Samuel Gibson Dixon papers


Collection 1941

( Bulk, 1884-1919 ) 1879-1960
(4.5 Linear feet ; 9 boxes, 8 volumes, 5 flat files)

Summary Information

Repository
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Creator
Dixon, Samuel Gibson, 1851-1918
Title
Samuel Gibson Dixon papers
ID
1941
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1884-1919
Date [inclusive]
1879-1960
Extent
4.5 Linear feet ; 9 boxes, 8 volumes, 5 flat files
Author
Finding aid prepared by Randi Kamine.
Sponsor
Processing made possible by a generous donation from the Young Friends of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Language
English
Abstract
Samuel G. Dixon was a leader in the United States in the discovery of the cause of tuberculosis and methods to contain and treat it. This collection encompasses the work of Dr. Dixon including dozens of publications and speeches related to tuberculosis and other infectious diseases (including smallpox and typhoid). He was also at the forefront of the newest concepts regarding sanitation and nutrition. In addition to Dixon's own work, the collection includes newspaper articles referring to his work, photographs, and a limited number of personal correspondence. Dr. Dixon had a long and prolific career as a physician, researcher, and writer. He also held several public offices in Pennsylvania. The collection covers all aspects of his public life, primarily reflecting his scientific accomplishments. Little is learned of his personal life.

Preferred citation

Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], Samuel Gibson Dixon papers (Collection 1941), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Return to Table of Contents »


Background note

Samuel G. Dixon was born March 23, 1851, in Philadelphia, and he died in Philadelphia on February 26, 1918. His family home was in Philadelphia (near Bartram Garden), and Black Rock Farm in Bryn Mawr was his place of residence for many years. He studied at Mantua Academy in Philadelphia, and went to Vienna for further study. After his return he studied law at the University of Pennsylvania and was admitted to the bar in 1877 (he contracted typhoid fever while in law school). After practicing for six years, he turned to medicine, graduating from the medical school at the University of Pennsylvania in 1886. He went abroad again after graduating Penn for additional study and graduated from the Department of Bacteriology of Kings College, London.

The list of Dixon’s public service commitments is long. He held various leadership positions in more than twenty scientific, medical and historical groups. Also, he was president of the Academy of Natural Science from 1896 to 1918. He was Pennsylvania’s first commissioner of health, and he led the newly formed Pennsylvania Department of Health from 1905 until his death in 1918. He was on the board of the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, the field in which he was most renowned. As a scientist, he was able to induce an immune response to tuberculosis in guinea pigs. This discovery was a precursor to an effective treatment for the infection in humans. As a physician, he treated innumerable people for tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. As a community leader, he sought to educate the populous about hygiene and nutrition. A man of many interests, he was also a founder of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia.

Three state tuberculosis sanitaria were under Dixon’s direction when he was the commissioner of health in Pennsylvania: Mount Alto, Cresson, and Hamburg. Dixon was responsible for the development of Mont Alto State Sanatorium in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. This facility was founded in 1901 when the construction of a single shack started taking in sufferers of what was then called consumption. Its direction changed when an effective antibiotic for tuberculosis was discovered in the mid 1940s. It is still in operation today as the South Mountain Restoration Center, serving as a recovery and mental health center.

Cresson Sanatorium for tuberculosis patients was located between Johnstown and Altoona, Pennsylvania. It was built on 500 acres donated by Andrew Carnegie and had approximately 700 beds. Between 1913 and 1964 thousands of people who contracted tuberculosis were treated in this well run, compassionate institution.

Hamburg State Tuberculosis Sanatorium was located in Berks County, Hamburg, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1914 and closed as a tuberculosis hospital in 1959. It was reopened in 1960 as a facility for people with intellectual disabilities. It remains active today.

The impetus for the development of these tuberculosis institutions was one of Dixon’s most visible achievements. Dr. Dixon, however, was involved in the study of several other disorders, aside from tuberculosis, such as diabetes, gout, typhoid, and bubonic plague. In addition, his other interests included preventive medicine, educating children on health issues, nutrition, and hygiene.

