The Adolf Meyer Collection
- Scope and content:
- The Adolf Meyer Collection spans his entire career. Series include personal and professional correspondence, family correspondence, copy books, biographical material, published and unpublished articles, photographs, diplomas, licenses, and honorary degrees. Much of the professional correspondence is with prominent individuals in early twentieth-century psychiatry. Scientific notes and records pertain to Meyer's research and teaching, and are categorized according to his place of residence: Chicago (1892-1893), Kankakee (1893-1895), Worcester (1895-1902), New York (1902-1909), and Baltimore (1910-1941). Other materials include teaching manuals, patient records, and institutional records, the majority of these dating from his years as Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins. The professional materials are complemented by a rich family correspondence that begins in his youth as well as by diaries and other biographical items. Many documents are in German. The collection is among the largest of its kind in the United States and constitutes a major resource for the study of twentieth-century American psychiatry and related fields.
- Organization and Arrangement:
- In organizing the papers, we have tried whenever possible to follow indications concerning the original grouping of materials in the collection. Sometimes those indications were fairly clear, as in the case of the individual and professional correspondence, the original arrangement of which appears to have been along the lines we have adopted. Even there, however, it was a major task to impose order on the vast body of materials involved: the correspondence was in a state of considerable disarray and there were serious inconsistencies and discrepancies to be overcome. The situation was even more complex with regard to the very large and heterogeneous assortment of often undated scientific notes and records, which had been split up, tampered with, and scattered over the years. To the best of our ability, we have attempted to follow indications which would distinguish groups of materials from each other. For example, we have tried to separate teaching material pertaining to the Pathological Institute of the New York State Hospitals System from similar materials pertaining to Cornell Medical College, where Dr. Meyer was Professor of Psychiatry. Similarly, we have arranged Dr. Meyer's miscellaneous working notes alphabetically according to subject, being guided here by Miss Winters' earlier attempts to organize these materials along such lines. But we are acutely aware of the limitations of our organizing principles in these areas and of our ability to assign materials absolutely to particular categories.
- Custodial history:
- The history of the Adolf Meyer Collection may be said to begin with the various projects undertaken by Dr. Meyer on his retirement in 1941 from The Johns Hopkins University, most importantly his attempt to write an autobiography and the preparation for publication of the Thomas W. Salmon Memorial Lectures which he had given at the New York Academy of Medicine in 1932. In the course of pursuing these projects, Dr. Meyer made use of the very extensive collection of personal correspondence, diaries, notes and papers that he had preserved at his home on Rugby Road in Baltimore. (Records of Dr. Meyer's reminiscences at this time, and of many conversations and discussions with Miss Winters and Miss Bowers concerning his life and work, now form part of the Adolf Meyer Collection).
Dr. Meyer was assisted in these and other post-retirement undertakings by Miss Anna Mae Bowers and Miss Eunice Winters, both of whom had previously worked for him as research assistants. At the time of Dr. Meyer's death in 1950 the above projects remained unfinished, and Miss Bowers and Miss Winters set about completing some of them. Thus there appeared The Collected Papers of Adolf Meyer, edited by Eunice Winters (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 4 volumes, 1950-52), and several years later Psychobiology: A Science of Man, compiled and edited by Eunice Winters and Anna Mae Bowers (Springfield, Illinois: Thomas, 1957). In addition, Miss Winters and Miss Bowers assumed the task of writing Dr. Meyer's biography, a project that involved making extensive use of his unpublished correspondence and papers.
Some time in 1957 Alan M. Chesney, Dean of The Johns Hopkins Medical School, spoke to Dr. Meyer's widow, Mary Meyer, about the disposal of her late husband's papers. A verbal agreement seems to have reached that Dr. Meyer's papers would eventually be given to Johns Hopkins. This agreement was confirmed in writing the following year, when in a letter dated 24 November 1958, Mrs. Meyer expressed her willingness to give to Johns Hopkins all papers and letters of Dr. Meyer that would be of interest to the Welch Medical Library after Miss Winters had finished with them. (Correspondence between Dean Chesney and Mrs. Meyer concerning the disposition of the Adolf Meyer papers is on deposit at the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives).
