Researching a Family “Dynasty” of Jewish Doctors in Baltimore

Posted on July 2nd, 2014 by

As a summer 2014 Exhibitions Research intern at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I am helping develop the upcoming exhibition Jews, Health, and Healing.  The 2015 exhibition will explore how medicine shaped both the ways Jews are viewed by others and how they view themselves.  This intersection of culture and science has provided some fascinating ways of looking at the construction of identity and empowerment in the Jewish community.

A lot of my research has focused on the Friedenwald family “dynasty” of doctors.  Three generations of Friedenwalds practiced ophthalmology in Baltimore.   Using JMM’s archive collection I have looked at the Friedenwald manuscript collection, which includes correspondences, speeches, and diaries.

Some of the many boxes containing the Friedenwald collection.

Some of the many boxes containing the Friedenwald collection.

Our exhibit will pay special attention to Dr. Harry Friedenwald (1864—1950).  Harry was interested in the history of medicine, particularly Jewish contributions to the field.  This research led to the publication of his book Jews and Medicine: Essays in 1944.  The exhibition will feature a recreation of Harry’s study.

A photograph of Dr. Harry Friedenwald.

A photograph of Dr. Harry Friedenwald.

One of the most interesting things I have found in the Friedenwald manuscript collection is a letter from Harry to his son Jonas (another ophthalmologist) describing medical school quotas for Jewish students.  The July 21, 1922 letter describes a meeting that Harry organized with fellow doctors to review Jewish admissions to John Hopkins Medical school.  In the early twentieth century there were quotas to limit the number of Jewish medical students.  Harry wrote of the “inquisition” into the religious adherence of applicants.  This was conducted by asking for statements from each person’s mother.  Such policies were used to determine if an applicant was Jewish.  Harry hoped to end the quotas.

Harry’s July 21, 1922 letter to Jonas describing quotas at Hopkins.  One of the most difficult aspects of my research has been deciphering Harry’s handwriting!

Harry’s July 21, 1922 letter to Jonas describing quotas at Hopkins. One of the most difficult aspects of my research has been deciphering Harry’s handwriting!

Hopefully, this letter can be used in the Jews, Health, and Healing exhibition to illustrate the history of quotas on Jewish students in medical schools, as well as the broader story of discrimination in medicine.

Sarah MooreA blog post by Exhibition Research Intern Sarah Moore. To read more posts by and about interns, click Here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




An Introduction to an Internship

Posted on June 25th, 2014 by

World War II electronics. Credit: National Electronics Museum.

World War II electronics. Credit: National Electronics Museum.

On June 2, 20214, I began my internship at the Jewish Museum of Baltimore with two days of orientation. On Friday of that week, we were invited to the annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon at the National Electronics Museum in Linthicum, Maryland.  That visit brought back memories of my father who loved those spools of copper wire, radio/television tubes, radios and televisions. He wound spools of copper wire seemingly for fun. He would have loved that museum. Even I loved that museum. How electronics helped win the world wars.

Dr. Friedenwald’s  lecture

Dr. Friedenwald’s lecture, 1896

On Monday June 8, I began work on the Dr. Aaron Friedenwald lecture from 1896, handling those fragile noted with white gloves then typing what I read also in my white collections handling gloves digitizing the lecture. The lecture may be part of the 2015 Exhibit  “Jews, Health, and Healing.

The lecture includes stone age medicine. The medicine man could repair compound fractures using sticks, twine, and mud for a cast.  He was able to relieve pressure of the brain, by drilling holes into the skull of the patient, sometimes more than once. The books of Genesis and Exodus sited what the Jews did and did not know about medicine on leaving Egypt. There were even women mentioned in the work both as midwives and actual physicians. There was a cavalcade of learned men who were both Rabbis and physicians who translated medical works on the side.

Flag House

Star-Spangled Banner House. Credit: Laureen Miles Brunelli.

On Friday June 13, Marvin Pinkert walked the Interns and a volunteer over to the Flag House as a (one-day early) celebration of Flag Day and to see another small museum.  General Flowers asked Mary Pickersgill to create a flag to fly over Fort McHenry. The flag was to be red, white, and blue. The measurements were to be 32 feet by 72 feet. The stripes were to be 2 feet wide and the stars 2 feet across. The flag was to be made of the lightest weight wool bunting purchased from ex-mother England.

