Guide to the Providence Board of Health records , 1857-1977


Rhode Island State Archives
Rhode Island State Archives
337 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903
Tel: 401-222-2353
Fax: 401-222-3199
email: statearchives@sos.ri.gov

Published in 2009

Collection Overview

Title: Providence Board of Health records
Date range: 1857-1977
Creator: Providence (R.I.). Board of Health
Extent: .35 cubic feet
Abstract: Black and white photographs documenting disease and living conditions in Providence during the early 1900's as well as activities of the City of Providence Health Department. The collection also includes annual reports, and examples of actual signs used to warn of the existence of scarlet fever or diphtheria.
Language of materials: English
Repository: Rhode Island State Archives
Collection number: C#95-197

Scope & content

This collection contains primarily photographs that document the activities of the Providence Board of Health from circa 1900 until 1977 as well as the living conditions of the population of Providence during the early years of the 20th century. The photographs include those taken by Dr. Charles V. Chapin documenting the living conditions in a Providence neighborhood circa 1900 and those taken by the Providence Housing Authority documenting the Well Baby Clinic conducted at Hartford Park in 1959. The collection also contains the first annual report completed by the Superintendent of Health (year ending July 1, 1857) as well as annual reports for the years 1961, 1963 and 1964. There are also original warning signs used to warn of the presence of diphtheria or scarlet fever in a building. The collection also includes a program from the award dinner held in 1977 for Joseph E. Cannon M.D.

Arrangement

Items are arranged chronologically within each folder. Items are arranged into the following series:
  • Series 1. Photographs, circa 1900-1963
  • Series 2. Annual Reports, 1857-1964
  • Series 3. Ephemera

Historical note

In 1854, Dr. Edwin Snow pioneered efforts to document and analyze a wave of cholera which attacked the citizens of Providence. Tracking the disease among his own patients, he devoted himself to tracing its source and preventing its recurrence. Snow became the first Superintendent in 1856 when Providence established a permanent city health department. Twenty-two years later, a State Board of Health was formed with three mandates: preventing the spread of disease, collecting vital statistics, and implementing a sanitation program.

In 1883, Dr. Charles Value Chapin became Providence's Superintendent of Health. Dr. Chapin continued Dr. Snow's efforts, improving sanitation, advocating city sewer construction, establishing quarantine regulations, and identifying the source of a cholera outbreak in 1888. Dr. Chapin instituted mandatory reporting of contagious disease cases such as scarlet fever and diphtheria. He was a leader in discouraging fumigation of houses as a disease prevention measure and established the nation's first contagious disease hospital, the Providence City Hospital, in 1910.

Access & Use

Access to the collection: No special restrictions unless otherwise specified.
Use of the materials: Copyright is in the public domain unless otherwise specified. We reserve the right to restrict reproduction of materials due to preservation concerns.
Preferred citation: Providence Board of Health records, C#95-197, Rhode Island State Archives.
Contact information: Rhode Island State Archives
Rhode Island State Archives
337 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903
Tel: 401-222-2353
Fax: 401-222-3199
email: statearchives@sos.ri.gov

Administrative Information

ABOUT THE COLLECTION  
ABOUT THE FINDING AID  
Author: Finding aid prepared by Kate Telford.
Encoding: Finding aid encoded by Kate Telford 2009 February 05
Descriptive rules: Finding aid based on Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)

Additional Information

Related material: Typhoid Fever cases - Map of Providence (1878) 1882-1883 Typhoid Fever Cases in military camps during the Spanish American War (1904) Rhode Island Department of Health Library records. Collection number 2006-27
Bibliography:
  • Retsinas, Joan.Smallpox Vaccination: A Leap of Faith. Rhode Island History 38:4 (November 1979), 113-124.
  • Inventory


    Series 1. Photographs

    Container Description Date
    Box 1, Folder 1 Small Pox Outbreaks
    Contents Note: Photo album of 2 x 3 and 6 x 8 photographs of specific small pox cases.

    circa 1900
    Box 1, Folder 2 Living Conditions in Providence
    Contents Note: Contains seven 4 x 5 photographs taken by Dr. Charles V. Chapin documenting living conditions in a Providence neighborhood. Some street names correspond with those in the Federal Hill neighborhood.

    circa 1900
    Box 1, Folder 3 Small Pox Outbreaks
    Contents Note: Photo album of specific small pox cases from December 1912 - January 1913. Contains 20 un-retouched 3 x 3 1/2 photographs.

