COLLECTION GUIDES

1800-1872

Guide to the Collection


Collection Summary

Abstract

This collection consists of the lectures, essays, case notes, and correspondence of Dr. Walter Channing, a Boston physician and pioneer in the field of obstetrics. Correspondents include his grandson, Walter Channing, his brothers William Ellery and George Gibbs Channing, and his sister, Lucy Channing Russel. Many of the lectures were delivered at the Harvard Medical College, where Channing taught from 1815 to 1847.

Biographical Timeline

1786
Born in Newport, Rhode Island
1803
Channing family moves to Boston
1807
Dismissed from Harvard College; studies medicine with James Jackson
1808
Studies medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
1809
Receives M.D. from University of Pennsylvania
1810
Studies medicine in Edinburgh and London
1811
Begins to practice medicine in Boston
1812
Serves as editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery
1814
Named Fellow of the Massachusetts Medical Society
1815
Appointed Lecturer in Midwifery, Harvard Medical College; marries Barbara Higginson Perkins
1818
Appointed Professor of Midwifery and Jurisprudence
1819
Named Dean of the Medical Faculty
1821
Becomes Assistant Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital
1822
Death of Barbara Perkins Channing
1828
Serves as editor of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal
1829
Becomes treasurer of the Massachusetts Medical Society
1830
Joins Boston Society of Natural History
1831
Marries Eliza Wainwright
1832
Establishment of Boston Lying-In Hospital
1833
Gives annual address to the Massachusetts Medical Society
1834
Death of Eliza Wainwright Channing
1835
Gives annual address to the Boston Society of Natural History; becomes secretary of the Massachusetts Temperance Society
1836
Give annual address to the Massachusetts Temperance Society
1839
Relinquishes appointment as physician at Massachusetts General Hospital
1842
Publishes "Notes on Anaemia"
1843
Publishes Address on the Prevention of Pauperism
1844
Publishes A Plea for Pure Water
1848
Publishes Treatise on Etherization in Childbirth
1852
Journey to Europe
1854
Resigns from Harvard medical faculty
1856
Becomes president of Suffolk District Medical Society
1861
Serves as first president of the Obstetrical Society of Boston
1866
Moves to Dorchester
1876
Dies in Brookline, Massachusetts

Sources

Biographical information taken from: Midwifery In Boston: Walter Channing, M.D., 1786-1876, by Amalie M. Kass. (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2002)

Collection Description

The Walter Channing (1786-1876) papers form part of the Channing Family collection and consist of personal papers, correspondence, lectures, essays, and case notes of Dr. Walter Channing, a Boston physician and pioneer in the field of obstetrics. The collection is housed in 8 manuscript boxes and 2 cased volumes.

The collection includes both personal and professional correspondence. Family members represented include his grandson, Walter Channing, his brothers William Ellery and George Gibbs Channing, and his sister, Lucy Channing Russel. The professional correspondence includes letters from grateful patients, letters from other physicians regarding mutual patients, and letters of appointment to various professional positions and organizations.

Personal papers include autobiographical writings, reminiscences of his career at Harvard Medical School, wills, an account book kept from 1869-1871, and a scrapbook containing diary entries made by his wife, Barbara Higginson Perkins, March - Oct. 1821. Also included are manuscripts for Channing's travel memoirs, A Physician's Vacation (1856), describing his travels to Europe in 1852, and "A Sketch of That Town Into the Highlands of Scotland in Autumn of 1810," later published in Reminiscences of Foreign Travel (1856).

Many of the medical lectures were delivered at the Harvard Medical School, where Channing taught from 1815 to 1847. The lectures concern various aspects of women's health, childbirth, legal medicine, and general medicine including cholera and homeopathy. Non-medical writings and lectures cover topics including art, education, and politics. Lectures covering topics such as temperance and public health reflect Channing's personal interest in social and moral reform. Many of these non-medical lectures were delivered to organizations including the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, the Boston Society for Medical Improvement, and the Harvard Temperance Society.

The case notes include Channing's midwifery casebook (and a photocopy for use in the Reading Room), kept from 1811-1822, which contains notes on approximately 195 cases attended by Channing. The collection also contains notes on several additional midwifery and general medicine cases, many of which are undated and/or fragmentary. In general, Channing's notes are very detailed and include names and ages of patients, dates of treatment, and relevant medical history. For childbirth cases, Channing also describes the sex of the child delivered, and general notes on the delivery including the progression of labor and the presentation of the fetus.

