ThoVT, Vivien T. Thomas Collection in the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions


[Series 1] Correspondence
Vivien Thomas’ correspondence is an important and fascinating historical record of letters exchanged between Thomas and a number of Hopkins medical staff from 1953 up to his death in 1985. Though often warm in tone, most of these letters are professional in nature, limiting their concerns to that of the hospital and the occupational lives of colleagues. In some cases there is a development of intimacy as the correspondence proceeds. We can see an example of this in the stark difference between Ravitch’s first letter to Thomas in 1953 and to his last letters to Thomas in 1985, as professional practicalities give way to genuine personal attachment. For correspondence regarding the portrait and honorary degree, please turn to Personal and Biographical Series.
Because of his sustained mentorship over Thomas’ autobiography, Mark Ravitch is the most prolific correspondent in the collection. In the period 1979 – 1985, drafts of the autobiography are passed between Thomas and Ravitch, with Ravitch providing commentary by letter and encouraging Thomas towards completion.
It is in the correspondence that we learn of the editorial process of the manuscript. Ravitch is not an overbearing editor, and beyond grammatical issues, he suggests minimal changes to the manuscript. However, Ravitch does intervene in encouraging Thomas to expound in greater detail some of the surgical procedures he was involved in, which results in long passages of very technical vocabulary sometimes more suited to a textbook than a memoir. For a while this actually hinders the publication of the book, as it is feared by publishers to be overly obscure to a non-medical audience.
An important omission from the manuscript is something Thomas was personally very interested in, which we can tell from his significant collections of articles and clippings on this topic (see 5 series Subject Files). Alcoholism in the medical profession quite seriously impacted the lives of a number of doctors at Hopkins, particularly Blalock and Thomas, yet makes only a fleeting appearance at the beginning of the memoir. It is in the correspondence between Thomas and Ravitch that we find a striking account of Blalock’s alcohol dependency, particularly as it worsens late in his life.
The collection also features correspondence exchanged after Thomas’ death, principally between Clara Thomas and various medical staff at Hopkins. An item of note is Helen Taussig’s card to Clara Thomas upon her husband’s death in which she expresses her high regard and deep fondness for him. There is also further correspondence between Ravitch and University of Pennsylvania Press, mostly on administrative topics.
Each correspondence sub-series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Within alphabetized correspondents, the material is organized chronologically. The letters between Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch are about half of the correspondence and are arranged chronologically in a separate sub-series. The second subseries is Thomas correspondence with other people excluding Ravitch. Since she communicated so extensively with a broad range of people after Thomas’ death, Clara Thomas’ correspondence has its own subseries; the same goes for Mark Ravitch’s letters to people other than Vivien Thomas.

[Sub-series 1.1] Correspondence between Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch

[Folder 1/1] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — 1953, 1955

[Folder 1/2] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — 1966-1967

[Folder 1/3] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — 1973-1974, 1979
Folder contains PHI in letter dated March 15, 1974 reference to patient.

[Folder 1/4] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — March-June 1980
Folder contains PHI in letter dated June 26, 1980 reference to health condition.

[Folder 1/5] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — July- December 1980

[Folder 1/6] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — January-March 1981
Folder contains PHI in letter dated March 12, 1981 reference to causes of death. Folder contains CI in letter dated March 8, 1981 contains evaluative information.

[Folder 1/7] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — April- June 1981
Folder contains PHI in letter dated June 22, 1981

[Folder 1/8] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — July-December 1981

[Folder 1/9] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — January 1982
Folder contains PHI in letter dated January 22, 1982

[Folder 1/10] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — February-March 1982

[Folder 1/11] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — April-June, 1982
Folder contains PHI in letter dated April 27, 1982

[Folder 1/12] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — July-September, 1982
Folder contains PHI in letters dated July 12, 1982, August 17, 1982, August 19,1982, August 20, 1982 revealing details about illness.

[Folder 1/13] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — October-December,1982
Folder contains PHI in letter dated November 8, 1982. Dictated November 4, 1982

[Folder 1/14] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — January-June 1983

[Folder 1/15] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — August-November, 1983

[Folder 1/16] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — January- June 1984
Folder contains PHI in letters dated March 14, 1984, March 16,1984, June 7, 1984, and June 23, 1984

[Folder 1/17] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — August- December1984
Folder contains PHI in letters dated December 2, 1984. Both the draft, and the final copy.

