A Personal Review by Harry E. Morton, Sc.D.

(This account is based on a talk presented by the late Dr. Morton at the December, 1984 Branch Meeting)

At the meeting of the Society of American Bacteriologists in Boston in December 1917, it was decided to sponsor the formation of local branches of the Society. On February 24, 1920, Dr. David H. Bergey invited a group of persons interested in bacteriology and pathology to meet in the Laboratory of Hygiene, University of Pennsylvania on 34th Street, between Spruce and Walnut Streets, Philadelphia, for the purpose of organizing a group to be known as the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Society of American Bacteriologists. Most of the individuals present were former members of the Philadelphia Bug Club and it was proposed to form a local chapter around that nucleus.

At the March 1920 meeting, a Constitution and by-laws were presented by Dr. C.P. Brown. The name of the local group was to be the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter. The meetings were to be on the second Tuesday of each month, October to May, inclusive. Beginning in 1925, the meetings were scheduled for the fourth Tuesday instead of the second Tuesday. The secretary-treasurer, by direction of the Executive Committee was to select a meeting place and arrange for a dinner, not to exceed $1.50 per plate. On special occasions the price was not to exceed $3. The dues were $1.50 per year.

A threatened railroad strike interfered with the April 1920 meeting scheduled for the Mulford Laboratories in Glenolden. In the October meeting the secretary-treasurer petitioned for an assistant.

During the years 1920, 1921, and 1922 Dr. Bergey served as President, Dr. C. Y. White served as Secretary-Treasurer and Miss Lola S. Hitch served as Assistant Secretary-Treasurer. Dr. Claude P. Brown was Chairman of the Executive Committee. There were 40 some members each year.

At the meeting on January 11, 1921, the first annual dinner was held at Bookbinder’s. The December 13, 1921 meeting was devoted to the Pneumococcus and pneumonia and on December 26, 27 and 28 the local chapter was host to the National Society. The local branch has been host to the National Society in 1903, 1904, 1914, 1921, 1926, 1933, 1947, 1960 and 1972 for a total of nine times, which is more than any other Local Branch or city.

In 1923, Dr. A. Parker Hitchens was listed as the first guest speaker. His topic was “Emergency Production of Potable Water.”

There are two pioneers, in addition to A. Parker Hitchens, to whom we owe a lot for the existence of our branch. These are Dr. David H. Bergey and Dr. Claude P. Brown. David Hendricks Bergey was born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, December 27, 1860 and died September 5, 1937 in his home at 206 South 53rd Street, Philadelphia. He received an M.D. and a B.S. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1884 and a masters of arts in science, a non-resident degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1894 and a Dr.P.H. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1916. At the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, he was appointed assistant professor of bacteriology in 1903: assistant professor of hygiene and bacteriology from 1916 to 1926: professor of hygiene and bacteriology, 1926 to 1931. In the Laboratory of Hygiene at the University of Pennsylvania he served as assistant in chemistry, 1895-1896 first assistant, 1896-1928: director pro tem of the School of Hygiene and Public Health, 1928-1929 director of the Laboratory of Hygiene, 1929-1931: director pro tem of the Laboratory of Hygiene, 1931-1932.

He published 76 papers and seven books. His great contribution to bacteriology for which he will always be remembered is Bergey’s Manual of Determinative Bacteriology which appeared first in 1923. There have been nine editions up to the present:

  • 1st edition – 1923
  • 2nd edition – 1925
  • 3rd edition – 1930
  • 4th edition – 1934
  • 5th edition – 1939
  • 6th edition – 1948
  • 7th edition – 1957
  • 8th edition – 1974
  • 9th edition – 1984

(David H. Bergey, MD.  Bergey, who matriculated as a student in the Laboratory of Hygiene in 1893, taught at Penn from 1895 to 1932.  His Manual of Determinative Bacteriology, first published in 1923,  remains a classic text in bacteriology.  From ASM Archives,  History of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania)

Dr. Bergey started preparing the manuscript for the first edition soon after his term as President of the Society of American Bacteriologists in 1915. Believing that the work could be more satisfactorily accomplished if carried out by a group of individuals, he requested the Society to appoint a committee to work with him in developing the Manual. This was done and the first four editions of the Manual were published under the auspices of the Society of American Bacteriologists.

From the very beginning it was Dr. Bergey’s wish that all profits from the Manual be used to develop research in the field of systematic bacteriology. It proved difficult to carry out this plan under the auspices of the Society, so in 1935 all accrued royalties were returned to him and he placed them in the hands of a self perpetuating Board of Trustees who accepted the responsibilities for preparing all subsequent editions of the Manual. This memorial to Dr. Bergey will remain as long as competent workers can be found to carry out the work of the trust. This illustrates his generosity and devotion to the science of bacteriology.

Upon the death of Dr. Bergey, Dr. Bucher and I published an obituary of him in Science, Dr. Randle Rosenberger presented an obituary at the October 26, 1937 meeting of our Branch and an abstract of it was published in the Journal of Bacteriology. Dr. Robert S. Breed of Cornell University a life-long friend published an extensive obituary in the Journal of Bacteriology with a very good picture of Dr. Bergey.

To briefly summarize the character of Dr. Bergey we have to acknowledge that he was a very fine, scholarly gentleman who in his teaching was very meticulous in explaining bacteriological details. He was modest and humble and his devotion to his chief, Dr. A.C. Abbott, was noble but unfortunately this often overshadowed his true worth and ability. He gave his best. He was tolerant of others, rarely differed from anyone, talked and let others talk. He could be firm and uncompromising when the occasion demanded. He published a genealogy of the Bergey family which contained more than 7,000 names and consisted of more than 1000 pages without index.

