Lane Library

Chapter XXIX. The Ellinwood Affair

The Ellinwood Affair 1905 - 1907

Planning for the Construction of Lane Medical Library

In November 1902, three and a half months after the death of Mrs. Lane, the Board of Directors of Cooper Medical College purchased the land on which to build the future Lane Medical Library.

It was not until about a year later, in September 1903, that all claims against Mrs. Lane's estate were settled in Superior Court of San Francisco and awards were made to the beneficiaries of her will, one-third of the estate to Cooper Medical College and two-thirds to C. N. Ellinwood, President of the College. Also in September 1903, the Board of Directors established the Lane Medical Library Fund to receive and disburse funds required for the planning and construction of the Library.

There followed a period of two years during which President Ellinwood cooperated with the Board of Directors in selling off some of the unproductive Lane real estate properties (which comprised most of the Lane bequest) in order to acquire funds for the construction of Lane Medical Library. One third of the amount collected from the sale of the land went to the Lane Medical Library Fund which on 1 July 1904 showed a balance on hand of $32,415. Two-thirds of the receipts from the land sales went to the personal bank account of Dr. Ellinwood whose verbal statements led the other members of the Board to assume that he intended in due course to make these funds available for construction of the Library. On the basis of this assumption, Dr. Ellinwood was reelected President of the Board for the ensuing year at the Annual meeting of the Board in August 1904 . The other incumbent Directors were also reelected. [1]

At the Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors on 6 September 1905, President Ellinwood delivered his Annual Report for the year ending 30 June 1905. His Report included no reference to planning for the Lane Medical Library, but it did show that the Lane Library Fund had increased to $40,000. Again, President Ellinwood and other members of the Board were reelected for the ensuing year. [2]

The minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors for the years ending 30 June 1904 and 30 June 1905 again contain no comment on Dr. Ellinwood's intent regarding disposition of the Lane bequest.

Nor is the subject so much as mentioned in the Regular Minutes of the meeting of the Board of Directors on 27 November 1905. Fortunately Dr. Rixford, Secretary of the Board, kept copious personal notes on this and other meetings dealing with Dr. Ellinwood's evolving attitude toward the Lane bequest. Rixford's notes were quoted extensively by Professor Hans Barkan in his vintage article on Cooper Medical College in 1954. These notes have since been lost. Thus we are fortunate to be able to draw upon Professor Barkan's transcription of them for the following information: [3]


Dr. Rixford's Personal Notes
27 November 1905 11:20 PM [4]

I have just come from a most interesting meeting of the Board of Directors of Cooper Medical College at which were also present Drs. Ellinwood, Barkan and Gibbons, and of which the Regular Minutes of the Board record nothing but one or two items of routine business. The discussion which took place may mean much for the future of Cooper College and I think should be preserved with as much accuracy as possible in case it may hereafter be quoted.

It came about through some supposed error of the Treasurer in not recording any draught from the Lane Medical Library Fund during the year 1904 that Dr. Ellinwood asked whether the income of the Lane Medical Library Fund was being expended for the purposes of the College Library and said that there were legal relations in regard thereto which had best be seen to. I replied that the expenditure had been authorized by the Board, the understanding being very clear that the College Library was to be considered the nucleus of the Levi Cooper Lane Library of Medicine and Surgery; that furthermore the Directors had authorized me as Librarian to incorporate the Library of Dr. Lane with the College Library.

I then went on, there being no business before the Board, to state that the time seemed ripe for a beginning to be made in planning for the Library; that after the fundamental questions of size and character of the Library, and its relations to the College and to the Medical Profession had been determined, a beginning should at once be made because (collections of books and journals) are rapidly getting more rare in consequence of the development of a large number of medical libraries in the United States, all of which are hungry for the very material required by the Lane Library. I further stated that Libraries are not purchased outright but grow; that the logical plan for the creation of the Lane library would be to gather together the books and when a sufficient collection had been secured to build the building; that if the building were to be built first the running expenses would have to be met and the interest of the investment would be lost.

I then said that inasmuch as Dr. Ellinwood had promised this Board that the 2/3 of the Lane estate in his possession should be available whenever "you gentlemen get ready to build the library building" (meaning the Board of Directors) it was time to begin planning for the library. Dr. Ellinwood denied having said the above. I asked "What did you say ?" "Not that; go on and finish." Dr. Gibbons and Dr. Barkan both corroborated my statement but Dr. Ellinwood persisted in his denial and finally said he expected to cooperate with the Board in building the Lane Library. . .