[Folder 1/18] Vivien Thomas and Mark Ravitch. — 1985
Folder contains PHI in letter dated July 30, 1985

[Sub-series 1.2] Correspondence between Vivien Thomas and others

[Folder 2/1] Ba-Bw. — 1974,1976,1978,1980-1982
Henry Bahnson, Naria[sic] (Rubin) Barry, Thomas Battle, Richard Bing, Marsha Bittle, Joseph Bracy, Maricia Battle Bracey, Lillian Buckingham, Gregory Bulkey

[Folder 2/2] Buchholz, Ransom. — 1980-1983
Ransom Buchholz
Folder contained PHI in letters dated January 8, 1980, January 16, 1981, June 1, 1981, June 6, 1981, February 2, 1982, February 2, 1983, and May 11, 1983

[Folder 2/3] Ch-Cu. — 1964,1974,1981-1982,1987
Jesse S. Chandler Jr, Richard C. Clay, J. Owen Cole, Denton A. Cooley, Franck P. Cushner,

[Folder 2/4] D-E. — 1964,1979, 1980, 1983
Mary Dutka, Rollin A. Daniel, John N. Drayton, Joseph C. Eggleston, David L. Everhart,
Folder contains CI in undated reference letter, RE: Mary Dutka

[Folder 2/5] F-G. — 1973,1974,1978,1982,1984
Leslie A. Falk, W.B. Firor, R. Darryl Fisher, A. Jerome Freeland, Vincent L. Gott,

[Folder 2/6] Hanlon, C.R.. — 1957,1974,1975,1980
C. Rollins, Hanlon

[Folder 2/7] Ha-Hi. — 1976,1978,1981-1983
Merel H Harmel, Joseph Hartnett, Charles R. Hatcher Jr, Raymond O. Heimbecker, A. Sherman Hill Jr.
Folder contains PHI in letters dated August 22, 1978, and April, 5, 1976

[Folder 2/8] Hunter, Roy Jr. . — 1983
Roy Hunter, Jr.

[Folder 2/9] J-L. — 1976,1980,1981,1983
Thomas N. P. Johns, Guy Knickerbocker, Kidd Langford, Sanford E. Leeds, William Longmire
Folder contains PHI in letter dated June 29, 1983

[Folder 2/10] Kay, Jerome Harold. — 1971,1980,1982,1986
Jerome Harold Kay

[Folder 2/11] M-N. — 1975-1977
Victor McKusick, Virginia Mock, Elizabeth Murdock, Eugene L. Nagel, Janet T. Vickers
Folder contains CI in letter dated August 16, 1977 evaluative information.'

[Folder 2/12] Morrow, Andrew Glenn. — 1982
Glenn Andrew Morrow
Folder contains PHI in letter dated March 16, 1982

[Folder 2/13] R. — 1971, 1973, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1985
William F. Rienhoff III. , Clara Belle Rhode, Richard S. Ross, Joseph P. Rumberger Jr.
Folder contains PHI in letters dated June 24, 1971, and February 16, 1982

[Folder 2/14] S. — 1967,1971,1974,1976,1980,1982
Emily Sadler, Salem Lutheran Church, Albert Schramm, H. William Scott Jr., Toriola F. Solanke, Rowena Spencer
Folder contains PHI in letters dated June 21, 1982

[Folder 2/15] Sparkman Robert. — 1982
Robert S. Sparkman

[Folder 2/16] T. — 1965, 1981, 1982, 1985
Helen B. Taussig, Ed Thorsett, Time Magazine, Thomas B. Turner,

[Folder 2/17] U-W. — 1976, 1979, 1980, 1984
George B. Udvarhelyi, U.S. Copyright Office, Arthur Wallen, Levi Watkins Jr., Alan C. Woods, Jr.

[Folder 2/18] Y-Z. — 1964, 1978, 1980
Lois A. Young, George D. Zuidema,
Folder contains PHI in letter dated June 29, 1980

[Folder 2/19] Draft letters to Unidentified Correspondents. — 1981, undated
draft letters addressed to Jerry, Velma, and an unidentified draft dated May 16, 1981 regarding cost of schooling.
Folder contains PHI in letter dated June 29, 1980

[Sub-series 1.3] Correspondence between Clara Thomas and others

[Folder 2/20] Correspondence, Clara Thomas with others: C. — 1985
John L. Cameron, David W. Canfield, Denton A. Cooley
Folder contains CI in letter dated December 20, 1985 donation information

[Folder 2/21] Correspondence, Clara Thomas with others: F-H. — 1985,1987,1990,1993
Tod F. Forman, Elaine Freeman, Ellen Gross, C. Rollins Hanlon

[Folder 2/22] Correspondence, Clara Thomas with others: K-M. — 1985-1987
Jerome Harold Kay, Maude R. Knickerbocker, Sanford E. Leeds, Kathleen J. McCabe, Steven Muller,

[Folder 2/23] Correspondence, Clara Thomas with Mark and Irene Ravitch. — 1983, 1986, 1988
Mark Ravitch, Irene Ravitch
Folder contains PHI in letter dated October 9, 1986 (misdated 1968)

[Folder 2/24] Correspondence, Clara Thomas with others: R-T. — 1985
William F. Rienhoff III, H. William Scott, Jr. , Leon Schlossberg, Helen B. Taussig

[Sub-series 1.4] Correspondence between Mark Ravitch and others
Correspondence between Ravitch and others was deposited by Ravitch at the Medical Archives in 1986.

[Folder 2/25] Correspondence: Mark Ravitch with others. — 1985
Donald W. Benson, Ransom R. Buchholz, William G. Watson, McGehee Harvey
Folder contains PHI in letters dated February 2, 1981, February 24, 1981, February 10, 1981, January 8, 1980 referencing his own health, and January 6, 1986