The history of the discovery, research and the ultimate discovery of a vaccine for tuberculosis is a fascinating one. During the decades of Dixon’s work tuberculosis had the odd reputation of bestowing upon its sufferers a spiritual purity. “Consumption” or “the White Plague” was romanticized and was known as the disease of artists. However, the disease had a high mortality rate and its symptoms were far from pleasant. They included chills, fatigue, fever, night sweats, loss of muscle, phlegm, severe weight loss, and swollen lymph nodes.

Research on tuberculosis was being done in Europe, particularly France, at the same time Dr. Dixon was involved in his work. In the United States, it was Dixon who was the forerunner in developing a tuberculosis vaccine.

Return to Table of Contents »


Scope and content note

The bulk of the Samuel Dixon Gibson papers date from 1905 to 1918, with fewer materials from 1879, and some as late as 1953. There are printed copies of lectures, articles, and pamphlets, with occasional handwritten notes and drafts of speeches. The collection reflects his work on the cause, symptoms and prevention of the several diseases Dixon researched. This collection is an especially important contribution to the study of tuberculosis. The collection touches on his public messaging endeavors as well.

Photographs include those of the Academy of Natural Science, and of Dr. Dixon and his laboratories, including one dated 1889 of his first laboratory of hygiene. A few personal photos depict Dr. Dixon as a young boy and as an older man. There are also photographs of a commemorative tablet and the ceremony in memory of Dr. Dixon after his death.

Newspaper clippings date from 1882 to 1951 from Philadelphia, suburban, and other Pennsylvania newspapers, the bulk of which are from 1918 reporting on the First World War.

The majority of documents are addresses, printed articles and pamphlets dealing with Dr. Dixon’s work as a researcher and clinical physician. His main interest was the study of tuberculosis. There are dozens of articles and speeches about analyzing the disease. Different methods used in the hope of a cure are discussed, for example: “The Koch Cure for Consumption,” from Nature Magazine, dated November, 1890. (In fact, the cure for tuberculosis was not made possible until 1943 with the discovery of streptomycin.) Dr. Dixon was at the forefront of the prevention of tuberculosis as shown by articles he wrote on the relationship between the disease and hygiene. The sanatoria he ran were ahead of his time.

Also found in the collection are Dixon’s thoughts on sexual hygiene and reproduction, infant mortality, and the education of the young. In addition there are also writings on malaria and yellow fever as well as acne, tetanus, gout and cancer.

Furthermore, the documents touch on government policies of the time. There are copies of the Acts of the Pennsylvania Assembly in their efforts to prevent the spread of tuberculosis; an article on government control of tuberculosis in Pennsylvania; and an address on legal rights and tuberculosis.

It is unfortunate that there are few documents pertaining to his personal life. Most correspondence pertains to his undertakings at various institutions. However, there are some photos and letters written to his family after his death that give a glimpse into his personal relationships.

Any researcher interested in the history of medicine will find this collection invaluable. One can trace the reality of the scourge of a terrible disease, tuberculosis, and the attempts to eradicate it. The collection gives the history of the first sanatoria in the Philadelphia area. And the researcher can find some information on early awareness of other diseases of which there was little known at the time, including cancer.

Dixon was very much a product of his Philadelphia education and environment. This gives researchers interested in Philadelphia history in general a window into not only the medical scene in early 20th century Philadelphia, but also the life and times of the different classes in this urban environment. Dixon was born and bred in Philadelphia’s upper class, but his patients were from all walks of life.

Return to Table of Contents »


Administrative Information

Publication Information

 Historical Society of Pennsylvania ; 2018

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107
215-732-6200

Access restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Provenance

Gift of Mrs. John S. Sharpe, 1967.

