow fever within its borders after one last epidemic in New Orleans in 1905. The disease proved easy to conquer because the Aedes aegypti mosquito is an urban mosquito and breeds only in small pools of stagnant water such as fish ponds or even flower jars. Yellow fever is still prevalent in tropical climes due to both a different mosquito vector, the Haemagogus spegazzinii and the fact that jungle yellow fever, as it is occasionally known, can live in monkeys as well as human hosts.

Object List:

Two Reed medals (M-900 00682, ASTM medal; M-900 00683, Congressional medal) Text: Medals awarded to Walter Reed for his work on yellow fever by Congress and the American Society of Tropical Medicine. M-900 00683; M-900 00682.

Photo of Reed at 25 (NCP 876 Text: Reed at age 25. NCP #876

OHA 309 Sontag - Detachment of the Hospital Corps

Sontag volunteers photo. Text: Soldiers who volunteered for yellow fever experiments. Sontag Collection.

Reed microscope (M-030 00420) Text: Microscope used by Reed. M-030 00420.

Mosquito drawing

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Link Love from the Medical Heritage Library

NMHM, NCP 3280

For those of you who haven't heard, the Medical Heritage Library is a collaborative, digital curation project among some of the leading medical libraries, National Library of Medicine, The Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine (Harvard), The Cushing/Whitney Medical Library (Yale), The Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library (Columbia), and the New York Public Library. They "promote free and open access to quality historical resources in medicine."

A friend and colleague of mine works for the team at the MHL and we chat often about the unique world of medical archives. She gave us a shout-out today on their blog: Digital Connections: The Otis Historical Archives, highlighting some of her favorite images from the NMHM flickr site.

Letter of the Day: February 16

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 07315

War Department,
Office of the Surgeon General,
Army medical Museum and Library,


February 16, 1904

To the Surgeon General,
U.S. Army


I have the honor to request that two (2) hospital blankets be furnished for use in the X-ray room of the Army Medical School, to protect X-ray subjects against the cold atmosphere of the room.

Very respectfully,
C.L. Heizmann
Col. Asst. Surgeon General, U.S.A.
In charge of Museum and Library Division

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Letter of the Day: February 15

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 05770

War Department
Surgeon General's Office,
U.S. Army Medical Museum and Library
Corner of 7th and B Streets SW

February 15, 1902

Messers Eimer & Amend,
205-211 Third Ave.,
New York, N.Y.


Please forward at your earliest convenience, with bill, a "Complete Haemocytometer Set" of Dr. Oliver, referred to on page 31 of you pamphlet, "The Tintometer".

I hope you have received the Oliver's Haemoglobinometer set ion case returned to you on the 7th inst. for examination and repair, and that you will be able to return it at an early date.

Very respectfully,
Water Reed
Major & Surgeon, U.S. Army

Monday, February 14, 2011

Michelle and Megan

Hi guys! A lot has happened since we last posted on this site. We have been at the warehouse, and labeled jars and packaged dental models in preparation of HDACs new location. We also completed our research on eye development and eye anomalies. This past weekend, NMHM hosted a Valentine's Day program, which included a scavenger hunt, a lot of arts and crafts, and a heart dissection. It was very fun and everyone who came seemed to have had a great time! Currently, we're learning how to use NetObjects in order to create web pages. It's very interesting. We are about to start 3D modeling, which we are extremely excited about.

Letter of the Day: February 14

Cincinnati, Ohio
Feby 14th 1864


After the Battle of Chickamauga and Mission Ridge [sic, Missionary Ridge] I collected quite an interesting number of osseus specimens intending to for[war]d them to Washington as soon as my report was ready to accompany them, but my regiment having reenlisted I sent them to this place intending to label them and send my report with them as I would have ample time to do so while here.

This however I understand has been frustrated by, the maliciousness of one of the Sanitary Com- Gentlemen who telegraphed to Nashville to have the box stopped. Amongst the specimens was a case-knife which had been driven thro [sic] the trochanter of a friend of his by a canister shot, which he wished to obtain for himself, this I refused him, hence his actions. I expended a great deal of labor on these specimens and would like to have has the opportunity of giving the history of them.

