The Academic Health Center History Project documents and preserves the institutional memory and historical events that chronicle the development of health sciences education and research at the University of Minnesota.

Base Hospital No. 26

Every war requires that doctors and nurses become soldiers. The University of Minnesota Medical School first became involved with such an effort as World War I spread across Europe.

img0158.jpgIn October 1916, half a year before the United States declared war with Germany, the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic began preparations for establishing a base hospital at the request of the Surgeon General. The unit, known as Base Hospital No. 26, organized itself over the summer of 1917 under the auspices of the American Expeditionary Forces and waited for the call to active duty. In December 1917, the War Department mobilized the unit. It was not until June 20, 1918 that the unit reached its destination of Allerey, France. In sum, the unit’s equipment and staff were designed to support a 1,000 bed hospital. It cared for nearly 6,000 patients through 1919.

Historical information about Base Hospital 26 is available from a variety of sources. The Minnesota Alumni Weekly chronicled the activities of the Base Hospital through regular articles and published letters from the unit’s staff. Also, several archival collections have material related to the unit including the papers of Dr. Moses Barron, a University of Minnesota pathologist who served as an officer in the unit. Included are photographs, correspondence, diaries, and related information all pertaining to Base Hospital No. 26.

See a short typewritten history below of Base Hospital No. 26 as an example of the materials available in the Barron papers at the University Archives.


Pearl McIver

In the fall of 1918 the University of Minnesota Hospital was closed to all patients except those ill with influenza. This included the pediatric ward. At the time, Pearl McIver was a student nurse earning her practice hours during the pediatrics night shift.

According to McIver, the regulations of the unit required all personnel to wear a cap, mask and gown and restricted holding the children. The children were frightened and sick. Left alone on her first night, McIver removed her mask and cap and began wrapping each child and rocking them in her arms until they calmed down and took fluids. She would spend her night working her way through the ward of approximately 30 patients. One night, she was interrupted by an intern whom she thought would expose her. Instead, he offered to help. McIver kept her method of care during the influenza outbreak a secret for years until a chance meeting with the intern who was now a pediatrician.

McIver graduated from the School of Nursing in 1919 and continued to work at the University Hospital until taking a position with the United States Public Health Service in 1922. She retired in 1957 after serving as chief of the Division of Public Health Nursing.

Since then, her story has been told and re-told numerous times including by James Gray in his book Education for Nursing and Katherine Densford in her tribute piece to Pearl McIver in the April 1962 volume of the American Journal of Nursing. However, these two accounts are the re-telling of McIver’s story, paraphrased and embellished.

Below is a particularly poor mimeographed copy of the story that Pearl McIver dictated on July 3, 1958. It is the source used by both Gray and Densford, but it is her first-person account. The story as she told it.



img0108.jpgWhat would you salvage from a building before it is torn down?

Fire hoses, time clocks, light fixtures, outlet & switch cover plates, drinking fountains, p-traps from sinks, window screens, paper towel dispensers, and elevators #20 & #21 are just a few of the items the University Hospitals requested to be salvaged from Powell Hall prior to its demolition in 1981. The building was located on the site of today’s University of Minnesota Medical Center.

Powell Hall was built as a residence hall for student nurses and their supervisors. Dedicated in 1933 as the Nurses’ Hall, it was later named for Louise Powell, Superintendent of Nurses and later Director of the School of Nursing from 1910-1924, on the occasion of the School’s 30th anniversary in 1939. The building was easily identifiable by the bronze cupola on its roof. The cupola now serves as a historical marker near the original site. The picture above was taken after the cupola was removed.

University Hospitals were not the only interested party in salvaging material from Powell Hall. Other University departments and private individuals laid claim to materials and mementos in the months leading up to the demolition. Written requests for salvaged materials included windows, a dumbwaiter, wood paneling, chandeliers, patio stones, and an offer to provide a new home for a wishing well.

Did you take home a souvenir from Powell Hall? Let us know with a comment!

Read the document below to learn more about the pre-demolition salvage operation and see who got what.


