The Webster Papers include correspondence, financial records, minutes, reports, clinical records, date books, research notes, drafts of books and articles, newspaper clippings, photographs, sketchbooks and drawings, prints, slides, film, and artifacts.
Although photographs and transcripts of original documents from Italian archives bring the earliest date of these papers back to 1545, the bulk of the material spans Webster’s career at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, 1928-1974. There are only a few items from his time at Peking Union Medical College and almost nothing documenting his life before 1924. While Series 2 does contain some family correspondence and records, the papers largely document Webster’s professional life.
Each series and most sub-series are described separately:
Series 1: Correspondence & Subject Files
Outgoing and incoming correspondence, largely 1928-1974. Most of the correspondence is with professional colleagues, though some personal letters are present. In addition, the series holds extensive records relating to Webster’s involvement in numerous professional organizations, including the American Association of Plastic Surgeons, American Board of Plastic Surgery, American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, and the Pan-American Medical Association. There are also significant records relating to his membership in the Charaka Club, Century Association, Grolier Club, Halsted Society, and the New York Academy of Medicine.
There is extensive correspondence with Gustave Aufricht, Arturo Castiglione, John F. Fulton, Martha Teach Gnudi, Robert H. Ivy, Sir Archibald McIndoe, Gustavo Sanvenero-Rosselli, Ferris Smith, and Allen O. Whipple. Correspondence is generally organized by subject rather than by person; those letters not concerned with professional affairs are filed by surname in general alphabetical files. In addition, letters by the same person may have been filed under the name of an organization, or under the name of the correspondent, or in a general alphabetical folder. Researchers need to check all three locations to be sure of finding every letter from a specific individual.
Series 2: Biographical Materials & Personal Correspondence
Resumes; biographical questionnaires; entries for biographical reference works; bibliographies; and other biographical material. Also included are genealogical materials on the Webster, Pierce, Adams and related families; condolence letters received at the death of Webster’s second wife, Emily Brune Randall Webster; letters from his brother and sons; and general personal and social correspondence, 1924-1974.
Of particular interest is the “Report of the Work of Dr. Jerome P. Webster, Fellow in Surgery, Presbyterian Hospital, 1928-29,” relating his activities in the department of surgery during his first year at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
Series 3: Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center/ Presbyterian Hospital
Records documenting Webster’s career in the Dept. of Surgery of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, and especially his role as founder and leader of the department’s Division of Plastic Surgery (1930-1954).
Subseries are as follows:
Sub-Series 3.1: General
(4 boxes; 1.3 cubic feet)
General correspondence with Presbyterian Hospital and the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons administrators, 1934-1974; medical board and committee minutes; and records of surgical staff conferences. General Columbia University correspondence can be found in Series 1.
Sub-Series 3.2: Division of Plastic Surgery
(2.3 boxes; .75 cubic feet)
Annual reports of the division, 1943-1963 (with gaps); records of staff conferences and presentations; and financial records. Two memos, dated 1947 and 1951-52 discuss the relation of the division to the Dept. of Surgery and to Presbyterian Hospital. While there is one folder relating to the Webster Library of Plastic Surgery, most of its records can be found in Series 5.
Sub-Series 3.3: Webster Society
(.25 cubic feet)
By-laws, correspondence, address lists, and meeting information, c.1952-1969, of this organization of former Columbia-Presbyterian plastic surgery residents named in Webster’s honor.
Sub-Series 3.4: Plastic Surgery Residents
(5 boxes; 1.5 cubic feet)
Records of Columbia-Presbyterian plastic surgery residents who served during Webster’s lifetime. Contents vary over time but usually include an application; correspondence before, during, and after the resident’s time of service; reprints; and often a photograph of the resident.
Series 4: Organizations
Records relating to Webster’s extensive involvement in several organizations not related to his work as a plastic surgeon, most notably the American Bureau for Medical Aid to China; the Holderness School; and Trinity College.