Acquisition Information

Large portions of the entire Channing family collection were donated to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1965 by the children of Henry M. Channing. It is assumed this collection formed part of that donation.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Correspondence, 1800-1872

This series contains the personal and professional correspondence of Dr. Walter Channing. The personal correspondence includes letters to and from his brothers, Rev. William Ellery Channing (1870-1842), and George Channing (1789-1863), his sister, Lucy Russel (1787-1863), and his grandson, Walter Channing. Professional correspondence includes letters from grateful patients, letters to and from other physicians regarding mutual cases, and letters sent to The New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery during Channing's tenure as editor. Also, letters of appointment to various organizations, including the Boylston Medical Society and the Boston Employment Society; letters confirming his appointment to the positions of Assistant Attending Physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital (1821 and 1833) and Attending Physician at the Boston Lying-in Hospital (1833); and an invitation to present the annual address to the Massachusetts Medical Society in 1833.

Box 1

II. Lectures and Addresses

Includes lectures and notes on lectures delivered to midwifery and legal medicine classes at Harvard Medical School, addresses to various organizations, and lectures on non-medical topics.

Midwifery lectures cover topics including pregnancy, fetal development, labor, infanticide, menstruation, and diseases and disorders of the female reproductive system. Legal medicine lectures consider insanity, suffocation, toxicology, and sudden death, as well as the role of physicians in the legal system. Many of his lectures on midwifery and legal medicine also contain examples from his cases. Additional medical lectures cover topics including cholera, pericarditis, pneumonia, and homeopathy. Also included are addresses on medical topics presented to the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Society for Obstetric Improvement.

Lectures on non-medical topics cover subjects ranging from art and philosophy to politics and the United States Constitution. Also included are addresses to non-medical organizations such as the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, and the Washington Benevolent Society of Massachusetts. Other topics covered reflect Channing's interest in social and moral reform, especially temperance, including notes and lectures on temperance reform and public health, and addresses delivered to the Massachusetts Temperance Society and the Harvard Temperance Society.

Box 2Folder 1
Lecture schedules and fees, Massachusetts Medical College, 1830-1831
Box 2Folder 1
Bound volume of lecture schedule and notes, 1845-1849

Numbered Midwifery lectures

Box 2Folder 2-4
Notes on midwifery lectures 1-16
Box 2Folder 5
Lecture VIII: [Disturbances in Uterine Function]
Box 2Folder 6
Lecture IX: [Pathology of the External Organs of Female Generation], 1840
Box 2Folder 7
Lecture X: Diseases of the Uterus, of its Appendages, and of Some Connected Organs, 1840
Box 2Folder 8
Lecture XI: [Menstruation]
Box 2Folder 9
Lecture XII: Generation
Box 2Folder 10
Lecture XII: Affections of the Thorax [Lung and Heart Affections Complicating Pregnancy]
Box 2Folder 11
Lecture XIII: Affections of the Uterus During Pregnancy
Box 2Folder 12
Lecture XVII: Marks, Longings, Monsters
Box 2Folder 13
Lecture XXXI: Demonstration of the Wax Model
Box 2Folder 13
Lecture XXXII: Operation of Turning
Box 2Folder 14
Lecture XXXV: Labor
Box 2Folder 15
Lecture XXXVI: Labor

Lectures and Lecture Notes: Midwifery

Box 3Folder 1
Deviations from the Standard Female Pelvis
Box 3Folder 2
Dropsey of the Fetus: Delivered to the Society for Medical Improvement, 1842
Box 3Folder 3
Infanticide (two lectures)
Box 3Folder 4
Labor
Box 3Folder 5
Labor: Lecture in three parts
Box 3Folder 6
Labor: Complications of Labor
Box 3Folder 7
Labor: Precursors of Labor
Box 3Folder 8
Menstruation: Its Natural Occurrence and Deviations, 1867
Box 3Folder 9-11
Midwifery: [Introductory Lectures and Elementary Principals]
Box 3Folder 12
Midwifery: Introductory Lecture, 1822 and 1834
Box 3Folder 13
Nourishment of the Fetus in Utero
Box 3Folder 14
Diseases of the Ovaria, 1822
Box 3Folder 15
Polypus of the Womb, 1855
Box 3Folder 16
Valedictory Lecture, delivered to the students attending the midwifery course, 1838 and 1847
Box 3Folder 17
Miscellaneous midwifery lecture notes

