Sunday, May 02, 2010

Southern Pacific Railroad Hospital in 1907

"Train wreck victims received care in SLO" by Dan Krieger, © The Tribune, San Luis Obispo, May 2, 2010. (News Article)

"... The 450-bed Southern Pacific [Railroad] Hospital, at Fell and Baker streets in San Francisco, was built by the Southern Pacific Railroad and used as the major medical center for its seriously ill or injured employees from all over the West. The elegant building is a landmark in Golden Gate Park’s “Panhandle” district. Sold by the railroad in 1968, it now serves as Mercy Terrace Senior Housing Center. The hospital was being built in 1907, replacing the burnt and dynamited shell of the Southern Pacific Company Hospital on the southwest corner of Fourteenth and Mission streets. Railroad-owned hospitals were first created by the Central Pacific Railroad as it began constructing the transcontinental railroad east from Sacramento in 1863. Separate facilities were used for Chinese and non-Chinese patients. We know the names of the surgeons who practiced in these facilities, but little else. Historians have every reason to believe that they were little different from the hospitals treating the wounded during the Civil War. Amputations were frequent and death from infection was common. This began to change in 1882, when Dr. Thomas W. Huntington, a graduate of the University of Vermont and Harvard Medical College, arrived at the Sacramento hospital. Dr. Huntington was a convert to Dr. Joseph Lister’s principles of “antiseptic surgery.” ... " [More]

[Courtesy Google Alerts.]

4 Comments:

Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

It was our understanding that Chinese workers were not part of the CPRR Hospital's medical plan that cost other workers 50¢/month starting in 1868, but perhaps this was to be expected, as the Chinese had their own doctors and their type of herbal medicine differed from 19th century western medical practices.

But, a recent newspaper article (see above) says that at the Hospital, "Separate facilities were used for Chinese and non-Chinese patients."

Of course, both could be true at different times.

Does anyone have any information about Chinese railroad workers using or not using the CPRR or SPRR Hospital or the railroad's medical plan, or whether it was racially segregated?

5/02/2010 11:43 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kevin Bunker" mikadobear45@yahoo.com

Hmmm...tough question. I know from deeper study in the fracas that resulted in early 1892 at Fort Bragg when the local railroad's tunnel construction contractors began excavations at Noyo Ridge. The firm (who not long after built tunnels on the SP) was Fitzgerald Brothers of Oakland. Richard Fitzgerald's brother hired Chinese laborers and brought them up to Fort Bragg by steamer to do the worst work. It touched off a powder keg of antipathy the first night when the 40 Asians were physically attacked and driven out of camp on foot by angry whites. One was shot and several were badly roughed up. The Fort Bragg Advocate sided with the Chinese and the local sheriff but failed to mention how the injured men were treated, or where.

After things were forcibly settled down by the sheriff, the Chinese workers went back to their camp and job and worked without attack or threat through August when the tunnel was completed. They then seemingly disappeared back to the Bay Area or went on with Fitzgerald Brothers to the SP tunnel job begun in late 1892 (I don't know where).

This will be an interesting thread to watch.

—Kevin Bunker

5/02/2010 3:25 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Larry Mullaly" lmullaly@jeffnet.org

Regarding hospital coverage of Chinese workers and others. The early CP hospital in Sacramento was not open to Chinese workers or deck workers on CP vessels. I am not sure of my source for this information, but possibly it came from early corporate reports.

I have not seen San Francisco records, but in from the late 1870s till about 1915 the SP utilized St. Vincent’s Hospital in Los Angeles, with earliest detailed records available from 1896. These show that although Mexican track workers (along with workers of many other nationalities) were sent to St. Vincent’s for care, there are no records of Chinese laborers being served. Records from 1906 show SP workers from all nationalities being served including Japanese but no Chinese appear.

The next series of records I have come across are the 1918 payroll records of the Los Angeles Division stored at the California State Railroad Museum. These show deduction for hospital dues from all employees including Japanese and Chinese. But there were very, very few Chinese at this time and these were interspersed with Japanese working as “cleaners” (probably engine wipers). Track workers were covered, but these are virtually all Mexican, usually with Irish foremen.

It is important with this topic to distinguish construction workers from maintenance-of-way employees. Construction workers were hired out through labor brokers like Sisson & Wallace or through construction subcontractors. I do not believe that these were considered employees of the railroad.

Historians often treat the Western Development or Pacific Improvement Companies as part of the Central Pacific or Southern Pacific, but the distinction between this ignores the real legal and contractual differences that existed between the associates’ construction firms and the operating (railroad) companies. Along these lines, I am not convinced that even the Southern Pacific (Northern Division) operating employees had CP Hospital privileges in the 1870s. San Francisco papers were disturbed by the lack of medical support provided SP workers involved in the 1872 collision of the locomotive CP Huntington south of Santa Clara.

—Larry Mullaly

5/03/2010 1:45 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: kylewyatt@aol.com

I'd like to reinforce a couple of points made by Larry.

First, construction companies were completely separate from the railroad companies, both legally and functionally – especially after the mid 1860s when the Associates were getting the hang of this "construction company" thing. And as Larry further notes, the construction companies themselves often contracted with labor brokers for the actual labor. I wouldn't expect them to have access to the Central Pacific hospital, regardless of their race.

As to the separate operation of the SP Northern Division, that line appears to be VERY independent of Central Pacific and its operations until the creation of the Southern Pacific Company in 1884 and the subsequent lease of both Southern Pacific RR (both Northern and Southern Divisions) and Central Pacific RR to Southern Pacific Co in 1885. Southern Pacific Southern Division (Southern San Joaquin Valley, through Los Angles, and east through Yuma to El Paso, including Arizona and New Mexico subsidiaries) was leased to and operated by the Central Pacific pretty much from the beginning – although SPRR ordered equipment such as locomotives appear to have been ordered together and parceled out to Northern and Southern Divisions as needed. Once the lease is in place (1885), the Central Pacific identity starts its gradual absorption and disappearance into "Southern Pacific" that culminated in the actual merger of Central Pacific into Southern Pacific Company in 1959 (and of Southern Pacific Railroad into Southern Pacific Company in 1955). To reiterate, prior to the 1885 lease, Southern Pacific Northern Division was operated by its own organization based in San Francisco pretty much independently from any Central Pacific involvement. I will note it would be worthwhile looking into just when AN Towne gains authority over Southern Pacific Northern Division.

—Kyle

5/03/2010 1:50 AM  

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