Friday, May 18, 2018

How Marcia Crocker Noyes and Sir William Osler, MD, Built a Library


A Presentation to the 2018 American Osler Society Conference 

In 1888, William Osler was recruited by the soon-to-open Johns Hopkins Hospital to become the physician-in-chief, as well as Professor of Medicine at its School of Medicine in Baltimore. By 1890, he had become a member of the Medical & Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, known as the Faculty. Then as now, it is the professional association for physicians in Maryland. 

When Dr. Osler moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore, one of the things he missed the most was the access to the library at the College of Physicians, and the camaraderie which came along with discussing books with his contemporaries. He was determined to duplicate the experience in Baltimore and envisioned a library which included not only books on the clinical practice of medicine, but the historic and biographical aspects of the profession.
This goal began when Dr. Osler was elected as a member of the Library Committee in 1892. And in 1896, when he became President of the Faculty, he was determined that the library, a motley collection of a few thousand outdated books and pamphlets, would become one he would be happy to be associated with.
Shortly after he assumed the Presidency, Dr. Osler hired the 27-year old Marcia Crocker Noyes to be the librarian, replacing one whom he found less than capable. For several years, Miss Noyes had worked at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore cataloging books, and she had a certain spark. But most of all, she came with the recommendation of the head of the Pratt Library, which was located just a block from Osler’s house on West Franklin Street.

            Within two weeks of her interview with Dr. Osler on behalf of the Library Committee, Miss Noyes had accepted the position of librarian at a salary of $300 per year, and moved into an apartment in the Faculty’s building at Hamilton Terrace.
At that time, librarians were expected to be on call 24/7. A physician could ring up at any time and request a book. The librarian would search the card catalogue and pull the book from the shelves. The physician would arrive shortly thereafter, consult the medical book, and hurry back to his ailing patient.
As an aside, I got to thinking about physicians calling Miss Noyes until I found out that we have essentially had a version of the same phone number since phone service started in Baltimore in the 1880’s!
While Miss Noyes knew how to catalogue and how libraries worked, she knew nothing about medicine. She said that she trained herself for the job by just doing it. She was more than willing to learn, and Dr. Osler was a good and patient teacher.
In the late 1890’s, there were strong prejudices against a young, single professional female. Miss Noyes had a lot to overcome to be successful in her position. She was a woman with no medical background, and some of the physicians, especially the elder ones, viewed her with disdain. But she was a quick learner, and attended nearly every one of the Faculty’s events, learning the names of the members, and asking the wealthier ones for their financial assistance. She begged and borrowed shelving and furnishings for the library and reading room so that members would want to gather there.
From a collection of books in total disarray, in boxes in no particular order and no budget for supplies, Dr. Osler and Miss Noyes began to build the library. They subscribed to journals, periodicals and other medical volumes which gradually formed the basis for the library. With editions arriving almost daily, Miss Noyes created a system for cataloging the journals and books, which she called “The Classification for Medical Literature.” It was based on the Index Medicus, and was in place for many years until the Dewy Decimal System came into common usage.
Because typewriters were not yet common, Miss Noyes hand-wrote the cards in the catalogue. For each book there were two: one filed by subject and the other by author. She wrote in “library hand” which was “a slight back-hand, with regular round letters apart from each other.” It was the standard for card catalogues, with the emphasis on legibility and not haste. As you might imagine, hand-writing the cards took an incredible amount of time. 

