Newspaper advertisements often contain interesting, sometimes amusing, snippets of history.
|Advertisement for R. A. Blood, M.D.|
New London Advocate (September 1872)
One of New London’s early surgeons was the aptly-named Dr. Robert A. Blood (1839–1916). He attended the New London Literary and Scientific Institution (formerly Colby Academy) before the Civil War, joined New Hampshire’s 11th Volunteers, Company F, and, badly wounded at Fredericksburg, was finally discharged in May 1863. He next decided to study medicine, training at Harvard’s medical school before establishing a short-lived practice (1871–1873) in New London. [He left to assume the practice of Dr. H.C. Bickford, his uncle and a New London native, in Charlestown, MA. Beginning in 1896, Dr. Blood served for eight years as the surgeon-general of Massachusetts.]
Today, if you have blood drawn and analyzed at New London Hospital, you might thank Colby-Sawyer students and alumnae. After returning from Christmas break in early 1941, Barbara Jane Baker, a third-year med-tech student from Rye, New York, died of meningitis at the old New London hospital on Main Street (near Pressey Court). In those days, blood samples were sent from the hospital to the college’s laboratory, but Baker's illness went undiagnosed. Her twelve classmates thought, as Barbara reportedly did, that the hospital should have its own facilities.
The first lab, just a bench and microscope located in closet-sized room by the cellar stairs, was formally dedicated with hymns, prayer, and a benediction on April 16, 1941. Although money had been raised, additional equipment was unavailable until after World War II. Dr. Clough Jr. analyzed samples and typed test reports until a part-time technician could be hired in 1942.
|Barbara Jane Baker (1920-1941)|
By one reckoning from 1956, the third-year students had made annual donations totaling over $10,000—helping purchase equipment like EKG and BMR machines, a centrifuge, constant-temperature oven and water bath, binocular microscope, colorimeter, and a blood bank refrigerator. As the equipment grew, so did the need for work space, and the lab was relocated to a “slightly larger room” in 1955. In the move to the new County Road hospital building in 1958, the lab was allocated two rooms.
By 1972, the cumulative donations had reached $40,000. Contributions to the Baker Memorial Laboratory Fund continued through the 1970s, with Baker’s former classmates often answering the fundraising call to support "Colby's own charity." In 1980, the balance of the memorial fund was legally transferred from the college to the hospital.
So the next time you are waiting for your name to be called at the Drawing Station, peek through the lab’s window and think of the college students and alumnae that made it possible, starting with B.J. Baker. But when those vials appear with your name on them, you might also think of Dr. Blood.
- New London Archives — Colby-Sawyer, New London Hospital, and newspaper collections.
- Granite Monthly, "New Hampshire Necrology", Dr. Robert A. Blood.