Collection Highlights
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A Selection of Letters from the
Welch Collection

With Individuals

With Organizations


This correspondence collection extends from 1869 to 1934. A glance at the finding guide shows that Welch maintained correspondence with individual friends over long periods of time. For example, the collection includes an exchange of letters with two of his Yale classmates, Fredric S. Dennis and Dwight W. Learned, that spans nearly 70 years from the 1860’s to 1933. He corresponded with members of the Flexner family, Abraham, Simon, Helen, and William Welch Flexner (Welch's grandnephew) from 1889 and 1934. Much of this correspondence includes references to medical and scientific advances and to news of family and friends.

The collection contains many letters from his contemporaries at Johns Hopkins, including Alan Mason Chesney, Henry Hurd, Franklin P. Mall, William Osler, Raymond Pearl, and Henry Phipps. Other letters are from famous medical figures of the time, including Harvey Cushing, L. Emmett Holt, William H. Howell, Arnold Klebs, and George Whipple. Welch and Henry Barton Jacobs wrote to each other about medicine and medical history over a 33-year period from 1899 to 1932. Because of Welch’s extensive travels and interest in medicine overseas, he had correspondence with many physicians abroad, including Arthur Newsholme and George H. F. Nuttall in England, Albert A. Ebstein in Germany, Aldo Castellani in Italy, and K. Miyairi and others in Japan.

John D. Rockefeller Jr., and Welch corresponded from 1907 to 1925, and the collection contains much material from those associated with the Rockefeller Foundation, including Frederick Gates and Rufus Cole. This correspondence reflects many features of Welch’s character, including his loyalty, his scholarship, and the energy of his enthusiasm and interest in others.

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Sample Letters

Welch's Letter of Appointment

From Daniel Coit Gilman, President of Johns Hopkins University, informing Welch of his nomination by Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees to the appointment of Professorship of Pathology, April 8, 1884. (Box 20, F 22)


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President Gilman wrote "I enclose an official note, - but I must add personally that our action is hearty, unanimous and earnest. You must come. You may be sure of a personal and social welcome, as hearty as your official call." March 15, 1884. (Box 20 F 22)


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Letter to Franklin P. Mall, [copy] July 30 1885.

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Detail from letter.

Welch writes, "I would advise you to select a theme which will enable you to become familiar with the most useful physiological manipulations, such as the use of the kymographion, recording of blood pressure measurements, the use of the induction battery etc. I do not believe that you will ever regret the time you give to experimental physiological work. It opens up quite a new perspective in medicine."


In this letter, of  Nov. 24, 1895, Welch reminds his colleague, Alexander C. Abott, of the University of Pennsylvania, of the soon to be published, Journal of Experimental Medicine. The journal, of which Welch was founding editor, did commence the following year, and is still in publication.

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Letter from William Osler, August 28, 1919.

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William Osler queries Welch about the possibility of approaching the Rockefeller Board for funding to "help McGill start up-to-date clinics in Medicine + Surgery?".



Detail from letter to Eugene Opie, March 15, 1921

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Letter to Eugene Opie, regarding the etiology of the influenza epidemic.

From a letter to Howard A. Kelly,
February 20, 1933.

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Correspondence With Organizations, 1871- 1934


Welch belonged to a great array of organizations, became president of many, and corresponded with even more. The collection includes correspondence ranging from Académie de Médicine, Paris, to Yale College's "Skull and Bones."

Some of the major correspondence is with the American Medical Association, the Milbank Memorial Fund, the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council, and the Red Cross. Letters and copies of minutes from the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research extend from 1901 to 1934. Letters in this section also include some information on the China Medical Board of the Rockefeller Foundation and its role in the dedication of Peking Union Medical College. This part of the collection illustrates the breadth of Welch’s intellectual interests and his influence on the rapidly developing field of medicine both at home and abroad.