Arrested January 2, 1919, for suspicion.
Arrest Record Note: “Nose slightly twisted to the left”
Arrested January 2, 1919, for suspicion.
Dr. Thomas Parran
Pitt has built quite the reputation as a university for medical research over the years. Jonas Salk developed his polio vaccine here and the school has continued to attract top doctors like transplantation pioneer Thomas Starzl to support their research.
Before them all, however, came a doctor whose pursuits in public health led him all the way to the top medical position in the country: Surgeon General of the United States. Thomas Parran’s career began in 1917 with the Public Health Service (PHS), surveying conditions in the South and studying sanitation and the control of communicable diseases. By 1926 he was the Chief of the PHS’s Division of Venereal Diseases, where he worked to curtail the stigma surrounding syphilis and instead stressed its threat to public health.
Dr. Thomas Parran, c.1953, University of Pittsburgh Historic Photographs, Archives Service Center
His efforts attracted the attention of New York’s Governor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who hired Parran as his new state health commissioner. As President of the United States, Roosevelt appointed Parran to the committee that would create the Social Security Act of 1935, which also allotted millions to public health departments and research. When the current Surgeon General, Hugh Cummings, reached the end of his appointment, President Roosevelt chose Parran as his replacement, reclaiming the doctor for the federal government on April 6, 1936.
Letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Parran asking him to become Surgeon General of the United States, January 15, 1936, Thomas Parran Papers, UA.90.F14, University Archives, Archives Service Center
As Surgeon General, Parran continued his crusade against syphilis by publishing a book, Shadow on the Land, about the disease and created the 1938 National Venereal Disease Control Act that established quick treatment centers employing antibiotics and drugs. Parran also guided the country’s medical community through World War II by restructuring the PHS. In addition, he was instrumental in the formation of the World Health Organization in 1946. Parran was an advocate of federal health insurance along with President Truman, but in the wake of backlash from the American Medical Association, the President declined to renew Parran’s appointment in 1948 as a means of distancing himself from the controversy.
Parran left the PHS in October 1948 to become the first dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s new School of Public Health (GSPH). While at Pitt, Parran brought many leading doctors to the program, including his deputy Surgeon General and successor as dean, Dr. James Crabtree. Parran retired from his position as dean in 1958, but continued his work in public health until his death on February 16, 1968.
The Graduate School of Public Health building, now known as Parran Hall, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and DeSoto Street, c.1950, University of Pittsburgh Historic Photographs, Archives Service Center
Parran’s legacy lives on at Pitt as the Graduate School of Public Health building was renamed Parran Hall in 1969. The Thomas Parran Papers found in the University Archives contain records documenting his career, including his time as Surgeon General and dean of the GSPH.
- Zach Brodt
Arrested December 31, 1918, for suspicion
Meet Our Staff: Zach Brodt
Happy American Archives Month! October’s staff profile is Zach Brodt, who has had the distinction of working at the ASC as an undergraduate and graduate student before coming aboard as full-time staff.
Name: Zach Brodt
Position: Records Manager
What are some of your responsibilities: My primary responsibility is to help University departments with the storage and disposition of their routine business records by offering solutions through Pitt’s contracted off-site storage provider. There are over 400 offices that utilize the University Records Management program and it is my job to make sure that the 1,400 staff members using these services are trained on our policies and procedures. Occasionally I even spot a few gems that can be transferred to the University Archives for permanent retention.
In addition to my records management duties, I also have the opportunity to work closely with our many labor collections. We are the official repository for the records of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America labor union and also house a lot of material pertaining to western Pennsylvania’s industrial past. As Ashley mentioned last month, we also work together managing the archives’ social media pages.
Why did you choose to work in archives: I was an undergraduate history major at Pitt when my girlfriend (now wife) spotted a flyer for the archives program in the elevator of the Information Sciences building. I did some research and it sounded right up my alley: actually working with history every day rather than simply talking about it. I tried to get a job at the ASC the summer before my senior year, but they weren’t hiring at the time so instead I was hired at Hillman Library. For my first day on the job I wasn’t to report to the library, though. Instead I went to the house of K. Leroy Irvis to help pack up his records along with Mike Dabrishus, who was the head of the ASC at the time. I must have made a good impression because by the end of the day I was scheduled to transfer over to the archives and they have kept me around ever since.
