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Isaac Arthur Abt (1867-1955) Papers

Identifier: 18/3/14/2

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Scope and Contents

The Isaac Arthur Abt Papers are arranged in six main categories: biographical material; class and teaching notes; publications; addresses; clinics; and material by or related to I. A. Abt's elder son, Arthur Frederick.

The biographical material includes “Recollections of an Old Pediatrician” (41 pages, much of it in outline form) which deals with Abt's life up through his visit to Europe in 1928. These recollections formed the basis for Abt's popular autobiography, Baby Doctor, published in 1944. The biographical category also contains clippings; programs; certificates, commendations, and appreciations; biographical sketches and obituaries (one by his son, Arthur); and a folder of correspondence, mostly to Abt. These letters include one (typed, Feb. 8, 1952) from Bela Schick who signed it and wrote a brief postscript, and 11 from Fielding Garrison (1917-18, 1926-27).

The class and lecture notes include those taken by Abt while at Johns Hopkins (1888-89), lecture notes for courses he taught, and grades he gave while teaching.

The publications, which comprise the largest section of the Papers, include drafts of his articles (1908?-1948), a few editorials and obituaries (of colleagues), some ads and reviews of books Abt wrote, and a substantial number of notes and partial drafts for his writings on the history of pediatrics. Other material related to his writings is also included in this collection, as are a few reprints.

The addresses include dated typescripts from 1917 to 1944, and two large folders of undated items. Also in this category is a large number of notes for speeches Abt gave and discussions he participated in at both scientific and lay meetings.

The clinics category is comprised primarily of typed protocols for Sarah Morris Hospital (1915-1917), with some protocols, notes, and other materials from the Pediatric Clinics at Northwestern, Children's Memorial Hospital, Michael Reese, and St. Luke's. The sources of some of this material are not identified. Dated items range from 1909 to 1934.

The Arthur F. Abt biographical material includes one folder of correspondence and miscellaneous, and two folders of reprints.

Additions, Boxes 10-12

This addition to the Isaac Arthur Abt Papers is arranged in seven main categories: biographical materials, correspondence, clippings, materials relating to Abt's 85th birthday celebration, honors, obituaries, and publications.

The biographical material includes personal notes (one, not to Abt, written and signed by Abraham Jacobi); professional and membership cards; notes and cards from Abt's student days in Vienna (1892-93); programs of meetings in which Abt took part; his filled-out application for membership in the Volunteer Medical Service Corps (September 8, 1918); and '“The Debutante”, yearbook from Johns Hopkins University, for Abt's graduating class of 1889.

The correspondence (mostly letters to Abt with a few drafts and copies of replies) includes a personal folder (arranged chronologically by day) and letters and telegrams written for his 70th, 75th, 80th, and 86th birthdays. The personal material contains a postcard (May 29, 1907) of Vienna from Joseph B. De Lee; three handwritten letters from Fielding H. Garrison: August 9, 1917 (thanking Abt for his excellent picture, mentioning his specific needs of pictures for the history of pediatrics Garrison was then writing, and commenting on the likelihood of seeing overseas duty in the war); August 17, 1932 acknowledging Abt's approval of Garrison's recent tribute to Steinschneider and commenting at some length on Steinschneider's personality and philosophy. Garrison “understands” that most of Steinschneider's correspondence is to be given to the Morningside Seminary; and December 19, 1932 briefly thanking Abt for letter and kind invitation which he must decline. Also here is a handwritten letter (May 25, 1935) from Bela Schick reporting the possibilities of putting together a Festschrift for Knoepfdmacher or, more likely, an honorary membership in an important pediatric society. Schick earnestly requests Abt's advice. This folder includes two letters from Northwestern University President Walter Dill Scott (April 29, 1931) inviting Abt to receive an honorary degree (Doctor of Science) from Northwestern and taking delight in Abt's acceptance (May 5, 1931). Finally there are letters from Charles Huggins (October 23, 1944) thanking Abt, his patient, for the beautiful wristwatch; from Ross Harrison (April 20, 1954) inviting Abt to their 65th reunion at Johns Hopkins, with handwritten postscript; and from Abraham Jacobi (undated, handwritten on letterhead of The Blackstone Chicago) thanking Abt for his hospitality.

The remaining correspondence consists of congratulatory letters and telegrams for various birthdays.

The clippings include items about Abt (interviews, events) and articles by Abt on public health and other medical matters. The Pure Milk Hearing clippings refer to Abt's testimony during a public meeting in Chicago set up to improve the quality of commercially produced milk. The Miriam Rubin Case folder contains two reprinted announcements (in a Wayne, Nebraska, paper) concerning Abt's consultation regarding this girl's treatment by a chiropractor in Waukegan, Illinois.

The 85th birthday celebration materials (Box 11) contain 2 albums of congratulatory letters and a folder of additional letters and the programs and publicity pertaining to the dinner and the movie (“Stars and Stripes Forever”).

The honors material includes letters and clippings about the presentations of the American Medical Association's Distinguished Service Award (1948) and France's Cross of the Legion of Honor (1927). Abt was elected president of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago for 1933 and there are a few items related to this.

Obituaries of Abt appeared in several newspapers. The major element in the publications section is concerned with Abt's autobiography, Baby Doctor, published in 1944. In addition to letters from friends, colleagues, “Abt babies”, and the general public, there are many ads, flyers, and reviews.

Addition, Boxes 13-14 and Packagew 1-2

These materials are arranged in four main categories: biographical materials, correspondence, stock and other certificates, and publications.

