Monday, November 26, 2007

CJ Smith: collecting a collection

We recently accessioned a "new collection" into the Archives, which is neither new nor a collection, strictly speaking. The Charles J. Smith Papers, Accession No. 2007-006, have been culled together from little tracings left throughout our holdings in forgotten years past.

From the Biographical Files, we removed original correspondence between C.J. Smith and several correspondents, along with the original manuscript for his article "The economic side of preventive medicine."

In the Pacific Northwest Archives, we located the typescript report "Malaria," distilled by C.J. from some of the very correspondence we found in the Bio Files. The 1928 document aggregates the responses from "the ten oldest physicians in the state" to a question of the prevalence of malaria and typhoid in Oregon in pioneer days. For example, Dr. W.N. Byrd wrote, in part:
I recall when any of us developed a chill, we were liberally doped, with either "Ayre's Ague Cure" or "Indian Collagogue" two patent remedies, vaunted for the cure of malaria. They were vile concoctions to take, but apparently effective; for usually in 3 or 4 days, the "chills and fever" would be gone, and at the end of a week's time we had to submit to a couple more days of treatment by way of prevention."
Dr. A.J. Giesy contributed: "We had plenty of malaria in all its phases: Also typhoid fever; for years. I do not believe that I was without a typhoid fever case on my hand. That changed suddenly when we went from Willamette river water to Bull Run."

We also picked out of the PNW Archives a manuscript, later titled "The origin of the Eastern Oregon Medical Society," written by C.J. circa 1901. In fact, the pages appear to be minutes of two meetings of the nascent Society and a list of members. The first meeting, which established the medical group, also saw discussion of the territory to be covered and the "formation of a fee bill." In the later meeting, we learn, "Dr. Andrew Smith of Portland gave an able address on appendicitis. Dr. Harry Lane of Portland talked about insane people in general."

C.J. himself seems to have been quite a character. Born 1864 near Columbus, Ohio, he came out west to Walla Walla after earning his medical degree from Bellevue Hospital Medical College in 1888. He was mayor of Pendleton, Oregon, from 1897-1898 and state senator from 1902-1910. In 1914, he even ran against Dr. James Withycombe for governor. Interestingly, C.J. was a member of the Portland Academy of Medicine until his resignation in 1929; perhaps a clue about the reason for his break with PAM could be located in the records of that group (Accession 2004-009)....

By pulling together these bits and pieces, we have artificially created a small collection of the papers of C.J. Smith which (we believe) will better serve researchers interested in the life and career of this physician, as well as the medical milieu in which he practiced.

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