Bicentennial history slideshow
Leadership from the MGH and McLean Hospital will join with government officials Feb. 25 at the State House for a ceremonial renewal of the charter that established the two institutions exactly 200 years ago, when the Massachusetts State Legislature convened to decide upon “An act to incorporate certain persons by the name of Massachusetts General Hospital.” The act, approved on Feb. 25, 1811, in a vote of 132 to 26, marked the official formation of the MGH and what would eventually become McLean Hospital, an MGH-affiliated mental health institution.
Opening a general hospital in Boston began as a dream of Rev. John Bartlett, chaplain of the Boston Almshouse, who had witnessed first-hand the suffering of the poor, a population with few options to turn to when afflicted by disease. Prominent Boston physicians James Jackson, MD, and John Collins Warren, MD, signed on to Bartlett's cause, and in August 1810, they distributed a letter to elite citizens of the city enlisting their moral and financial support for a general hospital that would offer treatment for the sick poor, including the insane, and help train young physicians from the nearby Harvard Medical School.
This document, known as the "circular letter," successfully argued its case for such an institution. Less than a year later, the charter was signed, establishing the MGH as the third general hospital in the United States and the first in New England. Unfortunately, initial fundraising efforts were impeded by the War of 1812, and it would be five years before land for the hospital was found and purchased. Finally, on July 4, 1818, the cornerstone of the Bulfinch Building was laid, and on Sept. 3, 1821, the MGH's first patient – a saddler with syphilis from New York – was admitted for care.
In the 200 years since its establishment in 1811, the MGH has expanded its realm of service from the local community to the entire globe as one of the world's leading medical institutions. The charter renewal at the State House is one of many events, programs and activities to take place Feb. 25 to commemorate the hospital's bicentennial, in addition to events set to occur throughout the year.
Highlights from the Feb. 25 event
View remarks given by Peter L. Slavin, MD, MGH president, at the State House event here.
View the formal documents from state and city officials that honor the MGH's bicentennial here.
View a slideshow of images from the Feb. 25 charter renewal and other on-campus bicentennial activities and events here.