Hospital Postcards from the American Hospital Association

By Ginny A. Roth ~

Scenic view of of the Blue Ridge Sanatorium red brick building from green rolling hills
The Blue Ridge Sanatorium in Charlottesville, VA. Undated postcard.

This National Postcard Week, celebrated May 1-7 2022, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is pleased to announce its recent acquisition of a second collection of hospital postcards. Donated by the American Hospital Association (AHA), the collection builds on a previous acquisition donated by W. Bruce Fye and adds to the wealth of the Library’s visual material documenting the history of hospitals.

This collection consists of over 2,500 postcards and provides a visual record of primarily U.S. hospitals, sanitoriums, and other related buildings. In addition to the United States, 3 other countries are represented, Canada, the Czech Republic, and England. Prior to coming to NLM, the collection was part of the Center for Hospital and Healthcare Administration History, sponsored jointly by the AHA and American College of Healthcare Executives.

Color illustrated postcard of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center
Color postcard of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. The Medical Center extends from Riverside Drive to Broadway and from 165th to 168th streets. ca. 1951.

Each of the 50 states are represented in the collection by at least one postcard and some, like this one featuring the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City were addressed and mailed. One postcard has a postmark of April 25, 1951, Bronx Central Station, and, as indicated by the handwriting on the verso (back), was sent to Mrs. Hill of Gloversville, New York by Mrs. Winchester of New York City and reads:

My specials are – geographic (mts., nolls [sic], etc.), interior views, light houses, churches, homes famous people, birds, old mills, wind mills and odd & unusual views.

Although most of the postcards are color, there are several black and white photo postcards such as the following two featuring Menninger Psychiatric Hospital and Sanitarium in Topeka, Kansas and St. Dominic’s Convalescent and Holiday Home in Kelvedon (England).

Black and white photograph of a white hospital building surrounded by trees
The Menninger Psychiatric Hospital and Sanitarium, Topeka Kansas. Undated postcard.
black and white photograph of the interior of a room of a hospital showing patient beds, windows, and a table with a mirror
St. Dominic’s Convalescent and Holiday Home, Kelvedon [England]. Undated postcard.

This robust collection is currently being processed and NLM looks forward to making the collection publicly available.

Aerial view of Kuks Hospital
The former Kuks Hospital in the Czech Republic. Undated postcard.
Color illustration of General Hospital building exterior
Color illustrated postcard of College Street and General Hospital, Toronto, Canada. Undated postcard.

For questions about this historical collection and/or others held by the NLM, including how to consult them, please contact the History of Medicine Division Reference staff via NLM Customer Support or call (301) 402-8878.

Ginny A. Roth is the Curator of Prints & Photographs in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.

2 comments

  1. Interesting. It never crossed my mind that there would be hospital post cards. “Wish you were here” takes on a whole other meaning…I’m sure you already thought of that…Anyway, thanks for posting.

    1. Thank for your comment. You’re right, not all postcards carry greetings from pleasure trips.
      Postcards were inexpensive to use and were popular collecting items in the early twentieth century often featuring major landmarks or important people. Check out our exhibition Pictures of Nursing for an exploration of postcards with images of nurses and the nursing profession from around the world, produced between 1893 and 2011 with many examples coming from the ‘Golden Age’ of postcards—roughly 1907 to 1920. Pictures of Nursing provides a way to understand the types of images that are represented in the collection of 2,588 postcards the National Library of Medicine acquired from American nurse and collector Michael Zwerdling, RN.

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