Records consist of journals, medical diaries, drafts, scrapbooks and letters, many of which were composed while Dr. Wilson was serving onboard USS Levant and Savannah as Assistant Surgeon. Items address Dr. Wilson’s professional and personal interests.
Joseph Wilson, Jr. was born in the Holmesburg section of Philadelphia on January 6, 1816, the fifth of nine children born to Joseph Wilson, Sr., M.D. and Mary Paul Shallcross. The Wilsons were a prominent Quaker family.
Wilson received his early education at private schools in Holmesburg and completed his collegiate training at Bolmar’s Academy, then located in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1837 with a degree in medicine. Following his graduation, he assumed a one-year position at the University as Acting Demonstrator of Anatomy. He then embarked upon the practice of medicine in Holmesburg until his appointment as Assistant Surgeon in the United States Navy in 1842. The following year, while awaiting orders, he was in practice in the Frankford section of Philadelphia. Wilson entered the Navy as Assistant Surgeon on May 13, 1843 and achieved the rank of Lieutenant in March 1848. He earned the title of Surgeon and rank of Lieutenant-Commander on April 19, 1857. Wilson became Medical Inspector and ranking Commander on May 23, 1871 and, finally, Medical Director of the Navy on June 27, 1873. He retired at the age limit of 62 in January 1878.
Dr. Wilson first saw duty on the Pacific coast, remaining there four and a half years during the period that included the Mexican War. For a portion of this time, he was detached and assigned to land duty as Chief Surgeon on the staff of General John C. Fremont who was then in command in California. July 1843 saw Dr. Wilson aboard the US sloop of war Levant, followed by service on the USS Savannah from 1844 to 1847.
Dr. Wilson married his cousin, Elizabeth Love, in 1850, the same year he was assigned to the Washington Navy Yard. After two years stationed there, he was assigned to Commodore M. C. Perry’s Japan Expedition; he gains favorable mention in Perry’s official dispatches. From 1855 to 1857 Dr. Wilson was stationed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard until he was ordered back to the Pacific Coast Station on the Vandalia, remaining until 1859. In 1860 Dr. Wilson was attached to the Powhatan in the Gulf of Mexico, from 1861 to 1863 with the Michigan on Lake Michigan, and from 1863 to 1865 upon the Vanderbilt on the Atlantic coast. In 1866 he became Surgeon in charge of the Norfolk Hospital and, two years later, Fleet Surgeon of the south Atlantic Squadron. Beginning in 1871 and for the next four years, Dr. Wilson was Medical Director of the Naval Hospital in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
While on shore duty, he was often assigned to additional service on examining boards. Additionally, Dr. Wilson was a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. He penned two editions of a book entitled Naval Hygiene (Government Printing Office, Washington; 1870). The first edition contained an appendix, Moving Wounded Men on Shipboard, by Albert C. Gorgas. The second edition was published under the title Naval Hygiene: Human Health and the Means of Preventing Disease, with Illustrative Incidents Principally Derived from Naval Experience (Lindsay and Blakiston, Philadelphia; 1879).
Dr. Wilson died on March 7, 1887.
The first series, Professional Papers, consists of drafts, essays, journals, medical diaries, patient logs, scrapbooks and letters sent and received by Dr. Joseph Wilson, Jr., some of which were composed while Dr. Wilson was serving onboard the ships Levant and Savannah as Assistant Surgeon. The second series, Personal Papers, consists of essays, cartes de visite, family estate accounts, a school atlas and a partially printed journal relating to farm management. The third and final series contains two parchment certificates of medical accomplishment awarded to Dr. Joseph Wilson, Sr.
Though the division between items of professional interest and items of personal interest is artificial, it is thought that it best represents the overlapping but separate focuses held by Dr. Wilson. The original order is no longer extant and only a small remnant of Dr. Wilson’s prolific corpus is thought to be present here. It is hoped that this arrangement helps to facilitate access and to establish the differing interests of the collection’s creator while being cognizant of their inherent relationships to one another.
- Medicine, Naval
- Ship Physicians
- Medicine — Practice — 19th century
- United States. Navy. — Surgeons
- ?SS Savannah