Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Small, small world: Aesculapian Club (Portland, Or.)

Have I mentioned that we had three boxes--large boxes, mind you--literally dropped on our doorstep on Friday while we were away? Did I mention that these large boxes were primarily filled with ephemera--single sheet pamphlets, posters, brochures, wallet cards, and the like--that had been dumped out of other receptacles? I'm not complaining: it's great stuff. But, it is taking some sorting.

In the process of sorting and starting to file some of these into the Subject Files, I came across this old Subject File folder (first folder, first box, which I've never noticed before, apparently): Aesculapian Club: Portland (1907-1917).

For a sense of just how small Portland's medical community was at the turn of the last century, this document cannot be beat. Written by M.B. Marcellus, M.D., in April of 1957, it provides a delightful snapshot of the tight-knit (dare we say inbred?) Portland medical scene:
The Aesculapian Club was organized in 1907. Doctor William House suggested its organization and as he was associated with Drs. Coe and Gillepsie [sic] as house-physician at their Sanitarium in the Mt. Tabor District of the city-the first meeting was held in the office of Dr. Luther Hamilton in the Dekum Building, 3rd. and Washington Sts. [Follow that?]

One of the By-Laws provided for a membership of no more than twelve as follows: William House, Charles Hill, Luther Hamilton, Robert J. Marsh, Marius B. Marcellus, Calvin S. White, J.M. Short, James O.C. Wiley, J.C. Elliot King, Edward Allen Pearce, Frank Taylor, Stuart Sheldon.

Several years later at a regular meeting, which were held monthly at the residence of the member following a sumptious dinner Dr. Robert Yenney who was a guest made the remark that he could not understand why we did not elect him as a member for he was always present anyway; after a little discussion it was ruled that he be elected as an Honorary Member which was done and as it was an annual meeting he was elected President also [so there!]. The meetings were held in rotation through the summer of each year also. Following the dinner some member read a scientific paper and each member was compelled to participate in the discussion, which was most beneficial in enforcing the study which the busy practitioner otherwise might fail to do [sound familiar?]. The members also became great and true friends.

A very active interest was taken in Medical Politics too, viz. Practically every member was on the faculty of the Medical School , the staffs of the Good Samaritan, St. Vincents, Emanuel, Multnomah County and other Hospitals; State Board of Health had several of its members including the State Health Officer (Secretary of the Board); another was City Health Officer; one or two others were on the State Board of Medical Examiners and the various officers of the State Medical Society were from its members, such as White was President of the City and County as well as of the State and also State Health Officer. Marcellus was a member of the State Board of Health as well as City Health Officer of Portland and at the same time Regimental Surgeon of the 3rd. Oregon Inf., Oregon National Guard; served in World War I as same and Ass't Division Surgeon of the 41st. Division in France.

House was first Pres. and Hill was Secretary from the beginning to the end of the organization. Each and every member was Pres. for at least one year. Mrs. Hill also a physician destroyed the Minutes a few years ago. [!!! That's what you get for callin' her Missus and not Doctor!].
There are a lot more docs in Portland these days, and many more clubs flourishing in the city. While the numbers have changed, the spirit of the groups has not: every meeting is filled with talk of Medical Politics, but also with great and true friends.

I just hope they aren't tickin' off the spouses of the secretaries, because minutes would sure be nice....

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