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Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Nation's First Hospital

This Day in History: February 11, 1752

The Story of the Creation of the Nation's First Hospital

The Pennsylvania Hospital
Hospitals today are commonplace and number in the thousands upon thousands all across our nation. Have you ever wondered about the building of the first hospital...the who, what, when, where and how? Let's take a look and perhaps gather some interesting facts along the way.

Benjamin Franklin 1759
Thomas Bond 1755

Idea for the hospital originally conceived by Thomas Bond

Primary financier in the building of the hospital, Benjamin Franklin

Among the many legacies of Benjamin Franklin is his indefatigable driving force behind raising the monies to establish the first hospital. With the idea having been conceived by Dr. Thomas Bond, Franklin was instrumental in the Pennsylvania Hospital becoming a reality in 1751 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  At the time, Philadelphia was the prime location since it was the fastest growing city in the 13 colonies. In 1730, the population numbered 11,500 and by 1750 had grown to 15,000. The city continued to grow and by 1776, the year of America's independence, its 40,000 residents made Philadelphia the second largest English-speaking city in the British Empire.

The original structure, known as The Pine Building, was built in three sections, east wing, center section and west wing. Each section was completed as funds were made available. The original architectural design was created by the architect Samuel Rhoads, a future member of the Board of Managers.

The majority of the residents of Philadelphia were neither extremely wealthy nor extremely poor. However, with the population increasing significantly in the number of immigrant settlers, many were "aged, impotent or diseased." In addition, there existed a need for a hospital "to care for the sick-poor and insane who were wandering the streets of Philadelphia."

The Pennsylvania Hospital by William Strickland (1755)
Image Source: en.wikipedia.org
To illustrate the purpose of the hospital, the inscription "Take care of him and I will repay thee" was chosen and the image of the Good Samaritan was affixed as the hospital seal.

In 2001, Pennsylvania Hospital celebrated its 250th anniversary.

Interesting Facts:
     In 1762, the first book for the hospital's medical library was donated by John Fothergill, a British friend of Franklin's. In 1847 the American Medical Association designated the library as the first, largest, and most important medical library in the United States

     The top floor of Pennsylvania Hospital is the home of the nation's oldest surgical amphitheatre

     The Physic Garden is the jewel in the crown that makes up the Pennsylvania Hospital gardens. Located in front of the Pine Building's West Wing, the garden has plants that were used for medicines in the 18th century. Once used to stimulate the heart, ease toothaches, relieve indigestion and cleanse wounds, now their shaded respite provides healing of a more spiritual kind for patients and visitors alike. 

     Pennsylvania Hospital is noted for its many firsts in the area of women’s medicine, especially in maternity. It was considered "one of the most modern hospital buildings in the country" especially at a time when women’s medicine was not thought to be very important and most births were still done at home.

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Pennsylvania Hospital Historic Library