During his year as President of the Faculty, Dr. Osler founded the Book & Journal Club, which met until his move to Oxford. He took great pleasure in spending time in the Faculty’s reading room, as his keenest interest lay in books. He could often be seen there in the evenings and on Saturdays, reviewing the latest journals, talking with old and young physicians alike and encouraging a dialogue between the two groups.
The Hamilton Terrace building had been purchased in 1893, but it was not at all adequate for the library that Dr. Osler and Miss Noyes imagined. So the plotting to construct a purpose-built headquarters and library began.
Unfortunately, planning was sidelined in 1904 by the Great Baltimore Fire which destroyed nearly all of downtown and came within two block of the Osler’s home on Franklin Street. And in 1905, Dr. Osler announced that he had taken the position of Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford. He and his family moved in May of that year.
In 1904, the AMA revised the structure for medical societies, and Miss Noyes was named the Faculty Secretary, a huge accomplishment for someone so young, and a woman at that! She managed the membership, kept up with her duties as librarian and organized all of the meetings for both the small societies and the entire membership. And she was still on-call 24/7!
Dr. Osler’s name opened doors for the young librarian who would become one of the leading forces of the Medical Library Association (MLA), of which he had been a founder in 1898. The MLA only flourished in its early years because Dr. Osler was the President and Miss Noyes was essentially its Director.         
They both realized the importance of having professional medical librarians and establishing that as a viable career. They created an exchange so that each library did not have to subscribe to every medical journal and they could be traded back and forth. This eventually added up to several hundred trades each month! While originally founded in Philadelphia, the MLA moved to Baltimore for several years, so that Miss Noyes could shepherd it more closely.
It was a great tribute to Miss Noyes and her incredible executive skills that in 1934, she was named as the first non-medical President of the MLA. It was during this period, that she finally incorporated the organization. Two years after her death, the Noyes Award was established for outstanding achievement in the field.
While there was tremendous professional respect between Miss Noyes and Dr. Osler, they also had a close and warm friendship. He often sent her nosegays and flowers with little notes, and when he left for Oxford, he presented her with a huge bouquet of flowers. MedChi continues the tradition of giving flowers with a bouquet being presented to the winner of the Marcia Crocker Noyes Award at the annual Medical Library Association Conference. 

The library endured and grew, and in 1905, when Dr. Osler left for Oxford, nearly 15,000 books were in the collection, now housed in a building adjacent to the headquarters on Hamilton Terrace.
But there was no room to grow and the plotting for the new building continued. With Dr. Osler’s help and guidance from a distance, Miss Noyes encouraged the Faculty’s members to begin a building campaign. Eventually a plot of land was purchased just a few blocks from Hamilton Terrace. Miss Noyes and the Building Committee visited medical society buildings in Boston, New York and Philadelphia so that they could get ideas of what they did and didn’t want. 

After Dr. Osler’s move to England in 1905, he supported the library with contributions of both common and rare books, as well as financial donations. He was constantly thinking of the catalogue of books at the Faculty, frequently writing to ask if Miss Noyes had this book or that in the collection. When he found special books, including a copy of Vesalius’s Anatomy, he made gifts of the volumes to the Faculty Library. The Vesalius sold at auction for around a half a million dollars in the early 2000’s. 

In 1908, ground was broken for the new building, and Miss Noyes had her hand in every aspect of the construction. She visited the site frequently, and could be found inspecting every part of the building. After all, not only would the new building be her workplace, it would also be her home. An apartment was built on the top floor, which was essentially the first penthouse in the city. She lived there with her maid and her two chow-chow dogs. As she grew older, an elevator was installed for her convenience. Over the course of the building’s first decade, the first two levels of the stacks were built, followed later by an additional two floors as the collection grew.
At Miss Noyes’ request, Dr. Osler came to Baltimore for the dedication of the building, the main room of which bore his name.  He writes in this letter just a few days after the dedication “The building is just perfect – never been so pleased with anything in my life.”

Miss Noyes visited Dr. Osler in England, and he returned to Baltimore for visits to Hopkins and the Faculty. For the next ten years, the now Sir William sent books that he’d found on his travels. 

Dr. Osler writes about the importance of his association with the Faculty’s library in the introduction to his “Bibliotheca Osleriana”, and  mentions Miss Noyes by name. “My colleagues in the old Medical & Chirurgical Faculty of the State of Maryland soon found that I was really fonder of books than of anything else… That my name is associated with the hall of the faculty… is a touching tribute of affection from men who knew me and whom I loved. We owe much to Miss Marcia Noyes, our first whole-time librarian…”   

Miss Noyes and Sir William kept up their correspondence until a few months before his death, thought to have been hastened by the death of his beloved son, Revere in 1917. 