Subseries are as follows:
Sub-Series 4.1 American Bureau for Medical Aid to China
(11 boxes; 9.5 cubic feet)
Correspondence, 1937-1974; Board of Directors minutes, 1946-1974; Executive Committee minutes, 1946-1974; reports; and printed material. Founded in 1937 to provide medical aid to China, ABMAC concentrated its efforts on Taiwan after the defeat of the Nationalist Chinese forces in 1949. Webster served ABMAC from its founding in 1937 as a director, vice-president, and president.
Sub-Series 4.1.1 includes records of plastic surgery courses given by Webster under the auspices of ABMAC in Shanghai during the Fall of 1948.
Sub-Series 4.2 Other China Organizations
(2.3 boxes; .75 cubic feet)
Correspondence, minutes, and printed matter relating to other China organizations in which Webster was involved. The records for some of these groups are routine but there are considerable records for Aid Refugee Chinese Intellectuals and United Service to China, Inc., both of which Webster served as a director.
Sub-Series 4.3 Holderness School
(6.25 boxes; 2.15 cubic feet)
Webster served as Trustee, 1931-1933, and Life Trustee, 1933-1974 of this preparatory school from which he was graduated in 1906 and of which his father was Headmaster, 1892-1922. The records are extensive and include correspondence with Trustees, Headmasters, and other School officers, 1930-1974; minutes and reports of the Trustees, 1948-1974; records of various committees and of fundraising activities; printed materials; and commencement addresses he gave in 1938 and 1957. The School’s new library was named for Webster in 1966.
Sub-Series 4.4 Trinity College (Hartford, CT)
(20 boxes; 6.5 cubic feet)
Webster had a long involvement with his alma mater. He was a Junior Fellow of the College, 1919-1922, 1934-1939; Alumni Trustee, 1939-1945; and Life Trustee, 1945-1967. The records include correspondence with fellow Trustees, with three of Trinity’s Presidents, and with other college officers, 1939-1974; minutes, correspondence, and reports of the Board of Trustees and many of its committees, 1939-1974; Alumni Association correspondence, 1932-1969; and records and correspondence relating to his college fraternity, Psi Upsilon, 1914, 1943-1974.
Reflecting his love of books and libraries, there are records of Webster’s involvement with the Trinity College Library and its friends group (of which he was a founding member and Chairman, 1951-1955), as well as with the Watkinson Library, the College’s rare book library.
Series 5: Jerome P. Webster Library of Plastic Surgery
Correspondence, financial and fundraising records, exhibit records, book purchase records, and general operational records of the Webster Library which, while serving as the Division of Plastic Surgery library, was owned by Webster. It was bequeathed to Columbia University in 1939 and was transferred to the University’s Augustus C. Long Library in 1976. Researchers should also consult Series 11, Index Cards, for additional records relating to the Webster Library, particularly information on book acquisitions.
Sub-series are as follows:
Sub-series 5.1: Correspondence/Subject Files
(4 boxes; 1 cubic foot)
General correspondence, financial records, records relating to Webster’s bequest to Columbia University, fundraising materials, and acquisition lists, among other records. In addition, there is substantial correspondence with the Directors of the University’s Medical Library (now the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library) as well as minutes of the Medical Library Committee.
Included with this sub-series is Sub-Series 5.1.1 relating to John Locke’s copy of Samuel Butler’s Hudibras. Webster purchased it in 1953 because it contained verses in Locke’s hand relating to Tagliacozzi, whom Butler spoofed in his mock-epic poem.
Sub-Series 5.2: Webster Library in the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library
(.2 cubic feet)
Correspondence and documents relating to planning for the Webster Library in the new Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library. This eventually became the library’s Archives & Special Collections department, with the reading room named for Webster’s first wife, Geraldine Rockefeller McAlpin Webster.
Sub-Series 5.3: Exhibits
(2 boxes; .35 cubic feet)
Though there are some records relating to exhibits of Webster Library books at Columbia University, the bulk relates to the Library’s participation in the Grolier Club’s “Gala Book Week” of May, 1964. Included are a list of books exhibited; guest lists and invitations; correspondence; schedules; and printed material.
