MG 209 Medical Society of New Jersey Records 1766 – 1887

 

MG 209

 

Medical
Society of New Jersey
Records

 

1766 – 1887

 

2.25
linear feet

 

 

 

Finding Aid

 

New
Jersey Historical Society

 

Manuscript
Collection
 

 

Processed by:  Susan Chore,  May 1998

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

The records of the
Medical Society of New Jersey date from 1766-1877 and total 2.25
linear feet.  The records were processed as part of a
National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant
project (1997-1998) to arrange, describe and catalog health care and social welfare-related collections.

 

 

 

Historical Note  

 

The Medical Society
of New Jersey, the first state medical society in the nation,
held its first meeting on July 23, 1766 at Duff’s Tavern in
New Brunswick, N.J.  Seventeen physicians had responded to
an advertisement placed in the New York Mercury “to
form a Society for their mutual Improvement, the Advancement of
the Profession, and the Promotion of the Public Good…”
A constitution was voted on and officers elected:  Rev. Dr.
Robert McKean, President, Dr. Christopher Manlove, Secretary and
Dr. John Cochran, Treasurer.

 

The Constitution
called for members to strive for the highest standards of
treatment, consult with other physicians, share discoveries and
improvements, treat the poor without fee, and “do all in its
power to discourage and discountenance all quacks, mountebanks,
imposters, or other ignorant pretenders to medicine.”

 

Among
the first issues considered were setting standard and minimum
treatment fees, and restricting the practice of medicine to
qualified physicians.  The fee bill caused controversy and
was soon revoked, although other versions would be incorporated
into future charters.  In the early 1770s, the Society
lobbied for a law to regulate the right to practice medicine.
The law, passed in 1772, and revised in 1783, granted the state
Supreme Court (with the aid of medical examiners) the authority
to license physicians.  Society meetings were suspended from
1775 to 1781, during the Revolutionary War.  In 1790, the
state legislature granted the Society a charter of incorporation
for a 25-year term.

 

The Society held no
meetings from 1795 until 1807.  A variety of factors
contributed to this temporary dissolution, including the
difficulty of long-distance travel, November annual meetings, the
high number of members required to pass measures, and the
formation of a rival splinter society.  At a meeting in
1807, the by-laws were revised to remedy some of these
difficulties:  annual meetings were changed to June, and a
quorum reduced to nine.

 

The Charter of 1816
and its supplement of 1818 established district societies under
the control of the state society and authorized them to license
physicians.  The charter also set standards for medical
education, requiring study under a regular practitioner, as well
as attendance at medical college lectures.  The first county
societies were organized in 1816:  Somerset, Essex,
Cumberland, Middlesex, Morris, and Monmouth.  By 1829, all
counties had established a district society.

 

In 1820 a Standing
Committee was formed to gather reports from district societies on
public health, epidemics, and innovations in treatment.  In
1825, the state legislature gave the Medical Society of New
Jersey the authority to confer the Doctor of Medicine degree.
In May, 1847, the Society began its affiliation with the American
Medical Association, when it sent representatives to the
A.M.A.’s first meeting in Philadelphia.

 

Beginning in 1847,
the Society printed its transactions and other business in The
New Jersey Medical Reporter
, until 1859 when its transactions
were published in annual volumes.  The new charter of 1864
discontinued medical licensing by the Society.  The Society
lobbied the state legislature to create a State Board of Medical
Examiners to set educational standards and to examine and license
all medical practitioners in New Jersey.

 

In 1903, a new
constitution replaced the Standing Committee with a Board of
Trustees, and established special committees.  The
publication of annual volumes of transactions was discontinued,
with the formation of a monthly journal.

 

 

 

Roger, Fred B. and
Sayre, A. Reasoner. The Healing Art: A History of The Medical
Society of New Jersey
, c1966, The Medical Society of New
Jersey, Trenton, N.J.

 

“Historical
Narrative of the Medical Society of New Jersey from 1766 to 1866
read by Dr. William Pierson, at the Centennial Celebration, held
January 24th, 1866, at New Brunswick, N.J.  Printed
at the Daily Advertiser Office, 1866, Newark, N.J. – (pamphlet)

 

“An Outline
History of the Medical Society of New Jersey to 1903” by
Elias J. Marsh, M.D., Paterson. Proceedings of the New Jersey
Historical Society.
Vol. 60, No. 1. January 1942.  pp
1-17.

 

 

 

Scope
and Content Note

 

The records of The
Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ), collected by Dr. Stephen
Wickes (1813-1889) during his tenure as chairman of the Standing
Committee of MSNJ (1856-1883), document the regular business of
the Committee, as well as the Society’s formation,
structure, membership, relationship to district medical societies
and the Society’s efforts to professionalize the field of
medicine.  The Standing Committee Chairman collected reports
from District Societies regarding the general state of health of
New Jersey citizens, epidemics, unusual cases, member deaths, and
violations of MSNJ rules and regulations, and was also
responsible for printing and distributing the Society’s
transactions.

