John Kulig Collection of Boston Floating Hospital Memorabilia
Scope and Contents
This collection is composed of memorabilia from the Boston Floating Hospital, collected by Dr. John Kulig, former Director of Adolescent Medicine and pediatrician at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center. Materials include realia, postcards, publications, annual reports, correspondence, receipts, photographs, a nurse’s notebook, and a CD of a Pediatric Grand Rounds session. Also included are research materials related to the history of the Floating Hospital, as well as to specific pieces of the collection. The materials range in date from 1894 to 2022, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1900 to 1927. The collection largely documents the early history of the Boston Floating Hospital, though later developments and its incorporation with the New England Medical Center are also represented.
- Creation: 1894 -- 2022
This collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see “Reproductions and Use” on the Tufts Archival Research Center website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish. No documentation is available regarding the intellectual property rights in this collection.
Biographical / Historical
The Boston Floating Hospital (BFH) was founded by Rufus B. Tobey, a Congregational minister, in 1894. A ship that floated around Boston Harbor during the summer season, the BFH provided free medical care to indigent infants and children under the age of five. It was also known for studying children’s diseases, innovations in milk formula, and for training nurses to instruct mothers in the care of sick children.
Two factors contributed to the establishment of the BFH, one charitable and one medical: the relatively widespread philanthropy work throughout New England, and the conviction by some that sea air was therapeutic during convalescence. Walking home from work on South Boston each evening, Reverend Tobey observed mothers bringing their children to the Boston waterfront, enabling them to breath the sea air. Learning of a hospital boat in New York, he, with the help of Edward Hale, spearheaded the effort to set up a similar institution in Boston. The BFH was a private charity and relied on donations for its endowment and expenses.
The barge Clifford, the BFH’s first base of operations, made its maiden voyage in Boston Harbor on July 25, 1894. Attendance was around eighteen hundred, which nearly doubled by its second year. Medical students constituted most of the staff, under the supervision of chief physician J. B. Thornton. These first years brought significant accomplishments: a pharmacy, kindergarten, and “Modified Milk Department” were set up on board the Clifford, and by 1897, an inpatient department allowed for overnight stay, under the medical leadership of Samuel Breck. The BFH was officially incorporated by the state of Massachusetts in October of 1901. The Clifford was replaced by the Boston Floating Hospital Ship in 1906. The BFH also had an onshore department, located first in the North End before moving to Roxbury in 1916.
An early innovation for the BFH came by way of Francis Parkman Denny in the milk lab, who organized a human milk collection system for sick babies, a practice that eliminated the need for wet nurses. Further research in the milk lab contributed to the development of the first synthetic milk product, commonly known as Similac. Later on, the BFH established a bacteriological laboratory (1910), and a Post Graduate Training School for Nurses (1916).
On July 1, 1927, the Boston Floating Hospital Ship burnt. While the BFH was never again resurrected as a ship, it was rebuilt as a land-based facility because of its achievements in lowering the infant mortality rate. In 1930, it joined the Boston Dispensary (BD) and the Tufts College School of Medicine to form the New England Medical Center (NEMC). The land based BFH was located at 20 Ash Street in Boston, known as the Jackson Memorial Building, and officially opened on October 12, 1931. It continued to provide free outpatient services to the Boston community until November 1938, when it began charging for its services; a day’s stay at the BFH cost five dollars. The NEMC consortium was beneficial to its three partners; students from Tufts College School of Medicine gained practical experiences at the BFH and BD, for example, and provided medical services in return. Laboratory tests and operations at NEMC throughout the years led to significant advances in medical treatment. According to a 1938 logbook, patients who suffered from upper respiratory infections were given throat cultures at NEMC, which motivated doctors to make this part of routine laboratory practice, in addition to blood and urine tests.
Up until 1965, NEMC existed as an overseer to its constituent organizations. In 1965, the Board of Trustees of the BFH voted yes to an official merger to integrate with the BD and the Pratt Clinic/New England Center Hospital (PC/NECH). (The Pratt Diagnostic Clinic, an extension of the Boston Dispensary, was established in 1938. It became a unit of NEMC in 1946 and was renamed New England Center Hospital.) The consolidation of these three organizations formed one corporation under the name the New England Medical Center Hospitals, Inc. In addition, during the merger, the Tufts-New England Medical Center (T-NEMC) had also been established as a separate corporation. T-NEMC had its own board, composed of members of the Board of Trustees of Tufts, as well as members of the Board of Governors of NEMC. The BFH opened a new facility in October of 1979, which was further expanded in 1982.
From 1930 to 2022, the Floating Hospital for Children was part of the Tufts Medical Center and is located in the Chinatown neighborhood of Boston. In 2020, the facility was renamed Tufts Children's Hospital, and in early 2022 it was announced that the Tufts Children’s hospital inpatient pediatric ward would be shut down. The pediatric inpatient beds were to be converted into an adult intensive care unit, though the hospital planned to continue offering other pediatric services through clinics, outpatient procedures, and a neonatal intensive care unit.
Biographical / Historical
Dr. John Kulig is a pediatrician and the former Director of Adolescent Medicine at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center. He is also a Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at the Tufts University School of Medicine. Dr. Kulig graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1975. Kulig has assisted in the information gathering for, and the publication of, multiple works on the history of the Boston Floating Hospital.
0.75 Linear Feet (1 oversized letter document box, 1 shared oversize box)
Language of Materials
This collection is comprised of memorabilia from the Boston Floating Hospital, compiled by Dr. John Kulig, former Director of Adolescent Medicine and pediatrician at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center. Materials include realia, postcards, publications, annual reports, correspondence, receipts, photographs, a nurse’s notebook, and a CD of a Pediatric Grand Rounds session, as well as historical research materials. The bulk of the collection dates from 1900 to 1927.
This collection is arranged in four series: Memorabilia; Photographs; Publications; and Archival documents and historical research.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Dr. John Kulig, 2022, accession number MS-2023-046.
This collection was processed by Kate McNally, Records and Accessioning Archivist, in February 2023. Materials were placed in archival folders and boxes, and arranged in series based on record type. A finding aid and folder-level invetory were created at the time of processing.