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H MS c531

Douglass, D. DeForrest (Darwin DeForrest). Papers, 1820-1901 (inclusive), 1850-1900 (bulk): Finding Aid.

Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)


Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: H MS c531
Repository: Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)
Creator: Douglass, D. DeForrest (Darwin DeForrest)
Title: D. DeForrest Douglass papers
Date(s): 1819-1901 (inclusive)
Date(s): 1850-1900 (bulk)
Quantity: 1.5 cubic feet (2 records center cartons, 1 flat file box)
Language of materials: Papers are in English.
Abstract: The papers consist of correspondence and financial documentation reflecting the family life and professional work of Darwin DeForrest Douglass, an artificial limb designer and maker.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Collection purchased from Terry Alford, 24 September 1974.

Processing Information:

Processed by Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook, September 2017.
Staff at the Center for the History of Medicine foldered and boxed material and created a finding aid to improve researcher access. Material was cleaned and flattened to allow easier access. One large, artificially created roll of correspondence was disassembled into its constituent parts; another, smaller roll was stored in an acid-free tube for preservation.

Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Contact Public Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use:

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all the materials in the collection. Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to Public Services. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from Public Services are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.

Preferred Citation:

D. DeForrest Douglass papers, 1819-1901 (inclusive), 1850-1900 (bulk). H MS c531. Harvard Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.

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Biographical Note

D. DeForrest (Darwin DeForrest) Douglass (1828-1902) was a manufacturer of artificial limbs.
Douglass was born in 1828. He was employed as a workman for Benjamin Franklin Palmer (born 1824), one of the first large-scale prosthesis manufacturers in the United States. "The Douglass leg" never achieved the commercial success of the "Palmer leg" and Douglass never established a factory or secured the government contracts for supplying veterans that allowed manufacturers like Palmer to expand after the Civil War. Douglass rented office space in and around Boston, Massachusetts, and travelled widely over the New England area to meet with patients requesting his services.
Douglass was married (Susan) and had at least one daughter (Jennie Grace).

Collection Arrangement

Scope and Content

The papers consist of correspondence and financial records reflecting the personal and professional activities of Darwin DeForrest Douglass (1828-1902), a designer and maker of artificial limbs, mainly legs.
Included here is correspondence sent to and from Douglass as well as correspondence pertaining to his wife, Susan, and daughter, Jennie Grace. Jennie Grace was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music; this is reflected in the collection. Correspondence often crosses the boundary between personal and professional, discussing family business in the same letter as, for example, Douglass's travel in pursuit of sales. Included among the correspondence are letters to and from patients requesting Douglass's services as a limb maker and fitter. Box 2 includes a index card box containing small items found with correspondence: primarily business and calling cards, a single photograph, and a roll of correspondence which could not be disassembled for interfiling. Also included is a large amount of financial documentation, including bills, receipts, and invoices for household, personal, and professional items such as sheet music, wood, paint, clothing, food (tea, sugar, flour, vegetables, meat, milk, coffee, etc.), as well as promissory notes, bills for rentals, gas, coal, and ice bills, and property records. Also included are bills Douglass submitted for payment for his professional services as a prosthetist and copies of his and his wife Susan's wills.
Papers are entirely in English.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Artificial limb fitters
Medical instruments and apparatus
Medical supplies
Music – Instruction and study
Women – Education – 19th century
Artificial Limbs
Equipment and Supplies
Leg Prosthesis
Prostheses and Implants
Personal papers
Douglass, D. DeForrest (Darwin DeForrest)
New England Conservatory of Music