Rare Book Profile: Hospital Report of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.

Operating Room 1897-8The Hospital Report of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (Denver: Merchants Publishing Co.) was the annual report of the Medical Department of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, which operated a steel mill in Pueblo and a number of coal and iron mines. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was the largest coal mining company and one of the largest employers in Colorado. It was also the employer involved in the labor dispute that culminated in the Ludlow Massacre on April 20, 1914, in which Colorado National Guardsmen attacked an encampment of strikers.

Company towns and mining camps provided workers with necessities such as housing, stores, and medical care. The downside was that workers and their families were required to use company facilities and services, often at inflated prices, and subject to company control. The annual Hospital Report was both a factual account of the Medical Department’s activities and a public relations tool, emphasizing the company’s care and concern for employees’ welfare and the modernity of facilities and services. The 1901-1902 report declared its soon-to-be-opened facility “the most perfect in the world.” The Hospital Report also included tables of cases treated that year, and sometimes case reports.

The Medical Department oversaw a hospital in Pueblo and doctors in company towns and mining camps, who provided health care and health education, and monitored sanitary conditions. Employees were assessed a monthly fee of $1 (ca. 2% of their income), for which they and their families received medical services for everything except childbirth, venereal disease, and injuries resulting from illegal activity.

The first company hospital was built in 1882. It was replaced by a much larger, state-of-the-art facility in 1902. The Minnequa Hospital was designed in accordance with the very latest scientific advances, best practices, and technological innovations, including ramps instead of stairs, showers instead of bathtubs, a separate building for communicable diseases, X-ray, electric, and hot air baking rooms, a steam laundry, a Nurses’ Training School, “a unique lead operating room,” and a stable designed with a special drop harness for horses, to deploy an ambulance rapidly. It still exists, now known as the St. Mary-Corwin Hospital.

The Health Sciences Library has Hospital Report run for 1897 through 1905. The issues are bound together in two volumes, although holes drilled for a 3-ring binder are still visible. It provides a comprehensive overview of the state of medicine and miners’ health in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

Rare materials are available to individuals or groups by appointment on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, or at other times by arrangement. To schedule an appointment, contact Emily Epstein, emily.epstein@ucdenver.edu or 303-724-2119.

[Emily Epstein, Cataloging Librarian]