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Health, Department of
Health, Board of
Health, Bureau of

[Record group 76]
Agency Function

Agency History
A Board of Health was established for original City of Philadelphia and nearby townships and boroughs in 1794 composed of members from the City and these other municipalities. The Consolidation Act of 1854 designated the Board of Health a City agency of twenty four members, one chosen by the electors of each ward. A subsequent Act of 16 March 1855 clearly designated the new Board of Health as a branch of city government. In 1859 the Assembly reduced its membership to twelve, appointed equally by the District Court, the Court of Common Pleas, and Select and Common Councils. An ordinance of 1860 gave to the Board the power to appoint the City's Vaccine Physicians and Vaccine Case Collectors (since 1820 a function of the Mayor and/or Councils) and in 1869 it was vested with the responsibility for cleaning the City's streets, a function returned to the Department of Highways in 1881.
The Bullitt Bill of 1885 and a pursuant ordinance of 1886 placed the Board within the then-formed Department of Public Safety and reduced its membership to five mayoral appointees. After this date the Board was as often referred to as the Bureau of Health but the distinction was not made clear until several Acts of 1899 and an ordinance of May 26 of that year reduced the Board's membership to three appointees of the Mayor and officially organized the Bureau of Health to consist of all officers and employees of the Board directly concerned with enforcing health regulations.
The Board thus became the advisory and policy-forming body which it has continued to be until this date. In 1903 the Board and Bureau of Health were transferred to the Department of Public Health and Charities; this was in 1919 re-formed as the Department of Public Health and its Director made one of the three members of the Board; the Hospital for Contagious Diseases was then removed from the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Health and given to the Department's newly-formed Bureau of Hospitals. Throughout the period 1899-1951 many different inspectorial and enforcement divisions and sections were formed and re-formed within the Bureau of Health, chiefly to consolidate functions in a more efficient manner and to allow the Bureau to deal with changing developments in regard to public health. Upon the adoption of the City Charter of 1951, which continued the existence of the Department of Public Health, the Bureau of Health was abolished and its functions distributed throughout the various offices of the Department. The Board of Health, although officially abolished, was immediately replaced by a Board of Health composed of seven mayoral appointees and the Commissioner of the Department and continued in its policy-making role.

Archival Records
76.1 Minutes (1855-1974; missing: February-August 1856, 1863, 1966-1969)

76.2 Papers (1855-1859, 1914)

76.3 Health, Board of, Department of, Bureau of. Annual Reports (1860-1878, 1882-1923, 1939-1951)

76.4 Reports (1856-1870)

76.5 Report on Proposed Negro Health Centers (1937)

76.6 Accounts Committee, Minutes (1867-1900; missing: July 1881-December 1894)

76.7 Lazaretto Committee, Minutes (1859-1893)

76.8 Office Committee, Minutes (1875-1883)

76.9 Office Committee, Absentee Lists (1894)

76.10 Office Committee, Supply Book (1894)

76.11 Sanitary Committee, Minutes (1891-1898)

76.12 Treasurer's Journal (1854-1856)

76.13 Bill Book (1854-1866, missing: June 1856-June 1858)

76.14 Health Officer's Cash Book (1867-1876; missing: 1869-1872)

76.15 Health Officer, Annual Report of Births, Marriages, and Deaths (1872-1886)

76.16 Birth Register (1860-1915)

76.17 Birth Returns (1860-1915)

76.18 Monthly Summaries of Births (1864-1915)

76.19 Birth Totals Returns (1855-1860)

76.20 Birth Authenications (1867-1891)

76.21 Death Register (1860-1903)

76.22 Death Certificates (1860-1915)

76.23 Cemetery Returns (1855-1860)

76.24 Weekly Return of Deaths (1861-1864, 1877)

76.25 Marriage Register (1860-1885)

76.26 Marriage Returns (1860-1885)

76.27 Index of Clergymen (1910-1949)

76.28 Contagious Diseases Register (1854-1897; missing: March 1855-November 1860, June 1868-May 1890)

76.29 City Hospital Register (1855-1896; missing: June 1862-April 1865)

76.30 Nurses Register (1896-1898)

76.31 Vaccine Case Collector's Record (1860-1861)

76.32 Privy Wells Abandoned (1865-1866, 1893)

76.33 Plumbing Violations Reports (1925-1951)

76.34 Nuisance Bill Book (1867-1870)

76.35 Disposition of Nuisance Charges (1918-1925)

76.36 Inventories of Goods and Chattels, Lazaretto (1855, 1858-1859)

76.37 Vessels, Foreign Ports Register (1859-1892; missing: May 1862-June 1879, December 1888-June 1890)

76.38 Scrapbooks (1891-1893, 1896-1897, 1899-1900)

76.39 Appropriation Expenditure Journal (July 1857-December 1861)

76.40 Laws and Regulations (1907, 1909, 1911, 1922-1960)

76.41 Deaths from Unnatural Causes (1937)

76.42 Public Hearing of Regulation Governing the Conduct, Operation and Maintenance of Emergency Care and Facilities in Hospitals (17 September 1969)

76.43 Secretary to the Board of Health, Studies Pertaining to the Medically Needy (1955-1957)

76.44 Chief of The Bureau of Public Health, Annual Report (1912)

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Last updated on November 8, 2000