Dr. Ellinwood then entered into some criticism of the Faculty and the Directors for treating him discourteously by voting him down on pretty much all occasions. When he denied having said that he would "see that the money was forth-coming," each of those present in turn stated that he had so understood Dr. Ellinwood and had acted under that understanding. . .

Dr. Gibbons asked what reasons he had for not coming more directly forward and taking the members of the Board into his confidence? Dr. Ellinwood vouchsafed no answer beyond intimating that his reasons were sufficient - that this money had been given to him by Mrs. Lane unconditionally and he was prepared to use it in the way Dr. Lane would have used it - to the best of his (E's) knowledge.

I said that Dr. E's complaint that the Faculty and Directors had not given him the support that should be given the President of the College, had no foundation - on the contrary, both Faculty and Directors had given him an amount of support and cooperation truly extraordinary in view of his treatment of them - that he had persisted in repelling all confidence on the part of his associates and had grievously hurt the feeling of all of them - and particularly of myself.

Dr. Barkan said: "Dr. Ellinwood, you complain of the lack of respect shown you. I assure you your present course is not calculated to increase my confidence or respect." Whereupon Dr. E. hung his head and had nothing to say.

During the evening he said that it was not reasonable to suppose that Mrs. Lane had given him two-thirds of her estate without some instructions as to how it should be expended.

Again he said that when he took the Presidency of the College he had expected for that reason to meet antagonisms, and was not surprised; that he had been asked by Dr. Lane to take the Presidency and had said to him that he foresaw certain difficulties, and asked his advice; that thereupon Dr. Lane had said that he had had such difficulties to contend with and that he had met them by listening to all that people had to say and then using his own judgment. Dr. E. said further that he had gone to Dr. Lane again with a statement of other difficulties and had been met with the advice.: "Listen to what they have to say and act on your own judgment."

From all these statements it was evident to the members of the Board that Dr. Ellinwood intended to administer the Lane bequest in his own way. I afterward stated to Dr. Barkan that while I was hurt, I felt that Dr. Ellinwood would give the money to spend it for the library and I could not see but that he had a right to do so, and that to that I would not object.


Dr. Rixford's Personal Notes 19 January 1906 [5]

Dr. Ellinwood, Dr. E. R. Taylor and myself were appointed at the Board meeting on 27 December 1905 as a committee of the Directors of the College "to draw up a comprehensive plan for the Levi Cooper Lane Library of Medicine and Surgery, and to report at the next meeting of the Board.." Pursuant to this charge we met on the evening of 19 January at the residence of Dr. Ellinwood.

Dr. Taylor stated that after mature deliberation we must admit of the precarious present position of the College, and of the fact that medical education is becoming so costly that independent medical schools cannot exist and maintain a high standard of scholarship without great endowment. He stated that he had come to the conclusion that the Lane Medical Library should be so endowed as to insure its permanency because of the possibility that the Library might be the only surviving monument to Dr. Lane.

Dr. Taylor further stated that in his judgment, in the event of the College being absorbed into Stanford, the Library should persist as an independent institution; that entangling alliances of all sorts should be avoided; that no one should be given a voice in the management of the Library outside this Board; and that the question of endowment is fundamental and only when that issue is settled will it be possible to make plans for the building.

When it came my turn to speak, I stated that on the understanding that the remainder of the Lane Estate after the Lane Lectures were founded should go to this Library, the Library would be of monumental dimensions and, if administered in a broad spirit, would be a great monument to Dr. Lane. . .

I further stated that it should be seriously considered whether the present lot is large enough - whether either the adjoining lot of 30 x 100 ft. should be purchased or at least the building so designed that it could eventually be extended in that direction.

Dr. Taylor said that these matters were interesting and very proper but were matters of detail to be worked out by a committee on architectural program, and that the important thing before us was to determine as nearly as possible the amount of money available for the building, and for the support of the library. He then asked Dr. Ellinwood for his opinion in the matter.

