NSG Visit February 2001
Rochester General Hospital's
Baker - Cederberg Museum
A dozen members of the New Society of the Genesee braved the wintry winds
of February to meet at the Baker-Cederberg Museum and Archives, an integral
part of Rochester General Hospital. Perhaps least known of area museums,
it is located within the hospital at 1425 Portland Avenue. The museum's
director/curator, Philip G. Maples; chairman, Betsy Morse; collections
manager, Kathleen Britton; administrative assistant/cardiology service,
Sally Tornatola; circuit archivist, Catherine Pusateri; secretary, Karen
Maples; and intern, Kevin Wilson welcomed us in the Dr. Raymond Hinshaw
Education Center. Two members of the museum staff wore period nurses'
uniforms. Sally's black dress with a white apron was the uniform worn
by probationers in the 1880 era, and Catherine's blue pin-striped dress
covered by a full white apron with a handy rear pocket for scissors was
the style for nurses from 1883 until 1906. She wore a white, ruffle-brimmed
cap circled by a black ribbon. The ribbon, we learned, was a memorial
to one of the world's most honored nurses-Florence Nightingale.
Director Phil Maples related in a relaxed and chatty manner, the hospital's
early history. In 1847, a group of eleven prominent people in Rochester
with the support of the Rochester Female Charitable Society obtained a
charter to establish Rochester City Hospital. Seventeen years later the
hospital opened on January 27, 1864, and accepted its first patient on
February 5. The Board of Lady Managers held their first meeting on February
15. They assumed daily operations of the hospital in 1875 and continued
under that name until 1945, then becoming the Women's Auxiliary Board,
and changing to the Rochester General Hospital Association in 1978.
The Baker-Cederberg Museum and Archives was established in 1947, the
hospital's centennial year, and named to honor both Marion Bradley-Baker
who developed the "Rochester Plan" that has become a national pattern
for volunteer health-care workers, and for George Cederberg, who saw the
importance of preserving a record of the hospital's past. The core of
the museum's extensive collection started in a tiny room above the laundry
when the hospital was located on West Main Street.
In 1887 the "Twig" (a "branch" of the hospital) was formed, by Lois Whitney,
to assist the hospital by producing in its Sewing Circle necessary cloth
items and by contributing funds raised through the members' efforts. Today
the Twig numbers over 800 members. It was the city's first volunteer organization,
and has become a national model for hospital-affiliated volunteer groups.
The next segment of our visit led us to a corridor adjoining the education
center. Here the walls were covered with an array of historic plaques.
The largest honored those who endowed beds and memorials for the Children's
Ward. The list of $5000 donors reads like a Who's Who of city society
with names such at Atkinson, Backus, Bartholomay, Everest, Hawks, Kimball,
Landsberg, Perkins and Sibley. One donor provided funds for a "Mary Bed,"
freely available to patients named "Mary."
Two other walls held framed photographs of more than a hundred doctors
who had served the hospital over its last 154 years. Dr. Henry Dean was
the hospital's first physician and Dr. Montgomery, its first surgeon.
Dr. Louis Weigel was the first to use X-rays in the hospital in 1896.
Dr. Ralph Fitch organized a French military hospital in the First World
War, and Dr. Wentworth organized the 19th General Hospital in France during
the Second World War. Dr. John D. States was partly responsible for the
introduction of automobile seat belts.
Just around the corner from the photo gallery were three well-presented
museum displays. One was of the hospital's first CO2 laser installed in
1981 and the first of its kind used to fuse human tissue. A second display
held two wooden cases of a "Galvanometer-Galvano," an electrical apparatus
used in early "electrical therapeutics." The third display filled a large
wall off the main corridor and was dedicated to the hospital's School
of Nursing. The school, formed in 1880, was the 12th nursing school in
the nation. Photographs of each graduating class represents a major portion
of the exhibit.
The group then visited the archive collection located on a mezzanine-like
floor reached by an elevator and stairway. Here, Kathleen Britton has
catalogued over 900 hospital-related items. We wondered if the unusual
display of bed pans used through the years had been especially set out
for our edification. We learned that the impressive and voluminous archive
collection included material from other health agencies as well as General
In 1956 the hospital's new "Northside Division" was dedicated at its
Portland Avenue address. After a decade of service at both locations,
the West Main Street division closed in 1966. Its grounds became a major
housing development which was later demolished and is now being replaced
by new housing.
Rochester General Hospital became the nation's first hospital to establish
its own dental clinic as early as 1892. Today the hospital ranks as the
state's fourth largest cardiac center.
A visit to the Baker-Cederberg Museum and Archives is well worthwhile.
In the meantime, a visit to the Museum's website is also rewarding: http://www.viahealth.org/body_rochester.