The Flag House contained original household items: andirons, candle sticks, a desk,  chairs, a painting of General Benjamen Flowers, Mary Pickersgill and Rebecca Young’s young and handsome relative over the mantle of the fireplace.  Mary and Rebecca as well as Mary’s daughters and an indentured servant all sewed the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore There were perfume bottles, handmade quilts, and many other period pieces of the late 18th century at the time of the War of 1812.

Barbara IsraelA blog post by Summer Exhibitions Intern Barbara Israelson. To read more posts by and about interns, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




MedChi turns 215!

Posted on January 27th, 2014 by

Bookplate designed for Dr. Julius Friedenwald, son of Aaron. The inscription reads “Wise words from the healer.” Collection of MedChi.

Bookplate designed for Dr. Julius Friedenwald, son of Aaron. The inscription reads “The words of the wise are healing.”
Collection of MedChi.

In 1799, Paris was the place to get a modern medical education, inoculation against smallpox was finally gaining widespread acceptance (having first been discovered nearly fifty years earlier), most drugs were made from herbs, and Marylanders usually tended their sick at home, sometimes with the help of a doctor. Also in 1799, as new ideas about health and medicine were percolating throughout the western world, the Medical and Chirurgical [surgical] Faculty of Maryland was organized in an attempt to regulate and support the medical profession throughout the state. One of a handful of such societies in the United States at the time, its papers of incorporation stated its mission to “prevent the citizens (of Maryland) from risking their lives in the hands of ignorant practitioners or pretenders to the healing art.”

Dr. Abram B. Arnold, c. 1890.  Collection of MedChi; photograph by Meg Fielding.

Dr. Abram B. Arnold, c. 1890.
Collection of MedChi; photograph by Meg Fielding.

Now known as MedChi: The Maryland State Medical Society, the 215-year-old association—celebrating its anniversary this week—has notched some significant achievements. MedChi directors founded Maryland’s first medical school (1807), the world’s first college of dental surgery in the country (1839), and a school of pharmacy (1857)—all are now part of the University of Maryland.

Entrance to MedChi’s headquarters, built in 1909.  Image courtesy of MedChi; photograph by Meg Fielding.

Entrance to MedChi’s headquarters, built in 1909.
Image courtesy of MedChi; photograph by Meg Fielding.

While this is very impressive, its trove of state medical history is the source of its interest to the JMM.  Collections of medical instruments, portraits of board members and other Maryland physicians, antique medical journals, and the papers of the Society are housed in its early 20th century campus in mid-town Baltimore.  JMM Curator Karen Falk and Board Member Dr. Robert Keehn were lucky enough to visit behind the scenes at MedChi last week for a first-hand look at these riches.

Dr. Joshua I. Cohen, c. 1865. Image courtesy of MedChi.

Dr. Joshua I. Cohen, c. 1865.
Image courtesy of MedChi.

Three early Jewish physicians in Baltimore were among the directors of MedChi: Joshua I. Cohen, a member of one of Baltimore’s earliest Jewish families, was an ear specialist, audiologist of some renown, and president of MedChi in 1857-58; Abram B. Arnold received his MD from the Washington University Hospital of Baltimore (the hospital where Edgar Allen Poe died, later known as Church Home and Hospital) around 1850, published a Manual of Nervous Disorders in 1855, and served as president of MedChi  in 1877-78; and ophthalmologist Aaron Friedenwald, a University of Maryland Medical School graduate (1860), Jewish communal activist, and president of MedChi 1880-90. There is even an “Aaron Friedenwald Room” in the current MedChi building, complete with portrait, dedication plaque, and personal objects from the Friedenwald family.

Dr. Aaron Friedenwald, c. 1900. Collection of the JMM; photograph by Shelby Silvernell.

Dr. Aaron Friedenwald, c. 1900.
Collection of the JMM; photograph by Shelby Silvernell.

Aaron Friedenwald, his sons Edgar, Julius and Harry, and grandson Jonas formed a dynasty of physicians in Baltimore that will play an important role in our upcoming exhibition on “Jews, Health and Healing,” planned to open in fall 2015. Many thanks to Meg Fielding at MedChi for taking us on a tour of the collections, providing images for this post, and for responding enthusiastically to our exhibition project.

Library stacks of the MedChi archives. Image courtesy of MedChi; photograph by Meg Fielding

Library stacks of the MedChi archives.
Image courtesy of MedChi; photograph by Meg Fielding

karenA blog post by curator Karen Falk. To read more posts by Karen, click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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