Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Letter of the Day: June 30

Jackson Barracks, La
June 30th, 1886

Dr. John S. Billings
Surgeon U.S. Army

Dear Doctor

I find it quite difficult to get the amphibians(?) during this severe hot weather, but will be able to procure them for you, if you are not in a hurry for them.

One large fine specimen was brought me, but being carried with a slip-knot about the neck, was dead when I received it. It is over two feet long and I put it into dilute alcohol thinking you might want it.

I expect to be able to send the live specimens before you return from abroad. It is really too hot here now for much exertion.

Sincerely yours,
D.W. Appel

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Exciting Intern Project at HDAC

My name is Sarah, I am an Intern here at HDAC. I am currently a senior at the University of Maryland studying biological anthropology. Within biological anthropology I am most interested in studying the molecular and genetic applications of Anthropology. I am excited to learn about developmental embryology this summer here at HDAC.

Today Rebecca and I decided on the topic of our Intern project. We wanted to incorporate the neural tube development and pathology with comparative anatomy. To do this we have been looking into the development of the central nervous system (CNS). The two main books we have been looking at are Langman’s Medical Embryology (Eighth Edition) by T.W. Sadler, Ph.D. and Basic Concepts in Embryology: A Student Survival Guide by Lauren J. Sweeney. It was easy to find issues related to CNS development. If the neural tube does not close properly during the first four weeks of gestation entire sections of the brain and/or spinal cord can be exposed. Spina bifida is a neural tube defect (NTD) that occurs when the neuropore does not fuse. Eventually we will also look further into comparative anatomy regarding brain development.

Image from Langman's Medical Embryology by T.W. Sadler. In the Image the gray part is the vertebra that has failed to fuse, the orange is a herniation of the spinal meninges, and the blue is the neural tissue.

John's First Post - June 29

Hi, my name is John Kim and I go to Magruder High School. I am working as an intern at the Human Developmental Anatomy Center this summer. During my time here I have learned a little about the history of embryology and its role in medical health. The following is me briefly sharing some of the things I have learned from reading Thomas W. Sadler's 10th edition of Langman's Medical Embryology.

Embryology is the study of the developmental process. Embryogenesis is known as the first 8 weeks of human development, while the fetal period is known as the period after the 8 weeks up until birth. The study of embryological origins, birth defects, and the developmental process in general is essential for creating health care strategies for better reproductive outcomes, and the understanding of diseases in our postnatal health. This is interesting to me because I did not know that embryology played a role in the understanding of postnatal health but rather thought it only played a role in the understanding of prenatal health.

Letter of the Day: June 29

Surgeon General’s Office, June 29, 1872

Surg. B.J.D. Irwin, U.S. Army

Dear Doctor: Some months since you sent to the Museum some valuable specimens from an interesting case of cystic kidney (Prv. Jas. King, Co “I” 6th Cav.). The non-cystic kidney in this case contained astride the apex of one of the pyramids what is described in the accompanying history of the case as a “metallic ring.”

I thought it would be of interest to you to learn that this ring proved on investigation to be a small renal calculus of unusual shape. On the analysis of a portion, it proved to be comprised chiefly of the fusible triple phosphates with some dark pigment and a little uric acid.

Very respectfully,
Your obdt Srvt,
(Sgd) J.J. Woodward,
Asst Surgeon, USA

Monday, June 28, 2010

Letter of the day, June 28

I want to find one of these things at an antiques store.

G.S. Moler
408 University Avenue
Ithaca, N.Y.

The Moler Sectional Lantern Slide Cabinet
Each cabinet holds 1200 lanterns slides or lantern slide negatives.
In each cabinet are twenty sliding frames and each sliding frame holds sixty slides.

June 28, 1913.

Major F.F. Russell,
721 13th Street N.W.,
Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir:-
I wish to acknowledge the receipt of your order for 1 Sectional Lantern Slide Cabinet No. 1 with 1 Table for the same, also to have the price include cost of delivery to the museum.
Thanking you for the order I will see that the piece of furniture is promptly built and delivered.

Yours very truly,
Geo. S. Moler

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Letter of the day, June 27

Fort Mackinac Michigan June 27th 1874.