Marie Manthey papers

img0086.jpgOn the third floor in the Mayo Memorial Building’s “C” Corridor there is a small plaque on the wall. This marker is about the only remaining evidence of Station 32 in the old University Hospital.

The plaque recognizes the efforts of the station nurses led by Marie Manthey, then Assistant Director for Nursing, for their work to transform the concept of nursing within the hospital environment. It reads

On this site in 1969 Marie Manthey and a group of pioneering nurses created the system of Primary Nursing. From its beginning on Nursing Station 32 at the University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinic the philosophy of Primary Nursing has become the gold standard of nursing care delivery throughout the world.

As part of the History Project’s focus to collect and make available the historical material that documents the development of health care delivery and education at the University of Minnesota, I am happy to announce the recent acquisition of the Marie Manthey papers.

The collection includes correspondence, research notes, writings and clippings related to Manthey’s work in primary nursing and her seminal publication The Practice of Primary Nursing. Manthey, who also served as one of the original Board of Governors for the University Hospitals, later founded the primary nursing consulting firm Creative Health Care Management in 1978.

To learn more about the Station 32 Project and the initial studies conducted, read the Project 32 Preliminary Report from January 1969.


Isabel Harris

img0066.jpgIsabel Harris, dean of the School of Nursing from 1969 to 1975, passed away on March 2, 2008. The beginning of her tenure as dean at the School of Nursing coincided with the formation of the Academic Health Center and the reorganization of its six schools and colleges including the School of Nursing. Dean Harris was the first woman dean of an academic unit at the University of Minnesota. Prior to the reorganization in the health sciences, the School of Nursing was a unit of the College of Medical Sciences and lead by a director.

Originally from Michigan, Dean Harris’ early career focused on psychiatry nursing and institutional care. She earned her diploma in nursing from Johns Hopkins after earning a BA from the University of Michigan. During World War II she served in the Johns Hopkins medical unit in Australia. After her service she returned to Michigan for a year and then was invited by Katharine Densford, Director of the School of Nursing, to come to Minnesota to help establish a program in psychiatric nursing. Harris earned an MEd and PhD at Minnesota and later specialized in nursing administration and education. During her time as dean, Harris focused on growing the nursing program through increasing student retention, hiring talented faculty, and working toward the expansion of space. Dean Harris finished her term as dean in 1975 and retired from teaching in 1981. The School of Nursing moved into its new building (Unit F/Weaver-Densford Hall) that same year.

In an interview conducted with Dean Harris in 1999 she stated that “I’d always wanted to be a nurse or at least since I was five years old.” Her devotion and commitment to the profession and the University are reflected in the School of Nursing today.

Seoul National University

In the 1950s and 1960s the University of Minnesota partnered with Seoul National University in a cooperative relationship to develop educational and research programs in agriculture, the medical sciences, and engineering. The effort allowed University of Minnesota faculty and civil service staff to learn from their counterparts in Korea and assisted in SNU’s reconstruction after the war as an institution and as a source of intellectual labor to strengthen Korea’s post-war economy.

Recently, a cooperative partnership between the SNU Archives and the U of M Archives has worked to identify materials held by the two institutions documenting the cooperative arrangement. Currently, researchers from SNU are mining the materials at the U of M to locate unique items not known or held by SNU.

This is an opportune time to locate and identify individuals in the AHC that have a connection to the original partnership or departments and offices that may still have material related to the University’s work with SNU. The Medical School, School of Nursing, and Veterinary Medicine were all involved in the cooperative.

I have already noted that the small sampling of John Arnold’s papers have some correspondence resulting from the partnership. The School of Nursing has a binder of related documents as well. Dr. Neal Gault, former dean of the Medical School, was also a participant. We are working to identify additional individuals and I hope the current interest in the SNU partnership will generate collection leads and accessions for the AHC archives project.

Exploring environmental connections

I recently stumbled across the proceedings for the 1993 Conference on Expressions of Caring in Nursing: Exploring Our Environmental Connections (ed. Eleanor Schuster & Carolyn Brown, NY: National League for Nursing Press, 1994). I thumbed through several of the articles for two primary purposes. First, I am enjoying becoming more connected to health sciences literature. It helps me better understand the materials I work with as well as connect to the people I meet. Second, I was curious to see the connections depicted that draw the field of nursing closer to environmental studies. As you may recall, I previously mentioned my own interest in examining archives as a single field among many interested in the long-term use and access to rare and unique resources as is the case in environmental protection.

