The gift that keeps on giving

Slide 1

The SG&O building at 54 E. Erie St., painted for an ACS holiday card by Fred Semmler.

Slide 2

The first issue of SG&O.

Slide 3

The SG&O building in 1995

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of historical vignettes that the Bulletin is publishing as part of the regular “From the Archives” column. These brief essays center on key individuals and events in the history of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and are written by members of the ACS Surgical History Group, which is chaired by ACS Past-President LaMar S. McGinnis, Jr., MD, FACS.

Franklin H. Martin, MD, FACS, started the surgical journal, Surgery, Gynecology, and Obstetrics (SG&O), in 1905, seven years before he founded the American College of Surgeons (ACS). To publish SG&O, he established the Surgical Publishing Company and engaged his friend Thomas Donnelley to print it at his Chicago, IL, printing house. Dr. Martin and his wife, Isabelle, held 51 percent of the stock, and the benefactors whom he solicited owned the remaining 49 percent. The publishing company was a financial success, enabling Dr. Martin to fund his annual Clinical Congress of Surgeons of North America from its profits.

Soon thereafter, SG&O was made the official journal of the ACS, and the Clinical Congress was integrated into the College. The publishing company acquired a building adjacent to the Murphy Memorial for its offices. By 1920, Martin had redeemed all the shares of the benefactors at par value, leaving him and Isabelle as the sole owners. Mrs. Martin owned 260 of the 270 total shares, and Dr. Martin owned the remaining 10. A year later, Dr. Martin signed a directive that upon his and Mrs. Martin’s deaths, the stock and all other interests of the publishing company would be transferred to the ACS. Between 1925 and 1934, the profits from the journal ranged from $15,800 to $34,900. The Martins, who had no children, were wealthy from his former practice, his salary from the College, and the profits from the journal.

Dr. Martin died of a sudden heart attack in March 1935. A week later, Mrs. Martin, who now owned the publishing company, attended a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Board of Regents and announced that the stock and property would be transferred to a trust named the Franklin Martin Memorial. Although she was eligible to receive the entire income from the trust until her death, she elected to receive only $18,000 annually ($313,000 in 2014 dollars), which was Dr. Martin’s salary from the College at the time of his death. The remainder of the earnings of the trust was to be used to purchase annuities for the longtime, faithful employees of the Surgical Publishing Company. Meanwhile, the College was appointed to manage the journal and recognize it as the official publication of the organization. The value of the stock was estimated at $350,000 ($6 million in 2014 dollars).

The Regents passed a resolution thanking Mrs. Martin for this extraordinary gift. She responded to the Regents by letter:

My Dear Friends:

I hesitate to intrude upon you when I know that every moment of your time is filled to the utmost, but I cannot let these days go by without telling you of my deep appreciation of all the gracious courtesies you have extended to me. I recognize that it is the silent tribute of your loyalty and devotion to Franklin Martin, and as such I accept it with tender gratitude. I feel certain that deep in each of your hearts lies the earnest intention to raise the torch which has been laid down, and, step-by-step, to carry it to new and higher planes of idealism for the happiness of mankind and the betterment of humanity. May all success go with your efforts and may the spirit of him to whom the honor and progress of the College meant so much follow you as you climb to tell you of all that your understanding sympathy has meant to me, and with abiding and personal affection for each member of your board, I am yours most gratefully,
Isabelle Martin

P.S. Since I wrote the above the flowers have come. They are wonderful; and what can I say; only that every woman left as I am, might be blessed with such tried and true friends as you have been to me.

Mrs. Martin died in March 1945. One month later the College assumed complete responsibility for the Surgical Publishing Company and its assets. In December 1946, the College transferred the journal and the assets of the Surgical Publishing Company into a newly created, College-owned, tax-exempt entity, the Franklin Martin Memorial Foundation. The Foundation’s excess revenue from SG&O was donated to the College; for example, $135,000 was donated in 1954, $200,000 in 1960, and $150,000 in 1966 (the latter of which is $1,189,000 in 2014 dollars).

The tax exemption made possible by the foundation was no longer necessary by 1992, so the foundation was dissolved and the College took over the journal. Two years later its name was changed to the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS), and, in 1998, Elsevier, a respected publisher of academic journals, took over management of JACS, while the College retained ownership and editorial control.

To this day, the Martins’ gift to the College, certainly among its largest, was a gift that keeps on giving, enabling the leadership, in Mrs. Martin’s words, “to carry it (the College) to new and higher planes of idealism for the happiness of mankind and the betterment of humanity.”

American College of Surgeons. Board of Regents. Meeting minutes. Chicago, IL; April 6, 1953; June 23–24, 1945; November 3–4, 9, 1951; October 26–27, 1963; October 6–7, 9, 16, 1992.

Grimm EK. ACS History Notebooks. Accessed September 22, 2014.

Nahrwold DL, Kernahan PJ. A Century of Surgeons and Surgery: The American College of Surgeons 1913–2012. Chicago, IL: American College of Surgeons; 2012: 32, 69, 94, 312-313.

Surgical Publishing Company. Meeting minutes. Chicago, IL; January 24, 1921; December 15, 1946.

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