Lectures: Legal Medicine

Box 4Folder 1
[Hanging Deaths: Points for Investigation]
Box 4Folder 2
Insanity
Box 4Folder 3
[Introduction to Legal Medicine] (two lectures)
Box 4Folder 4
Morbid Anatomy
Box 4Folder 5
Of Professional Duties, in Certain Cases, Which Require a Knowledge of Law, 1823 (Wills, Insanity, Suicides)
Box 4Folder 6
[Physicians as Expert Witnesses] (fragment)
Box 4Folder 7
Physician at the Inquest, [1853-1856]
Box 4Folder 8-9
Sudden Death I - II
Box 4Folder 10
Suffocation
Box 4Folder 11
Testimony
Box 4Folder 12
Testimony II: [Reports of Trials, 1822-1826], after 1826
Box 4Folder 13
Testimony III: Reports of Trials, [1781-1806], after 1826
Box 4Folder 14-16
Toxicology I - III, 1829

Lectures: Other Medical Topics

Box 5Folder 1
[Abuse by Surgeons]
Box 5Folder 2
Asiatic Cholera
Box 5Folder 3
[Disease of Health]
Box 5Folder 4
Dysmenorrhea

(Contains two letters on the subject written to Dr. Channing by F. Minot)

Box 5Folder 5
Dysmenorrhea: [Rheumatic Dysmenorrhea and Treatment of Dysmenorrhea] (fragment)
Box 5Folder 6
General Introductory Lecture to Medical Course, 1840
Box 5Folder 7
[History of Medicine]
Box 5Folder 8
Homeopathy
Box 5Folder 9
Homeopathy, 1860
Box 5Folder 10
Homeopathy: Vomiting in Pregnancy
Box 5Folder 11
[Homeopathy and Hydrotherapy]
Box 5Folder 12
[Hydrophobia]
Box 5Folder 13
[Annual Address before the Massachusetts Medical Society], 1833
Box 5Folder 14
Medical Police
Box 5Folder 15
Pericarditis: Case of Pericarditis, 1834
Box 5Folder 16
Pneumonia
Box 5Folder 17
[Address before the Society for Obstetric Improvement]

Lectures: Non-medical Topics

Box 6Folder 1
Art
Box 6Folder 2
Bathing (Written for the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal)
Box 6Folder 3
Address before the Boston Society of Natural History, 1835
Box 6Folder 4
Education
Box 6Folder 5
[Genius, Character, and Female Employment and Wages]
Box 6Folder 6
[Independence]
Box 6Folder 7
Labor: [American and European Views of Labor]
Box 6Folder 8
Life and Living, 1860
Box 6Folder 9
[Comments on The Life and Works of Goethe, by G. H. Lewes, (1855)]
Box 6Folder 10
My Own Times, or Fifty Year Since: An Address before the Mechanic Apprentices Library Association, 1844
Box 6Folder 11
[Philosophy of Old Age], 1860
Box 6Folder 12
[The Picnic]
Box 6Folder 13
Plea for Pure Water, 1844 (manuscript copy)
Box 6Folder 14
[Political Parties]
Box 6Folder 15
Politics
Box 6Folder 16-17
Public Health: Addresses delivered before the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 1829
Box 6Folder 18
Sketch of the life and character of John D. Fisher, M.D., 1850 (manuscript copy)
Box 6Folder 19
Temperance: Address Composed at the Request of the Harvard Temperance Society, 1838
Box 6Folder 20
Temperance: Annual Address delivered before the Massachusetts Temperance Society, May 29 1836 (manuscript copy)
Box 6Folder 21
Temperance Reform
Box 6Folder 22
[United States Constitution]
Box 6Folder 23
Address Delivered before the Washington Benevolent Society of Massachusetts, 1813

III. Medical Case Records

Contains case reports and notes on cases attended by Walter Channing, including Channing's midwifery casebook (and photocopy), kept from 1811-1822, which contains notes on approximately 195 cases attended by Channing. Entries note names and ages of patients, dates of treatment, relevant medical history, the sex of the child delivered, and general notes on the delivery including the progression of labor and the presentation of the fetus. Channing also provides thorough accounts of cases involving difficult labor, which he defined as labor lasting more than twenty-four hours, cases in which the fetus did not present head-first, or cases involving hemorrhaging, convulsions, or other medical emergencies. This box also includes notes on several additional midwifery and general medicine cases, many of which are undated and/or fragmentary.

