Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: BWH c3

Peter Bent Brigham Hospital records


The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital records are the product of the hospital’s administrative, fundraising, publication, and public relations activities, as well as construction projects and training programs. The bulk of the records date from 1911 through 1980.


  • Creation: 1830– (inclusive),
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1911–1980 .


Conditions Governing Access

Access requires advance notice. Access to unpublished administrative records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation. Patient information is restricted indefinitely. Restricted records, except restricted patient photographs, are noted in the finding aid. Researchers may apply for access to restricted material. Contact the Director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to the Director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library. (Email: However, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital does not hold copyright on all the materials in this collection. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Director are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.


1 collection (69.72 cubic feet in 44 records center cartons, 39 oversize boxes, 3 index card boxes, 2 letter size document boxes, 3 half letter size document boxes, 1 cylindrical storage case for rolled drawings, 1 oversize drawer, and 1 shelf.)

Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records include, primarily, those records that were created during the time period PBBH was a separate record creating entity—before its merger with Boston Hospital for Women and Robert B. Brigham Hospital to form Affiliated Hospitals Center, Inc. (AHC) in 1975, and while it operated as a division of AHC until 1980. The PBBH records include all of the hospital’s annual reports, PBBH Executive Committee Meeting Minutes from 1912–1980, and Trustee meeting records 1902–1975. The collection includes 1911 construction records the for original hospital building, as well as for later additions. Visual material, i.e., photograph prints, slides, and negatives, comprise the largest portion of the collection and provide images of the hospital, staff, and activities from 1911–1980. Issues of the hospital newsletter Brigham Bulletin, cover hospital news from 1943–1977. Additionally, there is a large collection of hospital related artifacts and memorabilia, as well as records from the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing, 1912–1985. The Nursing School records include, on microfilm, all student admission and transcript information. The collection does not include medical records or research records.

Historical Notes

The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (PBBH) was named for the founding donor. Brigham amassed his wealth during the 19th century through restaurants and real estate investments. Upon his death in 1877, the trustees of his estate were instructed to invest his legacy for 25 years and then use the money to build a hospital for the “care of sick persons in indigent circumstances residing in the county of Suffolk.” The culmination of the 25-year waiting period coincided with the relocation of Harvard Medical School to the Longwood area of Boston, and with Harvard’s desire for its own dedicated teaching hospital. An informal alliance was agreed upon between the trustees of both institutions. The Brigham trustees would purchase land from Harvard for its hospital next to the medical school, and HMS trustees would be allowed to nominate medical staff to the hospital and have access for its students. Henry A. Christian, MD was recruited to be the first Chief-of-Medicine, and Harvey Cushing, MD was recruited to be the first Surgeon-in-Chief.

Construction of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital began in 1911 on land along Francis Street in Boston. It was designed in the pavilion style, consisting of main administration buildings, including a nurses’ residence, as well as several separate ward buildings, connected by an outdoor walkway, allowing for maximum light and air for the patients. There were no formal opening exercises for the hospital but significant milestones in 1913 marked its transition to an active institution. While the hospital was still under construction the first surgical patient was admitted on January 27, 1913. On March 31, 1913, the first medical patient was admitted to the first of the regular ward buildings to be completed. On April 30, 1913, Sir William Osler, credited with the original idea for medical residency, and whose teachings greatly influenced the organization of the hospital’s own resident training program, gave a formal address to the assembled staff, marking an unofficial opening day. On November 12, 1914, a Founder’s Day celebration was held, which was the first, formal hospital event. The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing (1912–1985) helmed by Carrie M. Hall, RN, had already started training young women as early as November of 1912.

In addition to patient care and medical instruction, the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital supported medical research. The doctors and researchers at the PBBH made many advancements in the field of medicine, including the cure for pernicious anemia, the first heart valve surgery, the first successful organ transplant, and the development of neurosurgery as a specialty. Some of the individuals whose work at PBBH significantly advanced medical science include Dr. Francis Moore, considered the “father of modern surgery,” Dr. Harvey Cushing, a pioneer in neurosurgery, Dr. Samuel A. Levine, a key figure in modern cardiology, and Dr. Elliott Cutler, second Surgeon-in-Chief and co-author of Atlas of Surgical Operations. Dr. William Parry Murphy, with two others, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1934 for the discovery of the cure for pernicious anemia. In 1949, Dr. Carl Walter, developed a way to collect, store and transfuse blood. Dr. Joseph E. Murray was the 1990 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for organ and tissue transplant techniques. He, along with PBBH Drs. John Merrill, J. Hartwell Harrison, George W. Thorn, and Gustave Dammin, achieved the first successful kidney transplant in 1954. Nurse Carrie M. Hall was a leader in the evolution of professional nursing education.