Return to Table of Contents »


Controlled Access Headings

Subject(s)

  • Academy of Natural Sciences--Philadelphia (Pa.)
  • Health and hygiene
  • Medicine--Practice--20th Century
  • Public Health and Hygiene--Early 20th Century
  • Tuberculosis Research--Early 20th Century
  • University of Pennsylvania--Department of Hygiene--Early 20th Century

Return to Table of Contents »


Collection Inventory

 Series 1.  Lectures and publications on diseases studied by Dr. Dixon 

 Subseries A. Tuberculosis 1889-1912, undated 

Subseries inventory

Box 1, Folder 1 - Pamphlets written by Dixon, 1889-1908

Box 1, Folder 2 - Koch's cure for consumption, 1890

Box 1, Folder 3 - Pamphlets written by Dixon, 1890

Box 1, Folder 4 - Tuberculosis. Address, 1908

Box 1, Folder 5 - Governmental control of tuberculosis in PA, 1908

Box 1, Folder 6 - Control of tuberculosis in Pennsylvania, 1908

Box 1, Folder 7 - The control of tuberculosis in man, 1980

Box 1, Folder 8 - Treating tuberculosis by biological method, 1908

Box 1, Folder 9 - Tuberculosis cure rates, 1907 – 1912

Box 1, Folder 10 - Address ,tuberculosis, county medical inspectors, 1909, 1910

Box 1, Folder 11 - Address, international exhibit, controlling TB, 1909

Box 1, Folder 12 - Letter to the editor, 1911

Box 1, Folder 13 - Legal rights and tuberculosis, international conference, 1908

Box 1, Folder 14 - Paper abstract- Erie Board of Trade, undated

Box 1, Folder 15 - Prevention of tuberculosis, undated

Box
1
Folder
1-15

 Subseries B. Diseases other than tuberculosis: polio, cancer, gout, smallpox 1905-1911, undated 

Subseries inventory

Box 1, Folder 16 - Cancer: Two pamphlets: Campaign Against Cancer, 1909, 1910

Box 1, Folder 17 - Cancer: The prevalence of cancer, 1910

Box 1, Folder 18 - Polio: Two reports, control of epidemic poliomyelitis, 1911

Box 1, Folder 19 - Polio: Address to pediatric society, 1917

Box 1, Folder 20 - Gout: speech, undated

Box 1, Folder 21 - Typhoid fever: In Pennsylvania, 1910

Box 1, Folder 22 - Bubonic plague: Instructions for maritime quarantine, undated

Box 1, Folder 23 - Tetanus, smallpox: Address, Federation of Women's Clubs, 1905

Box 1, Folder 24 - Smallpox: Address , Civic Club of the U.S., 1905

Box 1, Folder 25 - Smallpox: The value of vaccination, 1905

Box 1, Folder 26 - Smallpox: Smallpox vaccination. Address Teachers' Institute, 1905

Box 1, Folder 27 - Smallpox: Cost and mortality of vaccination in Germany, 1905

Box 1, Folder 28 - Smallpox: Addresses, vaccination, U of P, Commonwealth, 1905

Box 1, Folder 29 - Smallpox: Address, vaccination, 1907

Box 1, Folder 30 - Smallpox: A Brief History of Smallpox Previous to 1800, undated

Box
1
Folder
16-30

Return to Table of Contents »


 Series 2.  Correspondence 

 Subseries A:  General correspondence 1880-1955, undated 

Subseries inventory

Box 2, Folder 1 - Wedding invitation, PA bond, other, 1880-1915

Box 2, Folder 2 - Request for diagnosis, University of Pennsylvania, other, 1908

Box 2, Folder 3 - American Philosophical Society, includes photos, other, 1908-1917

