Medical and Health Research

Researching health-related topics in the Filson’s manuscript collection

This guide, produced by Commonwealth Center Intern James Petko (2024) was created to assist researchers in finding information on health-related topics in the Filson’s manuscript collection. These suggested keywords may also be useful for those searching in other parts of the Filson’s collections, such as the museum, photograph, and library collections. Please contact the reference team at gro.l1721659969airot1721659969sihno1721659969slif@1721659969hcrae1721659969ser1721659969 with any questions.


Heath Issues and Medical Care

If you are interested in health issues and medical care as recorded in family and business records in the 19th and 20th century Ohio Valley, here are some suggested keywords to use in your search.

  • Keywords: Disease, sickness, illness, ailment, symptom, treatment, condition, epidemic, outbreak, battle, casualty/casualties, birth/childbirth. These search terms will bring up a wide variety of items, if searching for a specific type of disease or illness, try the items listed below.
    • Specific Keywords: Gonorrhea/ghonorrhea, venereal disease, fever (symptom vs disease), scarlet fever, yellow fever, typhus/typhoid fever, plague, cholera, smallpox, tuberculosis/consumption, flu, influenza, cancer, dengue, diphtheria/diptheria, dropsy, cold (disease), bright’s disease/nephritis, hookworm, COVID-19, Dutch elm disease (trees), ophthalmology, eye disease, cataract, measles, pneumonia, sexually transmitted disease/s, clap, cardiovascular, respiratory, Hodgkin’s disease, liver disease, leprosy/leper, measles, sanatorium, Waverly/Waverly Hills (Tuberculosis hospital)

Here are some examples of items that can be found in the Filson’s collection using the suggested keywords.

  • Creator/Title: Miller-Thum Family. Papers, 1781-1962.
    • Call No Mss. A M652a 1-6, 8,9
    • Content: Papers include correspondence describing illness, disease, and injuries; a Nov. 8, 1821 letter from Breckinridge County, Ky. notes much sickness, death, and remedies; Dr. Mandeville Thum’s 1847- 1850 ledger which includes patients with ghonorrhea, venereal disease, and a variety of ailments.
  • Creator/Title: Beatty-Quisenberry family. Papers, 1796-1962. 6 cu. ft.
    • Call No. Mss. A B369 8,10,11, 15, 17, 29-31, 38,40- 42,79, 80,92, 93,99, 101, 103
    • Content: Correspondence from the antebellum period includes frequent references to disease, including cancer (41), cholera (10, 11, 15, 17, 29-31,38,40,42,79,82), and tuberculosis (79), among other illnesses (8, 17, 42, 79, 80). An 1855 letter related to a scandal in the Episcopal Church includes allegations that one of the ministers involved had contracted a sexually transmitted disease (41). Letters from the late-nineteenth century reference an outbreak of smallpox (99, 101) and other illnesses (92, 93, 99, 103).
  • Creator/Title: Herbert family. Papers, 1861-1864. 30 items.
    • Call No. Mss. C H
    • Content: Sgt. Edward J. Herbert, 6th Indiana Infantry Regt., describes the extent of casualties in his regiment as a result of wounds and disease during and following the Battle of Shiloh (23 June 1862).
  • Creator/Title: Pope-Humphrey Family. Papers, 1807-1938. 1058 items.
    • Call No. Mss. A P827 / 21
    • Content: Letter dated 17 October 1873 from Mattie to Mary describes Mattie’s physical condition as a result of a debilitating cancerous disease in her lower bowels. She relates what her doctors have said, her suffering, and how her activity has been severely limited by the disease, “A hideous but slow one.”
  • Creator/Title: Schwartz, Carl Theodore, 1818-1908. Journal, 1854-1871
    • Call No. Mss. A S399 P.19
    • Content: 22 March 1863 Schwartz writes that their children were ill with scarlet fever in January. He goes into some detail about it. Only one child failed to take the disease. All recovered.

Doctors, Hospitals, and Health Care

If you are interested in doctors, hospitals, and health care as recorded in family records, doctor’s notes, and hospital records in the 19th and 20th century Ohio Valley, here are some suggested keywords to use in your search.

  • Keywords: Doctor/s, Dr, medical school, medical care, appointment, treat/treatment, medicine, pill/s, remedy/ies, sick/sickness, ill/Illness, health, drug/s, prescription/s, hospital/s, Jewish Hospital, patient/s, Waverly/Waverly Hills (tuberculosis hospital), Red Cross, blood

Here are some examples of items that can be found in the Filson’s collection using the suggested keywords.