To the
Curator U.S.A. Medical Museum
Washington D.C.

I have the honor to send a dozen photographs of scenery of Mackinac Island for the museum to complete the series sent Sep't 18th 1873.

Very Respectfully
Your obedient servant
Carlos Carvallo.
Ass't. Surgeon U.S. Army

[OHA 26]

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Letter of the Day: June 26 (2 of 2)

This seems to imply that we had mannequins in the Museum in the 19th century, but I’ve seen no other references to them.

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 1556

June 26, 1896.

Captain Frank R. Keefer,
Assistant Surgeon, U.S. Army,
Washington Barracks,
Washington, D.C.

Dear Doctor:

Will you have the kindness to call at the Army Medical Museum when convenient? I would like to see you in regard to dressing the lay figures representing the Hospital Corps.

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

Letter of the day, June 26 (1 of 2)

Board of Health, Detroit,
Office of the President,
Detroit June 26th 1868

My dear Doctor:
Having been recently elected by the Board of Regents to the chair of "Civil Military Surgery" in the Univ. of Mich at Ann Arbor (in which institution the medical class last winter numbered 418 ----- students I am anxious to be able to fully illustrate the lectures in the department of military surgery and feeling somewhat acquainted with you from your friendly semi official correspondence with me I address you back  that through your influence I may be furnished with such material as photographs reports duplicate specimens &c &c as may serve to illustrate the department of military surgery in the Univ of Mich. The students are from all the states nearly of the Union and from the provinces of Canada & Nova Scotia & New Brunswick and the knowledge imparted and the publicity given would be very considerable.
I enclose a list of the photographs & books & papers already kindly furnished my by the Surg. Genl Office in order to prevent duplicates being sent.

Very Sincerely yrs
Henry F. Lyster M.D.
105 Congress St. East

Bvt Col Geo A. Otis, U.S.A.
Washington D.C.

[OHA 26]

Friday, June 25, 2010

Letter of the Day: June 25

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 744

This report was recalled and a later one made. (See Record Card No. 744)

Subject: Auto-Sterilizing Clinical Thermometer Cases.

War Department,
Surgeon General’s Office,
U.S. Army Medical Museum and Library,
Corner 7th and B Streets, S.W.,
Washington, D.C., June 25, 1895,

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


In compliance with instructions from your office dated June 21, 1895, I beg to report that a test has been made, in accordance with your directions, of the Auto-Sterilizing Clinical Thermometer Cases manufactured by Messrs Alfred A. Smith & Co., of this city.

Two tests were made: in the first, the bulb of one thermometer was dipped into a recent bouillon culture of the diphtheria bacillus, and, having been placed in the thermometer case with the disinfecting material, and allowed to remain for one hour, it was then carefully removed with sterilized forceps and placed in a tube of sterilized bouillon. The bulb of the second instrument was thoroughly smeared with a recent culture of Streptococcus pyogenes on agar, and was treated in the same manner as given above for the other instrument. This experiment was made about 3 o’clock on June 22nd. At the present writing, after a period of sixty-seven hours, no growth has appeared in either tube.

A second experiment was performed as follows: The bulb of one thermometer, carefully cleansed, was thoroughly smeared with a recent culture of the diphtheria bacillus on blood serum, while that of the other instrument was smeared with a recent culture of Streptococcus pyogenes on agar. After thirty minutes exposure in the cases, the instruments were removed with sterilized forceps and placed in tubes of sterilized bouillon. Twenty-four hours later no growth is to be observed in either tube.

While it is believed that this thermometer case admirably answers the purpose for which it was intended, it is desired that a more complete test of the case, using shorter intervals of exposure, may be carried out. When this has been accomplished an additional report will be submitted.

Upon examination it is found that the auto-sterilizing fluid is nothing more than a solution of formaldehyde.

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

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Letter of the Day: June 24 (2 of 2)

Hoagland Laboratory.

Department of Bacteriology

Brooklyn, N.Y. June 24th, 1895.


