Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c607

Clarence J. Blake papers


Consists of correspondence to and from Blake, notebooks relating to the work done with Alexander Graham Bell, and biographical materials relating to Clarence John Blake and the Blake family, including drafted chapters of a biography of Blake and excerpts from Blake’s speeches, writings, and letters.


  • 1835-1909 (inclusive)


Language of Materials

Papers are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice.

Consult Public Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center's use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.


0.60 cubic feet (1 letter size document box and 1 oversized file folder.)

Consists of correspondence to and from Blake, notebooks relating to the work done with Alexander Graham Bell, and biographical materials relating to Clarence John Blake and the Blake family, including drafted chapters of a biography and excerpts from Blake’s speeches, writings, and letters. There are three oversized certificates documenting Blake’s education and undated draft wills from Blake and his second wife. Also included are materials relating to John Harrison Blake’s travels, including letters of introduction, visas, and a small travel diary.

Papers are entirely in English.

Biographical Note

Clarence John Blake (1843-1919), M.D., 1861, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts was an audiologist and otologist.

Clarence John Blake was born in 1843 to John Harrison Blake (1808-1899) and Sarah Ann Howe (1808-1881). He attended the Boston Latin School and the Lawrence Scientific School and received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1861.

Immediately after receiving his M.D., Blake travelled to Europe to study medicine. Initially, he began with obstetrics but soon switched to his other major interest, otology, the medical specialty focusing on the ear. His mother and sister, a musician, travelled with him. Blake returned to Boston in 1868 but almost immediately received an invitation from one of his European teachers, Adam Politzer (1835-1920), to come back as his assistant; Blake spent the next nine months with Politzer before finally returning to Boston to set up his own practice.

Blake opened his own office and accepted a position at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (now Mass Eye and Ear) in 1869 but his clinic was almost immediately closed so the space could be used by other physicians. He was later appointed Aural Surgeon at the Infirmary and held the position until 1905. In 1870, he was appointed Lecturer in Otology at Harvard Medical School and, in 1888, he was named the first Professor and Chair of the Department of Otology at Harvard Medical School.

In 1871, Blake met Alexander Graham Bell, who had been invited to Boston to discuss Deaf education and his father’s system of Visible Speech as it might be used in the Boston public schools. Bell and Blake collaborated for the next several years on the development of the telephone with Blake providing medical knowledge of the anatomy of the ear which Bell lacked. During later legal actions against Bell and the Bell Telephone Company, dated drawings and notes in Blake’s possession were used to establish Bell’s claim to precedence in the invention.

Blake was a member of several professional societies, including consecutive positions as the vice-president and president of the American Otological Society between 1873 and 1878. He was one of the founders of the American Journal of Otology in 1879 and, in 1891, was one of the founders of the Vincent Memorial Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts (now the Vincent Memorial Hospital Foundation), a hospital for and staffed by women and named after Boston actress Mary Ann Vincent (1818-1887).

Blake married Frances Hughes (1844-1902) in 1874; the couple had two children, Elizabeth Hughes (1876-1924) and Thomas Barnard (1881-1926). Frances Hughes Blake died in 1902 and Blake married Mary Alice Houghton (1863-1919) in 1907. Clarence John Blake died in 1919.

Collection Arrangement

  1. I. Correspondence, 1876-1907
  2. II. Notebooks, 1879-1889
  3. III. Biographical Materials, circa 1912
  4. IV. John Harrison Blake Papers, 1835-1885
  5. V. Blake Family Papers, 1865-probably 1919

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was purchased in 2020.

  1. Accession number 2021-061. Carpe Librum Books. 2020 October 09.

Processing Information

Processed by Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook, 2021 November.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, rehoused, and described the collection, and created a finding aid to improve access. Folder titles were transcribed from the originals when available; titles supplied by the processing staff appear in brackets only on the physical folders.

Blake, Clarence J. (Clarence John), 1843-1919. Clarence J. Blake papers, 1835-1909 (inclusive): Finding Aid.
Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

10 Shattuck Street
Boston MA 02115
(617) 432-2170