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Public Health Service Hospitals Historical Collection 1895-1982
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Collection Scope and Content Note


Public Health Service (PHS) hospitals have treated merchant seamen and other PHS beneficiaries since 1798. As part of an evolving network of hospital and clinic care, the hospitals experienced in the twentieth century their greatest expansion and also their demise. The papers in the PHS Hospitals Historical Collection, accumulated over the course of many years, chronicle the activities, administration, and closure of the hospitals, especially since 1950.

Found first in this collection are circulars, similar letters, handbooks, and manuals describing clinic, hospital, and division procedure commencing with the early part of the century. These materials were distributed to individual administrators and facilities by the Division of Hospitals, the organizational unit of the PHS which, through several reorganizations and name changes, oversaw PHS hospital activities.

The majority of documents included in this collection originated in the Division of Hospital's Information Office, which collected historical and current information about the Division's activities, and particularly those of individual facilities. Prominent among these facilities and the subject of a separate series within this collection is the National Hansen's Disease Center in Carville, Louisiana (formerly the National Leprosarium). The Carville facility existed as a leper hospital for over two decades before its administration was assumed by the Public Health Service in 1921. The materials found here were collected by the Division of Hospitals' Information Office and stress Carville's unique legacy and service.

Also prominent in this collection are the many histories, program files, reports, and planning documents compiled by the Division of Hospitals. These materials, detailed in the attached series listing, discuss the history, current status, and future of the Public Health Service hospital system. Similarly, both the history and future of medical care for the largest group of PHS beneficiaries, American seamen, is chronicled by materials in the collection's final series. Together, the documents in these two series show how PHS hospital officials and administrators perceived their mission, facilities, and future, and how the hospital system was presented to its critics and supporters.

Researchers interested in the history of hospitals, health policy, and the Public Health Service should also consult the Library's other Public Health Service collections, to which some materials (general bureau circular series, some general histories of the PHS) not specifically related to the Service's hospitals and clinics have been transferred. Also separated, and individually catalogued, are logbooks from the New Orleans Marine Hospital (1870-1887), the San Francisco Marine Hospital (1916-1936), and the Mobile Marine Hospital (1913-1936).

Individual descriptions of this collection's five series follow, as does a detailed box and folder listing. Folders containing significant numbers of photographs have been noted.

Show all series level scope and content notes