Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Letter of the day, March 31

Knowing the cause and controlling it were still two different things.

Office of the Surgeon,
Camp Stotsenburg, P.I., Mch 31, 1917.

From: The Surgeon.
To. The Surgeon General, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.
(Thru Department Surgeon.)
Subject: Mosquitoes.

1. Collection of mosquitoes mailed, this date, to the Curator, Army Medical Museum, Washington, D.C.

2. 55 cases of malaria during the month, as follows:
Aestivo-autumnal, 8
Tertian, 47

3. Average strength of command: 2102.63

4. 2 cases of malaria, members of 15th Cav., casually at post, and 16 cases of civilians in addition to the above, during the month.

[signed, illegible]
Major, Medical Corps.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Letter of the day, February 25 add-on

Our correspondence is in different collections and we don’t look in every one of them when we’re searching for the Letter of the Day, so we may come across another one we want to post when we’re looking for something else. Here’s an example of one too good to pass up.


February 25, 1910

To the
Surgeon General, U.S. Army.

Dir:- [sic]

I have the honor to request that a railing be placed on the balustrade of the stair case from the basement floor to the end of balustrade in second story of this building. It will require the following material, the estimated cost of which is $65.00:

1-1/4 in. brass tubing, finished and polished, cut in lengths as follows:
24 brass brackets for hand rails.
16 brass acorns.

The present balustrade is not of sufficient height to afford adequate protection and this railing is needed to protect persons passing up and down the staircase mentioned. There has already been one life lost from falling over the balustrade to the basement, and another person narrowly escaped a similar accident a few days ago.

If the material mentioned is furnished, it can be placed by mechanics at this building.

Very respectfully,
Col. Medical Corps, U.S. Army,
In charge, Museum & Library Division


Letter of the day, March 30

I was just talking with our Registrar this morning about how people hate to do paperwork.

Surgeon General’s Office
Washington D.C.
March 30” 1865.


The Reports of Wounded, Surgical Operations &c from the Hospital under your charge for the quarter ending September 30” 1864 have not as yet been received and the several circulars sent you from this office have been disregarded.

The Surgeon General directs that the reports be prepared and forwarded immediately.

Very respectfully,
Your obdt. Servt.
C.H.C. [Deputy Surgeon General Charles H Crane, but probably Otis]
Surgeon U.S.A.

Asst. Surg. H. Allen U.S.A.
In charge “Mt. Pleasant” U.S. General Hospital
Washington D.C.

Letter of the day, March 29

A day late - no internet access yesterday.
I wonder how likely it would be that Bontecou remembered the details from case to case.

Surgeon General’s Office
Washington D.C.
March 29th 1866.


In your report of Hygeia Hospital the case of Chandler with excision of the elbow is detailed. From your letter of the 27th inst. I learn that there was another Chandler for whom you excised the head of the humerus.

Will you have the kindness to give me as nearly as you can recollect the occasion & date of the wound, and date and extent of the operation in the latter case, the nature of the after treatment and the date of the exchange.

I am, Colonel, very respectfully,
Your obedt. servant,
By order of the Surgeon General,
George A. Otis
Surgeon and Bv’t. Lt. Col. U.S.V.

Bv’t. Lt. Col.
R.B. Bontecou,
Surgeon, U.S. Volunteers

Monday, March 29, 2010

New book on Billings published

A new work on our own John Shaw Billings who organized the Library and Museum of the Office of the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army (which, of course, when split became the National Library of Medicine and the National Museum of Health and Medicine respectively), written by the distinguished author, historian of medicine and NLM staff member, the late James Cassedy, has been published posthumously by Xlibris.

According to the publisher: "Much has been written about John Shaw Billings' (1838-1913) role in the founding and development of two great American libraries, the Army Medical Library and the New York Public Library, to the neglect of other aspects of his career. Billings' role as a physician was many-faceted. Beginning his medical career as an Army surgeon during the Civil War, during the next 30 years he added to his medical skills those of scientist, administrator, and planner, builder, and organizer of several important medical and public health activities and institutions. This book explores Billings as a leader of the a medical revolution and the public health movement of the late 19th century. It emphasizes the part he played as a link between the growing federal government's presence in health policy and scientific activity and the world of private medicine and local public health."

John Shaw Billings: Science and Medicine in the Gilded Age
By James H. Cassedy
(253 pages)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Letter of the Day: March 28 (2 of 2) - Leprosy? Or syphilis?

Treasury Department
Office of the Supervising Surgeon-General, M.H.S.
Washington, D.C., March 28th, 1895

To the Supervising Surgeon-General,
U.S. Marine Hospital Service,


I have the honor to make the following report on a specimen from a supposed case of leprosy, submitted for examination by Dr. C.O. Probst, Secretary of the Ohio State Board of Health.

The specimen presented for examination is a portion of the left hand, including the little and ring fingers. The entire member is thickened to about twice its natural size.

On the dorsum of the hand is an extensive superficial ulcer with sharply defined edge and irregular margin. At the wrist the ulceration has extended deeply through the tissues, amputating the hand at this point. A similar process seems to have affected the tip of the ring finger.

Sections were made and studied from seven different places. Four were taken from the edge of the ulcer, two from its center, and one through the skin and thickened subcutaneous tissue, including the nerve going to the little finger.

All the sections disclosed a general hypertrophy of the parts and a larger overgrowth of connective tissue. Some of the specimens from the edge of the ulcer showed the histology of the specific granulomata. A thickening of the blood vessel walls was noticed in the subcutaneous tissue.

All the sections were stained for lepra bacilli, with negative results. Those sections containing giant cells were also stained for tubercle bacilli, none were found.

The disease, therefore, in my opinion in neither leprosy nor tuberculosis, which, by exclusion, throws some weight upon the suspicion of syphilis.

Very respectfully,

(signed) M. J. Rosenau,
Passed Assistant Surgeon, M.H.S.

Letter of the Day: March 28 (1 of 2)

Mt. Vernon Bks, Ala
Mch 28, 1875

Curator Army Medical Museum
Washington D.C.


Would a collection of the snakes of this region be of any value to the Museum? Or of the Flora? If so, please answer & oblige.

Your obt. Servt,

Jos. K. Corson
Asst. Surg. U.S.A.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Virtual Autopsy Table, Exhibit at House of Sweden

27 Mar - 2 May 2010
EXHIBIT: Virtual Autopsy Table
A unique interactive table allows people to explore the inside of a human being. This big touch screen allows the user to freely interact with data generated by CT and MRI scans.
Without cutting into the body, medical experts can see things otherwise difficult to discover in a conventional autopsy. The technique opens up new opportunities in countries where autopsies are not accepted due to cultural or religious reasons.

House of Sweden,
2900 K St NW
Washington DC

Letter of the Day: March 27, on Indian wars

Headquarters, District of Texas
Office of Surgeon in Chief,
Austin, Texas, March 27th 1868

Dear Doctor:

I have received this morning the first “Return of Wounds and Injuries received in action,” that has presented itself, since I entered upon my duties in this District. It is from McElderry at Fort Griffin, who accompanied a scouting party in an attack upon some Comanches, near old Fort Phantom Hill. The matter is one of interest to you, I trust, inasmuch as a considerable number of Indian bows, arrows and shields were captured. The Comanches, fourteen in number, upon being surprised, “bifurcated,” – one party makings its escape, and all the other party, seven in number, falling victim. As the soldiers did not trouble themselves to take the Indians to camp on litter, but left them dead on the spot, I am in hopes that McElderry may be able to obtain their crania. I have written to him about the desirability of augmenting the Army Med. Museum with such trophies. Three soldiers were wounded.