Dear Doctor Reed:


I should have sent the toxine you requested before, but the convention has kept me busy. I send you by this mail 10 c.c. of a toxine, the minimum fatal dose of which I established a short time ago. 1/50 c.c. killed a g.p. [guinea pig] 430 gm in 3 ½ days. I have used the same toxine to standardize my serum.


Sincerely yours,

E. H. Wilson


P.S. It contains ½% trikresol.

Letter of the Day: June 24 - Mutter Museum catalogue?

The Western Union Telegraph Company.

Received at Corcoran Building, S.E., Cor. 15th and “F” Sts., Washington, D.C.

June 24, 1886


Dated Phila 24

To Dr. John S. Billings

Army Medical Museum



Could you favor Mutter Museum with manuscript or proof of your classification of specimens for our new catalogue. Guy Hinsdale

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rebecca's Post - 6/23

An Open Letter to Acetate Sheets

Dear Acetate,

I would like to start off by saying that, firstly, I know you were an invaluable medium in the early years of embryology and helped create many models that would preserve early embryological research for years to come and, secondly, you are disgusting. I know one should not speak poorly of one’s elders, and you are quite old, but you really don’t age well.

I just spent two hours of my morning cleaning up oozy, oily chemical sweat from 50 of your slides from the Carnegie Collection. Your job was to preserve those images and instead you nearly destroyed them. Cleaning each one of your slides with Tech-Wipes and Kleenex was a PAIN – in the fingers – and made everything within a three-foot radius smell like vinegar.

I’m sure in your heyday you were glorious to behold, but you should really take better care of yourself. Years in a dark box in the HDAC archives has made you ooze and sweat like a teenager with acne who just ran a marathon or a middle-aged man on an all fast food diet sitting in a steam room.

A few slides in I was berating you in my mind. “I loathe you! You disgust me!” I shouted at you in my head. As I cleaned up more and more of your oily mess (New plan for BP: Throw Tech-Wipes into the Gulf. You’re welcome.), my inner voice took on an Arnold Schwarzeneger accent. “You verbrennst my nose! You are nothing but Dreck!”

You need to understand, Acetate, that the anger just helped me clean you better. In the end, I know we will still be friends because I will always keep coming back to you – at least until the end of July when my internship is over and I will be free from your vinegar-ethanol stench forever.

Yours (until July),


Letter of the Day: June 23 - dental collections

At one time, the Museum was an official repository for dental history. As noted in The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology: Its First Century 1862-1962 by ROBERT S. HENRY, A.B., LL.B., LITT.D. - “The first formal arrangement between the Museum and civilian medicine took place in 1895, when the American Dental Association adopted the Museum as a repository for study materials in the field of dentistry.”


Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 8422


War Department,
Office of the Surgeon General,
Army Medical Museum and Library,
Washington, June 23, 1905


Dr.  W. N. Cogan,

The Sherman,

Washington, D.C.




I am directed by the Surgeon General to express his thanks for the scalers and an automatic mallet, used in dental surgery, received from you the 22d inst. They will be added to the collection with properly inscribed cards.


Very respectfully,


C.L. Heinzmann

Col. Asst. Surgeon General, U.S.A.

In charge of Museum & Library Division

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry

The Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry wrote in today with a question. I wasn’t familiar with their collection before but you can check out their website here -

Goin' Home

Ten years ago my husband and I moved from pretty Poulsbo, Washington to DC for his job. We'd lived in Poulsbo for 13 years and our sons grew up there; it was more home to all of us than anywhere else we'd lived, and all of us had wanted to return.

Long story short, two weeks ago we bought a bakery in Poulsbo and I spent those two weeks helping the pastry chef son ease into the transition. Believe me, transition was not a good word choice. Let's call it baptism by fire, and it didn't take us long to see that the kitchen is a 2-person job. I came back here for a couple of days to close out things at work, and am heading back to the bakery this weekend for good. Our other son is also there, managing the place, and is already doing a great job of drumming up contracts. With our first grandchild on the way, it will be just great to have the family all in one place for the first time in 15 years.

If you're ever in the Seattle area, take a ferry ride across Puget Sound to 18996 Front Street, NE and stop to say hello at Liberty Bay Bakery and Café. We hope to have a website up and running in a few weeks at Domain squatters have taken everything shorter than that, so we're stuck with that albatross of an address. We're also on Facebook at Liberty Bay Bakery, and on blogspot at (soon to be more active that it has been recently).

