One of the gems I found while perusing through the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s library for books to exhibit in the Mütter Museum’s upcoming Civil War exhibit was a hospital patient register. Aesthetically, it’s just a plain brown leather book. As a patient register, this book is not all that interesting either. It contains lists of wounded soldiers cared for in Philadelphia-area hospitals in 1862, but the lists have no cohesive or even functional order. What makes this book interesting, then, is what happened with it after the war.
We have no idea who took the register after the Civil War but whoever did converted it as a scrapbook and pasted newspaper clippings about small-town Rowley, Massachusetts over every page without regard for the patient registry lists. While Rowley might not seem particularly interesting, these articles offer fascinating windows into New England and American life from the late 1860s to 1919. One of the interesting finds was a great political cartoon about the advent of American Imperialism and its surprising instigator, the sinking of the USS Maine.Next, I found a program for a Fourth of July celebration with what appears to be a card with a shortened or early form of the Pledge of Allegiance. Finally, the scrapbook provides plenty of humor with medical articles like this that claim whistling is all a person needs to build their chest muscles. Be careful, though, because the article warns that there is, as with everything, a right and a wrong way to whistle. Whether the scrapbooker kept the article because he believed its claims or thought it was funny I don’t know, but, regardless, it’s incredibly fun to read and learn about the early 20th century through someone’s personal scrapbook. Although I don’t know who owned the scrapbook, there’s still so much I can intuit about him or her simply through what he/she found interesting and important to save and remember.