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Dr. Lewis A. Sayre Casebooks

This guide provides an introduction to the casebooks of Dr. Lewis A. Sayre, which are housed in the Lillian & Clarence de la Chapelle Medical Archives at NYU.

Introduction

What was the patient experience like in nineteenth century New York City? What was it like to be a medical student or a doctor working in one of America’s first hospitals?

As the American medical profession grew and standardized in the nineteenth century, doctors began to keep records of their interactions with patients in the form of casebooks. Patient casebooks can be rich primary source texts for historians of medicine, but also for medical professionals who are interested in the evolution of patient care, or for anyone curious about what it was like to seek medical treatment in the past. 

The Lillian & Clarence de la Chapelle Medical Archives hold the casebooks of Dr. Lewis A. Sayre, who treated hundreds of patients in his role as the first Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Bellevue Hospital Medical College and in his private practice. Sayre’s casebooks are unique narrative documents of the doctor-patient relationship. They can be multi-media records, containing not only written descriptions of patient interaction, but also drawings, photographs, and charts. The casebooks include correspondence from patients, their family members, and other physicians, which provide an even fuller window into the experience of nineteenth century medical treatment. Sayre used his casebooks to track his day-to-day work as a doctor in a busy hospital setting. He also selected patient narratives from the casebooks for use in his lectures and publications about surgical techniques.

This guide is an opportunity to look inside Dr. Lewis A. Sayre’s casebooks. We hope they will offer you a chance to consider:

  • the history of medical treatment and education
  • the relationship between patients and doctors in the past (and today)
  • the rich archival materials available here at the Lillian & Clarence de la Chapelle Medical Archives at NYU

Lillian & Clarence de la Chapelle Medical Archives

The Lillian & Clarence de la Chapelle Medical Archives serves as the final repository for the institutional records of NYU Langone and all affiliated institutions.  The Archives also contain records of preceding institutions including the Bellevue Hospital Medical College.  

Accessing the Sayre Casebooks

For more information about using the digitized Sayre casebooks, please contact the Lillian & Clarence de la Chapelle Medical Archives through our Reference Contact Form.