The biographical materials include clippings and other items relating to Dr. Abt and other members of his family; the script of the American Medical Association's “Gold Medal Doctors” radio program (1948) featuring Dr. Abt; the ship's passage (in German, August 1, 1853) for Dr. Abt's father, Levi, from Bremen; a certificate of admission to high school, June 29, 1883; a few school and college papers; a guest book for the Abt house in Leland, Michigan (1922-1938); and 20 diary, note, and memoranda books. The latter provide information about meetings, trips, and other professional concerns, as well as a few personal and family matters. The notes on the Abt's various European trips include some information on visits to clinics, hospitals, and educational institutions. One memo book contains a collection of cigar bands. Here also is the minute book for the Peerless Literary Society (1881-1884) of which Abt was a founder and president.

The correspondence, arranged chronologically by date, includes letters and postcards, mostly from Dr. Abt to other members of his family. Some correspondence is from Abt's wife and a small amount from relatives and friends pertains mainly to Abt's autobiography, Baby Doctor. Of special interest are three letters (May 7, 1887-January 21, 1888) written home while Abt attended Johns Hopkins University. These mention the serious illness, probably diphtheria, of Abt's youngest sister, May, and gifts of money and clothes. In the January 21, 1888 letter, Abt referred to the difficulties that his father and older brothers, Solomon and Herman, were having with their clothing business. Abt offered to withdraw from school to help the family.

The stock and other certificates are of no monetary value and serve only to illustrate some of Dr. Abt's less fortunate investments.

The publications include a paperback Portuguese translation (1946) of Baby Doctor and a bound volume of The Literary Star, a monthly 8-page tabloid issued from February 15, 1885 through January 15, 1886, by the “Editors and Proprietors”: Isaac A. Abt, Leo A. Loeb, and Simon B. Eisendrath.

The package contains the Peerless Society minute book and The Literary Star volume.

Addition, Box 15

This addition to the Isaac Abt Papers consists of one box of articles by Abt, spanning the years 1896 to 1944. Articles include offprints from medical journals, and works excised from popular magazines such as Parents magazine. Some articles, published in foreign journals, have been translated into the appropriate language (Italian, Spanish and German). Articles are arranged chronologically by publication date.

Also included in this addition are bibliographic materials (a partial list of Abt's articles and a series of note cards with publication information) and a heavily annotated, printed booklet titled Syllabus of a System of Pediatrics, which might be a collateral publication related to Abt's eight-volume A System of Pediatrics (1921-1927).

Drafts of some of these articles may be found in Box 3, folders 1-5. Additional articles by Abt are contained in Box 9.


  • 1881-1966


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.


15.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



Isaac Arthur Abt, pediatrician and Northwestern University Medical School professor, began his practice in internal medicine but gravitated to pediatrics, with a particular intererst in nutrion, and became one of the earliest specialists in the field. The Isaac Arthur Abt Papers are arranged in six main categories: biographical material; class and teaching notes; publications; addresses; clinics; and material by or related to I. A. Abt's elder son, Arthur Frederick.

Arrangement Note

The Isaac Arthur Abt Papers are arranged in six main categories: biographical material; class and teaching notes; publications; addresses; clinics; and material by or related to I. A. Abt's elder son, Arthur Frederick.

Method of Acquisition

These materials were donated to the University Archives in three accessions by Mrs. Arthur F. Abt of Baltimore and Mr. Arthur Abt of Northbrook, Illinois, between 1973 and 1975.

Accruals and Additions

The materials in the first addition were donated by Arthur Abt on March 12, 1979 (Accession #79-39).

These materials in the second addition were donated by Arthur Abt of Northbrook, Illinois, early in 1981 as Accession #81-57.

The records in the third addition were transferred to the University Archives by Chris Simoni of the Northwestern University School of Law Library on January 4, 2000, as Accession No. 00-8.

Separated Materials

Addition One cubic foot of duplicates was discarded from the third addition to the Isaac Abt Papers.

One-third cubic foot of unrelated materials from the third addition to the Isaac Abt Papers was dispersed into the appropriate areas of the University Archives' General Files.

The following items have been separated from the Isaac Abt Papers, foldered in one oversized jacket and shelved in the University Archives, Room 111B, S, O:

Three certificates (one from the Chicago Medical Society, 1943; two from the Cook County, Illinois Board of Commissioners, 1904, 1906)

One diploma (Lena Rosenberg's diploma from the Michael Reese Training School for Nurses, 1894,

One drawing of Abt by Ben Cohen, 1944?,

One drawing for Abt's 1922 holiday card by Tom Jones (mounted).

The following artifacts have been separated from the Papers, boxed and removed to the University Archives Artifacts Collection:

One wallet,

One Chicago Department of Health badge and case,

Four badges fran the American Medical Association conventions of 1921, 1929, 1933, 1934,

One badge from the Colorado State Medical Society,

Four engraving plates (one halftone portrait of Abt, one bookplate printing block, two business card printing blocks).

The following audio-visual materials have been separated from the Papers and added to the University Archives Photograph Collection or Audio Collection:

Sixty-eight photographs, Eight oversized photographs, One photo negative, Six phonograph records.

One badge from the Chicago Medical Society has been transferred to the Chicago Historical Society. One framed motto has been discarded.

Kevin Leonard

July 10, 1981

Other Descriptive Information

Biographical Material can be found in Boxes 1, 9, 10, 12, and 13.

Processing Information

William K. Beatty September, 1977.  First addition processed by William K. Beatty, February 1981.  Second addition processed by William K. Beatty, March/April, 1981.  Third addition processed by Peter Gunther, February 2000.

Guide to the Isaac Arthur Abt (1867-1955) Papers
William K. Beatty
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