American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes



Because the College began in 1913, its Archives are a unique repository for the study of the history of medicine in North America in the 20th century. This was a period of increasing government involvement in medical practice, of patient awareness, and interest in care given, and of conflict and collaboration among the various medical societies. Its international membership base also makes available material on surgery throughout the world in the last century. The American College of Surgeons (ACS) was a leader in hospital standardization practices, and the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals finds its origins in the American College of Surgeons. In addition, ACS was a pioneer in instituting medical motion pictures as an educational technique for surgeons-in-training. It played a major role in the development of the Residency Review Commission for Surgery. Its administration of research and promotion of education in treatment of cancer and traumatic injury set the standards under which all subsequent research has been administered and surgical education promoted.

ACS archival records include the minutes, agendas, correspondence, and other meeting materials of its Board of Regents, Board of Governors, and other entities of the College. The Archives contains the periodical and monograph publications produced by the College as well as any other historically valuable material produced by and unique to the College in the performance of its mission. Although papers of its members (called Fellows) and even its Presidents are generally not found here, one major exception is the papers of ACS Founder Franklin H. Martin, MD, FACS.

Sample Archives Collections

The Papers of Franklin H. and Isabelle H. Martin

The Martin Papers consist of a set of “Memoirs” (1899-1936), which are 48 three-ring binders of scrapbook materials, such as news clippings, photos, diary entries, travel souvenirs, programs related both to ACS functions and Chicago social life, and Martin’s documentation of his service on President Woodrow Wilson’s wartime civilian body known as the Council of National Defense and specifically the minutes of the General Medical Board.

Besides the “Memoirs,” Martin’s papers include original records such as minutes of boards of various Chicago hospital and postgraduate medical schools with which he and his father-in-law, Dr. John Hollister, were connected (1872-1910); his obstetrics/gynecology case books (1891-1917); and diaries, journals, personal files, correspondence, and tributes about him. The papers include records of his early career, his involvement in World War I, and his correspondence. Complete Description of the Martin Papers 

Eleanor K. Grimm Resources

Another rich resource found in the ACS Archives is Eleanor K. Grimm’s compilation of the history of the American College of Surgeons, from 1913 to the 1950s, which is contained in 26 three-ring binders. Miss Grimm was the private secretary of Dr. Franklin Martin from 1913 until his death in 1935, and then chief administrative officer of the College until her retirement in 1951. Her compilation, besides including tear sheets from ACS publications, is comprised of typed transcripts of her narration as spoken and read onto wire recording devices. Interspersed with her finely documented notes are her own views expressed and labeled as such. She created a very detailed index to accompany this “ACS History.”  E.K. Grimm

The Orr Collection

This valuable collection of books on the history of medicine and surgery was donated to the College by H. Winnett Orr, MD, FACS, and includes volumes contributed by Dr. Mary McKibbin-Harper. The collection was given by the College on permanent loan to the University of Nebraska Medical Center Library in 1974. Catalog of the Orr Collection

Selected Films

Franklin Martin felt strongly that physicians could more easily learn surgical procedures by observing them rather than by merely reading about them. Live demonstrations or “wet clinics” were presented at the Clinical Congress of Surgeons beginning in 1910. But the opportunity to learn by direct observation was still severely limited. Martin saw motion picture technology as the answer to this problem. The College has been producing films since the late 1920s. Very few of the films survive, but the Archives holds a small number of them. Selected Films

Bulletin Indexes

We have searchable indexes of the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons (1913–2016). Bulletin Indexes