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The Surgeon General's Library & Museum Are Moved to Ford's Theatre, the Site of Lincoln's Assassination

Fords Theatre

Ford's Theatre housed the Surgeon General's library from 1867 to 1887. (Photo ca. 1870)

At the end of the American Civil War, in 1867 the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, along with the new Surgeon General's office, was— perhaps with some irony— moved to Ford's Theater, site of the tragic assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865. 

The theater had been closed and remodelled in the intervening two years. The new Office/Library site was taken over by the U.S. Army to house important post-Civil War medical activities of the Surgeon General's Office. These included the archive of Civil War medical records (essential for verification of veterans' pension claims) and the Army Medical Museum. The archive of case records, pathological specimens and photographs gathered by the Army Medical Museum was compiled by Joseph J. Woodward, Charles Smart, George A. Otis, and David Huntington under the direction of then Surgeon General of the Army, Joseph K. Barnes, into the six massive volumes of The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, which were published between 1870 and 1888. This encyclopedic work has been called the "first comprehensive American medical book."

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