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1751 - 1800

1801 - 1850

1851 - 1900

1901 - 1950

1951 - Today

1751 – 1800

Since its founding in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond, Pennsylvania Hospital has been an innovator in patient care, treatment techniques and medical research. In the years since its founding, Pennsylvania Hospital has provided the setting for many "firsts" of our nation, as well as many other noteworthy medical, historical and cultural milestones.

On May 11, 1751, a charter is granted by the Pennsylvania legislature to establish a hospital to care for the sick-poor and insane who wander the streets of Philadelphia. The story of the Good Samaritan is chosen by Franklin and Bond as the official seal, and "Take Care of Him and I will repay Thee" ushers in a new attitude of social responsibility.

A temporary hospital is opened in a house on High (Market) Street and Elizabeth Gardner, a Quaker widow, is appointed matron.

The cornerstone, written by Franklin, is laid for the East Wing of the building at the hospital's current location of 8th and Pine, on land that is purchased by the hospital, and patients are admitted in 1756.

The first book for the Medical Library is donated by Dr. John Fothergill, a British friend of Franklin's.

Thomas and Richard Penn donate adjoining property, giving the hospital the entire square between Spruce and Pine streets and 8th and 9th Streets.

Jacob Ehrenzeller, the first medical resident, is appointed; he serves for five years.

It was proposed to the Board of Managers that a garden be planted on the hospital grounds to provide physicians with ingredients for medicines. The idea was approved, but financial circumstances intervened and the project was delayed for two centuries. In 1976, the planting of the Physic Garden was the Bicentenial project of the Philadelphia Committee of the Garden Club of America and the Friends of Pennsylvania Hospital. Located in front of the Pine Building's west wing, the garden has plants that were used for medicine in the 18th century.

During the American Revolution, the hospital takes care of both Continental and British soldiers, endures the exile of four members of the Board of Managers and suffers financially for years to come. Dr. Benjamin Rush, later a staff member, writes a definitive treatise on military medicine that serves the nation until the Civil War.

Given the hospital's dependency on candles for light and on fireplaces for heating, the Board of Managers is understandably concerned about fire prevention. An early American hand pumper fire engine, characteristic of Philadelphia engine builder Richard Mason's style, was purchased. The Board was so proud of its acquisition that it is recorded in the Minutes of their meeting that "the fire engine [shall be] played every month at the meetings of the Board." This fire engine now sits on display in the Great Court of the Pine Building.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, on staff from 1783 until 1813, is a medical teacher, social reformer, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and will come to be known as the "father of American psychiatry." As the hospital's reputation for the humane treatment of the mentally ill grows, overcrowding is a recurrent problem.

Dr. Phillip Syng Physick is appointed to the staff and serves until 1816. He achieves fame through his surgical prowess and becomes known as the "father of American surgery."

Construction of the second wing of the hospital, the West Wing, is completed.

Continue to 1801-1850


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