|Class of '63 50th Reunion Continued
Breakfast took place in the Helen McClelland conference room of the Pine Building. The Pine Building was constructed in three
sections beginning in 1791.
After breakfast, the nurses stood on the stairway in the Great Court for a group photo, just as they did fifty years ago.
The official tour began in the Physic Garden, the jewel in the crown that makes up the Pennsylvania Hospital gardens. The
Board of Managers first proposed the Physic Garden in 1774 to provide physicians with ingredients for medicines. The idea was
approved, but financial circumstances intervened and the project was delayed for two centuries. In 1976, the planting of the
garden was the bicentennial project of the Philadelphia Committee of the Garden Club of America and the Friends of
Pennsylvania Hospital. The garden contain plants and herbs that were used for medicines in the 18th century.
The Historic Library has been used to house the library since 1807, with the exception of the period from 1824 to 1835 when the
room was used as a lying-in area, the obstetrical ward. In 1847 the American Medical Association designated the Pennsylvania
Hospital library as the country's most important medical library. The collection now contains over 13,000 volumes dating back to
the 15th century -- including medical and scientific volumes as well as books on natural history. The library includes the nation's
most complete collection of medical books published between 1750 and 1850. The collection also contains several incunabula,
books written before 1501, when the printed process was invented.
The top floor is the home of the nation's oldest surgical Amphitheatre, the "dreaded circular room." The Amphitheatre served as
the operating room from 1804 through 1868. Surgeries were performed on sunny days between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm since
there was no electricity at the time. Candles also were used to help illuminate the room. The light in the center is a reproduction
of a gaslight and was probably not used until the 1830s.
The surgeons who first used this room were considered skilled craftsmen. In this surgical Amphitheatre surgery became the
nation's first medical specialty. Medical students and locals paid to observe the surgical procedures. Posters were placed
around town to notify the public of the procedures being performed and the surgeons in attendance. The Surgical Amphitheatre
seats 180 and with those standing, up to 300 people might be present during any given surgical operation.
The most common surgical procedures of the day included amputation; removal of internal and external tumors, bladder stones
and cataracts; repair of hernias; and the setting of fractures. Patients were carried up the three flights of steps strapped to
chairs or on stretchers before their operation.
Anesthesia was not used until the 1840s. The surgeons at Pennsylvania Hospital were slow in accepting it, and delayed its use
until 1846. Even then, anesthesia was used only on women because it was believed that women were less resistant to pain.
Prior to the use of anesthesia, the surgeons got the patients "blind drunk, gave them opium or administered a sharp tap on the
head with a mallet enough to render the patient unconscious and hopefully not dead."
Sterile technique was not used in this country until the 1890s. Before that time, surgeons washed their hands after the
procedure. They wore coats to protect their clothing and hung these coats outside the Amphitheatre on hooks on the walls.
These coats went unwashed for years at a time.
Dinner on the second day was at City Tavern. When John Adams arrived in Philadelphia in August of 1774, to attend the First
Continental Congress, he was greeted by leading citizens and immediately taken to the tavern he would call "the most genteel
tavern in America." The tavern Adams referred to, City Tavern, was not yet a year old and was already caught in momentous
events. A few months earlier, Paul Revere had ridden up to the Tavern with the news of the closing of the port of Boston by the
Some of the nurses enjoyed walking the old neighborhood around
Pennsylvania Hospital trying to find the location of the houses where they
lived while they attended nursing school. Fifty years ago this was a less
than desirable neighborhood. Today this is a high end neighborhood with
beautifully refurbished town houses.
Betty with Ann Louise Devenney, clinical instructor for the class of '63. Ms. Devenney talked to the class in the library for about
Rick presented his wife with a birthday cake and flowers at the dinner.
Below, Jackie and Claudia's old digs after graduation.
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