Fireworks, Jelly, and a Feather Duster: Early Gifts to St. Louis Children’s Hospital

In 1880, a year after St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s opening; the newly minted hospital published its first annual report. In addition to a list of hospital officers and a report of the hospital Board of Managers, the 1879-1880 annual report included a list of the various donors and donations given to the new hospital. Monetary donations are listed alongside gifts of items such as blankets, pillows, and cribs. These usual donations are interspaced with eclectic items that the people of St. Louis gifted to their new children’s hospital.

The small number of patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital – for only 15 could fit inside the first hospital at one time – received in 1879 and 1880, among other things:

  • a quart of milk per day during the month of August;
  • lint;
  • jelly and fireworks;
  • Easter-eggs;
  • a feather duster;
  • a dish of raspberries; and
  • one box of Santa Claus biscuits.

Happily for historians, the tradition of listing the entirety of items received by the hospital in the annual reports continued for a number of years. In 1884, children staying at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital received:

  • ice during spring;
  • a bird and cage; and
  • “to little Izzy, a doll.”

Subsequent whimsical donations throughout the years included:

  • six baskets of flowers for Christmas 1885;
  • a basket of fine peaches;
  • ice cream, Charlotte Russe, and croquettes;
  • “very nice books”;
  • a box of violets; and
  • a box of apple blossoms.

These items offer a glimpse into the kindness of people and institutions who gave generously and, in some cases, creatively, to the children staying at the hospital during its first years of operations. The hospital officers expressed their appreciation to these donors in their 1882 annual report, saying, “The managers wish to express their warmest gratitude to those who so generously contributed to the children’s pleasure and comfort….The donations of clothing, provisions and furniture have been of great use and very thankfully received.”

The annual reports of St. Louis Children’s Hospital, as well as the entirety of the Children’s Hospital historical archival collection, are accessible at the Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives