University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


John Janvier Black Papers

1860 - 1909

Manuscript Collection Number: 221
Extent: 49 volumes, 17 items
Content: Notebooks, diaries, ephemera, one pencil
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: April 1991, by W. Van Wyck

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Table of Contents


Biographical Note

John Janvier Black, United States surgeon and resident physician to Blockley Hospital, was born in Delaware City, Delaware, November 6, 1837, the son of Charles H. Black and Anne Janvier Black. His early education was received in the local schools after which he studied at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his medical degree in 1862.

He began practice in New Castle, Delaware, and early manifested special interest in anti-tuberculosis crusades and care of the insane. He was president of the Delaware Insane Asylum and helped greatly in the formation of the Delaware State Hospital. In 1872 he married Jeanie Groome Black.

Dr. Black eagerly studied all the new methods and earned a fine reputation as an obstetrician in the country around New Castle. He performed many successful operations and once in a case of extreme urgency, diagnosis having revealed the need for Caesarian section upon a rachitic dwarf, improvised an operating table from chairs and boards and used a piece of sterilized fishing line as ligatures. The patient died several weeks later but the child lived.

Because of his outstanding success in the duties of a country physician, Dr. Black was elected to membership in the College of Physicians, Philadelphia, and the State Medical Society. He died in New Castle, September 27, 1909, leaving two children, Elizabeth Groome and Armytage Middleton.


Scope and Content Note

The John Janvier Black papers, which span 1860 to 1909, consist of 45 physician's visiting lists, a notebook of hospital observations, a personal diary, and two notebooks belonging to unidentified persons. Black's visiting list notebooks (1864 - 1909) are leather-bound and each measures approximately four inches by six inches. The year, his name, and "Newcastle Del." are frequently printed or embossed on the leather; and newspaper clippings, usually relating to medical issues or fruit growing, are glued to the inside covers. The notebooks themselves contain printed material, including calendars, tables, and general medical information. Black used these visiting lists to record the names of his patients and the days he visited them, and he occasionally took notes about the ailments and treatments of particular patients. Black also described various operations he performed, including Caesarian sections, amputations, and tracheotomies (see visiting lists from 1870, 1889, and 1892). Recorded in the visiting lists are patients' addresses, Black's cash accounts, his total earnings for the year, and the ingredients of certain antidotes and prescriptions.

In addition to information related to his practice, Black's visiting lists contain recipes, notes on his fruit orchards, and reports of local Delaware events. Two items removed from the 1870 notebook document an order from Edward Tatnall of Wilmington for peach trees for Black's orchard. Of particular interest are Black's description of the Old Lyle House in New Castle (1885), and his reports on the opening days of the New Castle-Wilmington Electric Railway (March 18, 1897) and the New Castle-Delaware City Electric Railroad (August 30, 1900). In his visiting list from 1909, Black lists the members of the Delaware Tuberculosis Commission. Also of interest is Black's visiting list from 1895, in which he calculates the national debt of the United States and mentions that President Cleveland was issuing bonds to protect the country's gold reserves.

Also included among Black's papers is his notebook of observations recorded at a U.S. Marine Hospital in San Francisco during February 1860; much of the material in this notebook relates to the observation and treatment of patients with diabetes. Also present is his personal diary (October 1866 - January 1867) in which Black recounts his trip across the Atlantic and his travels in Europe.

The John Janvier Black Papers include two unidentified notebooks that did not belong to Black. One of the notebooks is a personal diary for the year 1864. In the first part of the year, the author is stationed in the army, inspecting weapons, reviewing regiments, and preparing ordnance accounts. In the latter half of the diary the author returns home to Chester, Pennsylvania, to live with his wife, Mary. Although his occupation is unclear, the author mentions frequent trips to "the city" (Philadelphia) and his involvement in the Union League. A detailed cash account with lists of items and their prices is located in the back of the diary. The second notebook, from 1904, is a visiting list from another doctor. This notebook contains patients' names, their ailments, and how they were treated; also included is the doctor's cash account and total earnings for the year.


Contents List

Box -- Contents

 1 Visiting Lists, 1866-1878  (14 volumes, 5 items)
		  1866
		  1866-1868
		  1869
		  1870 pt. 1
		  1870 pt. 2
		  1870 - 5 items removed from volume:
			"Worm Lozenges," medicine label from Wilmington
			St. Louis Magnetic Spring Water advertisement
			one handwritten prescription
			correspondence from Edward Tatnall regarding order for peach orchard
			receipt from Black for peach order from Tatnall
		  1871 pt. 1
		  1871 pt. 2
		  1872 pt. 1
		  1872 pt. 2
		  1874
		  1875
		  1876
		  1877
		  1878

 2 Visiting Lists, 1879-1891  (13 volumes)
		  1879
		  1880
		  1881
		  1882
		  1883
		  1884
		  1885
		  1886
		  1887
		  1888
		  1889
		  1890
		  1891

 3 Visiting Lists, 1892-1903  (12 volumes, 4 items)
		  1892
		  1893
		  1894
		  1895
		  1895 - 3 items removed from volume:
			certificate from Delaware State Medical Society
			ticket to state fair
			pass from Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore Railroad 
Company for Dr. John Janvier Black, Company Surgeon, 1895
3 Visiting Lists, 1892-1903 (cont'd) 1896 1897 1898 1899 1899 - one pencil removed from volume 1900 1901 1902 1903 4 Visiting Lists, 1904-1909 (6 volumes, 7 items) 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1909 - 7 items removed from volume: newspaper clipping regarding medical topic pass from Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore Railroad
Company for Dr. John J. Black, Company Surgeon, 1909 envelope from E. Challenger Pharmacy, Newcastle four calling cards, "Dr. John J. Black" Other Volumes (4 volumes, 1 item) Hospital Observation Notebook, 1860: February 1860 - one item removed from volume: page fragment Diary, 1866: October - 1867: January Unidentified Diary, 1864 Unidentified Visiting List, 1904
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