Welsh Strawbridge's father, Dr. George Strawbridge (1844-1914), was one of Philadelphia's most eminent physicians, his specialty being diseases of the eye and ear. Dr. Strawbridge graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1863; although he missed commencement on July 3, 1863, as it occurred on the last day of the battle of Gettysburg. It was noted that Strawbridge was "excused - gone for defense of the State." (68)
He returned from the Civil War to UPenn and graduated with his MD in 1866. After pursuing a course of supplemental study at the University of Berlin and in Vienna, he began practice in Philadelphia. From 1879 to 1890 he was clinical professor of diseases of the ear at his alma mater. He also served on the staffs of Wills Eye Hospital and of the Presbyterian Hospital, and was, for many years, in charge of the Pennsylvania Eye and Ear Infirmary.
"In Philadelphia William Fisher Norris and George C. Strawbridge, both graduates of the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania returned in 1870 from several years in Europe where they had studied in the eye clinics of Vienna and most of the other European capitols. Both had become familiar with the newly invented ophthalmoscope, and Strawbridge had taken a course with Donders. Norris had purchased the original drawings from von Jaeger's famous Atlas of Diseases of the Ocular Fundus. Upon their return, both were appointed as lecturers in Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania." (67)
Dr. Strawbridge also, at the age of 30, founded the Philadelphia Dispensary at 13th and Chestnut Street in 1875. The clinic, in its first year, attracted 700 patients who were too poor to afford treatment elsewhere. Dr. Strawbridge was Surgeon in Charge of the Eye and Ear Department, and did this, treating patients at his own expense, for the rest of his life. (66 p143)
(we have a number of pages of Dr Strawbidge's hand tabulation of types of conditions he treated at the Dispensary in our collection)
Dr. Strawbridge was a member of many of the leading professional organizations, Philadelphia County Medical Society, Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania, the German and American Ophthalmological Societies, Otological Society, etc. He was a delegate to the American Medical Association, in 1872; to the International Medical Congress, in 1876, and to other important assemblages of his profession in later years. In 1877 he was admitted to membership in the American Philosophical Society.
Throughout his busy professional life, Dr. Strawbridge delivered numerous lectures, many of which have been published, and has also contributed extensively to the leading medical journals of the country.
In 1873, He married Alice Welsh, a daughter of John Welsh, a very successful Philadelphia merchant, ambassador, and the Chairman of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
Mr. Welsh had a country home called Spring Bank along the banks of the Wissahickon in Germantown (near the present Springbank Street and Kitchens Lane). He owned addition land across from Spring Bank where he built homes for his 3 daughters. The Strawbridges used this home, called The Wilderness initially as a summer home while living in center city Philadelphia, but eventually the The Wilderness became their home. in 1891, Dr Strawbridge also bought a summer home in Camden, ME called Rockledge. (66 p147)
George and Alice Strawbridge had 4 children: John (Jack) Strawbridge, Mary Lowber Sailer, Welsh Strawbridge and Miss Anne West Strawbridge. Two children died in infancy between the births of Welsh and Anne. (66 p228)
In addition to Dr. Strawbridge's medical practice, he also made a large fortune as a real estate investor. (66 p145) HPHA has a number of deeds and other items in our collection pertaining to Dr. Strawbridge's real estate holdings.
Dr. Strawbridge resigned from Wills Eye Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania in 1890 (68) due to deteriorating eye sight, but continued his private practice and work at the Dispensary. He died in 1914 and is remembered:
"As for his character, he was always kind to to those around him, and most generous in all his dealings. Although he sometimes spoke cynically of human affairs as he saw them, he was a true optimist at heart. He was always genial and often jovial. He invariably inspired hope and confidence in his patients. He never lost his temper or even became rattled under the most trying circumstances. If the patient lost his nerve under the stress of operation, he never gave sharp orders. He simply patted him on the back and encouraged him by saying "you are doing fine", when he was possible squeezing out the lens and part of the vitreous" - University of Pennsylvania Biography (66 p147)
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