Tell us about a time something unusual or unexpected happened to you while working here: I spent the summer before graduate school processing the Allegheny County Coroner Case Files. Going in, I was warned that there could be pieces of bone and bullets found within the files and I had found a few items like this throughout the summer. One day I was working on a file where the deceased had committed suicide by overdosing on morphine. The file contained an envelope which I assumed contained a suicide note or prescription, but when I emptied the contents onto the table I was greeted with white powder and a crushed clear capsule. Apparently the coroner thought it was important to keep a sample morphine pill for his investigation, but not important enough to label the envelope. That was the first time I found something that resulted in a call to Pitt Police.
If you could go back in time and ask a question of anyone represented in the collections, who would it be and what would you ask: I’ve worn a few different hats in my time at the ASC, including a brief stint as the Henry Clay Frick project archivist. There are so many questions I could ask Frick about his assassination attempt, missing his place on the Titanic, his feud with Carnegie; but if I knew I would get an honest answer, I would love to ask him about his intentions in hiring the Pinkertons to secure the Homestead Steel Works in 1892.
What’s your favorite ASC collection to work with? If there was one collection that we have that I could work with for the rest of my life it would be the coroner files. The research potential for the files is endless and I love to see the new ways people use the collection. I enjoy working with records concerning the every-man, those people who tend to fall through the cracks of history. The coroner files don’t discriminate: if a person died in an unusual way in Allegheny County, no matter their socio-economic status, race, nationality or gender, they are represented here. You can learn so much about life in Pittsburgh by reading one 3 page file at a time.
Arrested January 1, 1919, for suspicion.
Come One, Come All… to the Historic Pittsburgh Fair!
October is American Archives Month, which gives us, as archivists, an excuse to come up with fun events to bring more of what we have to our users- and to people who might not even know about us yet! We created an event a few weeks ago (you may have seen it on Facebook) that focuses on one of our most popular services, the Historic Pittsburgh website! HP, for those of you who might not be aware, is a partnership between 14 area collecting institutions, including the Archives Service Center. The goal of the website is to make historic documents, images, maps, and more available to people interested in Pittsburgh history. We hear from a large number of patrons, from academic professionals to causal researchers looking for cool old images of the city, who say that the site has really helped them find what they’re looking for.
In fact, we’re so proud of our website- and so glad that our users love it, too- that we’re aiming to bring Historic Pittsburgh to you in person! On October 21st, at the University Club on the University of Pittsburgh campus, we’ll be hosting a Historic Pittsburgh Fair from 1:00 to 5:00 PM. Have you seen our previous posts and the Facebook event but aren’t quite sure what’s happening, or why you should attend? Here are a few reasons:
- Two speakers- Steve Mellon of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Angelique Bamberg from the History of Art and Architecture Department at Pitt- will be giving short presentations at 1:30 and 2:30, respectively. They’ll be talking about the way they used HP and other archival resources in their research. It might open your eyes to some uses of the site you weren’t aware of, and will give you a chance to ask the speakers questions!
- Representatives from 11 of the HP Partners Institutions- the ASC, Carnegie Museum of Natural History Archives, Historical Society of Upper St. Clair, Library and Archives at the Heinz History Center, Monroeville Historical Society, Northland Public Library, Oakmont Carnegie Library, Pitcairn Historical Society, Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Archives, and Rodef Shalom Congregation- will be attending to show off some items from their collections, give out information about their collections, and to talk with you about what you’re looking for. Ever wish you could gather all of the collective knowledge behind the site to one place and get some answers about your questions? Now’s your chance!
- Interested in doing some research or archiving of your own, but aren’t quite sure where to start? We’ll have four professionals available to help you with some areas that we get a lot of questions about. ASC Media Curator Miriam Meislik will be giving advice about preserving family photographs, while Heinz History Center Archivist Sierra Green will be talking about the preservation of family papers. Heinz’s Chief Archivist Matt Strauss will have information on how to preserve personal digital archives, and professional genealogists Suzanne Johnston and Diane Klinefelter will be on hand to talk about researching your own family history!