 

Records span the
years 1766 to 1887, with the bulk of the collection dating from
1859-1882.  Correspondence comprises the greatest part of
the records.  The earliest years of the Society (1766-1850s)
are documented only by the minutes.  Minutes are complete;
gaps exist only for the years 1776-1780 and 1796-1806, when
MSNJ meetings were not held.  Minutes focus on
administrative business such as internal organization and
regulations, membership and committees.

 

Also included are
Wickes’ personal financial records and receipts, and a
variety of printed materials from the American Academy of
Medicine and local medical colleges, including catalogues,
lecture schedules and addresses.

 

Records are
organized in six series:  Minutes, By-Laws, General
Correspondence, District Medical Societies, Financial Records and
Printed Materials.  Formats in the collection include
handwritten bound volumes and textual documents, printed
catalogues, and pamphlets.  Types of documents include
minutes, letters, circulars, by-laws, and medical college
catalogues.

 

MSNJ’s
vigilance against association with “irregulars,”
practitioners such as homeopaths, eclectics, Thomsonians or
“quacks,” is documented in General Correspondence and
the District Medical Societies series (Hudson County Medical
Society controversy).  Its efforts to standardize education
and license physicians is covered in Minutes and General
Correspondence.  Ailments and methods of treatment are
discussed in General Correspondence.

 

Much correspondence
refers to the submission of district society reports on local
health, society histories, and discussion of treatments.  The
reports themselves are not included in the records, although some
are summarized in the letters.

 

 

 

Series
Descriptions

 

SERIES I:  Minutes, 1766-1775,
1781-1795, 1807-1887
, 3 bound volumes; minutes recorded chronologically.

 

Documents the
business conducted at MSNJ meetings, as well as its philosophy,
formation, constitution and by-laws.  Minutes include lists
of members in attendance, examinations of applicants for
membership, committee reports, presidents’ addresses,
treasurer’s reports, by-laws revisions, appointment of
County examiners (censors), and the setting of fees.

 

Volume 2 includes a
list of 366 Records of Licenses with name of applicant, place of
residence, date, and examining doctor (1816-1842), as well as
copies of certificates of students commencing the study of
medicine (1831-1862).

 

Minutes in
this collection are printed in The Rise, Minutes and
Proceedings of the New Jersey Medical Society
…. (Newark,
1875) and the Society’s Transactions.

 

SERIES II:  By-Laws, 1866. Printed booklet
includes an Act to Re-Organize the Medical Society of New Jersey
and sections on Title and meetings, order of business, officers,
district societies, regulations concerning the doctor of medicine
degree and form of diploma, honorary membership, elections,
ethics, cooperation among physicians, the duties of physicians
regarding vicarious offices, consultations, and fees.  Marked-up
by Stephen Wickes.  Copy is incomplete; pages at back have
been cut out.  See SERIES I:  Minutes for handwritten
versions of by-laws and revisions.

 

SERIES III:  General Correspondence,
1859 – 1882, 1886 and n.d
., arranged chronologically within
subject.  Documents the
business of the Standing Committee of the MSNJ.  Primarily
the letters received by Chairman Stephen Wickes from MSNJ members
re:  reports on district society status and activities;
reports of local health conditions, epidemics, and unusual cases;
notification of member deaths, often with biographical
information; lists of members in district societies; and
legislation.

 

Topics include:
cases of diphtheria, cholera, hay asthma, scarlet fever, and
complications of pregnancy, with treatments administered; and the
ethics of associating with “irregular” practitioners,
such as homeopaths, eclectics and Thomsonians, as well as
attempts to legislate against unlicensed practitioners.  Of
note are letters pondering the ethics of consulting with a female
doctor, and the report of a patient’s death due to a
morphine injection by an “irregular” practitioner.
Several letters (1875) written by Dr. Charles Hasbrouck discuss
his testifying in divorce proceedings that were initiated when a
wife discovered her husband had given her syphilis.

 

Other
correspondence is grouped by subject:  1) Letters that
contain lists of New Jersey medical practitioners
(“regulars,” “irregulars,” and women).  Some
include descriptions of “irregular” doctors’
background and methods; majority list only names and location.
Several letters in General Correspondence contain similar lists.
2) Letters detailing the controversy initiated by Dr. Thomas
Ryerson over Dr. Louis Sayre’s nomination as an honorary
member (1878-1880).  Also includes extracts from minutes,
circulars and a booklet that reprints all relevant documents,
minutes and letters.

