In honor of Veterans Day, our Tuberculosis Thursday feature is John Baxter Black. Black served in various roles with the French and American armies in World War I after attending Princeton University. He contracted intestinal tuberculosis after attending the French Artillery School, and was sent home to recover in May of 1918. He came to Saranac Lake and stayed for five years, renting three different houses.
By 1923, he was feeling recovered, and went to Montreal for a final corrective surgery. Unfortunately, Black died of complications from the surgery on May 16 of that year.
His family dedicated the expansion of the Saranac Laboratory, including the John Black Room, in his memory. This portrait of Black hangs in the room today.
There are many Saranac Lakers who served in our military throughout history. Learn about them on our wiki: https://localwiki.org/hsl/Veterans
This week’s Tuberculosis Thursday feature are the murals of Dr. Norman Bethune. Dr. Bethune created the works while curing at Trudeau Sanatorium in the mid-1920s; they depict the journey to defeat tuberculosis. A portion of the murals is pictured here. The murals were five by sixty feet long, and drawn on brown paper mounted on the walls of his cure cottage. The black area is where a doorway interrupted the work.
The Monsters are labeled Scaley Scarlatina, Diphtheria, Infantile Paralysis, Rheumatic Fever, Whooping Cough, Measles, and the numerous "TB Bats". Sir Shick is named for American pediatrician Bela Shick, who developed a test for Diptheria. The caption reads "Scene II, Childhood. From Dragon Diph. Sir Shick defends, From other beasts he cannot save, The wounds and scars of their attacks, He'll carry to his grave."
Unfortunately, the murals have been lost throughout the years and only photographs remain. To learn more about the fascinating life of Dr. Bethune, head to our wiki.
Or, check out the book “the Bethune Murals” by Tony Holtzman, which was inspired by the hunt for the missing murals.
This week's Tuberculosis Thursday feature is the Sageman Cottage. The cottage, located at what is now 63 Park Avenue, has many stories to tell in its history! It is the oldest house in the Cottage Row district, and at one point it was one of seven cottages with a contract with the Veterans Administration to care for tubercular soldiers.
Bela Bartok and his wife Dita stayed on the property in 1943, and it also played host to at least one Norwegian sailor, Alfred Larsen.
You can learn more of the Sageman Cottage's history on our wiki.
This week's Tuberculosis Thursday is a special one. Yesterday we were honored to spend the morning with Betty Gaffney talking about her time as a patient at Trudeau Sanatorium in 1947-1949. Betty came to Saranac Lake after she contracted tuberculosis at the end of her nurse's training at Bellevue. We sat down to record an oral history with Betty and her sister Pauline, and we really enjoyed hearing about their memories of that time.
Betty graciously donated some photographs to our collection, and said she had nothing but good feelings about her time here. We also took a ride over to Trudeau Sanatorium so Betty could tour the campus for the first time in more than 72 years! We had a great morning with Betty and her family, and we can't wait to share more. Thanks for visiting us and sharing your story!
[Images: Betty Kelly [Gaffney] about age 21 on the steps of Baker Memorial Chapel, c. 1947. Historic Saranac Lake Collection, TCR 712. Courtesy of Betty Gaffney. Betty Gaffney at age 95 in front of Baker Chapel, August 25, 2021]
This Tuberculosis Thursday, we’re celebrating the belated birthday of a baseball great and big-name TB patient, Christy Mathewson! But who was Christy, and why was he such a big name in Saranac Lake? Christy was considered one of the greatest baseball pitchers of all time, and he contracted TB after WWI. He came to Saranac Lake in 1920 to seek the cure, and originally stayed at the Santanoni under the care of Dr. Edward Packard. In 1924, Christy, his wife, and son moved into the house on Park Avenue that is now known as Christy Mathewson Cottage.
Over the years, Christy’s health slowly improved to the point that he became a part owner of the Boston Braves and got involved with charity efforts to support tuberculosis patients and research. Unfortunately, he was involved in a car accident in 1924 that injured his arm, and by the end of the year his health had deteriorated again. He caught a cold that wouldn’t go away while at spring training with the Braves in April of 1925, and returned to Saranac Lake for bed rest. The baseball world was stunned when he passed away on October 7, 1925. His wife remained in the house on Park Avenue until the 1950s, when she returned to Pennsylvania. Christy was one of the first five inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson.
Today's Tuberculosis Thursday feature is gone but certainly not forgotten! The Alta Vista Lodge was a grand cure cottage on Franklin Ave. in the Helen Hill neighborhood. It originally began as two separate identical houses, and was combined into one large facility around 1924. It was remembered as an exclusive cottage, and it tragically burned to the ground in 1959.
Learn more about the Alta Vista Lodge on our wiki.
Stay up to date on all the news and happenings from Historic Saranac Lake at the Saranac Laboratory Museum!