  • Creator/Title: Jewish Hospital (Louisville, Ky.) Records, 1905-2008. 14 cu. ft.
    • Call No. Mss. BF J59/1-310
    • Content: The collection documents the history of Jewish Hospital of Louisville throughout the twentieth century. Jewish Hospital opened in 1905 as a 32-bed institution and moved in 1955 to a new location downtown, developing into a multi-specialty medical center. The Jewish Hospital papers include board meeting minutes, financial and fundraising records, correspondence, federal grant applications, newsletters, pamphlets, and scrapbooks. The collection details the efforts of the Jewish Hospital Association, incorporated in 1903, to manage a hospital that met the needs of both the Jewish community in Louisville and a general patient population. Records also provide information on how the hospital navigated major shifts in health care.
  • Creator/Title: Miller-Thum family. Papers, 1781-1962.
    • Call No. Mss. A M652a 1-6,8, 9
    • Content: Papers include correspondence describing illness, diseases, and injuries; A Nov. 8, 1821 letter from Breckinridge County, Ky. notes much sickness, death, and remedies; Dr. Mandeville Thum’s 1847- 1850 ledger includes patients with ghonorrhea, venereal disease, and a variety of ailments.
  • Creator/Title: Yandell family. Papers, 1823-1887. 8 boxes, 792 items
    • Call No. Mss. A Y21 1-59
    • Content: A collection of papers of the Yandell family. The bulk of the collection is composed of correspondence which consists basically of family letters. Most of the letters were written by Wilson Yandell, Lunsford Pitts Yandell, Susan Wendel Yandell, and Lunsford Pitts Yandell, Jr. The letters consist mostly of family news, but also contain valuable information relating to a variety of other topics including medical practice, physicians of Kentucky, medical politics at Translyvania and the Louisville Medical Institute. In addition to medical matters, the correspondence contains valuable references to state politics and economic conditions in Kentucky and Tennessee, references to important citizens in Louisville and Lexington, the career of David W Yandell, slavery, the secession crisis, and the Civil War. In addition to correspondence, the collection also includes lectures of Lundsford Yandell, material about his father Wilson Yandell, notes for medical biographies, diaries of Lunsford Yandell, and a scrap-book. Prominent correspondents include: Elisha Bartlett, Charles Caldwell, Daniel Drake, Austin Flint, Timothy Flint, Samuel David Gross, Philip Lindsley, Henry Miller, and Benjamin Rush. A calender of the letters and a genealogical chart is filed with the collection.
  • Creator/Title: Henning, Lulie, 1860-1965. Letters, 1937. 4 items.
    • Call No. Mss. C H
    • Content: Descriptions of Red Cross relief work in Louisville’s 1937 Flood in a letter by Lulie Henning (fondly called Aunt Oney), dated 1 Feb. 1937, to Suzanne de Charette. Also one letter by her niece Henrietta Henning to S. de Charette, dated ca. 31 Jan. 1937, mentioning relief work and generous response to Red Cross needs.
  • Creator/Title: Allison, Young Ewing, 1853-1932. Papers, 1840-1932.
    • Call No. Mss. A A439a 145
    • Content: These include doctor and dental bills, receipted also receipted bills for insurance, coal and other household expenses. 1910-1913. Also tax bills for 1895 and 1899.
  • Creator/Title: Guthrie-Caperton family. Papers, 1780-1939. 9.0 cu. ft.
    • Call No. Mss. A G984 116
    • Content: A bill from a doctor dating from 1814 to 1826 was settled m 1836. It lists many services, many of which are purges, blistering, and bleedings.
  • Creator/Title: Speed Family. Papers, 1795-1850. 18 items.
    • Call No. Mss. C Sd
    • Content: Members of the Speed family discuss sickness, injuries, and the remedies prescribed. In a letter dated 22 November 1829, John Speed explains that Joshua has been sick and states that the doctor will probably prescribe pink root for worms. Letters from 1836 describe an injury to “Smith’s” leg and what care a doctor suggested. In a letter of 10 March 1850, William Speed writes about the health problems of his newborn daughter. Other letters discuss the health and welfare of the family more generally.
  • Creator/Title: Brown, Samuel, 1769-1830. Papers, 1817-1825. 159 items
    • Call No. Mss. A B881 / 1-16
    • Content: The Samuel Brown Papers contain much information on the medical community in the United States in the early 19th century. People writing Brown in- clude Daniel Drake, Coleman Rogers, Rene LaRoche, Richard Harlan, Benjamin Silliman, John Revere, Henry Miller, Jr., Thomas Cooper, and Charles Caldwell; just to name a few (see the added entry list for a more complete listing). Subjects discussed include: medical news; recent cases treated; medical research; education, outbreaks of diseases; In addition, there is correspondence from family and friends, primarily from Alabama, that relates not only family news, but information regarding plantations; slaves; cotton; weather; education; Kentucky; Louisville; Lexington; Florida; and local and national politics, finances, and econ- Omy. See the Calendar of the Samuel Brown Papers, 1817-1825, for further information.