Sub-Series 5.4: Fund Drive
(2 boxes; .35 cubic feet)
Records documenting fundraising for the Webster Library, 1950s-1960s, including correspondence, financial records, drafts of brochures, and lists of contributors. Also included is Sub-Series 5.4.1, Individual Donors, which has files on all donors/potential donors to the Library.
Sub-Series 5.5: Book Purchases
(11 boxes; 3.5 cubic feet)
Records of books purchased by Webster both for the Webster Library and for his personal use, 1931-1975. From 1931 to about 1938, the records are arranged alphabetically by book dealer, with records after that date arranged chronologically. Webster purchased books from dealers specializing in the history of science and medicine from throughout North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe.
The series also includes records of Webster’s purchases of books and manuscripts on the history of Western embassies to East Asia from the 16th to early 19th century. This collection was not included in the Webster Library and was later bequeathed to Trinity College. Researchers should also consult Series 11, Index Cards, for additional information on book acquisitions.
Series 6: Writings & Research
Records documenting Webster’s medical and historical publications including correspondence, drafts, research notes, photographs, financial records, contracts, and printed materials. There are copies of most of his medical publications and extensive records relating to the biography of Gaspare Tagliacozzi he co-authored with Martha Teach Gnudi.
Sub-series are as follows:
Sub-Series 6.1: Articles: Manuscripts
(5.5 boxes; 1.75 cubic feet)
Manuscripts, often including several drafts, of articles written by Webster, 1933-1971. Arranged chronologically. Photographs, charts, and graphs used in these articles are often present. These are largely Webster’s medical articles but also include articles on several non-medical topics. The drafts and collected materials for his biographical piece on his mentor, Vilray Papin Blair, can be found in Series 1. There is also a draft of Martha Teach Gnudi’s paper on the horoscope Giovanni Antonio Magnini cast for Tagliacozzi.
Sub-Series 6.2: Articles: Reprints
(.5 cubic feet)
An incomplete set of reprints of Webster’s articles, 1924-1968. Arranged chronologically by date of publication.
Sub-Series 6.3: Articles about Webster
(.25 cubic feet)
Articles about Webster, his library, and his books, 1947-1973.
Sub-Series 6.4: The Life and Times of Gaspare Tagliacozzi, Surgeon of Bologna, 1545-1599 (1950)
(11.25 boxes; 3.66 cubic feet)
Extensive records relating to the researching, writing, publishing, and selling of this biography of Tagliacozzi, which Webster co-authored in 1950 with Martha Teach Gnudi.
There is correspondence between Webster and Gnudi and with the publisher, Herbert Reichner; substantial research notes, including photographs and transcriptions of documents relating to Tagliacozzi found in Italian archives; financial records relating to the printing and sale of the book, 1949-1970; manuscript and typescript copies of the text; copies of newspaper and magazine reviews; a partial English translation of Tagliacozzi’s De Curtorum Chirurgia per Insitionem; and production materials, including galley proofs, binding samples, dust jackets, and illustrations.
In addition, there is correspondence documenting Webster’s purchase of the Record Book of the Pharmacy of St. Paul in Bologna, which includes the only signature of Tagliacozzi in the United States.
Researchers should also consult Series 11, Index Cards, for additional records relating to the Tagliacozzi biography.
Sub-Series 6.5: Documenti Inediti Intorno alla Vita di Gaspare Tagliacozzi (1935)
Correspondence, notes, and translations relating to this biographical sketch of Tagliacozzi published by Webster and Gnudi in 1935. There are letters of thanks from Henry Sigerist and Harvey Cushing in response to having received a copy of the work from Webster.
Sub-Series 6.6: Tagliacozzi Portraits
(.33 cubic feet)
Correspondence, notes, and photographs, 1933-1969, relating to Webster’s research into possible portraits of Tagliacozzi, including one he purchased in the 1930s that is now known as a “Portrait of a Bolognese Surgeon.”
