Friday, April 11, 2008

Hospital history, etc.

See Pennsylvania Hospital History: Stories - Nation's First Hospital for an overview of the founding of the first hospital in the American colonies. And, yes, of course Benjamin Franklin was in on it. It was in Philadelphia, for one thing. And he was big on civic improvement, for another. (via 21st Century Reformation, via link hopping...)

Only semi-related: There's an email that's been making the rounds (for years and years, but I heard it read from a pulpit just recently), about a little girl who had been turned away from an overcrowded Sunday School at Temple Baptist Church in Philadelphia, who died with 57 cents saved up to help build a bigger church so more children could go to Sunday School, and how this small gift prompted more, and also was received as payment for land worth thousands. Snopes says that the story contains a kernel of truth, but overall ranks a "false" ranking. They use as their source a chapter from Russell H. Conwell's book Acres of Diamonds. Conwell is the pastor mentioned in the email account.

For the text of a December 1, 1912, sermon by Russell H. Conwell that provides the story, please see "THE HISTORY OF FIFTY-SEVEN CENTS". My thanks to the library at Temple University for making this original source available. (The same sermon is at the Grace Baptist Church of Blue Bell website, I find, after further digging.) At first glance, I think the sermon corresponds more closely with the tale making the rounds of email shotgunners, than the excerpts from the book used by Snopes. But there are still significant differences.

Both sermon links in the preceding paragraph have a picture of Hattie May Wiatt, who undoubtedly had an influence on people on the heels of her death in 1886. The details are in dispute, admittedly, but she was repeatedly held up as a good example, and the Wiatt Mite Society was named in her honor, and went on to do good deeds in her name. And, in our day, her legend has even been used as inspiration on the BBC (BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day, © John Denney 15 September 2005). Not a bad legacy, all in all, I'd say.

And, speaking of history and legacy, Conwell's sermon of 1912 has quite a bit of historical reference in it. For instance (ed. note: a few typos fixed):
Who are the really great of this world? Who are the mighty? Is it the king, the emperor, the president, the famous, estimated by the kingdom of heaven and on the books of God? How little we know. Our nation has given credit to Washington, to Jefferson, to Lafayette, to the great Pitt of England, to the great generals and writers, and to great financiers like Morris, but there is one person hardly ever mentioned in our history who had so much influence in our affairs that as a nation we ought to have her picture in every public hall and in every school; yet because she was a young woman she seems to have been lost to the sight of the world. That was the Princess Elizabeth, sister of Louis XVI, of France. That little woman who was a treasure of feminine loveliness, with a heart as pure and bright as any that ever beat in the breast of woman; she who lived in the aristocracy of that time, but who plead for the starving, common people and protested again against Marie Antoinette's use of the public money as she did at Versailles, and spent her life in charity and loving kindness. She laid the foundation for the victory of this nation. Those who read history know that we could not have hoped for freedom if Rochambeau had not come to this country, if the French had not indorsed us, and if the French had not fought England on the waters and lands of Europe while we were trying to fight our battles here. If it had not been for Yorktown and its surrender we could never have hoped to obtain our freedom from what was then the tyrannous king of England. Who sent Rochambeau, who used the influence that brought his coming about? In some of the correspondence of Benjamin Franklin, who represented us at the Court of France, we find that the princess, a lovely young woman, was well acquainted with him and liked to talk with him upon philosophy and upon American ideas. She served as a "go-between" with Franklin and the queen, who used her influence with the king...

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