I understand the box has been sent to the Museum and if so if you will send them to me by Express I will label them properly and return them. If the have not reached you I will endeavor to trace them out.

The box was labeled Rev. Wm Hally, Cin'ti, Ohio who was the agent of Sanitary [Ohio] and a friend of mine.

Very respectfully
You Obt Sevt
A. McMahon
Surgeon 64th O[hio].V[olunteer].I[nfantry]

Surg. Brinton, U.S.A.

Der Mensch als Industriepalast. Reminds me of the David Macaulay exhibit

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Letter of the Day: February 13

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 07319

War Department,
Office of the Surgeon General,
Army medical Museum and Library,

February 13, 1904

Capt. Harry M. Hallock
Asst. Surgeon, U.S. Army,
Fort Porter, N.Y.


I have read with great interest your report of the finding of Taenia nana in your command and beg to congratulate you upon your painstaking work. You are almost the first in this country, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is about to issue a bulletin upon the subject, reporting five cases at the Government Insane Asylum. Perhaps you have a paper prepared for publication in one of the journals; I hope so because I would like to see you gain precedence.

I write especially to ask if you will do me the favor to send me some materials containing the ova for demonstration at the Army Medical school? If you could send me a significant number of worms to give each member of the class a specimen they would be greatly appreciated. I trust you may be able to send me some ova at least. May I suggest that you try to obtain them by washing the stool several times in a large quantity of water, pouring off the supernatant portion and retaining the sediment? In this way most of the fecal matter will be poured off while the worms and ova will sink to the bottom. Then preserve them in equal parts glycerine [sic], alcohol, and water.

Yours very truly,
James Carroll
1st Lieut. Asst. Surgeon, U.S.A.
Curator, Army Medical Museum.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Letter of the Day: February 12

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 02038

February 12, 1897

Dr. E.T. Duke,
Cumberland, Md.

Dear Sir:

Referring to your letter of February 11th, I beg to state that the work of this department is confined to the bacteriological and pathological study of the tissues of the body, and hence, regret to say that this office cannot furnish the therapeutic advice called for.

Very respectfully,
Walter Reed
Surgeon, U.S. Army,

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Met's following in our footsteps

Ok, maybe not, but this is an interesting article about Museums and technology.


February 11, 2011

The Met’s Virtual Expansion Plans



Dart Scrapbook finding aid now online

Archives intern Sara Gonzales has written a finding aid for the recent donation of a scrapbook owned by AFIP director Raymond Dart.

Letter of the Day: February 11

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 02038

E.T. Duke, M.D.
Cumberland, Md.

Cumberland Md
Feb 11th 1897

Major Walter Reed U.S.A.
Washington, D.C.

My dear Doctor

Presuming on your kindness extended to me in Washington two years ago, I write to ask you about a case in my practice which I thought you could help me with. My patient sustained a gunshot wound of the right knee, at a very close range. The tissues were severely lacerated, and for a considerable space above the knee-joint the skin was burned with powder. The injury to the knee has done well after two months treatment, but the burned area refuses to heal. Thinking your experience in the Army might give me some light on the case I take the liberty of addressing you.

Respectfully yours,
E. T. Duke

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Today's most popular photo on our Flickr page?

This picture which was put up almost 2 years ago has gotten about 700 hits today, or about 1/3 of its 'lifetime' views. What gives?

Letter of the Day: February 10

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 5759

War Department
Surgeon General's Office,
U.S. Army Medical Museum and Library
Corner of 7th and B Streets SW
Washington, February 10, 1902

39 Rue Madame
Paris, France

Dear Sir:

Please purchase for this Museum of A. Montaudon, 56 Rue de Vaugirard, Paris, the following anatomical preparations referred to in "Classic Anatomy of Dr. Auzoux, p.16.

No. 69. - brain of chimpanzee
No.77. - brain of horse.

Please see that they are properly packed and receive, pay for and forward them to this Museum with separate bill in the usual manner.