Vol. 1
Midwifery Case Notebook, 1811-1822

Use photocopy in Box 7, folder 1.

Box 7Folder 1
Photocopy of Midwifery Casebook, 1811-1822
Box 7Folder 2
Notes on Midwifery Cases, n.d.
Box 7Folder 3
Notes on Midwifery Cases, 1829
Box 7Folder 4
Notes on Midwifery Cases, 1834-1840
Box 7Folder 5
Notes on Midwifery Cases, 1863
Box 7Folder 6
Notes on Midwifery and General Medicine Cases (numbered 1-10)
Box 7Folder 7
Miscellaneous notes on cases (mostly fragmentary or incomplete)

IV. Personal Papers

Contains autobiographical writings, travel memoirs, wills, and account books of Walter Channing. The autobiographical writings include descriptions of his early life and medical career, and later reminiscences of his career at Harvard Medical College. The travel memoirs include a typescript and two manuscript copies (including one kept in a scrapbook made by his wife, Barbara Channing,) of his work, "A Sketch of That Town Into the Highlands of Scotland in Autumn of 1810," later published as part of a larger work, Professional Reminiscences of Foreign Travel (1852). The manuscript for another published work, A Physician's Vacation; or, a Summer in Europe, (1856) is also included.

Other personal papers include two wills, written in 1865 and 1866, and a brief account book, kept from 1869-1871. The account book lists property owned by Channing, as well as stocks, bonds, insurance policies, and interest earned on investments. This box also includes a folder of miscellaneous biographical information, including obituaries and letters of condolence for Barbara and Walter Channing.

Autobiographical Writings

Box 8Folder 1-2
"Autobiographical to 1810" - two typescript copies, originally written in 1823
Box 8Folder 3
"Fragment of Medical Autobiography, or A Case Reported by the Patient," published in Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Dec. 1864
Box 8Folder 4
[Medicine: Recollections of his early life and career]
Box 8Folder 5
Reminiscences of the Faculty and his Career at Harvard Medical College
Box 8Folder 6
Retrospectus, after 1857, [1859]
Box 8Folder 7
Miscellaneous biographical information, including obituaries, and letters of condolence for Walter and Barbara Channing

Travel journals

Vol. 2
Scrapbook containing manuscript copy of "A Sketch of that Town Into the Highlands of Scotland In the Autumn of 1810," made by Barbara Channing in 1812, additional entries by Barbara Channing, .
Box 8Folder 8
Manuscript of "A Sketch of that Town Into the Highlands of Scotland In the Autumn of 1810," published as part of Professional Reminiscences of Foreign Travel (1852)
Box 8Folder 9
Typescript of "A Sketch of that Town Into the Highlands of Scotland In the Autumn of 1810," published as part of Professional Reminiscences of Foreign Travel (1852)
Box 8Folder 10
Manuscript of Physician's Vacation; or, a Summer in Europe(1856), pp. 36-95a
Box 8Folder 11
Physician's Vacation, pp. 53-90
Box 8Folder 12
Physician's Vacation, pp. 95-114
Box 8Folder 13
Physician's Vacation, pp. 117-156
Box 8Folder 14
Physician's Vacation, pp. 281-340
Box 8Folder 15
Physician's Vacation, pp. 692-699
Box 8Folder 16
Physician's Vacation, pp. 726-761

Other Personal Papers

Box 8Folder 17
Wills, 1865 - 1866
Box 8Folder 18
Account Book, 1869-1871

Preferred Citation

Walter Channing papers II, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.

Persons:

Channing, Barbara Higginson Perkins d. 1822.
Channing, George G. (George Gibbs), 1789-1881.
Channing, Walter, 1849-1921.
Channing, William Ellery, 1780-1842.
Russel, Lucy Channing, 1787-1863.

Organizations:

Harvard Medical School.
Harvard University. Temperance Society.
Boston Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

Subjects:

Childbirth.
Cholera.
Homeopathy
Medical education--Massachusetts--Boston.
Medicine--Law and legislation.
Medicine--Study and teaching.
Obstetrics--Study and teaching.
Physicians--Massachusetts--Boston.
Public health.
Reformers--Massachusetts--Boston.
Women--Diseases.
Voyages and travels--Diaries.
Account books,--1869-1871.
Medicine--Addresses, essays, lectures.
Temperance--Addresses, essays, lectures.
Medicine.
Europe--Description and travel--1800-1918.

Titles:

Physician's vacation; or, A summer in Europe.