New Collection on Veterinary Science at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

In 2012, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania purchased the papers of veterinarian George F. Parry and his family. George F. Parry (1838-1886) of Bucks County, PA, was one of the first veterinarians to receive professional veterinary training in the United States. He graduated from the Boston Veterinary Institute in 1859, served as a veterinary surgeon with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry during the Civil War, and owned a farm and conducted a private practice in Newtown, Pennsylvania, from shortly after the war until his death at age 48. George married Sarah E. Hough and the couple had two children. This collection is comprised of twenty-four volumes and five folders. The materials span from 1858 to 1898 with a few gaps in years. The majority of the volumes belonged to George F. Parry. Among them are one 160-page student notebook from the Boston Veterinary Institute; three Civil War diaries, which detail Parry's veterinary work with army horses and his experience of military campaigns in the southern United states; and sixteen diaries and one ledger, which together document his civilian career as a veterinarian in Newtown, Pennsylvania, after the war, as well as his personal life, farming, and current events such as the 1877 railroad strike and regional and national elections. Parry also made frequent mention of his wife, his children, and his sister Susan, whose name appears throughout his post-Civil War diaries and the ledger. There is also one small family photo album that contains approximately 24 cartes de visite and 1 tintype, including two images of George Parry (one in army uniform), one image of his wife, Sarah, and two images of his daughter, Helen, as a small child. Most photos in the album are unidentified. Additional volumes in the collection include one diary from Helen dated 1884, which she kept as a teenager. In it she discussed her attendance at school and church, social activities, family relationships, cash purchases, and other matters. There is also a diary (partially used) from Parry's son, William, from 1898. It contains brief entries with mention of illnesses of several extended family members and others, some of whom died. Diphtheria is mentioned, but other illnesses may have been involved as well. Altogether this collection contains a wealth of information on nineteenth century veterinary medicine and practices. In his school notebook, Parry kept detailed notes on horses he saw, surgeries, and autopsies. There is specific information on illnesses contracted by the animals and their symptoms, as well as the types of treatments that followed. The book also contains Parry's general notes on diseases, medicines and recipes, and horse anatomy and physiology. Parry's veterinary work is less apparent in his Civil War diaries, but it's nonetheless documented, if sporadically, in his entries. In many passages he wrote about attending to horses, discussing his work with his superior officers, and the results of the war on the regiment's animals. He often mentioned bouts of starvation among horses and mules resulting in the deaths of many animals. He wrote about the regiment receiving and dispersing new horses, as well as the discovery of lone, wandering horses and mules that he took in if they were well enough. At the end of each diary, in addition to financial transactions, Parry kept track of medicines he prescribed to horses with recipes notes. Upon returning to Pennsylvania after the war, Parry kept up with his journals, though the entries became shorter and less detailed. The post-war diaries span from 1867 to 1886, but there are no volumes for the years 1868, 1869, 1876, 1880, and 1883. Throughout most of the 1870s, he also kept a ledger of veterinary transactions, complete with owners and their animals, their illnesses, and cost of treatments. Similar records can also be found in his diaries. But Parry also noted family events, such as the birth of his children, kept track of farming needs, and, later in life, frequently wrote about the deaths of friends, family, and notable people, such as President Ulysses S. Grant and Colonel George C. Wynkoop. At the ends of each diary are further financial notes, memoranda, and addresses. HSP also purchased two volumes of George Parry’s sister, Dr. Susan Parry, who was an early graduate of the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia and practiced in Bucks County, PA (See A finding aid for the George Parry papers can be found at