The library eventually numbered more than 65,000 volumes, including medical journals from every state medical society and specialty society, and from many foreign medical societies for most of the 20th century.
Even after Sir William’s death, the connection continued with Miss Noyes’ long friendship with Sir William’s nephew, W.W. Francis whom she had met when he lived for several years with Dr. Osler in Baltimore.
Mr. Francis was responsible for cataloguing and then transporting Sir Williams’s books to their final home at McGill University. Later, both Mr. Francis and Miss Noyes were active in the MLA and corresponded about books and other things for many years.
The Osler Library at McGill and the Library at the Medical & Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland remained closely affiliated until Miss Noyes’s death in 1946.
It was rekindled last summer with my trip to Montreal, McGill and the Osler Library.
While Dr. Osler taught Miss Noyes about medicine and science, he was also a role model in her management style and her outlook on life. Like Dr. Osler, she attracted the complete loyalty of others. When Miss Noyes retired after 50 years, the Faculty’s newest employee had been there for 14 years.
And like Dr. Osler, she was quick to give others credit when things went right and ready to take the blame when they didn’t. Both of them had as their life’s work to improve the profession of medicine. Osler did this through the practice of medicine and Miss Noyes did it by making her medical library the best of its time.
Miss Noyes said that by making a living, she made a life.  The same could be said for Sir William Osler.

That is the end of my prepared remarks, but I am going to tell you something that was inferred during my introduction, and that I am too superstitious to write down: We have a ghost and her name is Marcia. As I mentioned, Miss Marcia Noyes worked at the Faculty for 50 years, and she lived on premise for that entire time. Some say that she never left. I am among those.
There are so many things that happen that can’t be explained any other way. I find paintings in the stacks that I KNOW weren’t there days earlier. People her footsteps on the long stairway to Marcia’s former apartment, when they know that they are alone in the building.
Several years ago, when we set up a little fund to give a bouquet of flowers to the winner of the Noyes Award at the MLA meeting, I went up to the top floor of the stacks. I wanted to tell Marcia, because we call her by her first name, that we were doing that, in memory of the way the physicians honored her by giving her flowers. I had to say it out loud, because I was pretty certain that she couldn’t read my mind. Once I finished telling her what we were doing, I heard something like a pencil drop. The hair on my arms stood on end! I got goosebumps, like I have now! I zoomed down the four flights of stairs completely freaked out!
So, you see, Marcia continues to have an impact on her beloved Faculty!



Friday, May 11, 2018

Happy Birthday to Our Building

Over the weekend, we will pause to celebrate the 109th birthday of our headquarters building on Cathedral Street. 
MedChi had moved twice between 1890 and 1909, including to Hamilton Terrace in Eutaw Street. When that building was purchased in 1893, the members thought it would be their home for decades. 

But in 1896, when Dr. William Osler became President of the Faculty, his main objective was to increase the size of the library. At that time, there were fewer than 5,000 mostly out-of-date volumes, many still in the boxes from the move a few years earlier. 

Osler hired Marcia Noyes, and soon, they began plotting to acquire a new building which could be the library's home. But there were a few setbacks. 
In 1904, a massive fire devastated much of Baltimore's downtown, and came within a few blocks of Osler's house on Franklin Street. All building and construction outside of the Burnt District was halted so that resources could be directed to rebuilding the downtown area.

In 1905, Dr. Osler announced his move to Oxford, England and that slowed down the planning and fund-raising. 

However, by early 1908, a plot of land had been selected, and the building commenced.

In May of 1909, the building was ready to be dedicated, and for that, Dr. Osler came to Baltimore to help celebrate. In a letter written just after the dedication, he tells Marcia that "The building is just perfect - Never been so pleased with anything in my life."
Marcia was hands-on with the project management of the building, for not only would be it be the place where she worked, it was also going to be her home!
Until his death, Osler continued to donate money to pay off the building's debt, and to send books to fill its library.
Happy 109th birthday to our dear beautiful building.  