Another Indian fight has also just occurred in the vicinity of Fort Mason [illegible] and eight Texas Rangers, organized under the command of the Commanding Officer at Fort Mason, attacked twenty two (?) Indians, killed two of the number, and captured twelve horses. I do not believe that any medical officer of the Army was present.

These skirmishes are probably preludes to continued and extensive activity and blood-drawing, in the vicinity of the new frontier Cavalry post, and justify my recommendation that at least two medical officers should be on duty at each large military station in the new line of defence, extending from the Red River to the Rio Grande. Every large scouting party, dispatched from a fort on such an expedition as McEdlerry took part in, should be provided with a surgeon. Gen. McParlin assented to my views some time since, very readily, and orders were issued supplying Richardson, Griffin, (Burhham when established,) Concho, McKavitt etc with two medical officers. I may think it necessary to give even a third “saw-bones” to one or two of the more important commands.

I beg that you will bring this matter favorably to the attention of the Surgeon General and General Crane, as they may be surprised to see two or three medical officers reported to be on duty at a single post. Some of the posts are to be garrisoned by eight companies.

I am on the alert, also, with reference to the matter of scurvy in the frontier posts referred to. Although the troops have not reached there yet, I have already put most of the post surgeons on their guard, and have urged them to persuade company commanders to cultivate gardens, and provide their men with as much fresh vegetable food as possible. The commissary at New Orleans has promised to provide the new posts with larger amounts of canned vegetables, so that their sale may be extended to the enlisted men, and not limited to officers, after their present custom.

Your letter concerning the acquisition of curiosities for the Museum from frontier officers has received my careful attention. It is probable that in course of the summer I shall have opportunity of personally urging the medical officer and others in my District, to second your efforts ably. From what Gen. Reynolds has told me I think that I may be one of a party of his staff to visit all of the frontier posts. He sees the importance of the duty, in my case, especially if I am to occupy my present position for a term of years! – for by personal inspection of the posts, the country, and the men I should have a much better basis for official work than I now have. Present my kindest regards to all, & let me hear from you.

Yours truly,

Warren Webster

Col. George A. Otis, etc etc.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Letter of the day, March 26


War Department
Office of the Surgeon General

March 26, 1919

Circular Letter No. 156

Subject: Museum Specimens (Gas Lesions).

1. It is desired to obtain gross and microscopical specimens from cases who have lived for a considerable time after being gassed. There are now in hospitals many of these soldiers suffering in some cases from the results of this gassing, and also from various other condition.

2. Considerable material has been collected from acute lesions in man and in animals, and a certain amount of material is available showing the subsequent lesions in animals, but no specimens have been received from human sources which can be used to study the final changes and determine what, if any, permanent alterations result from exposure to the gas.

3. Should autopsies occur in any case giving a history of having been gassed, specimens will be carefully preserved and sent to the Army Medical Museum, even though there is apparently no change in the organs referable to the previous gassing. The respiratory tract is most important but blocks of tissue should be sent from each organ. A careful history and protocol will accompany the specimens.

By direction of the Surgeon General:

C.R. Darnall,
Colonel, Medical Corps, USA,
Executive Officer.

Copy for:
Surgeons, Ports of Embarkation,
Commanding Officers, all Base & General Hospitals,
Commandant, Army Medical School,
The Chief Surgeon, S.O.S. American expeditionary Forces.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Accession of the day, March 25

I'm getting a little free and easy with the accessions of the day. My rule. If today's date appears in the record, it counts.

Photographic Series Number 101. Group of Officers who have undergone amputation for gunshot injuries.

The officer on the right of the group is Captain Charles H. Houghton, who was wounded before Petersburg, March 25th, 1865, by a fragment of shell, which comminuted the condyles of the right femur. Circular amputation at the middle third was preformed the same day. On July 30th Captain Houghton was discharged from hospital well.

Next in order is Captain Edward A. Whaley, 6th Wisconsin Volunteers, whose right femur was fractured by a musket ball, at Five Forks, Virginia. April 1st, 1865. Amputation was performed immediately. On May 15th, he walked on crutches, and on August 15th went to his home well.

His neighbor, Lieut. Moretz Lowenstein, was similarly wounded at the same battle. He underwent immediate amputation, and recovered sufficiently to use crutches on May 12th.

Lieut. W.H. Humphreys had both bones of the right leg shattered by a shell, on April 2d, in the assault on the lines before Petersburg. Amputation at the lower third of the thigh was performed on the field. He was discharged from hospital August 14th, 1865.

Colonel George R. Maxwell, 1st Michigan Cavalry, had his left femur fractured by a musket ball at Five Forks, Virginia, April 1st, 1865. His thigh was amputated at Armory Square Hospital on April 19th. He left the hospital "well" on August 13th.

Lieut. W.C. Weeks, 5th Michigan Cavalry, was shot through the left ankle joint on April 1st, 1865, and a Pirgoff amputation was performed the same day by the surgeon of his regiment, Dr. St. Clair. He had a firm stump by the latter part of June.

Behind the other figures stands Lieut. J.G. Turke, whose right humerus was shattered at Fort Haskell, near Petersburg, March 25th, 1865, by a musket ball. He made a rapid recovery after an amputation at the shoulder joint.

The other standing figure is Acting Assistant Surgeon C.P. Porte, U.S.A., who communicated the memoranda of the cases. All of them were treated at Armory Square Hospital at Washington.
A.M.M. 4001.

Letter of the Day: March 25

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 564

March 25 1895

Dr. Samuel T. Armstrong,
Harlem Hospital,
New York.

Dear Doctor:

I am instructed by the Surgeon General to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of March 23rd, enclosing history of the case of James Devlin, Switchman, which furnished the specimen of right hand showing laceration, received at the Museum March 13, 1895, and to thank you for this addition to the Museum records.

Very respectfully,

Walter Reed
Surgeon, U.S. Army,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Letter of the Day: March 24

Fort Barrancas, Fla.
March 24th 75

Dear Doctor

Will you do me the favor to discuss the probable history of the enclosed, with some of your scientific friends & return it to me when you have done so with your opinion as to its archaeological value?

It was picked up on the surface of a shell-heap “kjokkinmodding” at Bear Point, on the Alabama side of the Perdido bay. I am inclined to think that this locality was occupied by the Natchez indians at the time of De Soto’s expedition.

The point of interest to be ascertained in regard to the specimen I send you are - What is the white metal around the copper?

Is it the work of white men or of the Indians, in whose possession it doubtless was when lost in the vicinity of one of their villages? Has the copper or the metal surrounding it been smelted, or was it worked to its present form by maneuvering and polishing? What was the probable use to which the article was put? Money? Ornament? Or charm?

Very truly yours,


Photo of the day, March 24

USS Solace. Commissioned on 08/09/1941; the Solace joined the Fleet on 10/27 and was the first hospital ship to be present in a naval battle when she cared for casualties from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

She won eight engagement stars for participation in this and seven other military operations:
Gilbert Islands, 11/24-26/1943;
occupation of Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls, 02/03-04/1944; capture and occupation of Saipan, 06/18/1944-07/02/1944;
capture of Guam 07/24 to 08/15/1944;
occupation of Southern Palau Islands, 09/06 to 10/14/1944;
capture of Iwo Jima 02/23 to 03/10/1945;
and the Okinawa Gunto operation, 03/24 to 06/20/1945.

