A Brief History of

The Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary
located at
Chicago, Illinois

A condensed history by Illinois Trails History and Genealogy

The association for founding and maintaining the Chicago Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary was organized in May, 1858.  At that time, Chicago, although a city of about 80,000 inhabitants, had no public hospital.  The "Mercy Hospital" under the care of the Sisters of Mercy, then so small, now possessing a magnificent structure, was perhaps the only one in the country, except the United States Marine Hospital for seafaring men.  It was far inadequate, however, to the wants of the sick poor, even at that time.

There was scarcely a physician in the city, who had taken sufficient interest in ophthalmology to examine the brilliant discoveries in this department of medicine, which had been made during the previous few years.

The first Board of Trustees were as follows:

Walter L. Newberry
William H. Brown
Charles V. Dyer
Luther Haven
William Barry
Flavel Moseley
Samuel Stone
Philo Carpenter
Reverend N. L. Rice
John H. Kinzie
Mark Skinner
Ezra B McCagg

The Board of Surgeons were as follows:

Edward L. Holmes, professor and founder
Daniel Brainard, professor
Joseph Freer
William H. Baltzill

At subsequent meetings the vacancies in the Board of Trustees were filled by appointment of the following:

Daniel Goodwin
Edwin C.. Larned
E. W. Blatchford
Henry W. King
Col. Charles G. Hammond
Dr. John Evans
Cyrus Bentley
Wesley Munger
Thomas B. Bryan
Edward G. Mason
James L. Stark
H. Z. Culver
Benjamin W. Raymond
Professor Edwin Powell, Surgeon
H. A. Johnson, Surgeon

A single room, at the northeast corner of Michigan and North Clark streets was opened for the treatment of the poor.  During the first year nearly 115 patients were under treatment.  At the end of nearly 4 years the dispensary was removed to a rom, No. 28 North Clark Street, where it remained until July of 1864.  Walter L. Newberry, President of the association, donated, for a term of ten years, the lease of a lot of land upon which was placed a large two story wooden building, purchased for $2,000, and removed from a neighboring block.

The first patient requiring board in the institution applied before a single room had been cleaned and furnished.  For two nights he slept on a blanket on the floor.  The rooms were furnished as the gradually increasing number of patients required.

In a few months the number of patients, especially of soldiers with diseases of the eye, supported at the Infirmary by the Northwestern Sanitary Commission, and by the Governors of Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, rendered greater accommodations absolutely necessary.  The building was therefore raised, a brick basement constructed under it, and the attic divided and finished into three large sleeping rooms.  In the fall of 1869 additional accommodations became necessary, and were obtained by the construction of a large building on the rear of the lot.

By the new constitution of 1870, appropriations in aid of institutions not owned and controlled by the State were made illegal.  The Legislature, therefore, in 1871, unwilling to relinquish its fostering care of the Infirmary, received it into the circle of State institutions, by a special act.  The Governor was authorized to receive, in accordance with a form of conveyance approved by him, all the property, records and accounts of the Chicago Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary.  The Board of Trustees were required, in case of their acceptance of the act, to enter on their records a minute to that effect, transferring all the property of the Infirmary to the State of Illinois.  There upon the name of the institution was changed by the substitution of the word "Illinois" for "Chicago"

On October 9, 1871, occurred the great fire of Chicago, which swept away the old Infirmary on Pearson street.  There were twelve inmates totally blind in the house at the time.  Fortunately no injury was sustained by any of them.

In 1873 an eligible site, at the corner of Peoria and Adams streets, had been purchased the previous year.  The new building of brick, with stone trimmings, four stories in height, not including the basement, was erected and completed in the summer of 1874.  It could comfortably accommodate 100 patients and was well heated and ventilated and built well in every respect.  A statute in 1875 declared the institute should have but three trustees, no two of whom should live in the same county.  The Governor appointed Daniel Goodwin as the trustee from Cook County, Julius C. Williams from Joliet and S. P. Sedgwick from Wheaton.

Other Trustees in turn have been:

Dr. William H. Fitch, of Rockford
Dr. E. S. Fowler, of Springfield
Dr. Arthur E. Prince, of Springfield

The Superintendents have been as follows:

George W. Davenport
Edgar C. Lawton
Edward M. Barnard

The Acting Surgeons and Assistant Surgeons have been as follows:

Edward L. Holmes
Edwin Powell
F. C. Hotz
S. J. Jones
Lyman Ware
F. J. Huse
W. T. Montgomery
S. O. Richey
Roswell Park
E. J. Gardner
F. C. Chaffer
Robert Tilley
Arnold P. Gilmore
H. M. Starkey
S. S. Bishop
W. T. Belfield
I. N. Danforth
W. S. Haines
B. Bettman
J. E. Colburn
J. E. Harper
J. R. Kenley
I. E. Marshall
G. F. Hawley
E. C. Abbott
G. F. Fiske
C. F. Sinclair
C. E. Walker
G. W. Webster
Ernest Epler
Charles H. Beard
G. E. Brinckerhoff
J. J. Anderson
Charles R. Davey
C. D. Westcott
W. L. Noble
W. A. Fisher
Mary G. Hollister
William H. Wilder
George E. King
G. M. Hammon
H. A. Robinson
G. L. Morganthau
Charles Davison
C. D. Collins
Charles A. Enslee
Henry W. Woodruff
H. H. Brown

The present Board of Trustees (1893) are as follows:

E. W. and N. H. Blatchford
H. Z. Culver
Daniel Goodwin
William H. Hubbard
Henry A. Huntington
Henry W. King
Ezra B. McCagg
E. G. Mason
James W. Porter
Arthur Ryerson