Dentistry and Tooth Care

If you are interested in dentistry and tooth care as recorded in letters and medical records in the 19th and 20th century Ohio Valley, here are some suggested keywords to use in your search.

  • Keywords: Teeth, tooth, tooth care, dentist, dentistry, dental care, pull/pulled, false teeth

Here are some examples of items that can be found in the Filson’s collection using the suggested keywords.

  • Creator/Title: Speed, Emma. Correspondence, ca. 1930. 2 pages.
    • Call No. Mss. C S
    • Content: Letter written by Emma Speed to her sister Mary Louise Speed. Emma shares her excitement about receiving a letter from her sister and apologies for not having written to Mary Louise earlier. Mary Louise recently returned to the United States and Emma shares how much she missed speaking with her sister and just how much her sister–and the rest of their family–mean to her. Emma discusses an upcoming visit to a friend’s house. She closes the letter discussing Mary Louise’s extracted wisdom tooth and offers the following advice, “I advise novocaine next time.”
  • Creator/Title: Bullitt Family Papers – Oxmoor Collection, 1683-2003. 164 cu.ft.
    • Call No. Mss. A B937c / 138, 141, 295
    • Content: Letter dated 2 September 1839 from Mildred Bullitt to her son John re: dental hygiene and the importance of keeping his teeth clean. (138) In a letter dated 20 January 1841 from Susan Bullitt to her brother John she wrote that she had to have two teeth pulled by the dentist.(141) In a letter dated 25 June 1858 from Mildred Bullitt to her son Thomas she wrote about the problems with her teeth. (295)
  • Creator/Title: Peyton, Emma Heinig Wrampelmeier, 1852-1938. Papers. 1852-1900. 2 items.
    • Call No. Mss. C P
    • Content: In a brief, typed recollection of life in Louisville from 1852-1900 Peyton describes having all her teeth removed by both a blacksmith, and later. a dentist at age 16. The dentist made her false teeth individually carved out of ivory.
  • Creator/Title: Blackburn Family. Papers, 1840-1896. 3 boxes
    • Call No. Mss. A B628 10
    • Content: 18 July 1852 Ella G. Blackburn is concerned about the teeth of her son, Cary. “I wanted to get Dr. Stone to plug them, to have his front teeth fixed.” If he doesn’t go soon, she fears he will lose them and be “very much disfigured. “
  • Creator/Title: Adams, Martha. Papers, 1847-1884
    • Call No. Mss. C A
    • Content: Letter of 13 July 1857 from Clark County goes into great detail on tooth extraction and false teeth. Recall having 21 teeth pulled at once and seven more later. “Before the business was through I began to think I should lose my head and I did almost lose my heart.” Mentions wearing a full set of “false charms. ” .
  • Creator/Title: Green Family. Papers, 1822-1900
    • Call No. Mss. A G796a 9,19
    • Content: This collection contains references throughout to tooth aches, plugged teeth, extractions, etc. To mention a few of the sufferers: Harriet Lyne, Hector Green, his mother Winifred Green, Sarah Ruggles, and Ellen Green who eventually died of cancer of the face. Examples: 12 July 1833. Hector to Ellen Green. Is sorry about her dream of 4 July 1833 in which she thought he no longer loved her because of her bad teeth. He says: “I have Serious apprehensions that in another 12 months mine will be as far gone as yours they are already much decayed and although plugged, occasionally give me much pain. 16 July 1853. Sarah Ruggles, Ellen’s mother, to one of Ellen’ s sons: “Say to your dear Mother I hope she is getting well now she has parted with all those bad teeth.” Hopes to see Mr. Goddard… to have some kind of arrangement with him about Ellen’s teeth.