The Solace was the first hospital ship to be refueled at sea while carrying a full load of patients, near the Gilbert Islands in 11/1943, and the first to receive patients directly from the combat area (in the same campaign).

As an illustration of her activity, during 1943 she traveled 37069 miles, took part in 10 evacuations, 6 of them to transport patients from the New Hebrides area to Aukland and Wellington, New Zealand. Total admissions to the sick list that year amounted to 6465, and she spent 5 months as a station hospital.

During the Iwo Jima and Okinawa operations 1800 units of fresh whole-blood, 1200 units of plasma, 136000 sulfa tablets, and 2.5 billion units of penicillin were administered. She admitted and treated about 25000 patients altogether, 70 percent battle casualties, and steamed over 170000 miles before VJ Day. Thereafter she engaged in transporting Pacific war veterans home and was decommissioned 03/27/1946.

The SOLACE had an overall length of 410 feet, displaced 8650 tons, had a top speed of 18 knots and a cruising range of 7000 miles.

Hospital ships. Solace (AH-5) Folder 3 12/10/1916; U.S. Navy BUMED Library and Archives

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Letter of the day, March 23

This letter, in and of itself, is only moderately interesting; however, because we picked up a donation of about 400 or so microscopes last week, arguably making ours the largest microscope collection in the world, it is somewhat more interesting. That, and the fact that it bears Walter Reed's signature. Hopefully someone from Historical Collections will report more details here.

March 23, [189]5

To the
Surgeon General, U.S. Army,
Washington, D.C.


In reply to your letter of March 22, 1895, I beg to report that the following microscopes, all in good condition as to serviceability, are on hand at the Museum, viz.:

Large microscope, continental stand, mechanical stage, Zeiss (One of these belongs to the microphotographic outfit.) No. 4
Large microscope with fixed stage (Stand 1B, Leitz,) [No.] 1
Medium sized microscope, Stand II, Leitz, [No.] 1
Microscope B B, Continental stand, Bausch & Lomb, [No.] 6

The foregoing instruments are furnished with suitable oculars and objectives for pathological and bacteriological work, and were taken up upon my property return for the year ending December 31, 1894.

Very respectfully,
[signed] Walter Reed,
Surgeon, U.S. Army,

Photo of the day, March 23

From our Hollister Collection, OHA 193. 100 percent perfect condition of teeth. First grade. 03/23/1925.

Universal Health Care

Today's expected presidential signature on the health care bill is a huge change for America, but this issue is by no means a new one. In our Registry of Noteworthy Research in Pathology collection is an article by John R. Mannix, Director of Chicago Plan for Hospital Care, titled "Why Not an American Blue Cross? How Hospitals and Physicians, Cooperating, Might Provide Prepayment Health Services for All." It was written in 1944 in the journal Hospitals.

Mannix proposed that physicians and hospitals create an American Blue Cross and obtain a federal charter to operate in the federal interest. He says that in response to three things - the Depression's bringing to light the need for provisions against future need, strong Congressional lobbying for legislative protection by special interest groups, and taxes chipping away at individual fortunes that previously had been used for philanthropic purposes - the public was demanding guaranteed health services: "It has been confirmed and emphasized by every competent survey to date, including the Fortune poll, which showed that three-quarters (74.3 per cent) of all Americans believe the federal government should collect enough taxes after the war to provide for medical care for everyone who needs it." He goes on to say, "The public wants protection. One way or another it will get what it wants. It will accept, indeed welcome, a voluntary system, but meanwhile it is insisting upon the presentation of federal protection because it does not believe that voluntary agencies are going to do the complete job."

Sixty-six years later, it looks like his prediction will come about. It just took a little longer than he might have expected.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hall of Human Origins NMNH SI

went on opening day

Accession of the day, March 22

Photograph Number 314. Indian arrow - heads removed from wounds.

The specimens numbered 5639 and 5640 of the Surgical Section were contributed to the Army Medical Museum by Assistant Surgeon B.A. Clements, U.S.A. The former is an iron arrow - head three inches in length and half an inch in its widest part. It had been imbedded one inch in the ilium.

The latter specimen was removed from the scapula of a Private of the 5th Infantry at Fort Fauntleroy, New Mexico, in 1861. The arrow entered just above the posterior fold of the axilla; the shaft separated with the slightest traction; probing to the extent of two and half inches failed to reveal the head. After waiting three months it was extracted through an exploratory T - shaped incision. The missile, two inches long and half an inch in width at the base, was greatly bent upon itself by the force of impact.

The specimen number 5641, Section I. [1] Army Medical Museum, was contributed by Assistant Surgeon A.H. Smith, U.S.A., by whom it was removed from the testis of a Mexican herder, some three months after the reception of the injury. This case is mentioned on page 156, Circular Number 3, Surgeon General's Office.

The next specimen (Number 5642) was taken from the left lung of Nat. Crabtree who was killed by Indians near Fort Cooke, Montana Territory, April 24, 1868. It was contributed by Hospital Steward C.T. Smith, U.S.A.

The remaining specimen (5654) was extracted from the brain of a Private of the 14th Infantry, who was wounded by Apache Indians near Maricopa Wells, Arizona Territory, on March 22, 1866. The patient is reported to have been nine days travelling to Maricopa Wells from the place where he was wounded. On April 19th, he was received into the hospital at Camp McDowell, Arizona, and the missile was removed next day by Assistant Surgeon Charles Smart, U.S.A. Under cautious treatment the patient improved, but May 7th, after a very imprudent meal, he was taken with violent symptoms and died on the 13th. A detailed account of this case is to be found in Circular Number 3, Surgeon General's Office, in the article on arrow - wounds.

Letter of the Day, March 22

U.S.A. Post Hospital
Fort Stanton New Mexico
March 22nd 1875

To the Surgeon General U.S.A.


I have the honor to respectfully inform you that I have this forwarded to your address for the Army Medical Museum (or chemical laboratory) 2 lbs of genuine Paraguay tea or “Mate” (Ilex paraguayensis) imported from Chili (sic), where it is extensively used in lieu of ordinary tea. As it contains 1.2 percent of theine [i.e. caffeine] an alkaloid so universally craved by different nations, I thought a sample of the genuine article might be of interest, either for analysis or on account of its natural history as an article of diet.

Very Respectfully,
Your obt. Servt
Carlos Carvallo
Asst Surgeon U.S.A.
Post Surgeon

Medical Education in 1920s China

There are many reprints in the Carnegie Embryological Collection about medical education in the early 20th century, mainly in the U.S. and Canada. This one, by E. V. Cowdry, is one of a number of similar articles that he wrote after a long trip to China and Japan in the 1920s. In this article he writes about how the schools melded traditional (like the Golden Mirror text here) and western medical practices. In other articles he shows a clear preference for the Japanese style of education for its greater inclusion of western methods. Cowdry started the Anatomy Department at the Peking Union Medical College (Beijing) which incorporated embryological research as well.

Photo of the day, March 22

First aid being administered in a trench to a Marine prior to being sent to hospital in rear of trenches. 03/22/1918. Toul Sector, France. [First aid. War, Relief of sick and wounded. United States. Army. Signal Corps.] World War 1, 688-Y8-0. 12151

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Letter of the Day, March 21

Ahhh, large world’s fairs – those were the days…

Major Clifton Comly, U.S.A.
Representative of War Department

World’s Columbian Exposition,
War Department Exhibit

21 March 1891

My dear Dr.