In 1975, the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital merged with the Boston Hospital for Women (itself the result of a 1966 merger between the Boston Lying-in Hospital and the Free Hospital for Women) and the Robert B. Brigham Hospital, forming the Affiliated Hospitals Center, Inc. In 1980, at the time of the opening of a new state-of-the-art facility, the Affiliated Hospitals Center, Inc. was renamed as the “Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Teaching Affiliate of the Harvard Medical School.”

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. Series I. Administrative Records, 1913–1981
  2. ___ A. Annual Reports, By-laws, and Orientation Manuals, 1913–1981
  3. ___ B. Permits and Property Records, 1907–1939
  4. ___ C. Policy and Procedure Records, 1939–1977
  5. ___ D. Fundraising Records, 1951– 1975
  6. ___ E. General Accounting Records, 1938–1963
  7. ___ F. Human Resource Records, 1968–1982
  8. Series II. Committee Records, 1902–1980
  9. Series III. Construction Project Drawings and Plans, 1911–1920
  10. Series IV. Special Events Records, 1913–1981
  11. ___ A. Special Events, 1913–1981
  12. ___ B. Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Twentieth Anniversary Reunion Lantern Slide Show, circa 1913–1933
  13. Series V. Special Project Records, 1917–2013
  14. Series VI. Public Relations Records, 1927–1991
  15. ___ A. Subject Files, 1927–1988
  16. ___ B. Biography Files, 1936–1991
  17. Series VII. Hospital Publications, 1914–1977
  18. ___ A. Serials, 1943–1977
  19. ___ B. Monographs and Printed Ephemera, 1914–1976
  20. Series VIII. Visual Records, 1860s–1980
  21. ___ A. Various Subjects, 1915–1977
  22. ___ B. Surgical Staff, 1915–circa 1970s
  23. ___ C. Hospital Staff, 1913–1973
  24. ___ D. Physicians-in-Chief Pro Tempore, 1916–1962
  25. ___ E. Surgeons-in-Chief Pro Tempore, 1920–1972
  26. ___ F. Resident Surgeons, Assistants in Surgery, and Research Fellows in Surgery, 1926–1976
  27. ___ G. Various Subjects, circa 1914–1978
  28. ___ H. Medical Staff or Medical Residents in Groups, 1921–1978
  29. ___ I. Hospital People by Department Groups, 1938–1975
  30. ___ J. Hospital Administrative Leader Portraits, 1915–1978
  31. ___ K. World War II Photographs, 1942
  32. ___ L. World War I Photographs of Battle Wounds, 1915
  33. ___ M. Hospital Activities and Events, circa 1960s–circa 1970s
  34. ___ N. Printing Plates, circa 1916–circa 1950s
  35. ___ O. Photograph Collections, circa 1860s–1980
  36. Series IX. Artifacts and Memorabilia, 1830–1980
  37. ___ A. General Artifacts and Memorabilia Collection, 1900–1980
  38. ___ B. Carrie M. Hall, RN, Award Certificates and Medals, 1919–1949
  39. ___ C. Medical School Tablecloth, 1912–1939
  40. ___ D. Peter Bent Brigham China, Glassware, and Sliver, 1830s
  41. ___ E. Time Capsule Letters, 1963
  42. ___ F. Time Capsule Artifacts, 1963
  43. ___ G. Laboratory Equipment, undated
  44. ___ H. Certificates, 1951, 1963, 1971
  45. Series X. Staff Personal and Professional Papers, 1902–1973
  46. ___ A. Unpublished Diaries and Manuscripts, 1912
  47. ___ B. Published Article Reprints, 1902–1973
  48. Series XI. Staff Related Books and Journals, 1877–1975
  49. Series XII. Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing Records, 1887–2016
  50. ___ A. Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing Administrative Records, 1927–1971
  51. ___ B. Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing Student Records, 1915–1985
  52. ___ C. Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing Course Records, 1918–1975
  53. ___ D. Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing Publications, 1920–2015
  54. ___ E. Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing Special Events, 1938–1985
  55. ___ F. Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing Photographs, 1915–1985
  56. ___ G. Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing Artifacts and Memorabilia, 1887–1987
  57. ______ A. General Artifacts and Memorabilia Collection—Nursing School, 1916–2005
  58. ______ B. Exhibit Items, 1887–1990s
  59. ______ C. Garments, 1915–1963
  60. ______ D. Nurse Shirley Egan's Teaching Instruments, 1920s–1960s
  61. ______ E. Marie Antoinette Kendall Student Notebook, 1917–1918
  62. ______ F. Barbara Borden Student Materials, 1956–1959
  63. ______ G. Dorothy Wysoki Errera, RN, Memorabilia, circa 1930–2012