Mental Health and Healthcare

If you are interested in mental health as recorded in personal letters and medical records in the 19th and 20th century Ohio Valley, here are some suggested keywords to use in your search.

  • Keywords: Mental/mental illness/mental health, psychology, psychological, breakdown, electro-shock therapy

Here are some examples of items that can be found in the Filson’s collection using the suggested keywords.

  • Creator/Title: Bingham, George Barry, 1906-1988. Papers, 1861-1989.
    • Call No. Mss. A B613a 759-770
    • Content: Folders contain Bingham’s subject files on mental health. Includes materials on UofL’s Dept. of Pyschology, the work of Dr. Spafford Ackerly, schizophrenia, mental retardation, NARSAD, Cedar Lake Lodge, and the Wellspring House. Bingham contributed heavily to organizations helping people with mental illnesses.
  • Creator/Title: Rowe-Myers family. Added papers, 1919-1976 (bulk 1940-1946). 1 cu. ft. and 1 ovsz. fld.
    • Call No. Mss. A R878b / 23-26, 31
    • Content: Papers of several members of the Rowe-Myers family of Louisville, Kentucky, especially documenting the family’s involvement in World War II. Charles Everett Rowe served in the United States Marine Corps during the war. He suffered a mental breakdown in 1944 and his papers contain details about his illness, symptoms, and treatment at military hospitals. Correspondence from the hospitals to Charles’ mother, Bessie Rowe, relates to his condition and symptoms, including mental confusion, hearing voices, and strange religious ideas. Letters from hospital staff contain details about his treatment, including electro-shock therapy and insulin shock therapy. Correspondence from the mid-1940s also include several letters from Charles to his mother, in which he writes about wanting to come home, his plans for when he arrives back in Louisville, and complains about electro-shock therapy (f. 23-26). The collection also includes an account book Charles kept during 1945, probably during a brief period in which he lived at home (f. 31).
  • Creator/Title: Forgy, S. Walton, 1857- Papers, 1897-1914.
    • Call No. Mss. A F721 7
    • Content: In a 18 Sept. 1907 letter a disgruntled mental patient describes the horrid conditions of a Kentucky asylum.
  • Creator/Title: Sadie. Letter, 14 August 1893. 3 items
    • Call No. Mss. C S
    • Content: Sadie writes from Millersburg, Ky. to her sister living in Malheur, Oregon. She describes the difficulty in providing financial support for their sister, Nannie, who is suffering from a severe nervous disorder and is being treated in clinics near Louisville, Ky. She asks her sister to assist in Nannie’s expenses.
  • Creator/Title: National Council of Jewish Women. Louisville Section. Records, 1906-2020. 14 cu. ft. (13 boxes and 12 ovsz. wrapped vols.)
    • Call No. Mss. BJ N277a / 22-35, 37-50, 82, 107-115, 153, 193-194, 211
    • Content: The collection consists of twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century records of the Louisville Section of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW). Board meeting minutes, newsletters, reports, projects files, and scrapbooks document the Louisville Section’s support for mental health services and treatment. Records relate to the following: the NCJW mental hygiene/mental health committee (see, for example, folders 22-23, 107-112); Bridgehaven, a social and vocational rehabilitation center for people who had been hospitalized with mental illness (folders 29-30, 35, 37-50, 82, 111, 153, 194); and volunteer work in the mental illness ward at Louisville General Hospital (folders 24-35, 113-114) and at Central State Hospital (folders 27, 37, 115, 194). Also of note are files on mental health volunteer projects, 1958-1968, including a disassembled binder of materials with title page “A Record of a Volunteer Project: Mental Health Study Group, 1959-1960, Louisville Section, National Council of Jewish Women,” relating to “a survey of Service to Emotionally disturbed Children” (folders 193-194). Board minutes and a project file from the mid-1950s document the Louisville Section’s support for college graduates wanting to go into psychiatric social work (folders 28, 211).

Death, Funerals, and Burials

If you are interested in death, funerals, and burials as recorded in personal letters and funeral home records in the 19th and 20th century Ohio Valley, here are some suggested keywords to use in your search. For additional information on cemetery and funeral home records, look to the linked research guide https://filsonhistorical.org/collections/research-guides/genealogy/#toggle-id-4. For additional information on death records, look to the linked research guide https://filsonhistorical.org/collections/research-guides/genealogy/#toggle-id-3.