Box 2, Folder 4 - Index of papers, invitation, other, 1914

Box 2, Folder 5 - Congratulation letters, deadbeat donor, 1909

Box 2, Folder 6 - Request Dixon become trustee of Univ of Penn, other, 1910

Box 2, Folder 7 - Dixon becomes trustee of Univ of Penn, 1911

Box 2, Folder 8 - Letter from Theo Roosevelt ; Letter on head lice, 1912

Box 2, Folder 9 - Request for money, comments on soldiers’ quarters, 1913

Box 2, Folder 10 - Appointment of Commissioner, 1915

Box 2, Folder 11 - Governor Brumbaugh. 1916

Box 2, Folder 12 - Letters when Dixon was very ill, 1917

Box 2, Folder 13 - Dixon in hospital before he dies, 1918

Box 2, Folder 14 - After Dixon’s death, memorial stone, 1919-1923

Box 2, Folder 15 - Letters to Mrs. Dixon, her daughter, 1924-1955, undated

Box 2, Folder 16 - Correspondence, undated

Box
2
Folder
1-16

 Subseries B:  Medical Society of Pennsylvania 1916-1917 

Subseries inventory

Box 2, Folder 17 - Correspondence and minutes of the Med Society of PA, 1916-1917

Box 2, Folder 18 - Reports on political matters, 1917

Box 2, Folder 19 - Correspondence, Med Society of Pa, 1917

Box
2
Folder
17-19

Return to Table of Contents »


 Series 3.  Addresses 

 Subseries A:  Public health speeches and publications 1884-1916, undated 

Subseries inventory

Box 3, Folder 1 - Cutaneous absorption of nicotine, 1884

Box 3, Folder 2 - A painless escharotics, 1885

Box 3, Folder 3 - Enforcement of health laws, 1896

Box 3, Folder 4 - Psoriasis treatment, 1896

Box 3, Folder 5 - On carbon monoxide, The Public Ledger, 1888

Box 3, Folder 6 - Preventive Medicine, introductory discussion, Univ of Penn, 1889

Box 3, Folder 7 - Preventive Medicine in Pennsylvania, Univ of Penn, 1889

Box 3, Folder 8 - Address by Dixon on preventive medicine, 1889

Box 3, Folder 9 - Didactic course in Hygiene, 1898

Box 3, Folder 10 - A glance at health work in Pennsylvania, 1906

Box 3, Folder 11 - Public health legal enactments, 1906

Box 3, Folder 12 - Health the handmaid of education, 1906

Box 3, Folder 13 - Undertakers and sanitation, 1906

Box 3, Folder 14 - The application of public health principles, 1907

Box 3, Folder 15 - The quarantine of the Port of Philadelphia, 1907

Box 3, Folder 16 - Department of Health in Pennsylvania, 1907

Box 3, Folder 17 - The medical inspection of schools, 1907

Box 3, Folder 18 - Conservation of water resources in Pennsylvania, 1907

Box 3, Folder 19 - The public health administration in Pennsylvania, 1908

Box 3, Folder 20 - Address before the alumni of Lafayette College, 1908

Box 3, Folder 21 - Sewage disposal, 1908

Box 3, Folder 22 - Medical inspection of school children, 1908

Box 3, Folder 23 - Measures to promote health of school children, 1908

Box 3, Folder 24 - The mount alto sanitarium, 1908

Box 3, Folder 25 - Medical club of Philadelphia, 1908

Box 3, Folder 26 - The trolley car as a race regenerator, 1908

Box 3, Folder 27 - Death in a cup. Article on poisons, 1908

Box 3, Folder 28 - Latest experiments in state medicine, 1909

Box 3, Folder 29 - Preventive Medicine and the State. Before Episcopal clergy, 1910

Box 3, Folder 30 - Conservation of Health. Before the Pittsburgh Board of Trade, 1910

Box 3, Folder 31 - The public health officer and medical profession, 1910

Box 3, Folder 32 - Public health as an investment, 1910

Box 3, Folder 33 - Infant mortality. Read before Med Society of PA, 1910

Box 3, Folder 34 - The cow as asset, 1910

Box 3, Folder 35 - Health department and the people, 1910

Box 3, Folder 36 - The race of life, 1910

Box 3, Folder 37 - Conservation of Health. Before Duquesne Chamber of Commerce, 1912