Will you kindly notify Dr. Billings that a meeting of the War Dept Board in connection with the World Columbian Exposition, has been called for Tuesday the 24th inst at 11 a.m. at the room of the Board of Management 1429 New York Ave., Washington (Safe Deposit Building, Cor. 15th St.)

You will remember that it was agreed that the Dr was to represent Dr. LaGarde for this meeting and I trust nothing may interfere with his attendance.

Very truly yours
Clifton Comly,
Major, USA

Dr. C.R. Greenleaf,
Med Dept.

Note reads: Dear Dr. – I pass this along to you CRG

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Letter of the Day, March 20

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 3754

War Department,
Office of the Surgeon General,
Army Medical Museum and Library,
Corner 7th and B Streets S.W.,
Washington, March 20, 1899

Mr. A Gault,
Gault Artificial Limb Co.
Medford, Minn.


Your reply of the 18th inst. Is received. My object is to illustrate the progress in the manufacture of artificial limbs in a section of this Museum. For this purpose I wish to collect old devices and such modern perfected limbs as may best suit my purpose. No attempt is made to show the corrections for all amputations, and reasonable prices will be paid for all devices or limbs, on agreement.

Very respectfully,

Dallas Bache
Col. & Asst. Surgeon General, U.S.A.
In charge of Museum & Library Division

The initial letter turns out to be a quintessentially American one…
Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 3754

A. Gault, Inventor.
A.A. Winkley, Manager.

Office of The Gault Artifical Limb Company
Medford, Minn., March 18th 1899

Dallas Bache Esq.
Col. & Asst. Surgeon Gen. U.S.A.
In charge of the Museum & Library Div., Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir:-

Your favor of the 25th ult., to the Gault Artificial Limb Company, Chicago, was duly received here. I consider your plan a good one as it would place the inferior and superior limbs before the public in a very forcible manner.

My make of limbs is an entirely new departure from any artificial limbs made in this country, and I would be glad to place them in the museum along side of other makes. I am not financially able to advertise them as they should be, and this deprives many unfortunate ones of the opportunity to investigate them for themselves. If samples could be placed there it would give my make of limbs an equal show with the rest, and once seen can be easily understood by those who wear limbs.

But if I understand your communication correctly you want samples of the different kinds of amputations. In my make of legs this would take 4 or 5 samples, as per cut enclosed.* Do you require full sized legs, and when would they be expected to be in Washington? It would seem to me that this would require a good deal of space for such Exhibit, that is, if all Art Limb Companies send full sets of samples. Kindly let me hear from you again regarding this matter, and oblige,

Respectfully yours,
The Gault Artificial Limb Company,
A. Gault Proprietor

*not received for file. Answered March 20.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Letter of the Day, March 19

As we can see from this letter, the Museum did a lot of examinations for bacteria.

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 7395

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

March 19, 1904

1st Lieut. Clyde S. Ford,
Asst. Surgeon, U.S.A.
Fort H. G. Wright,
New York

Dear Doctor:

Your letter of the 16th inst. With slides and cultures were received this morning. I have examined both cultures and find the streptococcus quite numerous in the culture from Olsen, while only a few chains are found in the one from Beecher. No diptheria bacilli could be found in either and I think you are right in regarding the cases as those of streptococcus infection. We will incubate the tubes and make another examination on Monday; if we find the diptheria bacillus I will let you know; if you do not hear from me you will know the result is negative.

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

Another example of bacterial examination was done two days previously…

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 7392

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

March 17, 1904

To the Surgeon General,
U.S. Army
(Through the Officer in charge of Museum & Library Division)


I have the honor to submit the following report of the result of a bacteriological examination of three (3() samples of water from the White House, and which were numbered 1, 2 and 3 respectively:

No. 1, from tap in basement of White House. No gas appeared in any of the ten fermentation tubes charged each with 1 c.c. of the water an dincubated for four days. Numerical count: 783 bacteria per cubic centimeter.

No. 2, water passed through one cylinder of the filter. Two of the ten fermentation tubes contain 10% and 12% of gas respectively on the fourth day. The quantity of the gas was too small and its formation too slow to be indicative of the presence fo the colon bacillus. Numerical count: 646 bacteria per cubic centimeter.

No. 3, from tap in basement of office of White House. Of ten fermentation tubes charged with this water, two cotnained gas in the proportion of 45 and 60 per cent respectively on the fourth day. No gas was present after 24 hours and the quantity ultimately formed was too large for the colon bacillus. Numerical count: 663 bacteria per cubic centimeter.

Summary. The number of bacteria present in all the samples is excessive, the permissible maximum number being 100 per c.c. The excess may be due to multiplication of bacteria in the filter iteslf as a result of imperfect cleansing or lack of proper means for sterilizing it; to multiplication of bacteria in the water in storage after filtration or to imperfection in the filter itself. No. 2 was perfectly clear when received; No. 3 was slightly clouded and No. 1 was yellowish in color and has since thrown down a rather dense precipitate. The defect might be remedied to some extent by more frequent and more prolonged washings of the filtering material or by changing its composition which is boneblack, sand and polarite in varying proportions according to the character of the water to be filtered.

Very respectfully,

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

Museum is featured in today's Express

A little blurb, “We Do the Weird Stuff” on Atlas Obscura  an “online database [that] collects information on bizarre landmarks. On world-wide Obscura Day, D.C. devotees can join in a visit to the National Museum of Health and Medicine (and see the bullet that killed Lincoln.) Sat.


Letter of the day, March 15 (special 2nd reprise)

This one got stuck in edit mode and didn't post.

March 15, 1909.

Prof. Henry T. Marshall,
University of Virginia,
Charlottesville, Va.

Dear Doctor:--

Major Percy Ashburn, of our Corps, informed me the other day that you had evolved a laboratory desk which was so arranged that it would seat four men at one window. We are rather crowded here and very much in need of something which will make our windows go further. I would appreciate the favor if you can send me a sketch of your table.

Thanking you in advance for the trouble, I am,
Very respectfully,

Major, Medical Corps, U.S. Army,
Curator, Army Medical Museum

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Letter of the Day: March 18


89 Charles St

March 18 ‘72

My Dear Dr.

I sent to you some months ago, by Express, a box containing a cast of the face of Charles XII, a cast of a large stone that was cut out from the peritoneal cavity & two or three small ones. As I have not heard of their arrival, I am afraid that some accident may have happened to them & will be ruined. Obliged to you if you will let me know if they have been received.

I send, enclosed, a photographer of a Hottentot Venus, that I think will be interesting in your ethnographical Section, which you probably have. It is possible that I have sent you one before, tho I think not.

A few days ago, rec’d for our College Museum the photograph of a little girl 5 yrs old, who has been menstruating regularly since she was 15 months old. Her breasts, which are shown, are larger than those of other women. I do not wish any [illegible] of persons or places to be referred to, but, if you would like to have a copy, I think that you might get one by addressing Dr. Wm. Dickinson, 520 Locust St, St. Louis (Missouri I presume).

Yours very truly

J.B.S. Jackson

George A. Otis, Surgeon


Photo of the day, March 18

The record doesn't have a day on it, so I'm claiming it for today.

Obertheil einer agyptischen Katzenmumie aus dem stadtischen historischen Museum zu Frankfurt a. M. [?] From: Glasser, O. [Otto?] Wilhelm C. Roentgen. London, 1933. Figure: 82. p. 347. Roentgen picture of a cat mummy, March 1896. Made by W. Konig March 1896.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Letter of the Day: March 17 (3 of 3)

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 1342

126 East Garden St.

Rome, March 17th/96

Oneida Co., N.Y.

