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Guide to the Dr. Otto C. Pickhardt Papers
1919-circa 1970s (bulk 1942-1945)
 MS 488

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Megan Dolan

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on October 14, 2015
Description is in English

Biographical/Historical note

Otto Pickhardt was a German American citizen born in July, 1887. His parents, Carl Pickhardt and Paula VanScheven, emigrated to the US in 1867 from the Rhineland, Germany. His father, a merchant, was a partner in the firm Kuttroff, Pickhardt & Co., which brought the first synthetic coal dyes to the United States.

Born and raised in New York City, Otto Pickhardt attended Columbia University and became a surgeon. He joined the Department of Surgery in Lennox Hill Hospital in 1914 and remained affiliated with the hospital until his death in 1972. He is perhaps best known as the doctor who treated Winston Churchill when he was hit by a car while visiting New York in 1931. Pickhardt remained friendly with Churchill and when on duty in the UK during WWII he received a telegram inviting him to lunch with the Churchill's at 10 Downing Street.

Pickhardt served in the medical corps in both World War I and World War II. He was drafted into WWI in January, 1918 and served under the rank of captain until October, 1919. He was originally stationed at General Hospital 12, Asheville, North Carolina. He also served overseas and was stationed with the American Expeditionary Forces at the Russian Prisoner’s of War Camp at Sagan, Germany in 1919.

In 1941, Pickhardt, who was then 55, again entered the Army as a lieutenant colonel. In March 1942 Otto established the 12th Evacuation Hospital, Lenox Hill Hospital Unit. It was established as an evacuation hospital; a mobile unit designed to operate 12-15 miles behind the fighting troops. It began training in the US after its establishment and received training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, Fort Devens, Massachusetts, and Nashville, Tennessee. The unit was brought to the UK in January 1943. The 12th Evacuation Hospital was compiled of a group of American doctors, nurses and enlisted men. It was originally set up in fields in the countryside of Wales and was the First American military hospital in Britain based in tents. They referred to themselves as the ‘Guinea Pig’ hospital, and their successes and failures were good guidance for other field hospitals and evacuation units that emerged when the Western invasion began.

After the war, Otto returned to his occupation at Lenox Hill Hospital, serving as Director from 1945 to 1952. He celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife, Helen Pickhardt (nee Kahle), family, and friends on February 5, 1966. Helen Pickhardt died on November 11, 1969 and Otto died on June 13, 1972 in his home in Dorset, Bennington, Vermont. He was survived by his three sons Thomas K., William P., and Roger C.