Very respectfully,
Calvin DeWitt
Col. & Asst. Surgeon General, U.S.A.
In charge of Museum & Library Division.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

19th century medical photographs with mirrors

Øystein Horgmo has written an interesting blog post about pictures from the Museum at "Mirror of the Body":

Until he asked about these types of photographs, my eye had glided over them.

Today's new collection

Material is flowing into the Museum as the AFIP and Walter Reed both prepare to close. Today we collected 54 boxes, or 184 bound volumes of Walter Reed General Hospital Autopsies (2011.0005, OHA 354.7) which date from 1917 through 1965. That presumably covers 4 wars – World War 1, World War 2, Korea and Vietnam.

Letter of the Day: February 9

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 03681

War Department,
Surgeon General’s Office
U.S. Army Medical Museum and Library
Corner of 7th and B Streets SW

February 9, 1899.

Deputy Surgeon General, U.S.A.
Washington, D.C.


I have the honor to inform you that the bacteriological examination of 2 cans of roast beef (Wilson & Co. & Armour & Co.), which were opened in your presences in this Laboratory on the afternoon of January 30, shows that the contents of both were sterile. No growth has occurred on any of the plates made therefrom.

Very respectfully,
Walter Reed,
Major & Surgeon, U.S.A.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Letter of the Day: February 8

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 09196

War Department,
Office of the Surgeon General,
Army Medical Museum and Library,

February 8, 1906

Prof. Wm Gary Calkins,
Department of Biology, Columbia University,
New York City

Dear Doctor Calkins:
I am sending you, by mail, to-day, a specimen of Taenia nana as I promised. These birds are so scarce that I cannot send you more than one, as I have only about a half dozen in all. I do not recall whether I promised you anything else or not; if I did kindly let me know and I will see that you get it.

With kind regards, I am,

Yours very truly,
James Carroll
1st Lieut., Asst. Surgeon, U.S.A.
Curator, Army Medical Museum

Monday, February 7, 2011

U.S. Hospital Ship, the Ernestine Koranda

The Ernestine Koranda

Verso of the photograph, includes signatures of what we presume to be her crew.
Whenever we have a new donation, no matter how small or large it is, it is accessioned and catalogued into the Museum’s collection database. Today I’ve been working with a photograph of the World War, II hospital ship, the Ernestine Koranda. She was named for the real-life Ernestine Koranda, an Army nurse who was deployed to Papua, New Guinea during the war. Koranda died tragically en route to Australia when her plane crashed, not long before her wedding, planned for Christmas 1943. The Ernestine Koranda was named for Lieutenant Nurse Koranda before the end of the war, one of a small number of service personnel to be honored in this way.

Ernestine Koranda’s personal papers and photographs can be found online at the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS).

Ernestine Koranda, MHS

The NMHM has quite a few examples of hospital ships in our collections. Here are a few of my favorites:

US Hospital Ship, the "D.J. January," was used on Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from 1862 - 65. Photograph of model at Army Medical Museum constructed for Centennial Exposition 1876 at Philadelphia.

U. S. Army Hospital Ship, Marigold: "Men Sunning on the Deck." [The Marigold, aka Old North State, President Van Buren, President Fillmore, was first deployed during World War, II on 07/19/44, bound for Italy.]

"(SE4-Dec.17) Casualty Evacuated - Yanks load a wounded GI [?] aboard a landing barge at Hungnam for transport to a waiting hospital ship in the harbor of the northeastern Korean evacuation port. UN [United Nations?] defense forces were compressed into a tight perimeter around Hungnam today as Chinese Reds pressed toward the escape beachhead. (APWirephoto) [Associated Press?] (jdc11305stf-md) 1950.

"Number 43. Taking wounded on board U.S. Hospital Ship 'Relief' from hospital at Siboney - Siege of Santiago, Cuba." [This USS Relief, pictured here, was constructed in 1895-96, commissioned in 1908, decommissioned in 1910, and sold into merchant service in 1919. her fate is unknown.]