and the Center for a Healthy Maryland,
along with Marcia Crocker Noyes, our friendly ghost,
As much as we tease Marcia by dressing her up for the holidays, we have the utmost respect and admiration for what she did during her 50 year tenure at MedChi. In addition to creating the Medical Librarians Association, she was responsible for managing the building of our 1909 building, enlarging our library from 7,000 to 65,000 books and much more that we don’t know about.
We are hosting a lecture on Marcia’s academic and professional background, as well as her current status as ghost in residence at MedChi. Additionally, an MFA student at MICA will be showing some of her artwork featuring Marcia.
As I was searching our old bequests files, I came across a character whom I did not know. He was Dr. William Royal Stokes, a long-time MedChi member. He was also the Baltimore City Bacteriologist from 1896 until his untimely death in 1930.
In the file, along with numerous solicitation and acknowledgement letters, bearing the signatures of luminaries including Alexius McGlannan, MD and our Marcia Noyes, I found an old newspaper column called “Man in the Street”. This was a weekly column which researched street names in Baltimore.
Now the position of City Bacteriologist doesn’t sound too grand, but Dr. Stokes was responsible for eliminating typhoid by cleaning up the City’s milk and water supplies. He started the battle against rats, a war which has not yet been won.
In the early years of the 1900’s, the Baltimore City Department of Health made it its business to destroy every parrot in the city, because they were carriers of the dangerous and often fatal Parrot Fever, or psittacosis. Parrots, macaws, pigeons, ducks and other birds are carriers of this disease, mostly eradicated now. There are fewer than 50 reported cases a year, and those can be treated with antibiotics. Dr. Stokes realized that parrots carried the disease, and he made it his business to find the antidote to this. But this meant closely studying the dead parrots and eventually, he contracted psittacosis and died from it.
Hundreds attended his funeral, including the Governor who was an honorary pall bearer. Dr. William Welch and his fellow physicians at MedChi raised money for a bronze tablet in the Municipal Building. They also raised funds for an annual lecture in his name and a library dedicated to bacteriology.
I never know what I will find and where it will lead me.
Marcia has taken off for the beach for a few days, and is spending time drinking margaritas and getting a little bit of a tan.
She wishes you all a safe and happy Labor Day!
Marcia also wants us to let you know that we’re doing a lecture about her and her life… and afterlife… on November 2, 2016, which just happens to be All Souls day. Stay tuned for details!
It is essentially a view from the old Church Home & Hospital, from where Johns Hopkins is situated today. You can see the iconic dome of Church Home in the center of the image. The amazing building on the right in the foreground is Fairmount Hill Vocational High School, which is no longer in existance.
Fairmount Gardens, near the intersection of East Fayette and Broadway, served as a private pleasure ground in the decades before the Civil War. The hotel with observation deck to the right, “situated upon the most lofty pinnacle near our city, stands in the centre of an enclosure of about five acres,” where visitors could treat themselves to ice cream, a lemonade, or a Baltimore seasonal favorite, strawberries and cream.
The map was drawn by Edward Sachse, a premiere map-maker in the mid 1800’s, and the maker of what is called the most spectacular drawing of Baltimore ever made. Measuring 10 ½ feet by 5 feet and produced in 12 sections, the Bird’s Eye View of Baltimore, printed by the lithographic firm of E. Sachse and Company in 1869, is probably the “largest panoramic view of an American city ever published.”
The map is reputed to show every house, church, business, and park—many in fine detail—in Baltimore, which in 1869 was bound to the north by Northern Avenue (today North Avenue), Canton to the east, Gwynns Run to the west, and the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River to the south.
There is even a detail of MedChi’s corner of Preston & Cathedral Streets in the 1850’s, long before we were located there. A downloadable copy from the Library of Congress is here.
For more on Sachse, click here for a Maryland Historical Society article.
We are so delighted to have this amazing piece as part of our collection!
I was scanning through the Baltimore Sun’s archives when I found a few old articles on our Marcia.
Of course, I can never resist playing around with images, so I added the portrait of “Mr. Smith”, which Marcia loved. She had persuaded the Library Committee to buy the painting, and she said that if she ever left the Faculty, she’d secretly pack him into her suitcase. But she didn’t have to, because the physicians made her a gift of the portrait.
It is always fascinating to find contemporary writings about our well-known members and staff.
I was looking for a turn of the century (the last one) map of Baltimore and stumbled across a map I’d never seen. It’s not actually a map, rather a bird’s eye view of the city, several years after the Great Baltimore Fire in 1904, highlighting what had been accomplished in a scant seven years.
