Thirty-four large folio volumes of handwritten records of some of the earliest records of San Francisco residents held by the French Hospital (Société Française de Bienfaisance Mutuelle) (2014)

In 1851 French residents of San Francisco, led by journalist Etienne Derbec, organized a relief society to “provide for the needs of the sick, furnish assistance to Frenchmen as well as to citizens of other nationalities without resources, and to take care of funeral expenses.” Known as the French Hospital, its first maison de santé was a small wooden house on the northeast corner of Jackson and Mason streets. Two years later, when a 16-member board was created, the French Hospital rewrote its bylaws and introduced the principle of mutuality, to ensure the continuation of its charitable mission. Renamed the Société Française de Bienfaisance Mutuelle (French Mutual Benevolent Society), it opened a second hospital on Bush and Taylor streets before the end of that year. A third hospital was built on Bryant Street, between 5th and Simmons, in 1858, and the fourth and last French Hospital was opened in 1894, occupying a full block of Geary Street, between 5th and 6th streets.

A 1920 magazine advertisement describes its amenities: “The French Hospital is one of the most complete and best equipped hospitals on the Pacific Coast. Absolutely fireproof. Food supplies and cuisine of the best. Modern salt-water bath. The medical staff includes the best American and French physicians and surgeons. Training school for nurses. Every courtesy extended to outside physicians and surgeons. Moderate rates.” Since its founding, the French Hospital has kept exhaustive handwritten records of patients, physicians, donors, etc., making the French Hospital records some of the earliest in San Francisco. 42-line photographed 34 large folio volumes of handwritten French Hospital records dating from 1851 to 1971. The 42-line photographs are the basis for a book by Claudine Chalmers, The History of San Francisco's French Hospital: First Private Medical Facility in the West, First H.M.O. in the Country, to be published in 2017. The records will be also available online in 2017.

Right: Page from the French Hospital’s Livre D’Or guestbook, with a sketch of prominent French importer A.E. Sabatie, who left over $130,000 to the French Hospital in appreciation of their good works; Detail of the first page of French Hospital patient log for its maison de santé on Bryant in San Francisco, September 1864. Below: carbon copy of French Hospital correspondence, December 1864.