Monday, April 23, 2018

American Osler Society 2018

The 48th Annual Conference of the American Osler Society will take place from May 13-16 at the University of Pittsburgh. 
I submitted an abstract to present a paper in November and in early January, I found that my paper had been accepted! My paper is titled How Marcia Noyes and Sir William Osler Built a Library. 


When Marcia became our librarian in 1886, the collection was in complete disarray, with fewer than 5,000 outdated volumes, mostly in boxes from a move several years earlier. 

Working together, Dr. Osler and Marcia began to build the collection bit by bit, exchanging journals with other medical societies, subscribing to new journals, creating the Medical Library Association and planning a stacks library in a not-yet-build new headquarters. 

Theirs was a friendship which lasted until Osler's death in 1919. But the association continued long after that, until Marcia's death in 1946. She was close friends with Osler's nephew and the keeper of his book collection, W.W. Francis. She corresponded with the new Osler Library at McGill University in Montreal and they traded books and letters back and forth. 


In the summer of 2017, I continued that friendship with a visit to the Osler Library where I was welcomed warmly by the staff. 

Once I've presented my lecture, I will post the notes and photographs here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Lecture: The Restoration of the Nuthshell Studies of Unexplained Death

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are one of Baltimores many hidden treasures. These tiny crime scenes, created in the 1940s at a scale of 1:12, are studied by detectives and investigators from around the world who come to Baltimore for training on forensic and crime scene studies.
After an extensive restoration by the Smithsonian, the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death went on public display for the first time at the Renwick in DC. The response was overwhelming and the show was covered by media from around the world. They have now returned to their home in Baltimore, safe and sound at the Medical Examiner's office.
Two years ago, MedChi hosted Bruce Goldfarb for a lecture discussing the Nutshells and their importance to forensics and investigation. He returns on Wednesday, April 18 to share what the Smithsonian discovered during the restoration of the Nutshells and to further explain why these 70-year old dioramas are still relevant today.

Bruce Goldfarb is on the administrative staff at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Maryland, where the Nutshell Studies are housed. He worked extensively with the Smithsonian to restore the Nutshells and their subsequent exhibition at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC.

The lecture will take place at Osler Hall at MedChi on Wednesday, April 18th at 6:00 p.m. There is plenty of free and paid parking available in the area. 

Tickets to the lecture are $5.00 for members of MedChi and $8.00 for non-members. Funds raised will be used to preserve the Nutshells as well as MedChi's archives which date back to its founding in 1799. For information on reservations, which are required, please email us at events@medchi.org.

Sadly, the Nutshells will not be available to view at the event. They are now a permanent installation at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Maryland, and are not on public display. 






Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Bronzes at MedChi

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the bronze plaque of George Rohé (1851-1899).
I realized that we have about a half-dozen of these bronze plaques scattered around, mostly in the 1909 building. Most of the bronzes date from the time that the building was opened and then about 20 years beyond that. 

The two most important ones are probably those of Sir William Osler, MD.  One is a profile of Sir William with his trademark walrus mustache. This was commissioned in Paris by his close Baltimore friend, Dr. Henry Barton Jacobs, in honor of the dedication of the "new" building and the Hall named after Osler.
William Osler
 To whom as a testimonial of admiration and affection this Hall is Dedicated, May 13, 1909 

The other is a memorial to a good friend of the Faculty's.
William Osler, Physician, Scholar, Teacher, Friend.
Beloved member and benefactor of this Faculty.
His presence was a quickening impulse.
His memory is an enduring inspiration.

The Osler Library at McGill University in Montreal has a bronze that's nearly identical to the profile we have. 

Both of these bronzes hold pride of place on either side of the Thomas Corner portrait of Sir William at the front of Osler Hall. 