The view comes from somewhere high above South Baltimore, and stretches all the way up past the mills on the Jones Falls in Hampden and Woodberry. The map is phenomenally detailed, with many buildings being clearly identifiable, even 100+ years later.
and so much more. I am pretty certain we could probably pinpoint the MedChi 1909 Building, but I haven’t been able to locate it yet.
Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone, so I applied my mad Photoshop skills to it while listening to the convention speeches, and colourized the map, mostly with brick red, copper and forest green and some pale blue, although we all know perfectly well that the Harbour and the Jones Falls never looked like that. I think that the colour gives the piece a lot of depth.
Although it’s not quite to scale, it’s a pretty amazing piece of work, originally done in pencil by Mr. Edward Spofford in the fall of 1911. There’s not a lot of information about this piece, like who comissioned it, and how it was sketched.
You can download a huge file of the map from the Library of Congress, here. It’s such fun to sit and search the image and see what you can recognize.
MedChi hosted our first ‘pop-up” lecture on July 13th, and it was a stellar success! More than 150 people registered for the event, and we were still receiving requests for tickets up until 15 minutes before it started! Osler Hall was filled with members of the public who are clearly happy to be attending the lecture.
And our speaker, Bruce Goldfarb, front and center in this selfie, was a huge hit with his detailed lecture on the Nutshells and their creator, Frances Glessner Lee. After he finished the lecture, Bruce entertained questions from the crowd, and afterwards crowded around to ask even more questions.
Because of the popularity of this lecture, we discussed presenting it again in the spring.
We are already planning to do a lecture around Halloween, and I bet you might be able to guess who and what it will be about!
In the course of preparing for next week’s lecture on the Nutshells, I found out that Russell Fisher’s grand-daughter will be here for the lecture. She’s preparing a documentary on him and is looking for anyone who was a contemporary of Dr. Fisher’s who might be willing to talk to her.
Dr. Fisher was generally thought of as the father of forensic pathology and did a tremendous amount to professionalize the field. He was active in MedChi and was President in 1969. We have a lot of information that he’s written, or that was written about him, but personal stories add a lot of depth.
Please email me here and let me know if you’d be willing to speak to Dr. Fisher’s grand-daughter.
I am going through all sorts of old files in order to cull those that are important, and chuck out those that have no relevance (like the one on painting the interior of the building).
The files contain all sorts of correspondence, some pieces more interesting than others. I came across this letter from the editor of the Baltimore Sun, dated sometime last century, and thought it was equally funny and horrifying!
It is pretty impossible to think that a contemporary editor would ever send a letter or email like this to a reader.
With the lecture about the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, just under two weeks from now, I thought I would give you a bit of background about them.
These fascinating Nutshell Studies were created in the 1940’s by Francis Glessner Lee, an heiress to the International Harvester Fortune.
She had wanted to attend university to study law, but was not allowed and instead was taught how to knit and sew and other domestic pursuits. Through a friend of her brother’s, she came to be interested in early forensic medicine, but realized that police officers and coroners didn’t take the time to “read” a crime scene, and often destroyed any remaining clues.
Mrs. Lee’s brother’s friend was on the faculty of Harvard University, and Mrs. Lee created the Center for Legal Medicine, donated thousands of medical books, and endowed a chair for legal medicine in 1931. She also created the Harvard Associates in Police Science (now administered through the MD-OCME). When the legal medicine department closed in the early 1960’s, the Nutshells came to Baltimore with Russell Fisher, M.D., a professor who was joining Maryland’s Medical Examiner’s office.
Mrs. Lee was convinced that if you could read the clues, you could solve the crime and began recreating crime scenes, on a scale of one inch to one foot. Her first Nutshell, an old barn, took three months to build. She used weathered wood from an old barn and cut each of the shingles on the roof.
All labels, fabrics, furniture, accessories and every single thing in each room were created by hand. One one wall, there’s a calendar, but she didn’t have just the one month printed, she had the subsequent six months behind it. Appliances and utensils came out of Cracker Jack boxes, or were charms from charm bracelets, one of which was 14k gold, painted silver.
But what is MedChi’s role in all of this? In the late 1930’s, the Faculty received a proposal during the House of Delegates meeting to create a state-wide medical examiner’s office, instead of the more common county coronor system which is still in use in most of the US. The proposal was studied for a year, and then voted on by the membership. It passed, and was put into law by the Maryland General Assembly in 1939.
Russell Fisher, M.D. was the second Chief Medical Examiner and held the position for more than 35 years. He was a very active member of MedChi, serving as President of the organization in 1969. The legal suite at MedChi is named in his honor.