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Jonathan Messersmith Foltz Papers

Identifier: MS 021


The items in the collection date from 1825 to 1877 and are, for the most part, diaries and journals. There are no childhood records. The materials document Foltz's life from the age of fifteen. It is assumed that the bulk of the collection was assembled by J.M. Foltz. Of particular interest are the contents of Foltz's medical journals: shipboard supplies, pharmaceutical lists, patient and remedy lists, and literature relating to the contemporary practice of medicine. Most of the Civil War related documentation is contained in the diaries and journals.


  • Creation: 1825-1906,
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1831-1877


Restrictions on Access

Access unrestricted.

Biographical / Historical

Jonathan Messersmith Foltz was a practicing physician for more than forty years during the 19th century, a period of transition in the history of American medicine. He began his career in 1830 as an apprentice to Dr. William Thompson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Later in the same year, he attended and graduated from Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA. In April of 1831 he was commissioned as an Assistant Surgeon into the United States Navy; he remained in the Navy until his retirement in 1872 at the age of sixty-two. Foltz was instrumental in the improvement of conditions and services in several Naval hospitals and published a number of articles and essays on medical topics. He was also one of the founding members of the U.S. Naval Medical Board (1857). Foltz's affiliation with the Navy offered him the opportunity to travel around the world, circumnavigating the globe and crossing the equator during his journeys. Nineteenth century Naval service also meant that Foltz participated in several Civil War Naval engagements, specifically the Mississippi Valley Campaign. The papers contain his detailed notes on the battles. Less than one year before his retirement, Foltz was appointed to two positions: Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery and Surgeon General of the Navy. J.M. Foltz was married at the age of forty-four to Rebecca Steinman, the daughter of a prominent Lancaster businessman. Though he maintained his ties to the Lancaster area throughout his life, returning periodically to visit his parents and in-laws, Foltz and his family made their home in Philadelphia. For a list of significant dates and family genealogies, see the Jonathan Messersmith Foltz Papers Research Guide.


2 Linear feet (4 boxes)

.10 Linear feet (1 flat drawer)

Language of Materials



Collection: Organized into two series; Series I - J.M. Foltz material; Series II - Rebecca Steinman Foltz material. subdivided by type of material: correspondence, diaries, notes, etc.

Ownership and Custodial History

The Jonathan Messersmith Foltz Papers were donated to the Franklin and Marshall College Library in 1938 by Charles Steinman Foltz (b. 1859 - d. 1941), the son of Jonathan Messersmith Foltz. It is the understanding of the department that the papers had been in the possession of the family up until the time of the donation.

Related Archival Materials

[J.M. Foltz Medical lecture notes, 1825-1829]: Custodian--Health Sciences Library Historical Collections, Health Sciences Library, University of North Carolina: Address--Chapel Hill, NC, Country--USA..

Related Archival Materials

Jonathan Messersmith Foltz papers, 1829-1871: Custodian--Library of Congress, Manuscripts Division: Address--Washington, DC, Country--USA.

Publications About Described Materials

Foltz, Charles Steinman "Surgeon of the Seas: the Adventurous Life of Surgeon General Jonathan M. Foltz in the Days of Wooden Ships." Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co.,1931.

Processing Information

Processing completed July 1988.

Description rules
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Franklin and Marshall College Special Collections Repository

PO Box 3003
Lancaster PA 17604 United States