Gesundheit!: The Story of Scott Memorial Library

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Samuel Parsons Scott, Esq.

History is never set in stone. History is organic – it grows as we learn more or changes as we view things differently.

An old Jeff tale told many times, concerns the benefactor of Jefferson Medical College’s twentieth century library, Samuel Parsons Scott, Esq.

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Scott Memorial Library in 1929

Born in 1846 in Hillsboro, Ohio, he privately studied law and was accepted to the Ohio bar at the age of 22. Scott practiced in Kansas and California for seven years until ill health forced him to return to Hillsboro in 1875. He quit his law career to work in the family banking business and pursue the life of the gentleman scholar. He returned to the family mansion (built circa 1835) in which he was born, he married and surrounded himself by a great personal library. He published his first book in 1886, Through Spain, followed by The History of the Moorish Empire in Europe (1904), and The Visigothic Code (his notable study of medieval law).

At his death on May 30, 1929, Scott had prepared a will which allowed $75,000 for his widow Elizabeth, his sole survivor, and the remainder of his estate, valued at perhaps $3 million (pre-Depression dollars) was left to “Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to be used for the foundation and maintenance of a library for the use of the teachers and students...”

His bequest explained:

I leave to my said wife no more than the sum above mentioned, because on account of the insults, outrages, cruelty, disgrace and humiliation which she has constantly, and without reason, during all of my entire married life, heaped upon me, she is wholly undeserving of my generosity. ...I make this bequest in grateful acknowledgement of the inestimable service rendered me by one of the Professors of said Institution, in relieving me of hay-fever, thereby prolonging my life in comparative comfort for many years.
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Scott Memorial Library in 1970, artist’s rendering

Scott also stipulated that his library of 8,000 volumes be the nucleus of the College library.

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Charles Euchariste de Medicis Sajous, MD (JMC 1878)

Mrs. Scott contested the will and after negotiations Jefferson agreed to accept 45% of the estate which totaled $1,250,000. (For many years after Mrs. Scott’s death in 1946, the Samuel Scott house in Hillsboro served as the public library. There is evidence that the stately home also served as a stopping point for runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. What part young Mr. Scott may have played in this drama is unknown.)

The identity of the mystery Jefferson doctor whom Mr. Scott, legend says, met “while riding on a train,” has remained unknown, but the value of an archives is often found in researching an object (a book, in this case) not so much for its informational value (what the text imparts), but for its evidentiary value, such as, annotations or a revealing dedication.

The uniqueness of the Archives at TJU is demonstrated in our copy of Hay fever; and its successful treatment by superficial organic alteration of the nasal mucous membrane, by Charles Euchariste de Medicis Sajous, M.D. Found in our Jeffersoniana holdings, this book’s author, Dr. Sajous, was a JMC grad (1878) who was appointed clinical lecturer in laryngology (1883-1891).

The evidence that points to Sajous as the mystery professor who treated Scott, is a link between the S.P. Scott bookplate and the author’s presentation inscription and date: “S.P. Scott, Presented by the Author, Jul. 1 – 1885”

Future research is needed to substantiate this probable assumption. Sajous left Jefferson to study endocrinology in France and returned to serve on the faculties at Medico-Chirurgical, and Temple’s medical schools. He was the first president of the Endocrine Society (1917-1918) and died April 27, 1929, only four weeks before his wealthy former patient expired. He probably never knew that his book and medical advice helped endow his alma mater.

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Book inscription   Book titlepage   S.P. Scott bookplate