Sub-Series 6.7: Joseph Constantine Carpue Research Files
(.75 cubic feet)
Notes, correspondence, printed material, and many photographs gathered by Webster in the course of his research into the life of British surgeon Joseph Constantine Carpue (1764-1846). Many of the photographs are of paintings and engravings of the Crucifixion. Webster collected these when researching Carpue’s possible collaboration with the painter Benjamin West in obtaining a corpse from which West could accurately depict a crucified body. There are also many photographs of portraits of West and Carpue.
Researchers should also consult Series 11, Index Cards, for additional records relating to Webster’s research on Carpue.
Sub-Series 6.8: “History of the College of Physicians and Surgeons”
(.5 cubic feet)
Notes, correspondence, index cards, printed material, and partial drafts of Webster’s unpublished history of Columbia University’s medical school. Though much of the material is undated, a complete copy of this work found in the Archives & Special Collections rare book holdings is dated 1954.
Sub-Series 6.9: Other Writings and Research
(3 boxes; 1 cubic feet)
Notes, translations, printed materials, and photographs relating to miscellaneous research undertaken by Webster, both medical and historical. Included are notes on his animal operations, 1928-1933; translations or partial translations of works by Giuseppe Baronio; biographical materials relating to the famed British plastic surgeon, Sir Harold Gillies; and notes and articles relating to double noses.
Sub-Series 6.10: Vertical File: History of Medicine
Sub-Series 6.11: Vertical File: Historical Reprints
(4.35 boxes; 1.4 cubic feet)
History of medicine articles collected by Webster for research purposes. They are generally organized by subject and span from 1893 to 1966. Though there are two sets of vertical files, there do not appear to be any differences in content between them.
Series 7: U.S. Army Training Courses in Plastic and Maxillofacial Surgery
Records documenting the courses in plastic and maxillofacial surgery for U.S. Army medical and dental officers given at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in 1942-1943. Included are officers’ correspondence, grades, and evaluations; lectures; class schedules; registration forms; operative notes; financial records; lists of instructors and patients; and bibliographies. Included in this series is a 1945 report on plastic surgery in US army hospitals by Maj. Patrick Clarkson of the British Royal Army Medical Corps; and Webster’s reports of his inspections of plastic surgery practice in the same hospitals made in his role as Consultant in Plastic Surgery to the U.S. Surgeon-General’s Office.
There were four courses of twelve weeks each at the Medical Center between Sept. 28, 1942 and Dec. 18, 1943. The first two weeks were instruction in general surgery under the supervision of Dr. Allen O. Whipple, with the following ten weeks were devoted to plastic and maxillofacial surgery directed by Webster. A total of 82 officers were trained.
The series is divided into six sub-series: four devoted to each course; one containing general records that pertain to all four courses; and one relating to Webster’s hospital inspection work for the Surgeon-General’s Office.
Series 8: Diaries and Notebooks
Diaries, many of them pocket-sized, 1954, 1956-1973; a guest book, 1952-1975, probably for the Webster Library of Plastic Surgery; a volume of office expenses, 1954-1957; and three volumes listing slides made by the Division of Plastic Surgery, 1959-1963. The diaries generally list only appointments and expenses.
Series 9: Newsclippings
Newspaper and magazine articles collected by Webster. They date from 1928 to 1974 and are primarily concerned with plastic surgery. Webster was particularly interested in accounts of quacks in the field and of the popular media’s depiction of plastic surgery in general. The clippings document changes in both plastic surgery and the American public’s reaction to it over almost half a century.
Series 10: Clinical Records
Records documenting Webster’s work as a plastic surgeon dating from 1921 when he began as a resident at Peking Union Medical College until about 1960, two years before he retired from active practice. The large majority are patient records from his time at Columbia-Presbyterian.
Researchers should also consult Series 11, Index Cards, for additional records relating to Webster’s patients; and Series 13.3, Slides, for color slides of his patients.