Box 3, Folder 38 - What the microscope has done for medicine, and other talks, 1912

Box 3, Folder 39 - Causes of ill health in country homes, 1912

Box 3, Folder 40 - Medical inspection of public school students, 1912

Box 3, Folder 41 - State control over streams. American Heath Association, 1912

Box 3, Folder 42 - The rural home, 1912

Box 3, Folder 43 - Modern medicine and the physician, 1912

Box 3, Folder 44 - University of Pittsburg address, 1912

Box 3, Folder 45 - Race betterment, 1912

Box 3, Folder 46 - State school directors association. List of schools inspected, 1913

Box 3, Folder 47 - State and provincial boards of health. Schools, 1914

Box 3, Folder 48 - Rules of hygiene, 1914

Box 3, Folder 49 - Preventive Medicine, 1915

Box 3, Folder 50 - Address at the state medical society, 1916

Box 4, Folder 1 - Gov't Aid is Necessary to Promote Public Health, undated

Box 4, Folder 2 - Alcoholism and family, undated

Box 4, Folder 3 - Address to county medical inspectors of Pennsylvania, undated

Box 4, Folder 4 - Oration on state medicine, undated

Box 4, Folder 5 - Address before the Chamber of Commerce in Pittsburgh, undated

Box 4, Folder 6 - A new therapeutic agent for acne pustules, undated

Box 4, Folder 7 - Food. Suggested menus, lectures on diet, undated

Box 4, Folder 8 - Articles on milk, undated

Box 4, Folder 9 - Fragmentary papers on food, diet and digestion, undated

Box 4, Folder 10 - Effects of proof spirits, undated

Box 4, Folder 11 - Are we educating our children to death?, undated

Box 4, Folder 12 - Board of Health v. Sanitary Committee, undated

Box 4, Folder 13 - Conservation of education, undated

Box 4, Folder 14 - Education and morals, undated

Box 4, Folder 15 - Rules for care of infants in summer, undated

Box 4, Folder 16 - Sanitary camps and camp sanitation, undated

Box 4, Folder 17 - Address to sanitary engineers, undated

Box 4, Folder 18 - Sanitation, drainage and plumbing, undated

Box 4, Folder 19 - Clean streams, undated

Box 4, Folder 20 - Clean water. Handwritten notes on talks, undated

Box 4, Folder 21 - New therapeutic agent for acne pustulosa, undated

Box 4, Folder 22 - Health, undated

Box 4, Folder 23 - The oration in state medicine, undated

Box 4, Folder 24 - Promotion of health, undated

Box 4, Folder 25 - Rats, undated

Box 4, Folder 26 - Reproduction, undated

Box 4, Folder 27 - Study your physical limitations, undated

Box 4, Folder 28 - The stability of the Dutch, undated

Box 4, Folder 29 - On sexual hygiene, undated

Box 4, Folder 30 - The study of history, undated

Box 4, Folder 31 - Club for good legislation, undated

Box 4, Folder 32 - Address on public housing

Box 4, Folder 33 - Using doctors, undated

Box 4, Folder 34 - Activity, Middle age, the scalp, body is temple undated

Box 4, Folder 35 - Poison, play, hygiene, misc , undated

Box
3-4

 Subseries B:  Miscellaneous topics 1884-1954, undated 

Subseries arrangement

Box 5, Folder 1 - Bibliography of publications of Samuel Dixon, 1884-1913

Box 5, Folder 2 - Miscellaneous addresses, 1906

Box 5, Folder 3 - Address before the American Philosphical Society, 1911

Box 5, Folder 4 - Memorial to Arthur Edwin Brown, 1911

Box 5, Folder 5 - Austin, Potter County flood, 1912

Box 5, Folder 6 - Laying cornerstone of Abington General Hospital, 1913

Box 5, Folder 7 - O happy country people, 1913, American Life, undated

Box 5, Folder 8 - Resolution upon death of Silas Wier Mitchell, 1914

Box 5, Folder 9 - Manuscript of book. 112 pages, 1914

Box 5, Folder 10 - Eightieth anniversary of the Public Ledger, 1916

Box 5, Folder 11 - Memorials upon the death of Dr. Dixon, 1918

Box 5, Folder 12 - Guest list for memorial plague, 1951

Box 5, Folder 13 - Biographical sketches. Information on PA Department of Health, 1951