- Did you hear that the HP website is getting a makeover? Join us at 3:30 for a sneak peek at the new site!
- Still not convinced? It’s a free event, and rumor has it that there will be cookies!
Stay tuned for some updates in the upcoming weeks. We really hope that you’ll make some time to come and see us! Any questions? Don’t hesitate to ask!
In the loft of the old No.4 police station in Oakland were remnants of Pittsburgh’s criminal past: record books documenting complaints and arrests from the turn of the century to the mid-1930s. These records were donated to the ASC in 1972 by the building’s new occupants and they provide a wealth of information about police and criminal activity in Oakland and Hazelwood.
One book stands out from the rest, though: a photo album of alleged criminals arrested throughout the city in 1919. Accompanying each mugshot is a description of the arrestee, their offense and arrest date. Together, this information offers not only a snapshot of the types of crime committed in Pittsburgh, but also captures the more personal background information of occupation and nationality that allows researchers to discover exactly what type of person was breaking the law.
This man was arrested on January 11, 1919, for snatching purses. It was noted that he had tattoos on his forearms.
Inadvertently, the album also contains some lesser known aspects from 1919. For example, the photographs display examples of the era’s fashion, hair styles and personal appearance. The effects of child labor are indicative on 16 or 17 year old boys that often display a weary expression, the police noting distinctive scars on their hands that most likely resulted from their listed work as laborers.
Every Monday we plan to feature one of the photographs from the album. #MugshotMonday posts will include an image, the date of arrest and the crime committed. We will also provide any interesting or unusual information listed for that person, such as a description of tattoos.
Enjoy and stay tuned!
Acting Out Accidents
We all know that working in a steel mill is dangerous. Molten metal, red hot steel bars, and overhead cranes moving heavy finished products are only some of the daily hazards that steelworkers face on the job. The mills documented all of the accidents on their property so they could improve safety on the shop floor, comply with union contracts and, if necessary, discipline employees who broke the rules. The ASC is lucky to have accident reports from U.S. Steel’s National Works in McKeesport which document the dangers of steel production.
Recreation of an accident in which a man’s pelvis was crushed between a buggy and pipe railing due to the steep grade of the ramp. Notice the block behind the front buggy wheels preventing a similar incident from happening to the re-enactor.
Along with standard accident reports that describe the incidents in detail, often visual recreations were included to help supervisors understand the incident and improve safety rules. When possible, machines were shut down and photographs of the scene were taken with another worker standing in for the injured employee. Unassuming mill workers would serve as impromptu actors and it is likely that they, then, described the accident in detail to their co-workers so they would think twice before putting themselves in the same situation.
Acci-Gram with a drawing of a ball of rope being used as a block to prevent large pipes from rolling on a rack. As the worker put the ball in place the pipe rolled onto his hand, resulting in the amputation of his index finger.
If it was unsafe to recreate the accident, there were two other methods used to depict an episode. The first was to take a photograph of the scene and then have an artist draw in an outline of the worker and the circumstances of the accident. The other method was to simply have an artist draw the event. The latter came in regular use for U.S. Steel once they began to issue regular accident summaries to all of their mills, such as the Acci-Gram.
While many now romanticize the activities of the steel mill, it is important to reflect on the hard, dirty and dangerous tasks that workers faced in the plant every day.
- Zach Brodt
Meet Our Staff series! First up: Ashley Taylor
We’ve had a lot of people ask us about… well, us! Who are the people behind the collections, processing boxes and writing collection guides and answering emails? What are we interested in, what exactly do we do, and how did we even end up here in the first place? So, each month, we’ll introduce you to a new staff member or student (we’re always home to a few graduate students, which, ironically, is where a big chunk of our professional staff came from!). First up is one of the two archivists who bring you the Tumblr and Facebook updates. Look out for more on another staff member in October!
