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Philadelphia Medical History and the University of Pennsylvania
Extinct Philadelphia Medical Schools



Medical Department of Pennsylvania College, 1840-1861

The Medical Department of Philadelphia had its origins in 1839 when Dr. George McClellan – having been dismissed from the faculty of Jefferson Medical College – joined with Drs. Samuel Colhoun, William Rush, and Samuel G. Morton in writing Pennsylvania College in Gettysburg, PA, requesting to create a Medical Department to be located in Philadelphia. The Trustees of the College granted the request, and appointed the four physicians to the faculty of the Medical Department. The school commenced operation in 1840 in a building at Filbert Street above Eleventh Street, which had two lecture rooms, a museum, a reading room, a dissecting room, and a chemical laboratory. For clinical instruction a dispensary was opened at the medical school, and students had access to Pennsylvania and Blockley Hospitals. In 1849 a new building was constructed at the southwest corner of Ninth Street and Shield’s Alley. In 1858 an agreement was made with the Philadelphia College of Medicine in which both institutions would merge in an effort to offset financial instability. The start of the American Civil War, which reduced the enrollment of the school and mounting bills for unpaid taxes, resulted in the Medical Department closing permanently in 1861.


Philadelphia College of Medicine, 1838–1859

The Philadelphia College of Medicine had its origins in the Philadelphia School of Anatomy, which was established by James McClintock in 1838. In 1847 McClintock obtained a charter from the Pennsylvania Legislature to establish the Philadelphia College of Medicine. He had organized the school in 1846, holding classes that winter and summer in the building of the Philadelphia School of Anatomy on Filbert Street above Seventh Street. With the charter, McClintock’s school had the power to confer degrees to students. The year the charter was obtained, the College moved to new facilities at Fifth and Walnut Streets which had originally been constructed for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The five story building contained two lecture rooms, an anatomical theater, a museum, a dissecting room, classrooms, and rooms for professors. In addition, the College included a pharmacy department to instruct advanced students. Students had access to Pennsylvania Hospital, Wills Hospital, and the Philadelphia Dispensary for clinical instruction. By 1858 the College was experiencing financial difficulty, and reached an agreement with the Medical Department of Pennsylvania College by which the two schools would merge in 1859. The Medical Department faculty would resign, and the faculty of the Philadelphia College would assume the name and operate as the Medical Department of Pennsylvania College. Eventually that institution closed in 1861.


Franklin Medical College, 1846-1849

Franklin Medical College grew out of Dr. Nathaniel Chapman’s Medical Institute, which was started in 1827. The growth of the Medical Institute necessitated the establishment of an appropriate building, which was located on Locust Street above Eleventh Street. When Franklin Medical College was chartered on January 28, 1846, it took over the former home of Chapman’s Institute. It was at the Franklin Medical College where Joseph Leidy was first hired as a demonstrator of anatomy. The school operated for only three years before closing in 1849.


Penn Medical University, 1853-1881

Dr. Joseph S. Longshore founded the Penn Medical College in 1853 when he obtained a charter from the Pennsylvania state legislature. The name was changed to Penn Medical University in 1854. The school had the distinction of enrolling both men and women, though they attended in separate sessions (Spring term for the men, Fall term for the women). The University called a number of locations home during its existence. Initially classes were held in Franklin Hall located on Sixth Street below Arch Street. In 1854 the University moved to Thirteenth and Arch Streets, and the following year to 419 Market Street. In 1857 it relocated again to the northwest corner of Twelfth and Chestnut Streets, and three years later to 910 Arch Street. At the Arch Street home a dispensary was opened in 1860, and in 1862 a dental department was established. The final home for Penn Medical University was 1131 Brown Street where it moved to in 1874. Clinical instruction was available to the female students at the Pennsylvania Lying-in and Foundling Hospital, while male students attended Blockley Hospital. The school was able to survive the Civil War years that affected other Philadelphia medical schools. However, in 1881 it was forced to close its doors.


Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania and American University of Philadelphia, 1850–1880

The Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania received its charter from the State Legislature on February 25, 1850, and held its first session in 1851. The curriculum of the school followed the eclectic model, which was a branch of medicine formed in the mid-Nineteenth Century which focused on botanical remedies. The first home of the College was in a building located on Haines Street – between Arch and Race Streets, west of Sixth Street. In 1858 the school acquired a new location at the northeast corner of Sixth and Callowhill Streets. Dr. William Pain was dean of the school by 1859, the year an argument between himself and members of the faculty resulted in Pain's departure. Pain would later join with Dr. James McClintock in establishing another eclectic medical school in 1860. Animosity grew between the schools during the following decades of the Nineteenth Century. By 1864 the Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania began to exaggerate its funding and enrollment. Following the schools relocation to 514 Pine Street in 1868 the reputation of the school began to seriously decline. The previous year the school obtained a new charter as the American University of Philadelphia, and from that point on operating as a diploma mill under the leadership of Dr. John Buchanan. In 1880 Dr. Buchanan was arrested and the school ceased operation. Buchanan attempted to escape prosecution by faking his own suicide by jumping into the Delaware River from the Philadelphia-Camden Ferry, but was later apprehended in Canada.


The Eclectic Medical College of Philadelphia and Philadelphia University of Medicine and Surgery, 1860–1875

In 1860 after leaving the Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania, Drs. William Pain and James McClintock established a new medical school by reviving the charter of the former American College of Medicine. They later had an amendment made to the charter to change the school’s name to the American College of Medicine in Pennsylvania and the Eclectic medical College of Philadelphia. The first home of the College was a building between Fourth and Fifth Streets between Race and Cherry Streets. In 1863 the College was able to negotiate the purchase and transfer of the Medical Department of Pennsylvania College building on Ninth Street below Locust for use as its new home. In March 1865 the College received permission from the Pennsylvania Legislature to change its name to The Philadelphia University of Medicine and Surgery. Unfortunately, the prosperity of the school was marred by attempts by others to discredit Dr. Pain and his school as frauds and essentially a diploma mill. Much of his energy and finances were used to defend both himself and the college from lawsuits and libel claims. Finally, in 1875 the Board of Trustees agreed to surrender the charter back to the state, effectively closing the school. In name at least, the school continued on for five more years. In 1878 it had its final home at 209 North Tenth Street, where it operated primarily as a diploma mill under T. B. Miller until it closed in 1880.


Note: The University of Pennsylvania University Archives and Records Center does not hold records for any of the above institutions. Those interested in learning more about these schools should consult Extinct Medical Schools of Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia, by Harold J. Abrahams (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1966), and Medical Education in the United States before the Civil War, by William Frederick Norwood (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1944), as well as collections at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.