Skip to main content

National Jewish Hospital Records

Identifier: B005


In 1899, the Jewish community erected National Jewish Hospital (NJH), the first sanatorium in Denver, Colorado for tuberculosis victims. With the financial assistance of the International Order of B'nai B'rith, the hospital served Jews and gentiles alike and accepted indigent patients free of charge. The NJH adopted a program that emphasized the benefits of fresh air, good nutrition, and rest. Some of the physicians associated with the hospital included Dr. Saling Simon, Dr. Robert Levy, and Dr. John Elsner. The collection includes correspondence, limited patient records, minutes, financial statements, reports, scrapbooks, and objects from 1899 to 2007.

Non-sectarian sanatorium for treatment of tuberculosis opened in 1899 in Denver, Colo. Patients from all over the U.S. were admitted free of charge. With the assistance of the national B'nai B'rith fraternal organization, the hospital was founded by 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. Samuel Grabfelder served as president from 1899-1920; Seraphine Pisko was executive secretary from 1911-1938. In 1997 the organization changed its name to National Jewish Medical and Research Center and focused on lung, allergic and immune diseases. Meeting minutes, annual reports, correspondence, limited patient records, financial records, scrapbooks, photographs and sound discs cover tuberculosis treatment, medical history, immigration and acculturation, Colorado's Jewish community and women's history.


  • 1892 - 2018


Digital Repository

National Jewish Hospital Records

Biographical / Historical

In the late nineteenth century, Denver, Colorado faced a serious 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 businessmen and political leaders to raise funds for a new hospital. Jacobs found an ally in a young, energetic rabbi who had just come to Denver: 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.

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. The hospital received financial assistance from the International Order of B'nai B'rith. This vital support came largely through the efforts of Louis Anfenger, a local Jewish citizen who was also a founder of both Temple Emanuel and the Denver B'nai B'rith. The hospital opened with one building: the Frances Jacobs Hospital Building. Samuel Grabfelder of Louisville, Kentucky, was named president, and Alfred Mueller was named secretary.

As a result of national support, NJH introduced a revolutionary concept to tuberculosis treatment by offering free services to indigent consumptives. The meeting minutes of September 24, 1899, state that ''no pay shall be accepted from any patient and that the hospital should be absolutely free to those suffering from consumption, who are unable for want of means to procure proper attention.'' Only patients with incipient tuberculosis, where treatment could be most efficacious, 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 and later becoming National Jewish Hospital and Research Center, National Jewish Hospital/National Asthma Center (after merging with National Asthma Center in 1978), National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, and National Jewish Medical and Research Center. Now known as National Jewish Health, the facility continues to treat patients from throughout the country using cutting-edge medicine and research.


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 2007. The items reveal patient demographics and characteristics as well as detailed information regarding the early treatment of tuberculosis.


The records are arranged in series:
  1. Correspondence, 1901-1989
  2. Patient Records, 1901-1970
  3. Minutes
  4. Administrative, Legal, and Financial Records, 1899-1989
  5. Publications
  6. Historical Information, Public Relations and Staff Materials, 1899-2007
  7. Material Culture, Photographs and Scrapbooks

Immediate Source of Acquisition

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


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 (item 91) and in the National Jewish Hospital series.


Credit shall be given for items in exhibits: Courtesy of the National Jewish Medical and Research Center (National Jewish). There shall be unrestricted access to the National Jewish Hospital Records during normal business hours of the Beck Archives. Should National Jewish wish to exhibit or display any part of the National Jewish Hospital Records, it shall have the right to do so upon 14 day written notice from the President of National Jewish to the Director of the Beck Archives. If Beck Archives ceases to exist at the University of Denver, the National Jewish Hospital Records revert back to National Jewish unless new guidelines can be reached.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

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