After the H.K. Mulford Laboratories were purchased by Sharp and Dohme, H.K. Mulford joined the National Drug Co. in Swiftwater, Pa. Upon his retirement from the University in 1932, Dr. Bergey joined the National Drug Co. as Director of Research in Biology. During that period he was instrumental in the development of tetanus toxoid.

During the time when I was Secretary of our Branch, I mentioned to Dr. Bergey that the Eastern Pennsylvania Branch and the Baltimore Branch were exchanging programs. I told him that the Baltimore Branch put the number of the meeting on their program announcement and I noticed that our Branch had a greater number of meetings. Dr. Bergey immediately said “Why don’t you put the number of the meeting on our programs?” Beginning with the meeting on March 28, 1939, which was the 137th meeting of our Branch, I began numbering the meetings. The tradition has been carried on ever since to this the 500th meeting.

Dr. Claude Passmore Brown was born in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania on October 24, 1875. He completed his high school education in that city and then came to Philadelphia for the study of pharmacy. He became a registered pharmacist in 1900 and practiced that profession until he entered Temple University School of Medicine from which he graduated in 1911. A medical student scholarship at Temple University now honors his name. His professional activities were as follows:

  • 1912-17 – Assistant Director, Mulford Biological Laboratories
  • 1917-19 – U.S. Army, M.C., Lieutenant Colonel upon retirement from the Army
  • 1919-22 – Associate Director, Gilliland Biological Laboratories
  • 1922-28 – Instructor at Temple University
  • 1926-37 – Pathologists U.S. Veterans Hospital, Coatesville, PA
  • 1926-41 – Medical Director, Biological Laboratories, National Drug Co., Swiftwater, PA
  • 1941-46 – Assistant Director, Bureau of Laboratories
  • 1946-48 – Director, Bureau of Laboratories, PA Department of Health
  • 1948-71 – Practicing Clinical Pathologist, 1930 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA. He retired from private practice in 1971 at the age of 96.

He was Secretary-Treasurer of the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Society of American Bacteriologists from 1923 through 1936.

He succeeded in establishing the Arthur Parker Hitchens Lecture at the College of Physicians in memory of his friend Dr. Hitchens.

The list of Dr. Brown’s positions is impressive but it does not indicate how he worked. When he worked at Mulford Biological Laboratories in Glenolden the laboratory building was near the Glenolden railroad station. It was possible to look out the window and see the trains coming from the direction of Baltimore and headed for Philadelphia. At quitting time Dr. Brown worked until he saw the Philadelphia-bound train coming down the tracks. He then put aside his works grabbed his coat and hat and ran for the train as it stopped at the Glenolden station. He resided in Philadelphia. If anybody was a sparkplug during this period it surely was Dr. Brown.

During one of my visits with Dr. Bergey after I came to Philadelphia in 1931, Dr. Bergey told me that he, Dr. Brown and H.K. Mulford were very close friends but poor. Brown did not have much longer with us as his health was very poor. At the banquet during the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Bacteriologists in New York City in December of 1935 several of us from Philadelphia, including or. Brown, sat at the same table. Before beginning the meal Dr. Brown drank a little water from his glass, removed a small prescription bottle from his cummerbund, measured a couple of teaspoonful of brown medicine into the glass, stirred the contents in the glass and drank it. (All men attending the banquet wore tuxedos and the very few women who attended wore evening gowns.) Of that triumvirate, H.K. Mulford was the first to die, Dr. Bergey was next to die in his 77th year and poor old Dr, Brown who was in poor health outlived each of them and died in his 101st year, on June 10, 1976.

I personally have labeled this period from 1920 to 1936 as the Old Guard Era because it was run by members of the former Bug Club or individuals of that age groups After the first three years during which Dr. Bergey served as President and C.Y. White served as Secretary-Treasurer, Dr. Claude P. Brown served as Secretary-Treasurer from 1923 through 1936. Most of the presidents of the Chapter served for two years. They were:

  • Dr. Randel C. Rosenberger, Jefferson Medical College
  • Dr. A.C. Abbott, University of Pennsylvania
  • Dr. Eugene L. Opie, Henry Phipps Institute
  • Dr. Joseph L.T. Appleton, Jr., University of Pennsylvania Dental School
  • Dr. Joseph D. Aronson, Henry Phipps Institute
  • Dr. Jefferson H. Clark, Philadelphia General Hospital
  • Dr. Even L. Stubbs, University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School

Eugene Opie, MD, circa 1909. Appointed the new director of the Phipps Institute in 1923, Opie began his famous studies on the nature of immune reactions, examining the fate of antigens in animals immunized to them. Opie and his colleagues also prepared reports on the contagion of TB within families that paved the way for future public health programs. (American Society for Microbiology Archives, History of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania)

The Chapter met at various places, usually on the premises of the institution that was putting on the program. There may have about 17 different places where the meetings were held at least once. The places were:

  • Jefferson Medical College
  • Temple University
  • Woman’s Medical College (now Medical College of Pennsylvania)
  • Drexel Institute
  • H.K. Mulford Laboratories in Glenolden
  • Pennsylvania State Laboratories
  • City of Philadelphia Health Laboratories
  • Philadelphia General Hospital
  • Graduate Hospital
  • College of Physicians
  • Research Institute of Cutaneous Medicine
  • University of Pennsylvania in the Laboratory of Hygiene, Medical School, Veterinary School, Dental School, Clinical Laboratories, Medical Clinic

It is quite possible that in 1925, when the Chapter began meeting on the fourth Tuesday of the month, the meeting in December came too close to the Annual Meeting of the National Society which took place late in December. The Chapter discontinued its December meeting and began meeting only seven times each year. A meeting on the fourth Tuesday in December also raised complications with the holiday season.

Next: 1936-1967 The Next Generation

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