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Louis E. Schmidt (1869-1957) Papers

Identifier: 18/3/21/1

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Scope and Contents

The papers of Louis E. Schmidt fill three boxes and span the years 1894 to 1957. The bulk of the papers relate to the 1929-31 controversy surrounding Schmidt’s expulsion from the Chicago Medical Society. Of these, the majority of documents (mostly press clippings) were once maintained in a scrapbook format; they were pasted on to sheets of ruled paper and held in binders. The binders have been removed and the contents foldered; folder titles reflect the categories originally determined by Schmidt.

Biographical Data document Schmidt's academic, professional and civic life and include records of Schmidt’s activities as a student and professor at Northwestern, and his civic appointments and qualifications. A clippings file documents newspaper mentions of Schmidt unrelated to the 1929-31 coverage of his expulsion from the Chicago and Illinois Medical Societies and the AMA.

Schmidt's engagement in the health issues of the day is illuminated in a series of subject files (1919 to 1940). These include records of his involvement in the Illinois Social Hygiene League and the Public Health Institute, a speech he presented on "Looking Forward in Medicine" at the Union League Club of Chicago at a dinner in his honor (May 16, 1929), and a file on the Economics of Health Care, relating to proposed legislation and other material related to the issues of paying for health care in this country. A clippings file documents newspaper coverage of this topic. One subject file contains handbills, petitions, open letters, and pamphlets on the general topic of public health (dating between 1930-1940) that were sent to Schmidt.Schmidt served on the Advisory Committee for the American Foundation Studies in Government, which produced a report on the state of delivery of health care entitled American Medicine in 1937. An offshoot of the AFSG was a Committee of Physicians, which advocated for public subsidy of medical care for the indigent as well as research and education; correspondence and reports (1937-1940) relating to the Committee of Physicians are included in the AFSG file. In 1938, a federal grand jury investigation of the AMA’s opposition to prepaid health care plans was launched; Schmidt’s Civic Medical Center was considered for inclusion in the investigation. The collection includes correspondence about the investigation (in which the civic Medical Center ultimately did not participate).

The controversy surrounding Schmidt's expulsion from the Chicago Medical Society and its consequences is documented in three sub-series. The Records of the Expulsion Controversy includes the letters, statements, petitions, testimonies, meeting minutes, official decisions and appeals to the medical professional associations which expelled Schmidt. The organizations involved include the Chicago Medical Society, the American Medical Association and the Illinois Medical Society.

News stories, journal articles and editorials, including articles in Chicago German-language newspapers, document the controversy surrounding Schmidt's expulsion. The extensive collection of these Clippings is arranged according to geographic origin and type of publication. Most of the clippings were glued to ruled pages and contained in binders. The clippings are arranged chronologically, except for the two folders containing articles appearing in publications throughout the nation aside from Illinois; these are arranged alphabetically by the state in which the article was published.

Typed and hand written Letters of Support letters and telegrams supporting Schmidt in his struggle to maintain membership in the professional medical societies make up the. These are arranged alphabetically by author. The majority of the letters are from sympathetic strangers, former patients and friends who followed the controversy in the newspapers. Many are noteworthy for their compelling personal stories or for their low opinion of the medical establishment. Also noteworthy are letters from Milton Florsheim of Florsheim shoes, Col. Robert McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune, and Ed Kelley, Chicago politician, and a letter in German, with translation from a physician acquaintance, M. R. Schneller, writing from the Minnesota state prison. Perhaps less useful to Schmidt was the support of one Howard Ambruster, who sent Schmidt copies of his own battle with the courts. These documents are foldered with Ambruster's note to Schmidt.


  • 1894-1957


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


3.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



Dr. Louis E. Schmidt had a distinguished medical career as a medical educator and surgeon, but is best known for a stormy controversy involving his Illinois Social Hygiene League and medical advertising, which resulted in his expulsion from the Chicago Medical Society and the American Medical Association. The bulk of the papers relate to the expulsion controversy (1929-1930) but the collection also includes clippings, biographical files, and subject files reflecting Schmidt's interest in issues relating to public health care.


Materials in each sub-series are arragned in chronological order.

Method of Acquisition

The Papers were separated from Accession No. 99-167, which was transferred to the Archives by Chris Simoni on August 13, 1997, and accessioned as No. 99-185.

Separated Materials

Approximately three inches of duplicates and extraneous matter were discarded. A book entitled The Medical Trust Unmasked by John L. Spivak (1929) was transferred to the Special Collections Department of the Northwestern University Library.

Processing Information

Peter Gunther, December 13, 2000. Re. June, 2009 and March, 2013.

Guide to the Louis E. Schmidt (1869-1957) Papers
Peter Gunther
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US