Among the prized holdings in the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Archives are the papers of ACS founder Franklin H. Martin, MD, FACS, and his wife, Isabelle H. Martin. Within that collection are the four record books of Dr. Martin’s gynecology practice. One labeled “Laparotomy” was used from 1891 to 1900, and the other three record books highlight Dr. Martin’s practice from 1896 to 1917.
Dr. Martin received his medical degree in 1880 from the Chicago Medical College (now Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL), and from 1886 to 1888, he was a professor of gynecology at a postgraduate medical school called the Chicago Policlinic. Dr. Martin read his first authored paper, “Treatment of fibroid tumors of the uterus by electrolysis, with a description of Apostoli’s Method,” at a meeting of the American Medical Association in 1886. The following year, he began his long tenure as a gynecologist at the Women’s Hospital of Chicago. During that time, he authored A Treatise on Gynecology.
Patients traveled long distances, even by today’s standards, to see Dr. Martin. In addition to Chicago, there are many patient addresses from Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Iowa recorded in the practice records. Interestingly, the names of married patients were entered using the husband’s name (for example, Mrs. John Jones, rather than Mrs. Jane Jones).
Records survive improper storage
For many decades, these practice records books were kept next to the boiler room in the basement of the John B. Murphy Memorial Auditorium, Chicago, and were subject to sporadic heating and air conditioning. In 2002, the books were transferred to the Archives located in the College’s headquarters in Chicago, but their leather bindings had already deteriorated with age (“red rot”) and are in need of conservation treatment. The pages, however, are in very good condition. Laid within the pages are hand-drawn illustrations, various notes on loose sheets, and completed test result forms. One sheet of instructions to a patient advises, “All undergarments… should consist exclusively of wool…. No cotton, silk, or linen fabric should be permitted in contact with the skin.”
A full listing of the 96 boxes of Dr. Martin’s papers can be found in the Archives section of the College’s website. We welcome your suggestions for any other artifacts from the ACS Archives that you would like to see featured in this column.