Custodial History

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) owns the records described in this finding aid. The Harvard Medical Library entered into a contract in 2001 to act as the repository for some of BWH’s archival records. Before the transfer to the Harvard Medical Library, many of the records were in storage at various locations within the BWH. In 2005, additions to the collection were assembled and transferred from a BWH storage facility at 850 Boylston Street, Boston, MA by Anne Fladger, Director of the BWH Medical Library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital records 1830– (inclusive), 1911–1980 (bulk) were placed on deposit with the Harvard Medical Library in 2001 by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Some of the collection was transferred from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library to the Harvard Medical Library in 2005. Additional material was added as the following accessions: numbers 2007-005, 2007-061, 2008-024, 2009-019, 2009-032, 2009-046, 2010-062, 2012-024, 2013-121, 2014-013, 2014-039, 2014-054, 2014-079, 2015-011, 2015-035, 2015-60, 2017-139, 2017-204, 2018-136, and 2018-143.

Related Material at Other Institutions

  1. Hall, Carrie May, 1874–1963. Papers, 1917–1964. [MC 275] at the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America , Radcliffe College.
  2. Hall, Carrie May, 1874–1963. Additional papers, 1892–1963. [79-M23] at the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America , Radcliffe College.
  3. Cushing, Harvey William, 1869–1939, Papers in the Yale University Library. [MS 160]
  4. Records of the Peter Bent Brigham School of Nursing [N146] in the History of Nursing Archives, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University.

Separated Materials

Two boxes of material containing medicines and medical instruments related to Dr. William Parry Murphy were separated from this collection and donated to the Warren Anatomical Museum, Center for the History of Medicine, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

One box of personal correspondence between Dr. William Parry Murphy and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Harriett Adams Murphy, and one lab notebook he wrote as an undergraduate, were separated from this collection and donated to the Center for the History of Medicine, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine for their collection of Dr. Murphy’s personal papers.

Patient records related to kidney transplantation were returned to the hospital.

Several rare books written by prominent staff members were separated from this collection and returned to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library.


  • Brigham, Willard Irving Tyler, 1859–1904. The History of the Brigham Family; a Record of Several Thousand Descendants of Thomas Brigham the Emigrant, 1603–1653. New York: The Grafton Press, 1907.
  • King, Marilyn. The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing: A History: 1912–1985. Boston, Mass.:, 1987.
  • McCord, David. The Fabrick of Man: Fifty Years of the Peter Bent Brigham: 1913–1963. Portland, Maine: Anthoensen Press, 1963.
  • Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. Annual Report of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital for the Years 1913 and 1914. Cambridge [Mass.]: University Press, 1914.
  • Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes Volume 1, May 1, 1902 to December 32, 1910. Box 6, Item 1, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records, 1830– (inclusive), 1911–1980 (bulk). BWH c3. Harvard Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.
  • Tilney, Nicholas L. A Perfectly Striking Departure: Surgeons and Surgery at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, 1912–1980. Sagamore Beach, Mass.: Science History Publications/USA, 2006.

Processing Information

Gabrielle Burgman created a preliminary box and folder list in 2005. Unprocessed parts of this collection and new acquisitions were processed and this finding aid was completed by Catherine Pate at the Center for the History of Medicine in June, 2014. A revised version was published in 2016.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine started processing the archival records of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital under a service agreement with the BWH in 2001. The records, transferred in bulk from the BWH, were made up of records from all the individual hospitals that eventually merged to become the Affiliated Hospitals Center (AHC), which in turn became Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Processing staff made the decision to organize the records by their provenance, and processed and described each individual hospital’s records separately. Consequently, the original transfer yielded seven groups of records, one of which is the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital records.

The records for each hospital were organized into series and described based on practices used at the Harvard Medical School Archives. Processing for this collection also involved primary preservation, arrangement, and the creation of this detailed finding aid to improve access. Duplicate records and records that did not meet the archival collection goals of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library were discarded.

Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. Records, 1830– (inclusive), 1911–1980 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
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