Founded in 1766: An Exhibit and an Event Celebrating the Archives of the Medical Society of New Jersey

  • Bob Vietrogoski receives a plaque commemorating the donation from MSNJ president Christopher Gribbin.

In 2016, Rutgers University was not the only major New Jersey institution celebrating its 250th anniversary. On July 23, 1766, at Duff’s Tavern in New Brunswick, a group of physicians met and formed the Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ). The MSNJ is America’s oldest state medical society, and indeed, is America’s oldest professional society.

The George F. Smith Library of the Health Sciences, Rutgers University Libraries, is pleased to announce that the MSNJ has donated its 20th- and early 21st-century records to Smith Library’s Special Collections in the History of Medicine. The donation consists of 52 archival boxes of records, and 85 volumes of MSNJ Board of Trustees minutes from 1931 to 2005. These valuable historical records will be preserved and made available to MSNJ administrators, members, and officers; Rutgers University students and faculty; historians of medicine; and local and family historians.

Special Collections already holds a nearly complete run of MSNJ journal publications from 1848 to 2005, as well as substantial archival holdings of its constituent Bergen, Burlington, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Passaic, and Warren County Medical Societies, and the records of the Medical Society of New Jersey Alliance (formerly the Women’s Auxiliary).

An exhibit of materials from this accession was curated by Bob Vietrogoski, with the help of Nancy Blankenhorn, medical student Stephanie Yuen, and Tim Corlis and his preservation team. On display are a selection of artifacts related to the 200th and 250th anniversaries of the MSNJ; Board of Trustees minutes discussing physicians joining the military during World War II, plans for a New Jersey medical school in 1952, the introduction of the polio vaccine in 1955, and the discouragement of smoking in hospitals in 1967; photographs from two issues of New Jersey Medicine on the history of New Jersey’s pioneering women physicians; and meeting posters from the Essex County Medical Society from 1954 to 1979 concerning the perpetual topic of “New Legislation Affecting the Medical Profession.”

The exhibit opening on April 19 was attended by MSNJ administrators including its past, present, and future presidents; members of the Medical History Society of New Jersey; Rutgers New Jersey Medical School faculty and students; and Rutgers librarians. At this reception, MSNJ President Christopher Gribbin presented Special Collections librarian Bob Vietrogoski with a plaque commemorating the MSNJ archival donation. This donation brings together Rutgers and the MSNJ, two New Jersey institutions founded in 1766.

Robert Vietrogoski