  • Keywords: Death, dying, died, funeral/funeral invitation, funeral home, bury/burial/buried, cemetery/cemeteries, death certificate

Here are some examples of items that can be found in the Filson’s collection using the suggested keywords.

  • Creator/Title:Bullitt Family Papers – Oxmoor Collection, 1683-2003. 164 cu.ft.
    • Call No. Mss. A B937c / 476, 587
    • Content: Letters dated February and June 1896 in Amy Iasigi’s correspondence were very emotional letters re: the death of her sister Annie Walker de Blonay. In the letter dated 7 June 1896 Annie’s husband William described how he is coping with her death. (476) In a letter dated 19 December 1876 from Sallie Bullitt to her daughter Julia she described the recent deaths and funerals of Julia’s half sister Virginia Cood’s two young sons John and Henry. She wrote of the grief that the family was experiencing and the hope they could find in God. (587)
  • Creator/Title: Tardiveau, Barthelemi, c. 1750-1801. Letters, 16 February 1788-7 October 1789. 13 ALsS
    • Call No. Mss. C T
    • Content: In letter to St. John de Crevecoeur from Danville, Kentucky, dated 7 October 1789 (second of two with this date), Tardiveau relates the story of a Major Dunn who committed suicide due to his wife being unfaithful.
  • Creator/Title: Page, Percy Sherman, 1897-1918. Papers, 1899-1941. .33 cu. ft.
    • Call No. Mss. A P132 1-5
    • Content: Letters from July 1918-May 1919 recall Page’s death in France in World War I, repeat his last words, and show the impact of his loss upon his comrades. Newspaper clippings, including an editorial in Louisville’s Courier Journal, also report upon Page’s death. Items from the 1930 Gold Star Mothers’ pilgrimage to France to visit the graves of the World War I dead include photographs, postcards, newspaper clippings, and a letter, and show the emotional impact of the trip upon the women. Two certificates of appreciation, one from the United States Marine Corps and the other from the state of Kentucky, also mark Page’s death.
  • Creator/Title: Georgetown, Kentucky. Funeral Announcements, 1870-1911. 30 items.
    • Call No. Mss. C G
    • Content: Funeral announcements from Georgetown note the deceased, where the funeral is to take place, and where the body is to be buried. Families mentioned include Offutt, Smith, Maddox, Wells, Grover, Witherspoon, and McCalla.
  • Creator/Title: Bush-Beauchamp family. Papers, 1835-1982.
    • Call No. Mss. A B978 38,48
    • Content: A black-bordered German death notice, 17 Mar. 1878, printed in German. Also, in fl. 48, two funeral invitations for Stephen W. D. Stone, 10 Nov. 1854, and for James E. Stone, 22 May 1885.
  • Creator/Title: Guthrie-Caperton family. Papers, 1780-1939. 9.0 cu. ft.
    • Call No. Mss. A G984 / 132, 136
    • Content: On 17 July 1853 James Guthrie has a bill for two coffins, four hacks and graves at “City Cemetery” for two “Black” children (f 132). Asimilar bill to Guthrie is for his servant (f. 136).
  • Creator/Title: Joyes family. Additional papers, 1796-1928. .33 cu. ft.
    • Call No. Mss. A J89a 3
    • Content: In a letter dated 20 April 1848, Patrick Joyes discusses Edward Everett’s eulogy at John Quincy Adams’s funeral.
  • Creator/Title: Louisville Title Insurance Company. Maps, 1779-1906. 119 items.
    • Call No. Mss. BO L888a Oversize 2
    • Content: Plat map of West Louisville Cemetery, organized in 1848, and located on the south side of Portland Avenue between 19th and 21st Streets.
  • Creator/Title: Reagan, Ronald Wilson, 1911- To Dr. and Mrs. William C. Gist, Springfield, Louisville, Kentucky. The White House, Washington [D.C.], 26 July, 1985. TLS, 1p. Photocopy.
    • Call No. Mss C R [Presidents’ Papers]
    • Content: Commends Dr. and Mrs. Gist for their participation in the 200th anniversary observance of Zachary Taylor’s birth held at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery. To have a national cemetery named after Taylor is befitting “our twelfth President” who was ” first and foremost a military man. ” In Presidential Collection

Other Resources

For a list of the Filson’s resources on tuberculosis and Waverly Hills Sanitarium, please click here (PDF, updated in 2023).

For a list of the Filson’s resources on smallpox, please click here (PDF, updated in 2023).