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“Bookkeeping” at Jeff or, Accounting for History

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The Archives at Thomas Jefferson University collects and maintains the official records of the corporation; from the Board of Trustee minutes and University annual reports to the ephemeral brochures announcing departmental programs and notices of appointments.

Archives collection policies (or what should be saved and what should not) have been standardized for generations. Based on scholarly and administrative usage, some records have high, lasting value and others will not have much value in the long run. One area where a mountain of paperwork is created is finance. Money may be the most important factor of the day, but come tomorrow or years from now, all that is needed is a summary and an accounting report. Archivists do not save purchase orders or check stubs as a rule, unless they are already old. And even then, their interest is limited only as a curiosity or museum display piece. Yet some informational value can be gleaned from a close reading of these documents that only a CPA could love.

Here are some interesting fiscal bits of Jefferson history from the several 19th century volumes of the JMC Faculty Account Books. Besides the regular disbursements for faculty salaries, coal deliveries, “student parties” and an annual “New Year’s gift” ($5) for the City Watchman who patrolled the neighborhood at night, there appears:

1827 August 1st
By this sum…being the amt. of Reyner and Harman’s Bill for plastering and material of anatomical Hall and infirmary…

The mention of “infirmary” is one of the earliest written confirmations that the year-old medical college had a “mini hospital” connected with it which provided students with direct, clinical experience…the first of its kind in the United States.

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Dr. E. R. Squibb (JMC 1845)
1836 March 15
Wolff. Wine for Collation at Commt. [commencement]

Graduates of 1836 numbered 135 and the amount spent on wine for “a light meal” in current dollars equals $956.61.

1838 October 23
Paid to Elizabeth Durham for scrubbing College
$30.62 ½

Again in current currency; $30.62 ½ = $499.11.

1846 November 26
Dr. Squibb, (service in the Museum)

Jefferson Medical College offered a post-grad a stipend position for the maintenance of the college’s medical museum (preserved anatomical specimens and plaster models).

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Engraving of new College building, 1846.

In this case, Dr. Edward R. Squibb (class of 1845) would go on to manufacture the first pure ether in bulk and found the giant pharmaceutical company bearing his name. Less than a month later on December 23, Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter at a JMC clinic demonstrated the first use of ether in Philadelphia. This event may have been the inspiration for Squibb’s enterprise.

1846 December 12
Gilbert & Gibson (engraving view of the College)
1846 December 19
N. Le Brun

Napoleon Le Brun, one of America’s greatest classical architects (Philadelphia’s Academy of Music and New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral) refurbished Jeff’s old Anatomical Hall and transformed it into the “Grecian style.”

Or this mystery:

1852 January 20
Mr. J? Neff (electro-magnetic machine ordered by Dr. Mütter)

This non-financial note appeared:

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Thomas Dent Mütter, from A History of Jefferson Medical College, by James Gayley, 1858.
1856 June 15
Dr. Mütter left, and Dr. Gross joined the Faculty

Thomas Mütter was chair of surgery at JMC from 1841 until this year when he resigned due to illness. He took with him his growing museum of specimens and oddities which he bequeathed (at his death three years later) to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

1860 March 14
Mr Eakins, filling diplomas

From 1846 to 1878, Benjamin Eakins, professional calligrapher and father of the renowned artist, Thomas Eakins, was annually employed by JMC to fill in or engross the names of the recipients of medical degrees in the printed diplomas.

1878 February 23
Thos. Eakins, picture of surg. Clinic
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Entry page in JMC Faculty Account Book for payment to “Thos. Eakins,” 1878.

Called the most important American painting, and the first modern American painting, the iconic “Gross Clinic” was on display on campus from 1878 until its sale in 2006.

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