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MSNJ 250th: A Night of History, Medals, and Coins

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Credit: Robert Vietrogoski

Rutgers is not the only major New Jersey institution celebrating its 250th anniversary this year!

On Saturday May 23, I attended the Medical Society of New Jersey’s 250th Anniversary Celebration and Inaugural Gala. The celebration was held at the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick, on the actual 250th anniversary of the Medical Society of New Jersey’s first ever meeting, also held in New Brunswick (at Duff’s Tavern!). The Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ) is America’s oldest state medical society, and has over 5000 members. RBHS–Special Collections holds a nearly complete run of MSNJ journal publications from 1848 to 2005, as well as substantial archival holdings of its constituent Burlington, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Passaic, and Warren County Medical Societies. We also hold the records of the Medical Alliance of the Medical Society of New Jersey (formerly the Women’s Auxiliary).

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Credit: Robert Vietrogoski

At the gala, I joined Dr. Peter Carmel, the emeritus chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Carmel is also the current president of the Medical History Society of New Jersey and a recent past president of the American Medical Association! During the program, Dr. Carmel presented a well-received illustrated historical retrospective on the MSNJ’s founding and its centennial and bicentennial celebrations. Some of the images used by Dr. Carmel were drawn from RBHS–Special Collections materials.

For the gala, Dr. Carmel also organized an exhibit on Dr. Wells P. Eagleton, the first New Jersey neurosurgeon, and a medical luminary who received the first Edward J. Ill award from the Academy of Medicine of New Jersey in 1939. Thanks to Dr. Carmel’s generous restoration efforts, Eagleton’s actual Edward J. Ill medal was on display. This artifact was rediscovered last summer in storage at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and is now part of the holdings of RBHS–Special Collections. Dr. Carmel’s exhibit and the Eagleton artifacts will soon be on display in the lobby of Smith Library.

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Credit: Robert Vietrogoski

If the Eagleton name seems familiar at Rutgers, Dr. Eagleton’s wife Florence Peshine Eagleton was a founding member of the board of managers of the New Jersey College for Women (now Douglass College) and a Rutgers trustee from 1932 to 1946. She made the bequest in 1956 that established Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics, which itself is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

The newest addition to the RBHS–Special Collections artifact collection is the commemorative 250th anniversary “challenge coin” given to gala attendees by Captain Joseph P. Costabile, the incoming MSNJ president. The gala was a most enjoyable event and I hope to extend the relationship between the Medical Society of New Jersey and RBHS–Special Collections. (And for those familiar with my normal mode of dress, here is photographic proof of me in a tuxedo!)

Robert Vietrogoski

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