Access to clinical records is regulated by the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). See the section on Access for details.
Sub-series are as follows:
Sub-series 10.1: Operation Notes & Schedules/Pathology Reports
(8 boxes; 1.66 cubic feet)
The operation notes document general surgery at the Peking Union Medical College, 1921-1925, and plastic surgery at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, 1928-1960.
The Columbia-Presbyterian notes are for all surgeons in the division of plastic surgery. Information includes date of operation; name of patient, surgeon, and assisting surgeons; pathological findings; and short description of work performed. None is more than one page long.
The schedules date from 1949, 1953-1959 and include all surgical operations at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
Sub-Series 10.2: Patient Correspondence
(1.75 boxes; .5 cubic feet)
The patient correspondence dates from 1931 to 1971 but bulks 1949-1960. Although arranged in several different ways and under various titles, this correspondence is predominantly from prospective patients – presumably those who never actually saw Webster, since he generally filed patients’ correspondence in their medical record. See Sub-Series 10.6 for patient records.
At the end of the series are several anomalous folders: patients referred to other surgeons; correspondence with physicians about the reconstruction of a penis; and records on several cases on which Webster served as consultant.
Sub-Series 10.3: Clinical Cases for Book
(1 box; .33 cubic feet)
Patient records intended as case histories for a book Webster planned to write. Although the book would have undoubtedly pertained to plastic surgery, it has not been possible to determine what aspect of the field Webster intended to write about.
Sub-Series 10.4: Plastic Surgery Sketchbooks
(7.25 boxes; 2.5 cubic feet)
76 volumes dated July 1, 1943 to June 22, 1956, along with several undated volumes, illustrating plastic surgery operations at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. Practically every type of plastic operation is depicted here in detailed and vividly colored drawings. While the patient name, date of operation, and type of procedure are given, the surgeon’s name is not included.
None of the drawings in the numbered volumes are signed. However a comparison of these drawings with those in the volume identified as being by Ivan Summers (Box 217, folder 4) demonstrates that he is the artist for most, if not all, of the drawings in this series. The volumes are numbered 1-71. There is a second draft volume for volume 22, a volume numbered 57½, and three unnumbered and undated volumes. An index to patient names can be found in Series 11, Index Cards.
(.35 cubic feet)
Contains miscellaneous drawings (and a few photographs) dating from the 1930s through the 1950s. Some are arranged by patient name, but most are filed in no discernible order. Summers is also the artist for these items.
Sub-Series 10.5: Photographs for Books and Articles
(3.15 boxes; 1.05 cubic feet)
Photographs that accompanied Webster’s medical papers. While some are grouped by article, most are in no obvious order.
Sub-Series 10.6 Patient Records
(115 boxes; 38.5 cubic feet)
Records of private patients seen by Webster, 1929-c.1965. These are his office records: for those patients admitted as inpatients (the majority here) another record would have been created by the hospital and filed in the Medical Records Dept.
The content of the records varies considerably. Some have only a one-page case history, while others span multiple file folders. Most fall somewhere in between in terms of size, though generally more recent records are more extensive. Records always contain a case history (handwritten up to the late 1940s, usually typed thereafter) and usually hold photographs and correspondence. Pathological and radiological reports are sometimes present.
With the exception of pediatric patients, the correspondence for any one patient is usually brief and is often routine. Because children often came in for multiple operations over a long period of time and because they were minors, the correspondence for these patients is more likely to be extensive and rich in documentation. In addition, Webster’s pediatric patients and their parents often continued to correspond with him for years after their treatment was concluded.
Series 11: Index Cards
23 Index Card Boxes
Index and note cards created by Webster. They document book purchases for the Webster Library and research on Tagliacozzi and Carpue. The bulk of the cards documents Webster’s clinical work. Included are what appears to be a complete index to his patients, both clinic and private patients and including those for whom no case file survives; a name index to patient slides; a name index to the sketchbooks (Sub-series 10.4); and patient accounts.