Dr. E., who had made notes from time to time, replied that the 1/3 of the estate would probably amount to $200,000, and that when the plans were worked out he would see how much of his 2/3 he would devote to that purpose - that he wanted it definitely understood that the idea shared by several members of the Board (this with a queer little smile) that this money was left in trust for the College was erroneous; that the money was left to him unconditionally by Mrs. Lane and he proposed to use it as he saw fit and he would make no promises in regard to the matter. He said he agreed in the main with the suggestions made by me but thought I had planned the institution on a larger scale than the funds would permit of. He said he would advise that the Board draw up a plan of what the library should be and then turn it over to him with the $200,000 - the 1/3 willed to the College - for him to execute.

Dr. Taylor asked him what he meant by "executing it" - whether that meant that the Board was to have nothing to say in regard to the administration or the plan of the institution? Dr. E. replied, "I did not say that."

I said that Dr. E. had said at a meeting of the Board that he "wanted to cooperate with the Board in the building of the Library" but that his present interpretation of the word cooperate would scarcely be found in the dictionary.

Dr. E. said that he was not actuated by any selfish motives but purely by a sense of duty - his present position was not of his seeking and he would get out of it if he conscientiously could. He had been selected by Mrs. Lane to do this thing and he proposed to do it. Dr. Taylor said that Mrs. Lane made a will shortly before the one under which the distribution had been made in which she gave the 2/3 to Dr. Lane's cousin, young (William) Cooper, and I said if Mrs. Lane had intended Dr. E. to administer the whole of the property she would have willed it all to him instead of giving all that the law would allow to the College.

Thereupon Dr. E. said there was nothing to be gained by talking of what dead people intended to do or what they were supposed to have said.

I asked "did Dr. Lane tell you that he wanted you to do this thing?" and he answered "no." "Did Mrs. Lane tell you?" and he answered "I am not saying anything about what Mrs. Lane said or did not say to me."

"Well," I said, "this matter is fundamental. What shall this committee report to the Board?" Dr. E. answered, "You should report your general plans outlined for the Library together with my recommendation."

I said Dr. Ellinwood is chairman of the committee, meaning that it would be proper for him to make the report. I said further that the matter was at this state very simple - the determination of whether the library should be a College library with the $ 200,000 which would build a modest building. . . or whether it should be a monumental library dedicated to the medical profession; that this determination rested solely with Dr. Ellinwood and, until he vouchsafed a statement of what funds he would furnish, the desirable monumental library was out of the question.

With that Dr. Taylor and I said "good night." On the way home T. said, the Directors ought to have a meeting before Monday night. I said "no, I would prefer to have this denouement made in the Board meeting with Dr. Ellinwood present - it would be of at least considerable dramatic interest." I further said that if I were to act on my present feeling I would tell Dr. Ellinwood to take his 2/3 and leave the school.

Dr. Taylor said as we parted, "Did you ever hear anything so preposterous? To make the devoting of E.'s money, and only an indefinite part of it, conditional on the Board's giving him complete control not only of his 2/3 but also of the 1/3 belonging to the College. It is a direct insinuation of incompetency and an insult."

I think it would be well to postpone all action in the matter of building the Library until matters are a good deal clearer. I do not believe it would be in the best interests of the College to permit E. to have the 1/3 (1:45 AM, Jan. 20)


Acquisition of New York Academy of Medicine Collection for Lane Medical Library

The behind-the-scenes negotiations within the Lane Medical Library Committee described above did not impede Dr. Rixford's continuing efforts to expand the holdings of the existing Lane Medical College Library. We have already mentioned his acquisitions from the Surgeon General's Library in Washington. After Mrs. Lane's death, the Lane Medical College Library was further enriched by the addition of Dr. Lane's private library consisting of some 2,000 volumes, including many medical classics and some valuable historical material. This addition raised the total number of volumes in the Library to 10,000, exclusive of duplicates. [6]

At a meeting of the Directors on 22 January 1906, Dr. Rixford reported that he had entered into correspondence with John S. Brownne, Librarian of the New York Academy of Medicine, regarding a valuable collection that Mr. Brownne would like to sell. Dr. Rixford had received the following letter from Mr. Brownne: [7] [8]

New York Academy of Medicine


Dear Doctor Rixford:

Your letter of the 3rd ultima received. I have been so very busy that I have not had time to answer it. Will write later. Would like to talk the matter over with you.

I have the N. Y. Hospital Library that I could let you have at a very low figure if you would take the whole collection - about 30,000 volumes - contains a fine collection of periodicals: French, German, English, etc.

Yours most respectfully,

John S. Brownne, Librarian

Lane Library