Dear Sir,

Will you be so kind as to inform me if you accept of petrified bodies, and if so what value would be placed upon the body of a little girl 2 years of age, that is wholly turned to stone with long flaxen hair. She died in 1864 and in digging a grave to bury a man they dug so close as to cut off the side of the childs coffin and in this way it was discovered. Please write and let me know before the 30th of this month, and oblige.

Wm. L. Yarwood

And the reply, rather than wait for two days to post it:

March 19, 1896

Mr. Wm. L. Yarwood,

Rome, N.Y.

Dear Sir:

Your letter of the 17th inst., in regard to the “petrified child with long flaxen hair” has been received, and in reply I would state that this Museum does not desire to purchase the specimen, which has no commercial value except possibly to a dime museum.

Very respectfully,

D.L. Huntington

Deputy Surgeon General, U.S. Army,

In charge of Museum and Library Division

Letter of the Day: March 17 (2 of 3, formalin reply)

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 1334

March 17, 1896

Mssrs Schering & Glatz,

55 Maiden Lane,


Your letter of the 16th instant has been received. We have been using formalin in this Museum, and in the shape referred to in your letter, for more than two years, as a preservative and as a hardening agent for tissues, and have obtained admirable results from the same, and expect to continue its use. Upon inquiry I find that we have a sufficient quantity on hand to last for several months. When next we desire a supply you will receive an invitation to bid.

The Commissioner of Education, Interior Department, this city, can most probably furnish you with a list of Museums and educational institutions in the United States from which you could select such as you consider desirable.

Very respectfully,

Walter Reed

Surgeon, U.S. Army,


Letter of the Day: March 17 (1 of 3)

Vicksburg, Miss

March 17th 1869

Dear Col:

I shall forward to you tomorrow a box of specimens from a mound near Jackson Miss and a few articles from the great Seltsentown [spelling?] mound. As soon as I hear from you I will also forward in the manner you shall direct the specimens of skulls with their retained earth in the condition of the two I have already sent to you, or I will clean and varnish them.

The matter will soon be sufficiently settled for me to renew explorations and to this end I desire again to call your attention to the rich fields unexplored in this and the adjoining states all around me. Prof. I. Jones has recently given me some very valuable information in regard to mounds in Tennessee and near Hickman, KY which contain skeletons implements etc. entombed in a kind of rude sarcophagi constructed of large flat stones. These, or but few of them have been ever disturbed. Should some one else be interested with this duty I will cheerfully furnish you all the information afforded me by Dr. Jones. I fully concur with him in the urgent necessity for these explorations. As the specimens are protected by stones the work of exhuming will be easy as well as rapid.

Some specimens of value await me at Shieldsborough and at a point above, or north, of Yazoo city.

Respectfully yours etc

Ebn Swift

Surg etc U.S.A.

To Bvt. Lt. Col. Otis

Curator Army Med. Museum

Washington D.C.

Accession of the day, March 17

Accompanied by an article from Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly, April 1886 entitled Inca Eyes, from which this illustration was extracted:

A.M.M. 247 Sect. VI.

(Inca Eyes)

Crystalline lens of eyes of Cuttle fish, probably a species of octopus, used by the ancient Peruvians as artificial eyes for the Embalmed dead.

Recd. Mch 17, 1886.

Presented by Asst. Surg.
Washington Matthews, U.S.A.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Photo of the day, March 16

Don't ask me why we have this. I have no idea.

Diplomas, citations, commissions. General Raymond Bliss, 1946. "Our Brother Raymond Whitcomb Bliss to whom we have granted these letters was admitted to the Third Degree of Masonry in Star of Bethlehem Lodge on 03/16/[?]."

Letter of the Day: March 16

Over 110 years later, we’re still using formalin to preserve our specimens.

C. Gottlob Kolb.

Carl F. Steifel

Schering & Glatz

Importers of Drugs and Chemicals

No. 55 Maiden Lane

New York,

March 16, 1896

Major Walter Reed, Surgeon U.S. Army

Curator Army Medical Museum, Washington, D.C.

Dear Doctor:-

We desire to call your attention to FORMALIN, i.e. a saturated 40% solution of chemically pure Formaldehyde, which we have introduced to the medical profession during the last three years.

Presuming that you can use the fluid as a preservative of anatomical and botanical specimens as well as a hardening medium, we take pleasure in sending under separate cover our pamphlet on Schering’s Chemicals and would particularly refer you to an abstract of Prof. Dr. F. Hermann’s article on Page 42, from the “Anatomischer Anzeiger” Dec. 11/93 in which the author stated, that solutions of Formalin preserved the normal translucency of the living tissues and that tissues hardened in Formalin retained their natural colors. We also beg to enclose a copy of our latest circular on Formalin and would refer you to the abstract of the report of Prof. F. Cohn of Breslau, who speaks of the advantages of Formalin as compared with Alcohol, etc.

We quote Formalin in 1 lb. bottles at $.75 per lb. incl. less 10%

In 5 lb. bottles at $.70 per lb. incl. less 10%

In lots of 25 lbs or more, we will allow you a discount of 10% and 5%. If quantities of several hundred pounds are desired, we can make a further reduction.

We should be pleased to hear from you, and remain,

Yours very truly

Schering & Glatz

[Note:] Circular referred to not received for Doc. File – P.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Another Archives collection scanned

They are the cartes-de-visite of Medical Museum specimens. Labeled and arranged by specimen number, they were used as illustrations in the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion (online and downloadable from the Internet Archive). Taken by museum photographers William Bell and E.J. Ward. There are a little over 700 of them.

Here's an example:

Letter of the day, March 15

Harvard University
Medical School

Anatomical Department

Boston, March 15, 1887

My dear Dr. Billings,

I have made three more corrosion preparations for your museum. The first is a left human lung [A.M.M. No. 2432 Anatomical Sect.] – vein red, artery blue. It is decidedly better than the one that was broken and which it is sent to replace. It shows the shape of the lung including the curve cut out to make room for the heart. There is an extravascetion[?] at one place but it does not show very much. I have made also a human liver in four colors. Portal vein red, hepatic vein (and cava) blue, artery yellow, bile duct green. It is the best preparation of the kind that I ever made. The only defects are that the acid has affected the green which has unfortunately become very bluish and that the yellow [section of page torn off] I think the preparation [torn] called one of the first class. The kidney which I sent [illegible] had rather a weak injection of the vein. This is perhaps as well as it shows more of the rest but I have now a preparation which is its complement.[A.M.M. No. 2434] Namely a full injection of the vein in blue, the ureter in yellow and no artery.

The lung is sent to replace the other one. The price of the liver is fifty dollars and the kidney is thrown in. The lung and liver are mounted elastically on cushions covered in white silk. I hope you will send a man for them as it would break my heart if the liver were broken.

I intend now to give up corrosions. They take too much time and should be made by demonstrators not professors. A visitor just came in to see the liver. I think it has changed shape a little by its weight. It is worth sending for anyway and if it deteriorates you can pay what you please.

Yours very sincerely,

Thomas Dwight

[Specimens of lung & liver received Mar. 28, 1887
Kidney Apr 1 ‘87
Liver broken when received and not placed in A.M.M. Could not be repaired.]

Letter of the day, March 14

A day late. Oops!