Several years earlier, in 1950, the American Psychiatric Association had expressed an interest in acquiring Dr. Meyer's books. Correspondence had been renewed in 1955, at which time Mrs. Meyer had agreed to give Dr. Meyer's books to the Association with the exception of those on psychology and philosophy intended for her grandson. She had stipulated, however, that for the time being Dr. Meyer's books were to remain in her house so as to be available to Miss Winters and Miss Bowers. Two years later, in 1957, Miss Winters wrote on behalf of Mrs. Meyer to offer to the American Psychiatric Association Dr. Meyer's collection of reprints as well as some old books and pamphlets. When the Association expressed an interest in acquiring Dr. Meyer's personal papers as well, Miss Winters explained that The Johns Hopkins University had a prior claim. Dr. Meyer's library was eventually donated to the American Psychiatric Association in 1961. (Correspondence between the American Psychiatric Association and Mrs. Meyer concerning the disposition of Dr. Meyer's library and collection of reprints is on deposit at the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives).
It was not until early 1963 that the bulk of Dr. Meyer's correspondence and papers - comprising 20 four-drawer vertical filing cabinets, more than 60 document cases, and numerous smaller containers of material - was handed over as planned to The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, to be placed on deposit in the basement of the Welch Medical Library. At that time Miss Winters, who was still working on Dr. Meyer's biography, retained for her personal use a substantial body of the correspondence and papers ultimately destined for Johns Hopkins. At that time also, Miss Winters gave certain correspondence and papers of a sensitive nature, chiefly relating to prominent patients treated by Dr. Meyer, to the American Psychiatric Association for safe-keeping. (This information was obtained from Miss Winters).
Although uncatalogued, in considerable disarray, and difficult to get at, the papers deposited in the Welch Medical Library were opened for research; a few scholars made limited use of them in the ensuing years. In 1973, however, limitations of space at the Welch Medical Library made it necessary to move the papers into storage into another building, at which time they were closed to scholars.
In the fall of 1975, The Johns Hopkins University appointed Dr. Ruth Leys to sort, organize, and index the Adolf Meyer papers then in their possession with a view to making them available for research and study. From 1976 onwards, this project was generously supported by a grant from the National Library of Medicine. In the course of the project, every effort was made to restore to the collection letters and other items that had been detached from it and to supplement the collection with further materials relating to Dr. Meyer's life and work. In the winter of 1976 Miss Winters restored to the collection the correspondence and papers she had retained for her personal use. These materials, comprising approximately six four-drawer vertical filing cabinets and many other boxes and containers of valuable correspondence and notes, were a major addition to the collection. Furthermore, several searches made at The Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic yielded important materials, including two filing cabinets of departmental correspondence, patient records, diplomas and related documents, and a very extensive stenographic record of Dr. Meyer's staff conferences at the Phipps. The American Psychiatric Association kindly agreed to restore to the collection the correspondence and papers of a sensitive nature that had been given to it for safe-keeping by Miss Winters in 1963. Finally, The Lifwynn Foundation graciously donated to the collection Xerox copies of several letters from Dr. Trigant Burrow to Dr. Meyer, the originals of which had been given to the Foundation by Mrs. Meyer in 1955, and one hand-written note from Dr. Meyer to Burrow dated May 13, 1921.
Unfortunately, before the project to organize the papers was began, certain materials originally in the collection were lost or destroyed. After Dr. Meyer's death, Mrs. Meyer destroyed some patient correspondence and other sensitive documents. An undetermined amount of material thought to be either of no value or of an unduly sensitive nature was destroyed at the time the collection was moved from the Welch Library into storage in 1973. It is impossible to know what else may have disappeared over the years, but two significant losses appear to be a number of letters to Dr. Meyer from the psychologist E.B. Titchener and some original correspondence between Dr. Meyer and William James. (The missing letter from Titchener to Meyer fall into two groups, a short series in 1909 and a longer series in 1918-1921. We recently learned that the letters, grouped together in a box, were on deposit at the Welch Medical Library, where they were seen and Xeroxed by Dr. Rand B. Evans in 1971. Some time thereafter, however, they disappeared and must be considered lost. Dr. Evans has kindly agreed to provide the Chesney Archives with copies of the Xeroxes in his possession. The missing James-Meyer correspondence includes four letters from James to Meyer and two letter from Meyer to James in 1909-1910. They are quoted fully or in part by Miss Winters in her article, "Adolf Meyer and Clifford Beers, 1907-1910", Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 43 (1969): 414-443, but the originals seem to have disappeared).
- Restrictions on access:
- Access to Series XV (Patient Records), is restricted. In some instances, when legal, regulatory, and ethical conditions permit, records in restricted categories may be made accessible for research. For more information about the policies and procedures for access, see Policy on Access and Use.
- General note:
- Black, red and blue pencil notes and markings found throughout the collection were made by Miss Winters and Miss Bowers while using the collection. Their translations of correspondence and other materials have been placed in the Archives along with the originals.