 

Also, copy letters
and drafts written by Wickes.  Frequent correspondents
include: Drs. Henry R. Baldwin, John Blane, J. Henry Clark,
Richard M. Cooper, Thomas F. Cullen, William Elmer, Charles
Hasbrouck, Ezra .M. Hunt, John Johnson, Samuel Lilly, Joseph
Parrish, Thomas Ryerson, and H.L. VanDerveer.

 

SERIES IV:  District Medical Societies,
1873 – 1875,
arranged chronologically. Documents the
internal controversy in Hudson County Medical Society, initiated
by the nomination and rejection of Isaac N. Quimby, an alleged
homeopath, and which continued with alleged violations of the
Code of Ethics, member expulsions, and internal political
turmoil.  Includes printed booklet:  A Documentary
History of Recent Dissensions in the District Medical Society for
the County of Hudson, N.J
., compiled by J.E. Culver, M.D.
Also, By-Laws & Constitutions for Morris
and Atlantic Counties.

 

SERIES V:  Financial records, 1866 –
1879 and n.d.
, arranged chronologically.  Includes personal
receipts, tax records and accounts of Dr. Stephen Wickes.  Of
note are lists of materia medica and other medical supplies
purchased.

 

SERIES VI:  Printed Materials,
1876-1887
.  Non-MSNJ printed
materials, including medical college catalogues and lecture
schedules, American Academy of Medicine addresses, member lists
and by-laws, and government circulars.  Medical colleges
represented:  Bellevue Hospital Medical College, College of
Physicians and Surgeons (Baltimore), College of Physicians and
Surgeons (N.Y.), Harvard University, Jefferson Medical College
(Philadelphia), Medico-Chirurgical College (Philadelphia),
University of the City of New York Medical Department, and the
University of Pennsylvania.

 

 

CONTAINER
LIST

 

 

Box
Folder
Title
Date

 

 

1
Minutes (Volume I)
1766-1775, 1781-
1795, 1807-1815

 

2
Minutes (Volume II)
1816-1862

 
Minutes (Volume III)
1862-1887

 

 

3
1
Act of Incorporation and By-Laws
1866

 

 

 

2
General Correspondence: Explanatory
July 1, 1886

 

 

 
Note regarding preservation of Medical Society of N.J. Records

 
3
General Correspondence
1859 – 1860

 
4
“
Jan.-Feb. 1861

 
5
“
Mar.-Dec. 1861

 
6
“
1862

 
7
“
1863

 
8
“
1864

 
9
“
Jan.-Oct. 1865

 
10
“
Nov.-Dec. 1865

 
11
“
Jan.-May 1866

 
12
“
June-Dec. 1866

 
13
“
Jan.-Apr. 1867

 
14
“
May-June 1867

 
15
“
July-Sept. 1867

 
16
“
Oct.-Dec. 1867

 
17
“
Jan.-May 1868

 
18
“
June-Dec. 1868

 
19
“
Feb.-May 1869

 
20
“
June-Dec. 1869

 

 

4
1
General Correspondence
Jan.-May 1870

 
2
“
June-Nov. 1870

 
3
“
Jan.-May 1871

 
4
“
June-Dec. 1871

 
5
“
Jan.-May 1872

 
6
“
June-Dec. 1872

 
7
“
Jan.-Apr. 1873

 
8
“
May-Sept. 1873

 
9
“
Oct.-Dec. 1873

 
10
“
Jan.-May 1874

 
11
“
June-Dec. 1874

 

Box
Folder
Title
Date

 

 

4
12           General
Correspondence
1875

 
13
“
1876

 
14
“
1877

 

 

5
1
General Correspondence
1878

 
2
“
1879

 
3
“
1880

 
4
“
1881-1882

 
5
“
n.d.

 
6
Lists of N.J. Medical Practitioners
1865-1866, 1873

 
7
Controversy re: nomination of
1878-1880

 

 

 

 

Dr. Lewis A. Sayre as honorary member
vs. Dr. Thomas Ryerson

 

 

 

 

 

 
District Medical Societies

 
8
By-Laws & Constitutions
n.d.

 
9          Hudson County Internal Controversy
1873

 
10
“      (Folder 1 of 2)
1874-1875

 
11
“      (Folder 2 of 2)
1874-1875

 
12           Building
Contracts and Receipts
1868-1869

 
13           Financial
Records and Receipts
1866

 
14
“
1867

 
15
“
1868

 

 

 

 

6
1
Financial Records and Receipts
1869

 
2
“
1870-1879

3
“
n.d.

 
4
Printed Materials  (Folder 1 of 3)
1876-1887

 
5
“      (Folder 2 of 3)
1876-1887

 
6
“      (Folder 3 of 3)
1876-1887

 

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