Fisk & Arnold,
Manufacturers of
Artificial Limbs, &c.
No. 3 Boylston Place,
Boston, Mass., March 14, 1899.

Dear Sir:
We ship to-day by Adams Express the samples of old devices requested in your favor of March 7th. The steel skeleton is that of the “Drake” [A.M.M. No. 2503 Misc. Sect.] leg manufactured between 1840 & 50 and the small model is a perfect miniature of the “Palmer” [A.M.M. No. 2504 Misc. Sect.] leg manufactured between 1860 & 70. The skeleton we willingly give to the Museum but for the model we charge you just what it cost us.

Yours very truly,
Fisk & Arnold

To Dallas Bache
Col. & Asst. Surgeon General U.S.A.
Washington, D.C.

[Specimens received March 15, 1899.]

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Letter of the Day: March 13

This actually occurred until 1968 when we were tossed out again and the building demolished to make way for the Hirshhorn Museum. It's too bad paragraph 4 wasn't taken into account in recent years.


13 March 1959

SUBJECT: Relocation of the Medical Museum of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology

THRU: The Surgeon General
Department of the Army
Washington 25, D.C.
ATTN: Chief, Medical Plans & Operations Division

TO: Chief Space Management
Management Office, OSA
Room 3D 732, The Pentagon
Washington 25, D.C.

1. Ground breaking cremonies for a new building for the National Library of Medicine are now planned for this coming June. Therefore, the normal progress of construction will make it possible for the Library to occupy its new quarters in a relatively short time thereafter.

2. In view of the above, it is requested action be taken that the building now occupied by the Library on Independence Avenue at 7th Street, S.W., when vacated, be allocated to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology for the use of the Medical Museum.

3. Attention is invited to the fact that the Library building was originally built in 1886 for the joint needs of the Army Medical Museum and Library. Both agencies occupied it simultaneously for more than 60 years. During this time the Army Medical Museum expanded into a major diagnostic and research center. In 1946 it was reorganized as the Army Institute of Pathology to better reflect its major activities. At this time the Museum became one of its four departments, but the tremendous growth of the Institute meanwhile had made it necessary to move the Museum Department ot other quarters, and Chase Hall was selected. The Museum has occupied Chase Hall ever since, with a steadily growing number of visitors. Last year close to a quarter of a millions persons visited the Museum. In 1955 the Intitute of Pathology was relocated to its new building on the grounds of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, but when the Institute moved, the vacated space was needed for the expanded facilities of the Library, and the Museum remained in Chase Hall.

4. The Museum has a mission of service and interest to the public. Therefore, of necessity, it must be maintained in an area readily accessible to the visitor to the Nation's Capital and to the public in general. The present Library building having been built originally to house the Museum would need no structural changes to again accommodate it. For museum purposes its location, interior adequacy, and arrangement are ideal. The allocation of this building would preclude the necessity of any further action for new quarters or a new building for many years to come.

5. Chase Hall now is programmed tentatively for demolition during the latter part of this year to make way for the Southwest Redevelopment. Consequently, assuming the above request will be approved, it is further requested that action be taken to postpone demolition of Chase Hall and allow its retention by the AFIP for Museum purposes until such time as the Museum can be moved into the Library building across the street.

W.M. Silliphant
Captain, MC, USN
The Director


Colonel, USAF (MC)
Deputy Director

Colonoel, MSC
Curator, Medical Museum

Friday, March 12, 2010

Letter of the Day, March 12 (3 of 3)

There are letters before this about the missing ambulance bag, but none afterwards so it will forever remain a mystery.


Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 1717




Consulate of the United States of America, Christiania [Denmark] March 12/97


His Excellency

G.B. Ferguson, Esq.

U.S. Minister, Stockholm


Dear Sir:


Referring to former letters in relation to the Ambulance matter shipped by me in April last year to Washington via New York, I have now received the following communication from the agent here of the ‘Thingvalla” S/S Line.


“The Pennsylvania Railroad Company has written to us thus: Replying to your favor of the 6th inst. Relative to 2 packages of military ambulance matter ex S/S “Thingvalla” April 1896, shipped by the U.S. Consul at Christiana, I have to advise, that we have received advises from our Agent at Washington D.C. that this property was delivered to the U.S. Army medical Museum April 16th 1896, and signed for by F. W. Stone. This shipment ws forwarded from New York to Washington [illegible] in bond.”


After this explanation I do not well understand, how it could be said in Washington as late as in December last year, that the goods had not yet been received. On the contrary, everything relating to this shipment had been done as promptly as possible.


Yours very truly


Gerhard Gade

Letter of the Day, March 12 (2 of 3)

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 1325


March 12, 1896


To the Surgeon General, U.S. Army

Washington, D.C.




I have the honor to forward herewith for your signature a letter to the Honorable Secretary of War, requesting that the Spanish Minister of War be thanked for the donation of a Bolsa de Copania to the Army Medical Museum.


Very respectfully,


D.L. Huntington


Deputy Surgeon General, U.S. Army,

In charge of Museum and Library Division.


Here’s the enclosed letter…


March 12, 1896.


To the Honorable,

The Secretary of War,

Washington, D.C.




I have the honor to state that the following article of Sanitary Corps Equipment of the Spanish Army has been received at the U.S. Army Medical Museum:


1 Bolsa de Compania.


As the article was presented, on the part of the Spanish Government, by his Excellency, the Minister of War of Spain, to this Department free of charges and expenses, I would respectfully suggest that a letter of thanks be sent to his Excellency.


The Bolsa was received through Captain J. H. H. Peshine, 13th Infantry, Military Atttache at Madrid (Despatch No. 163, Legation of the U.S., Office of the Military Attache, Madrid, January 13, 1896.)


Very respectfully,


Surgeon General, U.S. Army

Letter of the Day, March 12 (1 of 3)

Both our Museum and the Mutter still survive, although I don’t think most of these specimens that they sent us do.


College of Physicians of Philadelphia

13th and Locust Streets

March 12th 1868


George A. Otis, M.D.

Asst. Surgeon U.S. Army.


Dear Sir,


I have this day forwarded by Express to Washington two (2) boxes containing specimens for the Army Museum.


They are sent as exchanges. It being understood that you will send in exchange duplicates from the Army Museum collection.


The boxes contain


25 specimens of Urinary concretions, [human], analyzed.

8 specimens of Biliary concretions

7 specimens of concretions from stomachs of lower animals (horse and cow)

2 Ovarian Tumors [one a unicolular, one a mulitlocular cyst]

5 Casts of Club Feet [one of valgus [corrected to varus] one of valgus [corrected to varus] cured, one of Equinus, one of Equinus cured , one of Equinus [corrected to varus] in plaster.


The following cast of Bones


4 Femurs with absorption of head.

4 Femurs with fracture of neck.

1 Femur with Fracture of shaft.

1 Humerus with fracture of anatomical neck.

1 Ilium with a secondary acetabulum occasioned by an unreduced luxation.


The following Horse Bones.


1 Vertebrae having exostosis [in one box]

A portion of vertebrae with some ribs attached.

1 Pelvis

1 Portion of Pelvis

2 Scapula showing bony deposit in cartilage occasioned by age

97 Diseased bones of the extremities of the horse.


The urinary calculi have all been carefully analyzed and each specimen marked accordingly.


