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.

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