The museum has been an interesting place to work. I've seen fascinating and unique documents and photos, and met and worked with the nicest people. I will miss the Oh, Wow factor of opening a box to see the old letterheads and fonts or photos that haven't been looked at in decades. As they say, though, life goes on, and if you keep asking yourself, "What's next?" it will never be boring.

Letter of the Day: June 22 (2 of 2) - leprosy? again

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 746

Ohio State Board of Health.
Office of the Secretary.
Columbus, Ohio, June 22nd, 1895

Major Walter Reed,
Surgeon, U.S.A., & Curator of U.S.A. Museum,
Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir:-

We have two cases of supposed leprosy in this State. A specimen from one case was sent to the Marine Hospital Service some time ago, and was examined by Dr. Rosenau, who gave it as his opinion that the cases were not leprosy. Since that time the cases were presented to a meeting of the Ohio State Medical Society, and the correctness of the diagnosis of Dr. Rosenau was questioned. The material was referred to this Board for further investigation. I wrote to Dr. Sternberg in regard to the matter some time ago, and in reply he stated that it would be impossible for him to make a personal investigation of the matter but that he would refer my communication to you, who would be glad, he thought, to examine the specimen, and he said, “who is entirely competent to give you an opinion in the matter”.

I should be very glad if it would be possible for you to make this examination, and should be pleased to hear from you in regard to it.

Yours very truly,
C.O. Probst

Letter of the Day: June 22 (1 of 2) - hermaphrodite pig

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 745

June 22, 1895

D. I. Fort, Esq.,
Raleigh, N.C.

Dear Sir:

Your letter of June 17th, addressed to Dr. John S. Billings, U.S. Army, has been referred to me for reply.

The chances are so very much against your pig being a true hermaphrodite, that we do not feel that the Museum can offer more than $10 for the animal. If you desire to dispose of it at this price, you can either ship it to us by express alive, addressed “Army Medical Museum, Cor. 7th and B Sts., S.W., Washington, D.C., “ or you could kill the animal, and pack it at once in sawdust, and ship it to us by express, charges to be paid at this end of the line.

Be kind enough to acknowledge the receipt of this letter.

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

Monday, June 21, 2010

HDAC intern Rebecca's Post for 6/21 "Teratology"

The other day at lunch everyone was talking about weddings and Mike, the museum archivist, asked me if I planned on getting married anytime soon. My answer was a definitive “No!” because I’m only 20 and I still have a lot of schooling ahead of me. If anything, my interning here has only reinforced that answer.
Getting married leads to having kids, and do you know how many things can go wrong with an embryo? Anyone who has seen the “From a Single Cell” exhibit in the museum can attest to the multitude of abnormalities that can emerge during development. Looking through the teratology files – teratology is the study of developmental abnormalities – in HDAC to research pathologies for my project certainly doesn’t help either.
Abnormalities range from the nonfatal or easily-corrected, like polydactyly, to the always fatal or severely malformed, like “acardiac monsters,” in which at least one monozygotic twin is missing entire organ systems and body parts. I can’t imagine the devastation of a mother who is told she is carrying a “monster.”
Many congenital defects are brought on by environmental stimuli, like fetal alcohol syndrome or limb deformities caused by drugs such as thalomide. Many more, however, are hereditary. I’ve seen many pictures of genetically inherited anomalies, such as icthyosis, the excessive keratinization of the skin, causing scaly or cracked skin, and anencephaly, the improper closing of the neural tube or absence of the skull, causing brain exposure to amniotic fluid. This picture is an X-ray of a baby with sirenomelia from the early 20th century; there is also a fetal sirenomelia specimen on the museum floor. The legs are fused together because abnormal umbilical cord vessels deprive the lower body of blood during development.
Any parents concerned that their daughters aren’t ready to have children should just point them in the direction of a teratology collection. If I hadn’t been telling my mother for years now that she would have to wait a long time for grandchildren, she would probably receive the news after my internship here. Better yet, I’ll probably just adopt.