There is a large bronze in the stacks that is a tribute to Ridgely Brown Warfield. Sadly, because of its placement in the stacks, it's not seen as often as some of the other bronzes, but we added a framed giclée of it to the cabinets in the Krause Room. 
From our 100th anniversary book:
Warfield Ridgely Brown: Born in Howard County. Maryland on June 15 1864. He received his MD from the University of Maryland in 1884. He was an Assistant Resident Physician at University Hospital in 1884-85; Resident Physician at Bayview Asylum in 1885-86; Demonstrator of Anatomy, University of Maryland, 1892-93; Demonstrator of Anatomy, Baltimore Medical College, 1893-95; Associate Professor of Anatomy, Baltimore Medical College, 1895; Surgeon General of Maryland, 1897; and on the Surgical Staff of the Maryland General Hospital. Offices at 845 Park Avenue, Baltimore. 

As with many organizations and schools active during World War I, there is a memorial to those members of the Faculty who were lost during the war. 
Sadly, the men who are listed are only the ones from Baltimore County, and not the entire state. 

Isaac Ridgeway Trimble was a rising star in the medical field before he died from a blood infection contracted during a surgery. His friends commissioned this plaque after his death, and we also have a portrait of him in our collection.
There were also small bronze medals, struck with the same image, that were given to those who lectured at the annual memorial lecture in Trimble's name. You can read more about Dr. Trimble, his bronze and the lectures here

We have bronzes of two of the Big Four at Hopkins, with Osler, and this one of William H. Welch. Among his other accomplishments, Welch was president of MedChi in 1891-92, and was twice the Orator.
This bronze was sculpted by Victor David Brenner who is most well-known for his profile of Abraham Lincoln which is on the Lincoln penny. 

Finally - actually, there might be other bronzes that I haven't found yet - there is this bronze from the MedChi Women's Auxiliary, given on the occasion of the renovation of the 1909 building, the only one at the time of the gift.
We will be adding another bronze in the next few months to acknowledge School 49, one of Baltimore's most beloved public schools, and now one of MedChi's buildings.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Restored: The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are one of Baltimores many hidden treasures. These tiny crime scenes, created in the 1940s at a scale of 1:12, are studied by detectives and investigators from around the world who come to Baltimore for training on forensic and crime scene studies.

After an extensive restoration by the Smithsonian, the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death went on public display for the first time. The response was overwhelming and the show was covered by media from around the world.

Two years ago, MedChi hosted Bruce Goldfarb for a lecture discussing the Nutshells and their importance to forensics and investigation. On Wednesday, April 18, Bruce returns to share what the Smithsonian discovered during the restoration of the Nutshells and to further explain why these 70-year old dioramas are still relevant today.

Bruce Goldfarb is on the administrative staff at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Maryland, where the Nutshell Studies are housed. He worked extensively with the Smithsonian to restore the Nutshells and their subsequent exhibition at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC.

Tickets to the lecture are $5.00 for members of MedChi and $8.00 for non-members. 
Please click here for tickets to the event. The event begins at 6:00 p.m. and should be finished by 8:00 p.m.

There is ample free and paid parking in the general area, and we are just a block from the Symphony Center stop on the Light Rail.

Funds raised will be used to preserve the Nutshells and also MedChi's archives which date back to its founding in 1799. For information on reservations, which are required, please email events@medchi.org

Monday, March 5, 2018

More About the Lecture Book

We received a very interesting email about the Lecture notebook from Earle Havens, who is the Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Hopkins Sheridan Libraries and Museums. 

In the email, he writes:
This is quite interesting indeed! An interleaved and annotated book (so bound from the date of the spine illustration, which is clearly from the period of the book’s initial publication). It was specially bound for the purpose of annotation. The dated/located note in manuscript facing page 41 (“Philadelphia 1868”?) gives some internal evidence for dating the annotations. This is rare in any book, but a long tradition regardless, of recipes for “simples” (i.e., medicinal preparations and compounds) comprised here not only of naturalia (i.e., naturally occurring herbs, roots, ground resins, metals, etc.) but also of artificially formed chemicals, some perhaps commercially available (by the mid-19th c.) through industrial means.
As we have further examined the lecture book, it seems that the lectures are really just the outlines, and that the students filled out the details. It makes fascinating reading. Too bad it's not also illustrated with the wonderful old botanic engravings!