The preface to the first chapter states

The phrase domain of nursing knowledge calls forth old images of ownership, territoriality, and control. We use the word domain in the sense of laying claim to an area of knowledge development for nursing. (p. 1)

The semantics of ownership and control are present in environmental literature. The shift in language from land management to land stewardship parallels the shift in nursing knowledge from a domain of knowledge ownership to a domain of knowledge growth.

As for archives, a recent article by Joel Wurl (Archival Issues 29, 2005) echoes this shift in language and, thus, perception. Wurl writes

In the custodial approach to archives, property is relinquished… material is now owned by the repository. A stewardship ethos… is characterized by partnership and continuity of association… jointly held and invested in by the archive and the community of origin. (p. 72)

In each of the three fields, nursing, environmental protection, and archives, a clear break with past paradigms of ownership and control are made and replaced with growth and partnerships.

When discussing incorporating an environmental awareness into nursing, Dorothy Kleffel recommended

(a) making the community and the broader environment our nursing client, (b) redirecting our nursing activities to the macro-level environment, and (c) moving the profession from oppression to empowerment. (p. 11)

I find all three suggestions applicable to archives as well. If we document human activities and the broader environment then archivists follow the suggestion of Candace Loewen (Archivaria 33, 1991-92) to be “survival-oriented,” meaning we document “records of value to humans and to the planet as a whole.” Second, archivists are becoming more aware of provenance and appraisal issues at the macro level and are engaging records at their creation, not just at their deposit. A macro level approach is also becoming a part of our processing and description activities. Finally, the third point is again evident in Wurl’s discussion of stewardship of a community’s resources rather than control.

So what is the ultimate connection between nursing, environmental protection, and archives? All are primarily interested in the long-term survival and improvement of the communities they serve. And by doing so, cross over to the other fields with a measure of support as well.

Updates on recent acquisitions

School of Nursing records, supplement
Eight more boxes have arrived from the Dean’s office bringing the total to 14 linear feet. It is all in need of reboxing and some foldering. There are perhaps a few more boxes to go. I’ve begun looking through the materials and have reboxed the first box and some of the second.

Board of Governors records
I finally had a chance to pull the previously accessioned material. It was half a linear foot and contains only material from 1984-1985. This is the final period of the construction of the hospital and most of the material is related to this event. Now I will be able to go through the recent BoG acquisition to see if these same materials are duplicated or if they are unique.

John Arnold papers
I received a small package containing a few folders of material related to Dr. John Arnold (retired) a former faculty member of the College of Veterinary Medicine and head of the Department of Veterinary Surgery and Radiology. Along with materials related to his leadership position in the College there is some information regarding his work with Seoul National University and veterinary programs in Iran during the 1970s.

School of Nursing records, supplement

collect004.jpgThe School of Nursing recently transferred a collection of administrative and programming records to University Archives. These materials will be added to the existing School of Nursing collection.

The records include files and correspondence from the two previous deans, Sandra Edwardson (1991-2004) and Ellen Fahy (1980-1990). Other administrative records include credentialing, grant reporting, and the proposal for establishing a Ph.D. program. Also included are files for the block nurse program, the Community-University Health Care Center (CUHCC), and work related to the Center for American Indians and GLBT Studies. In addition, materials related to the alumni association and the School of Nursing Diamond Jubilee (1984) are part of this transfer.

The collection is approximately 6 linear feet at its acquisition. The boxes are all labeled with content information at the folder level. The material is in good condition although it will need to be reboxed and hanging file folders removed. Further accruals are expected.

I’d like to commend the School of Nursing for taking a proactive approach to securing a permanent home for its records. The current dean, Connie Delaney, is a Fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics and is a past faculty member of the School of Library Science at the University of Iowa, so she understands the importance of preserving and using information.