Name: Ashley Taylor
What are some of your responsibilities? Processing large, complex collections is my forte! By large, I mean collections that can range from 200 to 2200 boxes. I’ve worked on the papers of K. Leroy Irvis, Maurice Shapiro, Jean Witter, Thomas E. Starzl, and Senator Arlen Specter. These projects involve elements of project management, arrangement and description, electronic records management, digitization, reference and outreach. With Zach, I help run the ASC social media pages (Tumblr and Facebook). I’m also taking the test to get my Digital Archivist Specialist certificate from SAA in November, so I’m helping guide and make recommendations to the ASC as we begin to handle more and more electronic media files. In a nutshell, I really do a bit of everything.
Why did you choose to work in archives? Like so many archivists, I was a history undergraduate who didn’t want to teach and had no idea what to do with myself. A great professor got me a job as an intern at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, and the very first collection I worked with was a collection of Civil War miscellany- nothing like going in your first day and finding an original newspaper announcing Lincoln’s assassination! I loved the combination of history and information science; I’m a very structured thinker, and I found that a lot of the job came easily to me. Today, I like the challenge of tackling access issues- how can we best get information to researchers?- especially with regards to medical and electronic material.
Tell us about a time something unusual or unexpected happened to you while working here: This is before I started at the ASC, but it’s a great example of some of the “dangers” of archival work that they don’t tell you about in school. One of my colleagues at the WRHS and I were going through some boxes that had recently arrived from a local organization, and they had been stored in a basement in not-so-great conditions for several decades. I reached into the box, felt something strange under the pile of papers, and then actually looked at what I had reached into: a (probably also decades’ old) spider’s nest. All of the soap in the world couldn’t wash the creepy feeling off of me after that- I guess it’s amazing I still went ahead and applied to grad school!
If you could go back in time and ask a question of anyone represented in the collections, who would it be and what would you ask? I’d probably ask K. Leroy Irvis if he could give me lessons in woodcarving and making model airplanes, because I bet that we could have some great conversations and make some beautiful art!
What’s your favorite ASC collection to work with? I love the Jean Witter Papers; I processed them as a graduate student, and they came to me in pretty much no order at all. It was a definite challenge, but I loved it. As I pieced everything together, I found out a lot about Mrs. Witter and her story; learning more about the gender equality movement from her papers was really fascinating.
100th Anniversary of the V.F.W.
You never know when or where inspiration for a blog post might appear. While waiting for a bus on Pitt’s campus I started to read an historical marker commemorating the founding of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, which I learned occurred right here in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.
Allegheny County Council officers at the historical marker, photo from the 1974 Loyalty Day Program, Archives of Industrial Society (AIS) Information Files, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. Allegheny County Council
One hundred years ago the Schenley Hotel, now the university’s William Pitt Union, hosted a conference of the American Veterans of Foreign Service, representing veterans of the Spanish-American War, and the National Society of the Army of the Philippines, representing veterans of the Philippine-American War. Each group had formed independently in 1899 to support military veterans that had served outside of U.S. soil, but by 1909 the organizations realized that they could better advocate for their membership if they united.
They first met in Pittsburgh in 1909, but delegates failed to approve the formation of a new, combined organization. Leaders of both groups, including Pitt Law School graduate and American Veterans of Foreign Service commander Robert Woodside, helped bring both sides together and upon the closing of another Pittsburgh conference on September 17, 1914, they merged to form a new organization: the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
View of Schenley Hotel from the lawn of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial on Fifth Avenue, 1931, Carl Johnston Photograph Collection, AIS.2013.08, Archives Service Center
Col. Thomas S. Crago of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania served as the first Commander-in-Chief of the newly formed VFW and the Pittsburgh Encampment Pendant, the Cross of Malta, was designated the group’s official seal and is still in use today.
Once the U.S. entered the Great War in 1917, the VFW realized that there would be a whole new group of veterans needing their help once they returned home. Upon completion of World War I, the VFW changed their by-laws to open membership to any veteran who had served outside the United States. On May 28, 1936, Congress proclaimed the VFW to be a government-chartered non-profit organization.
While their primary mission is to advocate for better health care and benefits for veterans, a century of volunteer work has made VFW Posts a staple in many communities throughout the country.
- Zach Brodt