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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

Descriptive Summary

Title: Dr. Otto C. Pickhardt Papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1919 - circa 1970s
Dates [bulk]: Bulk, 1942-1945
Abstract: Papers largely relate to Doctor Otto C. Pickhardt's time in WWII. Also includes material relating to WWI and the Vietnam War.
Quantity: 0.63 Linear feet
Call Phrase: MS 488

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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.

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Scope and Contents note

The Dr. Otto C. Pickhardt Papers is a small collection containing records relating to Dr. Pickhardt, predominantly during his time serving in WWII. There is little information in this collection relating to Otto’s time in WWI. Items in the collection include over 150 V-Mail letters sent from Otto to Helen Pickhardt during his time in the UK establishing the 12th Evacuation Hospital. V-Mail was a system that was used during WWII as a secure way to correspond with soldiers stationed abroad. V Mail reduced the logistics of transferring an original letter across the military postal system as a V-mail letter would be censored, copied to film, and printed back to paper upon arrival at its destination.

The collection also includes a range of ephemera and memorabilia such as a scrapbook, telegrams, newspaper clippings, greeting cards, luggage tags, censorship notices, and personal information cards. There is a variety of photographs included in the collection, most notably, 3 loose scrapbook pages of photographs taken when Otto was stationed at the Russian Prisoner’s of War Camp at Sagan, Germany in 1919. Also includes photographs of the 12th Evacuation Hospital in Wales; General Eisenhower is pictured in some of these photographs. Also includes photographs unrelated to either war.

The collection includes a variety of miscellaneous documents, most notably a list of high officials in the Nazi party and a brief statement about them. Also includes an extract of writing about Otto Pickhardt receiving a telegram inviting him to lunch with the Churchill’s at 10 Downing Street and attending this luncheon.

Undated letters are included from a man named Paul written to family members during his time serving in the Vietnam War. It is unclear what relation Paul is to Otto, it is possible he was his grandchild.

Items relating to the Pickhardt’s wedding in 1916 and 50th wedding anniversary in 1966 are also included.

Arrangement note

This collection has been arranged according to subject.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers. Portions of the collection that have been microfilmed will be brought to the researcher in that format and can be made available by Interlibrary loan. Researchers on site may print out unlimited copies from microfilm reader-printer machines at per-exposure rates. See guidelines in Reading Room for details. Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.) Items that include presidential signatures will be presented to researchers in duplicate form.

Use Restrictions

This collection is owned by the New-York Historical Society. Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from: Manuscripts Department, New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024; or via email at mssdept@nyhistory.org. The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 V-Mail letters from Otto Pickhardt to Helen Pickhardt 1943-1944
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Letters to Otto and Helen Pickhardt from others

Scope and Contents note

Includes a copy of a letter dated June 17, 1919 from Helen where she refers to her husband stationed with the American Expeditionary Forces at the Russian Prisoner’s of War Camp at Sagan, Germany.

Box: 1 Folder : 3 Telegrams and Newspaper clippings

Scope and Contents note

Newspaper clippings and telegrams relating to the 12th Evacuation Hospital, and the war. Also includes newspaper clippings from obituaries relating to Otto’s father and sister.

Box: 1 Folder : 4 War Memorabilia of Dr. Otto Pickhardt

Scope and Contents note

Includes dried flowers presumably collected during his time in the United Kingdom and a map of the different stations of the 12th Evacuation Hospital.

Box: 1 Folder : 5 Photographs
circa 1918 - 1919, circa 1942 - 1945
Oversize: OS Small Photographs of Otto and others at Russian Prisioner's of War Camp, Sagan, Germany, 1919
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Miscellaneous documents
1880, 1919, circa 1941 - 1948
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Letters from 'Paul' to his family while he served in the Vietnam War

Scope and Contents note

Letters dated by date and month, does not state the year.

circa 1960 - 1975
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Items relating to the Pickhardt’s wedding

Scope and Contents note

Includes a wedding ceremony booklet containing their marriage certificate and a wedding book containing a list of the presents they received.

February 5, 1916
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Items relating to the Pickhardt’s 50th wedding anniversary

Scope and Contents note

Includes newspaper clippings with an announcement article about their anniversary.

February 5, 1966
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Items relating to the death of Helen Pickhardt
November 11, 1969
Box: 2 Scrapbook relating to WWII

Scope and Contents note

Includes letters, telegrams, documents, and newspaper clippings relating to the 12th Evacuation Hospital and its establishment. Also includes photographs, and items of ephemera such as advertisements.

Box: 2 Guest book from the Pickhardt’s 50th wedding anniversary party
February 5, 1966

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