Friday, January 08, 2016

Five minutes with Chris Foard, collector of nursing artifacts

Chris Foard,  a registered nurse, became interested in the Civil War in the late 1980s.
(Photo: Courtesy Chris Foard)
In the universe of Civil War collectors, some focus solely on muskets while others seek photographs of soldiers, letters, artillery shells or just bullets, which is where my collection started decades ago. This Connecticut man's collection includes a replica Civil War Gatling gun, something that would earn me a long-term relationship with our living room if it appeared in our household. Aiming to keep peace in the family, I focus on collecting moderately priced treasures such as this image of a 15th Massachusetts private, this promotion document for an 8th Connecticut soldier and this CDV of a 7th Connecticut quartermaster sergeant.

Chris Foard, a registered nurse from Delaware, has delved into an unusual area of collecting since he became interested in the Civil War in the late 1980s. The U.S. Army veteran has amassed 3,200 items related to nursing, from rare images to books, hospital newspapers, instruments and more. His massive collection has been exhibited at the Clara Barton House in Glen Echo, Md.; Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio; Carlyle House in Alexandria, Va; the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.

Foard, whom I met for the first time in October at the Gettysburg Civil War Show, recently took time out to answer a few questions about his collection.

How did you get started collecting Civil War nurse items? It's a pretty niche area of collecting.

After the Battle of Antietam, Maria Hall served 
as a nurse at Smoketown Hospital near the
 battlefield.
(Chris Foard Collection)
Foard: My focus has always been on just nursing. Years ago, I wanted to learn more about these brave men and women and have concluded from research that, whether motivated by patriotism, a calling or the realization that they were needed, nurses became more skilled and confident treating the wounded throughout the entire war. They were true pioneers of American nursing.

Where do you acquire most of the items? 

Foard: Civil War dealers, Civil War shows, Book shows and private collections.

 I'm particularly interested in Maria Hall, a nurse I wrote about in my book, Connecticut Yankees at Antietam. What items do you have in your collection that are tied to her?

Foard: I own a very rare Mathew Brady CDVof her -- it is signed on the back " Maria M. C. Hall "  (The signature is identical to the one in the letter from your blog.)  I also own a hospital newspaper called The Crutch,  July 9, 1864, from the U.S.A. General Hospital Division No. 1 in Annapolis, Md. Inside it lists names in the Medical Department -- Hall is listed as " Miss Maria M.C. Hall, Directress of Ladies acting as Nurses."
An enlargement of the reverse of the Maria Hall CDV includes her signature. After the war, Hall 
married and lived in Unionville, Conn.

 What's the most prized item in your collection?

Foard: Well, many come to mind. I have books written and signed by Civil War nurses, many fabulous letters detailing nursing responsibilities and the care they provided, medals and badges worn by nurses, Dorothea Dix's handwritten orders for nurses,  a "Notes on Nursing" written by Florence Nightingale belonging to a Civil War nurse  and many personal items. But one item that stands out is a signed war date CDV of Clara Barton. Only two are known to exist.

It seems every collector has a story of the "one that got away." What's your "one that got away" story?

Foard: A CDV of a nurse at Gettysburg with a handwritten note on the back describing the care she provided while she was there. Still painful that I missed this.

Finally, what's missing from your collection? What would you most like to acquire?

Foard: I am always looking for quality Civil War nursing items  -- rare signed books, letters, personal items, medals and images. I would love to acquire a Civil War Nurses gown/outfit. The few that exist are in museums.

 A rare copy of The Crutch, published on July 9, 1864, in Chris Foard's collection. The newspaper
was distributed at a Union hospital in Annapolis, Md.
A close-up of The Crutch reveals the name of Maria Hall, who was "Directress of Ladies
 acting as nurses" at a Union hospital in Annapolis, Md. (Chris Foard collection)

No comments:

Post a Comment