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National Jewish Hospital Records

 Collection
Identifier: B005

Overview

In 1899, the Jewish community erected the non-sectarian National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives (NJH), the first sanatorium in Denver, Colorado, for tuberculosis victims. With the financial assistance of the International B'nai B'rith fraternal organization, patients from all over the U.S. were admitted free of charge. The NJH adopted a program that emphasized the benefits of fresh air, proper nutrition, and rest. The hospital was founded by a group of Jewish residents of Denver who were of German descent. Early founders included Frances Wisebart Jacobs and Rabbi William Friedman of Denver's Congregation Emmanual. National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives changed its name several times, subsequently being known as National Jewish Hospital (1925-1964) and later becoming National Jewish Hospital and Research Center (1965-1977), National Jewish Hospital and Research Center/National Asthma Center (after merging with National Asthma Center in 1978), and National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine (1986-1996). In 1997, the organization changed its name to the National Jewish Medical and Research Center and focused on lung, allergic and immune diseases. It was renamed National Jewish Health in July 2008. The collection explores tuberculosis treatment, medical history, immigration and acculturation, Colorado's Jewish community, and women's history.

Dates

  • 1892-

Creator

Digital Repository

National Jewish Hospital Records

Biographical / Historical

In the late nineteenth century, Denver, Colorado, faced a severe social problem when hundreds of people severely ill with tuberculosis converged on the city, attracted by the reputation Denver had already acquired as the "world's sanatorium." Because of the onslaught of consumptives, beds for patients in city and state general hospitals were so scarce that the poor were frequently left to their own devices, often dying in the streets. One of the first people to conceive of a free hospital for the indigent tuberculosis victims in Denver was Frances Wisebart Jacobs. She launched a relentless campaign to arouse public awareness on behalf of the indigent consumptives, seeking the support of businesspeople and political leaders to raise funds for a new hospital. Jacobs found an ally in a young rabbi, William Sterne Friedman. Rabbi Friedman enlisted the financial support of some of the trustees of his congregation, Temple Emanuel, insisting that concern for the sick and indigent had always been a vital tenet of Jewish tradition. The original hospital, the Frances Jacobs Hospital, was not completed because of the silver panic of 1893. The hospital received financial assistance from the International Order of B'nai B'rith. This vital support came mainly through the efforts of Louis Anfenger, a local Jewish citizen who was also a founder of both Temple Emanuel and the Denver chapter of B'nai B'rith. National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives (NJH) opened its doors to Jews and gentiles alike in 1899 as the first sanatorium in Denver for tuberculosis victims. Samuel Grabfelder of Louisville, Kentucky served as president from 1899-1920; Seraphine Pisko was executive secretary (Director) from 1911-1938. Some of the physicians associated with the hospital included Dr. Saling Simon, Dr. Robert Levy, and Dr. John Elsner. The NJH adopted a program that emphasized the benefits of fresh air, proper nutrition, and rest.

As a result of national support, NJH introduced a revolutionary concept to tuberculosis treatment by offering free services to indigent consumptives. The motto was, "None can pay who enter, and None who enter can pay." Only patients with incipient tuberculosis, where treatment could be most effective, were to be admitted to NJH, and the length of stay was limited to six months. These conditions reflect the medical opinion of the time and the scarcity of hospital beds for consumptives. It was commonly thought that attempting to treat advanced cases only wasted time and money that could be more profitably directed toward patients who had a good chance of recovery. National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives changed its name several times, subsequently being known as National Jewish Hospital (1925-1964) and later becoming National Jewish Hospital and Research Center (1965-1977), National Jewish Hospital and Research Center/National Asthma Center (after merging with National Asthma Center in 1978), and National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine (1986-1996). In 1997, the organization changed its name to the National Jewish Medical and Research Center and focused on lung, allergic and immune diseases. It was renamed National Jewish Health in July 2008. The facility continues to treat patients from throughout the country, using cutting-edge medicine and research.

Extent

272.25 Linear Feet (265 containers)

Scope and Contents

The collection includes annual reports, correspondence, limited patient records, meeting minutes, financial statements, reports, scrapbooks, photographs, sound discs, and objects from 1899 to 2009. The items reveal patient demographics and characteristics as well as detailed information regarding the early treatment of tuberculosis.

Arrangement

The records are arranged in seven series: 1. Correspondence, 1901-1989. 2. Patient Records, 1899-1971. 3. Minutes, 1907-1976. 4. Administration, Legal and Financial Records, 1899-1989. 5. Publications, 1899-2018. 6. Historical Information, Public Relations and Staff Materials, 1899-2007. 7. Material Culture, Photographs and Scrapbooks, 1899-2009.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of National Jewish Medical and Research Center, September 22, 2005.

Accruals

Further accruals are expected.

Related Materials

Oral histories of hospital administrators, staff, and patients are located in the following Beck Archives collection: RMJHS Oral Histories (B098) in the General series (01), and in the National Jewish Hospital series.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

Contact:
2150 East Evans Avenue
Denver CO 80208
(303) 871-3428