Dittrick meeting summary

For anyone who had wanted to attend the meeting, but was unable, Fred Lautzenheiser wrote a fabulous summary for us:

CAR (the Cleveland Archival Roundtable) held a meeting on Monday, Feb. 23, at the Dittrick Medical History Center. The theme was “Cleveland and Rouen: Northeast Ohio and France.” The meeting was well-attended and several new faces were present.

Jennifer Nieves from the Dittrick and Dianne O’Malia, Archivist at University Hospitals, described a project on source material about the Lakeside Unit. Jennifer also gave a slide show of historic lantern slides from the Dittrick’s collection showing various people and aspects of the Lakeside Unit’s work from 1915 through 1919 in France. The Unit was called into being in 1914 by Myron Herrick, US ambassador to France and Cleveland native, to prepare for the eventual entry of the US into World War I. It consisted of a large team of physicians, medical technicians, and nurses, the kernel of which was recruited from Lakeside Hospital and the Western Reserve University School of Medicine, augmented by personnel from across northeastern Ohio. The pilot project was initiated in 1914 and consisted of a small team which was given a place to practice in the Ambulance Américaine, a hospital in the western end of Paris (Neuilly). Dr. George Crile Sr., leader of the group, developed a plan whereby major US universities would send teams from their medical schools to work there in three-month shifts. The larger group was only sent to France later, when the US officially entered the war in 1917. This group became Base Hospital #4 and was stationed at a base near Rouen, in Normandy, close to the front lines. They stayed until after the armistice, returning in 1919. The Unit brought innovations in anesthesiology, treatment of shock, blood transfusion, and other techniques to the war front and to the British and French medical units with whom they cooperated. They changed the face of military medicine and initiated new ways of organizing medical operations which were realized in civilian institutions after the war was over.

The Lakeside Unit project envisions a website with a number of modules covering various aspects of the Unit’s work in France. The site will contain photographs of documents and objects from local collections, with descriptions attached. While most of the items will be drawn from the collections of the Dittrick and University Hospitals, other institutions will be canvassed in order to locate items and aspects not found in these two collections.

Margaret Burzynski-Bays of the Western Reserve Historical Society, then gave an overview of the various collections at the WRHS pertaining to the Lakeside Unit. These included museum objects such as a belt with military insignia attached, a bugle used in the unit, and Dr. Crile’s gas mask. Paper documentation included the Amy Rowland papers, George W. Crile papers, reunion records of the US Army Expeditionary Forces Base Hospital No. 4 (1919-1961), the Crile family photograph collection, and the Myron Herrick papers.

Fred Lautzenheiser reviewed the various contacts between France and northeast Ohio, starting in 1612, when Lake Erie first appeared on a French map. La Salle was the first major explorer (1669), and incidentally he was from Rouen, Cleveland’s new sister city! Francois Saguin built the first permanent European settlement in Cuyahoga County in 1742 along the river somewhere near the mouth of Tinker’s Creek. With the British victory in 1763, French influence waned, but returned in a non-political way in the Napoleonic era. French classicism inspired dress, decorative arts, and architecture (e.g., the well-known “Western Reserve” style house). In a more practical sphere, many varieties of fruit, vegetables, and flowers came from France. The canal era (c1825-1860) brought immigrants, especially from eastern France and neighboring French Switzerland, both Catholic and Protestant. Coming via the Erie Canal and Buffalo, most used Cleveland as a stopping place and continued south to interior counties. About 1850, the new Catholic Bishop of Cleveland, Amadeus Rappe, brought in French religious orders to help with education (Ursulines); medical care (Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine); and social programs (the Society of St. Vincent de Paul). French fashions became important as a wealthy class emerged, and their haute-couture purchases in Paris inspired imitations in the local market. Art and music here were first more influenced by Germany, but especially after 1900, French influence became very strong. Examples of Cleveland artists who went to France were the Warshawsky brothers, Abel and Alexander.

In the 20th century, Myron Herrick was crucial in connecting Cleveland to France, facilitating the Lakeside Unit and subsequent relations with both Rouen and Paris. Émile de Sauzé devised the “Cleveland Plan,” revolutionizing foreign language teaching (especially French) in this country. In line with these educational programs, local organizations arose to help people partake in French culture. Some were social, e.g., clubs for war brides in both World Wars. The public became familiar with France, particularly Normandy, during World War II. Postwar musical connections were strong and included Alice Chalifoux’s international harp pedagogy at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Casadesus Piano Competition, and the Darius Milhaud Society. Finally, in the last few decades, business interests have developed, with companies such as Lubrizol, Lincoln Electric, MTD, and Continental Airlines paving the way for a Cleveland branch of the French-American Chamber of Commerce. The FACC, in turn, laid the foundations for the sister city pact between Cleveland and Rouen in July 2008. At this time, the FACC is broadening its scope of activity from commercial interests to include higher education, medicine, and the arts. This month they co-sponsored the Cleveland Home and Garden Show with the theme “The Romance of France.”



  1. What were the names of the people (men & women) who went to France? I know Ina Starr did. I am specifically looking for Martha J. Close Buck. She was 67 at the time, so it’s hard to believe she was part of WWI. However, the Cuyahoga County’s Auditor’s records show her born in 1850 and show her as a Nurse, World War 1.

    I am researching on behalf of Woodland Cemetery who is honoring nurses in the Civil War, WW1, and ladies affiliated with the Grand Army of the Republic on Memorial Day 2009 and on Woodland’s Historical Marker Dedication on June 14th.

    If you can confirm Margaret was in WW1 – and in what capacity, it would be greatly, greatly appreciated!


  2. Have you checked with Dr. James Banks, at Tri-C West’s Crile Archives? They have a lot of information on WWI and military nurses.

  3. My gratitude to the Ursulines is for fundamental training in the English language at St. Ann School, Cleveland Heights. I am writing a tribute to them. I am researching an not finding pix of their HABIT before Vatican II. Please send me pix if you have one. Merci.

  4. My great Aunt Austa White Engle was in this unit of nurses and I have letters written home from France. One written as soon after she arrive d in LIverpool discribes their first day and being presented to the King and Queen and lunch at the Ambassador’s home. Our family has quite a collection of her belongings. There was a huge amount of medals given her by patients and her belt buckle. I have enjoyed reading up on this accomplishment. “Yanks in the King’s Forces” and anything else I can dig up. My family has had a long association with CWRU. Her brother was on the faculty. Keep up the great work. I am working on th next generation to learn more about ther predessors so they will not have to learn this information the hard way.

    Are there any photos of this group of nurses available?

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