The unilocular cyst of R. Ovary was not adherent. The tumor was removed March 21 1866 by ovarectomy. The patient was 19 years old. Duration of disease 7 (seven) years. She first menstruated at 12 years of age, after which he had an attack of mumps which suddenly disappeared and was followed by the appearance of the ovarian tumor. The operation was performed by Dr. Washington L. Atlee and was successful.


The multilocular ovarian tumor was taken from a patient 20 years old, unmarried, Duration of disease was one (1) year. She was tapped April 16 1866 and a deep chocolate coloured fluid drawn off. The operation for extirpation was performed May 23 1866 by Dr. Washington L. Atlee. The tumors had strong adhesion and the operation was unsuccessful.


Very respectfully

Thomas Hewson Bache, M.D.

Curator [Mutter Museum]


Note on letters says: Acknowledged March 16

The Biliary Calculi & gastric collections was turned over to Dr. Woodward.

Photo of the day, March 12

From our Clark J. Hollister, DDS, Collection. He was an early dental hygiene advocate who established & directed the dental division of the PA Dept. of Health, 1920-1933.

Just think about this many kids being cavity-free in 1925, in pre-fluoride days. How'd they do it?

100 percent perfect condition of teeth. Sixth grade. 03/12/1925. Photos of Hollister and his office, 1908 - 1940's; Hollister Collection; OHA 193.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not a Letter of the Day

We are in the throes of scanning our accession records, the documentation that accompanies specimens and other items that were, at least, at one time in the museum. Once scanned, they have to go through a review and I've drawn the short straw; it can be mightily boring. But every so often I find a record that I have to pause on. Here's one of them now:

Dr. W. Ashby Frankland,
916 Eighth Street N.W.

Washington, D.C., Dec. 3, 1900

Office Hours:
8 to 10 a.m.
3 to 5 p.m.

Dr. D.S. Lamb,
U.S.A. Medical Museum

Dear Dr. Lamb:

The history of the fetus I left with you on Nov. 27th is as follows:

Mrs. A.F., married, age about 30, mother of five (5) children. Menstruation Aug. 29, lasted 3 days, flow intermittent.

About Oct. 15 having had no menstruation in Sept. and experiencing almost constant nausea patient tried to induce abortion by passing into the [uterus?] a straightened button hook and a hairpin, making many such attempts within the following four weeks. Three haemmorhages occured lasting about an hour and a half each; one about Oct. 18 and one on Nov. 13th and 14th respectively.

After tamponade of vagina and a hot douche a foetus was born on Nov. 18, apparently three months advanced.

An interesting feature of this case is that both Fallopian tubes were tied with silk on Aug. 1 during an operation for appendicitis, menstruation being then in progress.

The ligation of the tubes was done with the purpose of preventing further pregnancies.

Very truly yours,
W. Ashby Frankland

Letter of the Day: March 11

Some now-amusing counterpoints in a donation. The bold notes indicate the disposition of the specimen – Dr. W is presumably Dr. Woodward, who was in charge of the medical (ie disease) section.


Post Hospital

Fort Duncan, Texas

March 11th, 1875


To the

Surgeon General, U.S. Army

Washington D.C.




I have the honor to inform you that I have this day turned over for transportation to the A.A.Q.M. of this Post the following specimens.


6534 Surg Sec. The hand and wrist joint of Clayton Mathews. Amputation previously reported.


Dr. W. The heart of ______ Trenchard, citizen, who died under my observation of double pneumonia.


Dr. W. A kidney from bullock (furnished for beef,) with kidney concretions.


I am Sir

Very Respectfully

Your Obdt Servant

C.C. Gray

Surgeon U.S. Army

Post Surgeon


Photo of the day, March 11

World War 2. 116th Medical Battalion. Philippine Islands. Clearing Station (Beach). Patient receiving treatment. 03/11/1945. (Higher resolution available on Flickr.)

Representing contemporary medicine in museums -- Copenhagen 16-18 September 2010

Here's a conference announcement from our colleague Thomas Soderqvist (whose blog was the inspiration for this one).

How do museums today handle the material and visual heritage of contemporary medical and health science and technology? How do curators wield the increasing amount and kinds of more or less intangible and invisible scientific, medical and digital objects? Which intellectual, conceptual, and practical questions does this challenge give rise to?

We're aiming for two intensive days with visually enhanced presentations, good discussions and excellent food in beautiful surroundings.

 Read the full call here: or here:
Further information here:

 Send proposals for presentations, panels etc. to, not later than Monday 29 March.

Program committee:
Ken Arnold, Wellcome Collection, London
Robert Bud, Science Museum, London
Judy Chelnick, National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.
Mieneke te Hennepe, Boerhaave Museum, Leiden
Thomas Soderqvist, Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen (chair).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Changes on the Museum floor

The Human Body, Human Being exhibit was closed last month to make space for the beginning of packing the collections to move. Due to the closing and moving of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in September 2011, the NMHM will be moving to a new building in Silver Spring, MD. The necessity to inventory, pack and move the collections in 2010-2011 means that we need additional space to take objects out of cabinets, check the catalogue record, photograph them and pack them for moving.

Some of the iconic items in the exhibit are being put in a new exhibit being prepared by the exhibits staff.

Letter of the Day: March 10

We’d like to again thank COL Barnes and Mr & Mrs Weaver.



Presentation of Instrument to Medical Museum

10 March 1959



Col F M Townsend, USAF (MC)  Deputy Director, AFIP

Capt W M Silliphant, MC, USN  The Director, AFIP

Col Joe M Blumberg, MC, USA  Deputy Director, AFIP

IN TURN (copy for each)


1.       Mr. B. Woodruff Weaver, a Washington lawyer, and his wife would like to present on behalf of their uncle, Colonel Theodore Barnes, USA (Ret), now living in Florida, a signed, 16-blade scarificator to the Museum.


2.       The circumstances which led to this presentation are:


a.       Mrs. Weaver first saw this instrument at the Antique Show at the Shoreham Hotel and telephoned to ask if the Museum would be interested in having it and, if so, she suggested that a representative of the Museum examine this instrument. If it would make a worthwhile addition to the Museum’s collection, and if the price seemed to be fair, to so inform her and she would take steps to purchase it.

b.      A member of the staff of the Museum examined the instrument. It was found to be a signed model and unlike any other in the Museum. The price of $35.00 seemed reasonable and Mrs. Weaver was so informed.

c.       As Mr. Weaver had been asked by his uncle to procure rare or unique items for museums, he took immediate steps to purchase this instrument for the Medical Museum.


3.       It would be very much appreciated if Captain Silliphant would formally accept the scarificator and Colonel Townsend and Colonel Blumberg could be present. As Mr. and Mrs. Weaver seem interested in donating rare and unusual items to Museums, formal acceptance of this scarificator might be the opening wedge for them and for other philanthropic persons to take a more active interest, in a material way, in the Medical Museum.

4.       Assuming Captain Silliphant would be willing to accept the scarificator, information is requested as to whether he would be available on any of the dates indicated in the following table or whether he would have a preference for any particular one. These dates are all satisfactory to the Weavers. The time would be either at 1030 or 1430 hours. [TABLE NOT RETYPED]

5.       It is also suggested that Colonel Townsend and Colonel Blumberg indicate their intention of presence.

6.       All of the scarificators in the Museum’s collection will be on display in the Curator’s office.

7.       No luncheon is planned, but tea and coffee will be served.

8.       A press release will be sent to LCdr Parker with the request that he and a photographer be present at the ceremony.