    1912-1913
    Box 1, Folder 4 Living Conditions in Providence
    Contents Note: Documentation of living conditions in Providence. Includes 8 photographs of various sizes and one unmarked photograph taken April 1, 1898.

    1898-1912
    Box 1, Folder 5 Unsanitary Conditions in Providence
    Contents Note: Contains twenty-six 4 x 5 photographs.

    circa 1913
    Box 1, Folder 6 Immunization
    Contents Note: Contains one 8 x 10 photograph.

    circa 1920
    Box 1, Folder 7 Nursing Activities
    Contents Note: Contains eleven 5 x 7 photographs plus negatives.

    1939
    Box 1, Folder 8 Well Baby Clinic
    Contents Note: Contains four 8 x 10 photographs courtesy of the Providence Housing Authority documenting the Well Baby Clinic at Hartford Park, Providence.

    1959 March 10
    Box 1, Folder 9 Polio Clinic (Dr. Sarah Smith)
    Contents Note: Contains five 8 x 10 photographs.

    1962
    Box 1, Folder 10 Part of a Thorough Physical Exam
    Contents Note: Contains eight 8 x 10 photographs.

    1962
    Box 1, Folder 11 Nickerson House Clinic (Dr. Shatkin)
    Contents Note: Contains three 8 x 10 photographs.

    1962
    Box 1, Folder 12 Day Nursery
    Contents Note: Contains four 8 x 10 photographs.

    1962
    Box 1, Folder 13 Chapin-Pulmonary Clinic
    Contents Note: Contains nine 8 x 10 photographs.

    1962
    Box 1, Folder 14 Health Team
    Contents Note: Contains four 8 x 10 photographs.

    1962
    Box 1, Folder 15 Health Class
    Contents Note: Contains three 8 x 10 photographs.

    1962
    Box 1, Folder 16 Dr. Dolan
    Contents Note: Contains three 8 x 10 photographs.

    1962
    Box 1, Folder 17 X-Ray Clinic
    Contents Note: Contains twelve 8 x 10 photographs.

    1962
    Box 1, Folder 18 Health Department Staff Photographs
    Contents Note: Contains twelve 8 x 10 photographs.

    1958-1963
    Box 1, Folder 24 Unsanitary Conditions in Providence
    Contents Note: Contains five 4 x 5 cyanotypes and one 5 x 8 cyanotype.

    undated
    Box 1, Folder 25 Portrait of Dr. Charles V. Chapin
    Contents Note: Contains one 8 x 10 photograph.

    undated
    Box 1, Folder 26 Portrait of Dr. J. M. Peters
    Contents Note: Contains one 4 x 5 photograph.

    undated
    Box 1, Folder 27 Chapin Hospital, Providence
    Contents Note: Contains twelve 4 x 5 photographs.

    undated

    Series 2. Annual Reports

    Container Description Date
    Box 1, Folder 1 Annual Report for the Health Department of the City of Providence
    Contents Note: Includes two copies of the First Annual Report of the Superintendent of Health of the City of Providence (year ending July 1, 1857

    1857
    Box 1, Folder 19 Annual Report for the Health Department of the City of Providence
    1961
    Box 1, Folder 20 Annual Report for the Health Department of the City of Providence
    1963
    Box 1, Folder 21 Annual Report for the Health Department of the City of Providence
    1964

    Series 3. Ephemera

    Container Description Date
    Box 1, Folder 22 Award Dinner Program for Joseph E. Cannon M.D.
    1977 October 28
    Box 1, Folder 23 Warning Signs for Scarlet Fever and Diphtheria
    undated