Finding Aid
John Hill Brinton
John Hill Brinton
1832 - 1907
(Art/Photo Collection, AB-048)

John Hill Brinton Collection
1805 - 1923
2.5 Linear Feet (5 Boxes )

Biographical Note
Born on 21 May 1832 in Philadelphia, John Hill Brinton (1832-1907) was the son of George and Mary M. Smith Brinton. Brinton received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania (1850), then enrolled at Jefferson Medical College and obtained his MD in 1852. After spending a year in Europe conducting post-graduate work, Dr. Brinton established a private practice in Philadelphia. In 1853, Brinton also procured his first teaching position at the Philadelphia School of Anatomy delivering courses on Anatomy and Operative Surgery. Soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, Dr. Brinton received a Presidential Appointment as a Brigade Surgeon in the Volunteer Corps (1861). In this capacity Brinton worked beside General Ulysses S. Grant in the Tennessee and Cumberland River Campaigns. In 1862 Brinton was ordered to Washington by the Surgeon General's Office to begin work on The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. He was also given responsibility for the formation of the Army Medical Museum. Brinton's subsequent duties included assignments as Superintendent of the Hospitals in Nashville and Medical Director of the Army of the Cumberland.

After the war, Brinton returned to Philadelphia and assumed responsibilities that brought him into closer contact with the Jefferson Medical College faculty. In 1866, he received an appointment as a Lecturer in Operative Surgery during the summer course. Brinton also formed strong personal associations with Samuel D. Gross and assisted him in the formation of the Jefferson Medical College Alumni Association (1870), the Philadelphia Academy of Surgery (1879), and the American Surgical Association (1880). Brinton's ties to the College of Physicians are also noteworthy: he was the Mütter lecturer on surgery and pathology in 1869 and a lifelong member the Committee of the Mütter Museum. In 1877, the Jefferson Medical College Board of Trustees acknowledged Brinton's role in fundraising activities for the construction of the school's first detached hospital by giving him an appointment as one of the surgeons in the new facility. For five years Brinton served as Staff President at the hospital. Though disappointed in an earlier bid to obtain the chair of anatomy at Jefferson (upon the retirement of Joseph Pancoast in 1873), the Trustees selected Brinton, along with Samuel W. Gross, to fill the chair of surgery when it was divided after the retirement of Samuel D. Gross in 1882. Brinton held this position until 1906, when poor health forced him to relinquish his chair. Brinton retained the title of Emeritus Professor until his death on 18 March 1907.

John Hill Brinton's role in the history of Jefferson Medical College includes family connections with the founder, Dr. George McClellan. Brinton's aunt, Elizabeth Sophia Brinton, married Dr. McClellan in 1820. Through this relationship Dr. Brinton became the founder's nephew, and first cousin to Dr. McClellan's son, the Civil War General George Brinton McClellan.

Scope and Contents
The collection consists of material by or about John Hill Brinton from 1805-1923 including addresses, correspondence, medical journal articles, genealogy, lectures, notes and certificates. The correspondence includes personal correspondence written by Brinton during his Civil War service to family members back home, letters of recommendation written by Brinton’s commanding officers in the army, as well as official military orders/correspondence (many signed by Ulysses S. Grant). Of particular interest is Ulysses S. Grant’s 11 June 1873 endorsement for Brinton’s application for the chair of anatomy at Jefferson Medical College. Another significant letter, dated 7 September 1891, from William. S. Rosecrans, reveals that Brinton was relieved of his duty in charge of the Medical History of the War of the Rebellion for political reasons arising from his kinship with General George B. McClellan, the Democratic candidate for Vice President. Some of the material is associated with John Hill Brinton’s son, Ward Brinton.

Organization and Arrangement

(*) Indicates legal size materials
(**) Indicates oversize (map case) materials

  1. Addresses (1865-1896) *
    Arranged in alphabetical order by the name of the sponsoring organization and in chronological order within each of these alphabetical subject headings.

  2. Correspondence (1805-1923) *
    Arranged in chronological order

  3. Publications (1854-1902)
    Arranged in chronological order

  4. Events & Ephemera (1850-1934) *
    Arranged in alphabetical order by subject heading

  5. Writings (1852-1930) *
    Arranged in chronological order

  6. Necrology (1907) *

  7. Genealogy (1892-1894)

  8. Certificates (1861) **
    Arranged in alphabetical order.

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