Back in the day, the United States used to mark the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln (February 12th) and President George Washington (February 22nd) as two separate events. In fact, it was only Washington’s birth that was celebrated as a federal holiday, starting in 1879, and it was on his actual birth date of the 22nd. In 1971, it was made a floating holiday, marked on the third Monday of February. Now the day is most commonly known as Presidents’ Day and is taken to be a combination of George and Abe’s birthday. The newspaper clipping on the left shows a student in the Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing 60 years ago reading a book about George Washington to a group of pediatric patients. The student’s name is Frances Klepadlo, and she was in the Class of 1954. (The nurse on the far left is also a Mount Sinai graduate, as is evidenced by her distinctive cap.) Ms. Klepadlo recently sent an old operating room nurse’s uniform from her student days to the Mount Sinai Archives to be preserved, along with this clipping. The timing worked out perfectly for us to share it with you in honor of George Washington’s official birthday. Happy Birthday, Mr. President!
In reviewing a 20 year old issue of a publication called the Mount Sinai Nurse, Archives staff recently came across an article about Estelle Blumberg, RN, a graduate of The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing, Class of 1947. She came to Mount Sinai as a student in 1944, and the article outlines her experiences as a trainee and then a young graduate nurse on the wards. Here are some excerpts from that article:
The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing was housed in 5 E. 98th Street….Each morning, students gathered in the assembly hall to sing songs before going on duty. Clad in black shoes and stockings, and wearing plaid uniforms, student nurses were always easy to spot in the hospital.
Ms. Blumberg’s first job upon graduation was assistant charge nurse of a male ward with 41 beds. Read more
The Levy Library has recently added a new health database
from Ebsco focusing on medicine and nursing.
Health Source: Nursing is an Ebsco database focusing on many
medical disciplines including nursing and allied health. This resource includes more than 400
peer-reviewed journals and complements other nursing resources such as
To access this database, go to the library databases page
and search for Nursing or browse by the Nursing and Allied Health subject
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The Mount Sinai Hospital had a nursing school from 1881-1971, known first as The Mount Sinai Hospital Training School for Nurses and then as The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing. It is a tradition that every nursing school has its own unique cap and pin. This is a very old custom that lingers today. Here you will find pictures of both Mount Sinai’s graduate cap and pin. A nurse was given these when she graduated from our school. (Students wore a different, plain white cotton cap starched to cardboard-like stiffness.) They were signs that you were a trained, professional nurse. We also had a distinctive scotch blue plaid fabric from which our uniforms were made. (See the photo of our Class of 1904.) The plaid was registered to our school and only we could use it. We had supply problems in World War II, so we switched to a regular blue plaid after that. And they say history is boring…..
This year marks the 130th anniversary of the founding of The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing. To celebrate this anniversary, the Mount Sinai Archives has created an exhibit in the lobby of the Annenberg building which documents the history of the School of Nursing and its Alumnae Association.
Among the items on display are copies of student publications. Students at the School of Nursing published a number of newsletters, including The Plaid Review, the Cap and Bib and The Plaid Communique. These publications carried news and gossip, advice for new students, and reviews of current books, films and Broadway shows. The Mount Sinai Archives has a large collection of these publications. The following images, from June issues of The Plaid Review and Cap and Bib, depict students’ excitement at the change of seasons. In the early 1950s nursing students were allowed a total of three weeks’ vacation each year; the Cap and Bib cover suggests that many students used early summer as a chance to take a break from the stress of their studies.
Above Left: The Plaid Review, June 1949.
Above Right: Cap and Bib, June 1953.
Recently the Mount Sinai Archives received a lovely gift of several drawings that were created for the 1947 Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing yearbook, The Three Arches. These were a gift of the editor of that edition, alumna Janet Chamberlin White. The drawing itself was done by Phyllis Mulford (also class of 1947) as one of a series that grace the pages of the yearbook and show what life was like for nursing students shortly after World War II. This yearbook is just one of an almost complete collection of Mount Sinai nursing yearbooks held by the Archives.
The scene shown here depicts nursing students relaxing in a dorm room (5 E. 98th Street was then the School of Nursing home). Included are all the staples of student life in the 1940s: fuzzy slippers, books, snacks, Pepsi bottles and cigarettes. The final page of the yearbook shows a nurse wearing Mount Sinai's distinctive nursing cap. It includes the words of the School song, with the last paragraph reading:
Three years of learning such an art,
That holds a nurse from all apart.
Daily striving, serving needs
To do our best and so succeed.
Among Manhattan's many lights
Mount Sinai's candle burning bright
And to us falls, to guard that flame
Our Alma Mater's fame.
Rounds are a tradition in medical education: junior doctors present cases and senior doctors expound on them in such a way as to be instructive. The residents learn, and hopefully the patient benefits by this meeting of the minds.
The image above shows a combined Department of Medicine and Surgery rounds on a gastrointestinal ward of The Mount Sinai Hospital in 1951. Such an event would never happen today, primarily for logistical reasons. And what an event it was, with GI pioneers from both medicine and surgery scattered around the room!