Box 5, Folder 14 - Memorials for Samuel Dixon after his death, 1954

Box 5, Folder 15 - Speech on science of bathing, undated

Box 5, Folder 16 - Speech by M.H Farrel on Dixon, undated

Box 5, Folder 17 - Services of the Academy of Natural Sciences, 1893, undated

Box 5, Folder 18 - Dedication of sanatorium in Hamburg, PA, undated

Box 5, Folder 19 - Drawing of hospital buildings, undated

Box 5, Folder 20 - Press release, children and tetanus, undated

Box 5, Folder 21 – Prof. Albert Calmette, biographical information, undated

Box 5, Folder 22 - Hot air furnaces, undated

Box 5, Folder 23 - Geographical Society address, undated

Box
5

Return to Table of Contents »


 Series 4:  Pamphlets, newspapers articles, and photographs 1879-1960, undated 

Series inventory

Box 6 - Pennsylvania Health Bulletins, August 1909 – February, 1918; Fragments of pamphlets and articles, undated

Box 7 - Miscellaneous pamphlets, 1907-1955; Newspaper clippings, 1882-1960, undated

Box 8, Folder 1 - Photographs (2), dogs. 1879, 1887

Box 8, Folder 2 - Photograph (1) First Laboratory of Hygiene, 1889

Box 8, Folder 3 - Photographs (27), Dr. Dixon, 1910

Box 8, Folder 4 – Photograph (1) Panama Pacific Exposition, 1915

Box 8, Folder 5 - Photographs (3) Unidentified, undated

Box 8, Folder 6 - Photographs (3) Academy of Natural Science, interior view, undated

Box 8, Folder 7 - Photographs (3) Dr. Dixon, undated

Box 8, Folder 8 - Photographs (5) Dr. Dixon as a young boy, undated

Box 8, Folder 9 - Photographs (10) In memory of Dr. Dixon memorial plaque, undated

Box 8, Folder 10 - Photographs: (4) Ida Gibson and Franny Gilbert Dixon, undated

Box 8, Folder 11 - Photographs (7) Buildings: Mt. Alto, Bryn Mawr, Academy of Natural Sciences, undated

Box 8, Folder 12 - Diploma: University of Pennsylvania, 1886 [small-sized]

Box 9 - Two cased photographs of unidentified children, undated

Flat file 1 - Newspapers, 1910, 1916, 1918

Flat file 2 - Newspapers, February 1918

Flat file 3 - Newspapers, February 1918, March 1918

Flat file 4 - Newspapers, 1951

Flat file 5 - Diploma: University of Pennsylvania, 1886 [full-sized]

Oversize
Flat file 1-5
Box
6-9

Return to Table of Contents »


Volumes 

Volume inventory

Volume 1 - Scrap book – Newspaper articles, 1905-1916

Volume 2 - Scrap book – Newspaper articles, 1914-1915

Volume 3 - Scrap book – Newspaper articles, 1889-1891

Volume 4 - “Notes on Physiology,” 1884-1885. Hand written

Volume 5 - “Little Talks on Health and Hygiene”

Volume 6 - Book: “Researches on Immunity in Tuberculosis,” By Dr. Dixon, circa 1920

Volume 7 - Dr. Dixon, recipient of an honorary degree, University of Pennsylvania, 1909

Volume 8 - Board of Education. Awards upon Dixon’s retirement from the Board, 1903.

Volume
1-8

Return to Table of Contents »