Series 12: Scrapbooks
2 volumes in one flat box
One scrapbook documents the publication and reception of Webster and Gnudi’s biography of Tagliacozzi. Included are advertising materials; a dust jacket; and numerous reviews from both professional journals and newspapers and magazines.
The other scrapbook, entitled “Bologna April 26, 1952,” documents the award of an honorary doctorate to Webster by the University of Bologna. There are texts of speeches by Webster, Gnudi, and University officials; newspaper clippings, largely from Bolognese publications; a program; and photographs. Most of the photographs had come loose from their pages and have been transferred to the photographs in Series 13.
Series 13: Non-Print, Separated & Oversize Materials
10 Boxes, 2 Cartons, 3 Flat Boxes, 91 Slide Boxes, 4 Glass Slide Boxes, 5 Film Reels
Photographs, prints, slides, film, and other non-print materials, as well as print material that had to be separated from the papers because of their size or format.
Sub-series are as follows:
Sub-Series 13.1 Photographs & Prints
(3 boxes; 1 cubic feet)
The photographs and prints include those purchased by Webster as an adjunct to his library, as well as photographs created by or for him for personal or professional reasons. His extensive collection of photographs of plastic surgery patients treated at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center is not included in this series and is cataloged separately.
Sub-series 13.2 Oversize Photographs & Prints
(2 flat boxes)
Photographs and prints too large to be housed in standard document boxes.
Sub-series 13.3 Patient Slides
(91 slide boxes; 3 slide carousel boxes; c. 6 cubic feet)
Slides of patients treated by the Division of Plastic Surgery from about 1929 to 1963. They document patients before, during, and after their surgical treatment. There are two types of slides, film and glass. Film slides are housed in 64 boxes. Most of them are in color, date from c.1943 to c.1963, and are arranged by case number from 1 to 1159, with each case having multiple slides. Additional film slides are arranged by name of condition. Glass slides are housed in 27 boxes. Most are black and white and date from c.1921 to c.1943 with the bulk starting in 1928 (pre-1928 slides are from Webster’s time at Peking Union Medical College). They are arranged by case number from 500 to 889, with another ten boxes of unnumbered slides. Each case can have up to dozens of slides. It is estimated that there are about 16,000 film slides and 2,100 glass slides.
Sub-series 13.4 Glass Slides, Non-Patient
(4 boxes; 244 slides)
Four boxes of glass slides, illustrating non-clinical subjects. There is one box (40 slides) of Webster’s trip to Outer Mongolia while he was teaching at Peking Union Medical College. Slides illustrating the history of plastic surgery and medicine in general are in two boxes (155 slides), while the third box has slides relating to Joseph Constantine Carpue (49 slides).
Sub-series 13.5 Film
(5 boxes and 5 reels)
67 small reels of film housed in 5 boxes and 5 large reels unboxed. Most of the film is unlabelled and undated. From the reels that are identified, it appears that most or all of them are of plastic surgery patients seen at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center from c.1942 to c.1963. It is not clear if the film is of the patients before and after their surgical treatment, or of the surgical operations in progress.
Because of their fragile condition, the film is closed to researchers until transfer to a more stable medium.
Sub-series 13.6: Phonodiscs and audiotape
79 dictaphone phonodiscs and 1 reel-to-reel audiotape. The phonodiscs record plastic surgery division staff conferences, case histories, and reports on professional conferences attended, all dating 1947-1950. The one audiotape documents another staff conference in 1960. The materials are closed until they can be transferred to an accessible media.
Sub-series 13.7: Oversize Print Materials
(1 flat box, 1 carton)
Print material too large to fit in standard document boxes; includes items separated from folders. Included are certificates, awards, and diplomas received by Webster.
Series 14: Artifacts
1 Carton, 2 Boxes, and 3 Unboxed Items
A collection of medical instruments, small artworks, and souvenirs collected by Webster. The collection is uncataloged as of the writing of this finding aid.