May 2, 2011

Franklin Henry Martin, 1857-1935

CAMA Historical Figures/Facilities Project

Franklin H. Martin in Uniform at His Desk, 1918.   
Image courtesy of the 
American College of Surgeons Archives,
Visual Materials Collection #101
Franklin H. Martin, born in Ixonia, Wisconsin, in 1857, attended Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. He served as an intern at Mercy Hospital from 1880 to 1881. He was on the staff of the South Side Dispensary (1883-1888) and was Professor of Gynecology at the Policlinic of Chicago (1886-1888). Beginning in 1887, he was for many years a gynecologist at the Women’s Hospital of Chicago. Also in 1887, he organized the Charity Hospital of Chicago. In 1888, with Dr. W. F. Coleman, he organized the Post-Graduate Medical School of Chicago.

Education of the practicing surgeon was the motivating factor of his career. To enable practicing surgeons to share their knowledge with others, he founded the journal “Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics” in 1905. To give surgeons a chance to personally observe demonstrations of surgical techniques in “wet clinics,” he organized the Clinical Congress of Surgeons of North America in 1910 (now the annual Clinical Congress of the American College Surgeons). He founded the American College of Surgeons in 1913 to advance surgical education and research, patient welfare, hospital standardization, ethics of practice, and collaboration with other medical associations.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson appointed him a member of the Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense. He served on this body with other civilian notables such as Samuel Gompers and Bernard Baruch.  Martin served as a Colonel in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army during World War I as Director of the General Medical Board.

Martin wrote about his early life, his life with his wife Isabelle, and his life in medicine and in the military in “The Joy of Living,” published in 1933.  This autobiography serves as a history of the origins and early development of the American College of Surgeons and of Martin’s vision for it.

Isabelle (1863-1945) was the daughter of John Hollister, a founder of Northwestern University Medical School and one of Franklin Martin’s professors.  She and Franklin married in 1886 and she supported him at every step of his career. They lived their whole lives in the Chicago area, and travelled widely, often in connection with the activities of the American College of Surgeons.

Biography provided by the American College of Surgeons.

American College of Surgeons Archives

Collection name:  Franklin H. and Isabelle H. Martin Memoirs, 1899-1935
Repository:  American College of Surgeons Archives
Creator:  Martin, Franklin H. and Isabelle H. Martin
Archival Description #111
Linear feet:  19.75 linear feet

Collection Overview:  The “Memoirs” are essentially scrapbooks/photo albums; they document the lives of the Martins, as a diary might. That their lives were built around the College is demonstrated by the prominence of programs of the surgical meetings attended, listing topics and presenters, along with the social events that went along with them.

They contain an extremely rich source for the study of the early history of the American College of Surgeons, and for early 20th century social and cultural Chicago.  Since the Martins traveled extensively, the Memoirs capture the social/cultural environment in all the places they visited.  Particularly noteworthy are the notes about major medical, surgical, cultural, military, business and political figures the Martins encountered in their busy lives. The Martins had the habit of getting autographs of fellow participants in their travel ventures such as dinners and theatre outings, so much of the material is well documented as to who participated.

By cross referencing the photos, scrapbook entries, diary entries, and correspondence preserved in the notebooks and Martin’s autobiography, The Joy of Living, one can acquire much more factual data and gain more insights as to relationships among the various surgeons and medical care practitioners.  The contemporary newspapers’ treatment of medicine and health care in the context of national events and cultural phenomena illuminates the health care environment in which the College grew and developed.

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