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Providence Board of Health records

Identifier: 1995-197

Scope and Contents

The Providence Board of Health records containprimarily photographs that document the activities of the Providence Board of Health from circa 1900 until 1977 as well as the living conditions of the population of Providence during the early years of the 20th century. The photographs include those taken by Dr. Charles V. Chapin documenting the livingconditions in a Providence neighborhood circa 1900 and those taken by the Providence Housing Authority documenting the Well Baby Clinic conducted at Hartford Park in 1959. The collection also contains the first annual report completed by the Superintendent of Health (year ending July 1, 1857) as well as annual reports for the years 1961, 1963 and 1964. There are also original warning signs used to warn of the presence of diphtheria or scarlet fever in a building. The collection also includes a program from the award dinner held in 1977 for Joseph E. Cannon M.D


  • 1857-1977


Conditions Governing Access

No special restrictions unless otherwise specified.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is in the public domain unless otherwise specified. We reserve the right to restrict reproduction of materials due to preservation concerns.

Biographical / Historical

In 1854, Dr. Edwin Snow pioneered efforts to document and analyze a wave of cholera which attacked the citizens of Providence. Tracking the disease among his own patients, he devoted himself to tracing its source and preventing its recurrence.
Snow became the first Superintendent in 1856 when Providence established a permanent city health department. Twenty-two years later, a State Board of Health was formed with three mandates: preventing the spread of disease, collecting vital statistics, and implementing a sanitation program.
In 1883, Dr. Charles Value Chapin became Providence's Superintendent of Health. Dr. Chapin continued Dr. Snow's efforts, improving sanitation, advocating city sewer construction, establishing quarantine regulations, and identifying the source of a cholera outbreak in 1888.
Dr. Chapin instituted mandatory reporting of contagious disease cases such as scarlet fever and diphtheria. He was a leader in discouraging fumigation of houses as a disease prevention measure and established the nation's first contagious disease hospital, the Providence City Hospital, in 1910.
History excerpted from Department of Health website


.35 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Black and white photographs documenting disease and living conditions in Providence during the early 1900's as well as activities of the City of Providence Health Department. The collection also includes annual reports, and examples of actual signs used to warn of the existence of scarlet fever or diphtheria.


The Providence Board of Health recordsare arranged into the following series: Series 1. Photographs Series 2. Annual Reports Series 3. Ephemera

Rhode Island Digital Archives


No accruals are anticipated at this time.
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Rhode Island State Archives Repository

33 Broad Street
Providence RI 02903 USA