The man standing in the center in the gray suit with his back to us is Surgeon Ralph Colp. Medicine’s Albert Cornell is the man in the dark suit to Colp’s left. The man left of center with his hand on his chin is Dr. Burrill B. Crohn, who in 1932 described Crohn’s disease with two surgical colleagues. Standing next to Crohn in the lab coat is Franklin Hollander, Ph.D., a researcher hired by the Dept. of Surgery to help in basic research in GI disease. The doctors are grouped around the light box holding the x-rays (with the house staff in short, white coats) and the nurses on the left. Note that all the Attendings here were on the voluntary staff. There were very few full-time physicians at Mount Sinai at this time. The woman in the darker coat on the left is probably a social worker. The woman in a white coat and no cap may be a dietician.
This is just one of thousands of images in the Mount Sinai Archives. To see more, search the Image Database found on the Archives' website: http://mssm-archives.mssm.edu/dbtw-wpd/MtS/
Now that the warm weather is here, isn't it nice to get outside? The sun feels warm, the air is fresh, and it just feels good. It should be no surprise that hospitals noticed that all that fresh air and sunshine was good, and took steps to make sure that their patients experienced it. Hospitals were built with large windows and transoms over the doors so air could circulate freely. This was true in the 1800s (see the photo of a ward at Mount Sinai's Lexington Ave. site in 1891) and remains true today. Mount Sinai's current I.M Pei designed hospital building provides sunlight to every patient room, and a sophisticated air handling system for temperature control.
The building that Pei's Guggenheim Pavilion replaced was opened in 1904. The architect, Alfred Brunner, used a much simpler approach to providing patients with environmental healing. His design for the buildings, called Light and Air, provided the usual large windows and cross ventilation, but he also designed porches on the roofs of the buildings that allowed adult patients to be rolled out in their beds for fresh air. (The image shown is from 1936.) Pediatric patients used the roof for barbeques and entertainment.
So, take a lesson from those hospital architects: head outside and get your daily dose of Light and Air.
Recently I was processing some minutes from Mount Sinai's Social Service Auxiliary (today's Auxiliary Board). This group of dedicated women was founded in 1916 to support the Social Service Department here and it has funded scores of projects around the Hospital and Medical Center over the years, most devoted to understanding and improving the experience of the patient. (One obvious exception was when they paid one half of my salary my first year here to help underwrite the creation of the Archives. Thanks!) Anyway, I was perusing the Report of the Social Service Dept. for 1917 and it noted that the department was formed in 1906 (knew that) and was one of the first such programs in the country (knew that) and the first social worker hired was a graduate of The Mount Sinai Hospital Training School for Nurses (knew that), Miss Rose Johnson. Wait, what?! For years now people who have studied the history of the Hospital and the department have all noted that Jennie Greenthal, also a graduate of our school, was the first social worker hired here in 1906. Who was Rose Johnson?!
This set me off to look through the records that I have that might shed light on this. I searched the Board of Directors (now Trustees) minutes for 1905-06: nothing on this but endlessy fascinating. (The doctors asked the Directors to please study the administrative functions because the floors were dirty and the food was bad. The Directors disagreed, but it wasn't long after this that new people were brought in to oversee the housekeeping, laundry, and food service. Hmm.) I checked the annual reports for 1905-1908 and no social worker is noted until the report covering 1907. So I went back to the minutes of the Board and started searching the minutes from 1907. For good measure, I also searched the Executive Committee of the Board for 1907. And that's when I realized that we had probably been wrong about this for the last 90 years!
In the July 15, 1907 minutes of the Executive Committee, the Superintendent of the Hospital reported that he had made "arrangements for the summer months with Miss Greenthal to act as social Nurse and friendly Visitor in the wards". Later that year, Mr. Paul Warburg offered to give $1,000 to support the efforts of the now named Social Welfare Department, and that is what is reported in the 1907 annual report. Another source says that Rose Johnson, RN, took over from Miss Greenthal after the summer.<social $1,000="$1,000" 1907="1907" after="after" and="and" annual="annual" another="Another" department,="Department," efforts="efforts" friendly="friendly" from="from" give="give" greenthal="Greenthal" in="in" is="is" johnson,="Johnson," later="Later" miss="Miss" mr.="Mr." named="named" now="now" nurse="Nurse" of="of" offered="offered" over="over" p="P" paul="Paul" report.="report." reported="reported" rn,="RN," rose="Rose" says="says" social="Social" source="source" summer.
But why had we ever started using the 1906 date? Well, we knew we were an early program in the new field of medical social work (the first was in 1905) and memories are not perfect. In fact, I have some typed notes from an interview with Jennie Greenthal where she says that she started the social work department in 1906. But this was 30 years after the fact and the surviving documentation does not support that. Perhaps they started talking about doing this in 1906; certainly Dr. Goldwater was very interested in this new area of hospital work. We'll never know exactly how the earlier date crept in, but I, for one, am convinced that our Social Service Department began in 1907 and we've been wrong all of these years.
Now I wonder if anything else could be mis-dated…..