Archives page on ACS website now offers descriptions of Dr. Martin’s collected papers

After 10 years of combing through 95 boxes of material, the Archivists for the American College of Surgeons (ACS) have completed descriptions of the collection of ACS Founder Franklin H. Martin, MD, FACS, and his wife Isabelle. The 54-page archival description, which is now available at, includes the Martins’ scrapbooks of photos and memorabilia from 1901 to 1934 and more. Materials from the Martins’ scrapbooks have been available to researchers for several years, and the contents of one of the 43 volumes available through the Digital Collections link can be viewed on the ACS Archives website. However, this latest addition to the website is the first in-depth public look at all of the Martins’ papers.

David L. Nahrwold, MD, FACS, and Peter J. Kernahan, MD, PhD, FACS, consulted many of these records while conducting their research for the centennial history of the College, A Century of Surgeons and Surgery: The American College of Surgeons, 1913–2012. They were privy to records from the first two decades of the College’s history. No previous historian of the College had access to these materials; however, future historians and biographers of Dr. Martin will find the collection to be essential reading, providing intimate insight into the founding and early years of the College.

Restoration and inventory

The papers were first discovered in 2001 in old, rusty metal filing cabinets stored in the College’s John B. Murphy Memorial Auditorium Building. Over the course of the next decade, the brittle memoirs were given de-acidification treatment, and rehoused in polypropylene, preservation-friendly sleeves for safe and easy handling by researchers. ACS Archivists Susan Rishworth and Dolores Barber then completed a thorough inventory of the records to develop item-level descriptions of all of Dr. Martin’s correspondence. An arrangement scheme became clear as more and more records were uncovered and the inventory grew.

Among the items in the collection are the following:

  • Records of Martin’s early career as a gynecologist, including casebooks from 1891 to 1917
  • Original records from now-defunct Chicago medical schools and hospitals that were instrumental in the founding of the ACS
  • A full collection of memoirs, including documentation of Dr. Martin’s service as medical director of President Woodrow Wilson’s civilian arm of the Council of National Defense, on which he served during World War I with such luminaries as Samuel Gompers, Bernard Baruch, Julius Rosenwald, Howard Coffin, and Hollis Godfrey
  • Item-level descriptions of all the correspondence from 1885 to 1935
  • Background on his publications
  • Photos
  • Hundreds of sympathy letters after he died

The College encourages all members who are interested in learning more about the College’s history to delve into this thorough description of the Dr. Franklin Martin papers. For more information on accessing the papers, contact ACS Archivist Susan Rishworth at

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