Albert E Minns Jr, Col, MSC


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Letter of the day, March 9

Arthur Hill Hassall's work in public health led to reforms in water purity and to the Food Adulteration Act of 1860 in the UK and subsequent laws against the practice. Woodward may have gotten the title of his book wrong. It might be Food and Its Adulterations. Woodward, this letter's author, was a pioneer in photomicroscopy. Henry, its recipient, was head of the Smithsonian. The history of federal American food quality control begins a decade after this letter was written.

March 9, 1875

Professor J. Henry.

Respectfully returned. Beautiful plates of the microscopical appearances of various kinds of milk can be found in the Atlas of the "Cours de Microscop[i]e," of A. Donné, Paris, 1845, Plates XVII, XVIII, and XIX, and very good woodcuts, with an excellent account of the subject, in the article on "Milk and its adulterations," in Arthur Hill, Hasslin [Hassall] "Adulterations Detected," 2nd Edit, London, 1811, p. 205.

Very respectfully,
J.J. Woodward

Accession of the day, March 9

I'm pretty sure that 6 years part can't be true.

A.M.M. [Army Medical Museum] No. 10156
Pathological Section

Washington, D.C.
March 9, 1891

Robinson Dr. C.B.
Veterinary Surgeon

Foetal bones, said to have been discharged from the uterus of a mare, about 12 years old. Owned by Senator J.S. Barbour of Virginia.

It is stated that she had not been put to a horse for 6 years.

History received verbally
Specimen received Mar. 8, 1891

Monday, March 8, 2010

Letter of the Day: March 8

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 553




March 8, 1895, Mr. S. B. Taylor, No. 1626, 7th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. presents a specimen of oyster blenny (Chasmodes boscianus).


A.M.M. No. 10813 Pathological Section.


Some info on card 10813


Given that this is a species of fish that lives in mangrove roots in warm water, I have no idea why we gave it a pathological section number. It was undoubtedly for the Comparative Anatomy section.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Accession of the day, March 7

We have been scanning our accession records, which makes browsing them a whole lot easier. This letter is dated November 14 but I'm taking liberties with the date as it was received at the Museum on March 7. I don't know if we still have this item; if so, I'd love to see it.

Dispensary received Mar. 7, 1901

Extract from Letter of Ludwig Rosenthal, filed in the Library Branch, Mus. & Lib. Division.

Hildegard - Strasse 16
Nov. 14, 1900.

To the Library of the Surgeon General's Office,
Washington, D.C.

I beg to report if not sold meanwhile:

Little house-dispensary with contents, XVI-XVIIth century. The little shrine, worked in black ebony is inlaid and ornamented with ivory and marble. Lock, angles, rings, etc. in gilt iron with artfully worked heads and foliage. The opened (lead) lid shows 15 divisions, in which are kept little glasses with brass clasps and two engraved little silver boxes. One division is empty; the narrow sides form pushers opening little drawers and secret panels, wherein are remnants of pills and three colored tablets with the impressed inscription "Terra Sigillata" 1851 and the monograms K. B with a crown. In another secret panel a tin box with old salve. At the lower part of the shrine are two drawers, where the instruments may have been kept.

This little shrine is artistically and carefully worked and well kept. H. 16.4 cm, L 27 cm depth 16.5 cm.

Price M. 250.

Letter of the Day: March 7

Nobert was known for making microscopical lines (or rulings) on glass slides to a very high tolerance, so researchers used his slides to calibrate their microscopes. The machine was bought by the museum but was transferred to the Bureau of Standards, which is now the National Institute of Standards and Techology.

Whitehorse Road
Croydon, near London
Mar. 7 .99

To Dr. J. S. Billings

Dear Sir

You may recollect some years ago having some correspondence with my father (the late Dr. John Mayall jun.) regarding the acquisition of Noberts Ruling Machine, but that it was not then for sale.

After my father’s death I acquired the machine, but now owing to serious domestic troubles I am closing up my home, & am writing back if you would like to purchase the machine for your museum.

My father looked upon it as one of the wonders of the mechanical world which it undoubtedly is, & thought it should be in a museum where it could be seen & appreciated.

The machine has been preserved with the utmost care, all accessories, the diamonds for the rulings, Noberts original notes, together with a translation, are all intact.

The price of the machine is L200, & if you decide to purchase it, I will have it most carefully packed.

I enclose a set of photographs showing different views of the machine, accessories etc, also a copy of the Soc. Of Arts Journal containing the paper read by my father before that society.

I am Sir
Yrs faithfully
(Mrs.) L.C.E. Taylor

[the photographs were given the numbers CP 3770-3773]

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Letter of the Day: March 6 (2 of 2)

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 1315

Washington, March 6, 1896

My dear Doctor:-

I hardly think it worth while to purchase a new Ruhmkoff coil for the purpose of making experiments with the Roentgen rays. Very active experimental work is going on in different parts of the country and it is not probably that any experiments that you would find time to make would add anything of importance to our knowledge of these rays and their practical application in medicine. I judge that neither yourself nor anyone else at the Museum competent to make such experiments has the time for original research work, and it is hardly worth while to experiment simply for the purpose of verifying that is done by others. Later, when the exact practical value of photography by these rays has been determined, we may want the necessary apparatus in order to assist in the diagnosis of cases occurring in the District, to which the new method may be applicable.

Have you seen the last number of the American Journal of the Medical Sciences containing a number of photographs and an account of experiments which have been made in Philadelphia?

Very truly yours,

Geo. M. Sternbertg

Lieut. Col. D. L. Huntington,
Deputy Surgeon General, U.S. Army
Washington, D.C.

Letter of the day, March 6 (1 of 2)

You can see some examples of these medical illustrations on our Flickr site, as well as the Lyster bag, developed by the Colonel Lyster mentioned in the letter, in 1915. The Lyster bag was a means of purifying water with the treatment of calcium hypochlorite and was used for decades for field and camp water treatment.

Yale University
The School of Medicine
Affiliated with the New Haven Hospital
on the
Anthony N. Brady Memorial Foundation

Laboratory of
Pathology and Bacteriology

New Haven, Connecticut
March 6, 1919

Colonel Charles F. Craig,
Army Medical Museum
Washington, D.C.

My Dear Colonel Craig:

I am sending you, under separate cover, four illustrations of the lung in influenza, which were done by artists from the Army Medical Museum. The autopsy numbers of these cases is on the illustration, and there is attached an anatomical diagnosis of the case. I have, besides these four illustrations, eight colored drawings of more or less similar lesions of the respiratory tract in influenza. They are as follows:

Aut. No. 1. Trachea showing an accute hemorrhagic inflammation.
" " 2 &3. Pleural surface and cross section of lobular pneumonia in influenza.
" " 4 &5. Pleural surface and cross section of the lobar type of inflammation.
" " 6. Fibrinopurulent pleurisy
" " 7 &8. Cross sections of subacute and chronic necrotizing and organizing pneumonia.

There are besides these illustrations of influenzal pneumonia, one hundred and thirty-eight gross and microscopic drawings and photo micrographs of the lungs of animals that have died or were killed after exposure to one of the following poisonous gases; chlorine, phosgene, chloropicrin, mustard, cyanogen, chloride, bromide, arsene, organic arsenic compounds, and superpalite.

The monograph which includes these illustrations is in the hands of the Yale Press. A complete list of the illustrations has been furnished to Colonel Lyster of the Chemical Warfare Service, and I have no other list of them to submit at the present time. Of course, it can be made if you feel that is is absolutely necessary.

Very truly yours,
[Major M. Winternitz]