Learn about ACS history through the papers of Eleanor K. Grimm

Ms. Grimm at Willow Grove in Philadelphia, July 6, 1918.

Ms. Grimm at Willow Grove in Philadelphia, July 6, 1918.

Franklin Martin (far right) and Ms. Grimm (third from right) with surgeons and their families during South American Tour in 1921.

Franklin Martin (far right) and Ms. Grimm (third from right) with surgeons and their families during South American Tour in 1921.

Ms. Grimm (rear center) with ACS staff members, 1919.

Ms. Grimm (rear center) with ACS staff members, 1919.

Letter from Edward Martin to Eleanor Grimm, December 21, 1922.

Letter from Edward Martin to Eleanor Grimm, December 21, 1922.


The American College of Surgeons (ACS) has long recognized Eleanor K. Grimm as a pivotal figure in capturing and recording the history of the first 50 years of the College. Now three volumes of what the ACS archivists are calling her “retirement scrapbooks” have been scanned and are available for viewing in PDF format as links on the ACS Archives Web page.

ACS founder Franklin H. Martin, MD, FACS, hired Ms. Grimm in 1913, the year of the College’s establishment. She quickly became his trusted assistant in the College’s development. Her influence was felt throughout Dr. Martin’s years at the College, but possibly even more after his death in 1935 when she served as the Secretary to the Board of Regents and, in effect, chief administrative officer until her retirement in 1951. Friendly with all the founders and other leaders of the ACS during its first 50 years, Grimm’s correspondence with many of them, including the Mayo brothers (William and Charles), George Crile, Albert Ochsner, Allan Kanavel, Ernest Codman, Alfred Blalock, Owen Wangensteen, Frederick Besley, and John Bowman (all MD, FACS), and Malcolm McEachern, MD, CM, Director of the ACS, 1935–1950, is documented here, arranged in her books alphabetically by correspondent.

Among the hundreds of images from Ms. Grimm’s papers that can be found on the site are the following: a black-and-white ink drawing of her by Frederic J. Cotton, MD, FACS, Boston, MA, probably from the 1930s; her 1952 passport photo; and a 1944 War Sessions photo of her with two close associates, Boardman Bosworth, MD, FACS, and Dr. McEachern. Dr. Bosworth had performed a surgical procedure on Ms. Grimm and maintained an active correspondence with her. A note on the back of the photo in Ms. Grimm’s writing says, “After the war he did a ‘follow up’ on his wartime patients. Flew on one trip to Iowa & Central States in his own plane. Crashed on landing in N.Y. & died.”

A tiny but representative sample of letters from more than 100 correspondents includes letters from Dr. Crile and Edward Martin, MD, FACS, each showing in his own way how much he appreciated Ms. Grimm and her service to the College. Dr. Crile, one of the 12 original ACS founders, its second President, a member of its Board of Regents for 26 years, and a founder of the Cleveland Clinic in 1921, wrote on June 21, 1939, “I was very much pleased with the two telegrams that you sent, especially with the one sent to Doctor Lambert. I am always impressed by the wisdom and the skillful use of English in these messages that you send from time to time, as indeed, I am impressed by all your work. Very sincerely yours….”

Dr. Edward Martin, another ACS Founder and President of the Clinical Congress in 1912 (which preceded the College’s establishment), ACS Regent, Commissioner of Health in Pennsylvania, and chief surgeon or consulting surgeon at most of the major hospitals in Pennsylvania, wrote to her on January 12, 1923:

Dear Light of my Life:
Your letter makes me more than ever regretful…of that South American trip [referring to the ACS’s 10th anniversary excursion to South America undertaken by leaders of the College]. Did I not brood on the long days on the ocean and taking Spanish lessons from perhaps the one person in the world who could drive that musical language through my thick head; also the dances, and crossing the Equator, and many many other things…. The best of everything to you and tell me more about the trip—who is going that I would know and how many and what wild things are already planned.
This from your slave
Edward Martin

The correspondences yield information about these leaders in surgery in the first half of the twentieth century that was unavailable before, as well as new insights into the history of the ACS and Ms. Grimm’s life and work. The links to the archival descriptions of both her History Notebooks compiled for the College and her Personal Papers can be found on the https://www.facs.org/about-acs/archives/collections/ekgrimm on the Archives page. The correspondence can be accessed by links to PDFs.

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