In 1896, Dr. Henry Leber Coit (1854-1917), a pioneer in American pediatrics, specialist in children’s diseases and the originator of certified milk, founded Babies Hospital in Newark. He was assisted by Dr. Edward J. Ill (1854-1942), among others. Babies Hospital occupied two adjoining buildings at 437 High Street at the corner of Bank Street. (This corner no longer exists, nor does that section of Bank Street as both were absorbed into the campus of Essex County College.) . It was the FIRST facility of its kind in the United States, having been created specifically to receive children under five years old. Dr. kipp of the Newark Eye and Ear Infirmary became the president of the Babies Hospital first Board of Directors.
I would be remiss not to point out the significance of “certified milk” and Dr. Coit’s role in its creation. Prior to modern refrigeration, food production purity laws and routine pasteurization of milk children were dying from milk borne diseases. These diseases were often caused by the unsanitary conditions that cows were kept in. Sick cows gave bad milk. The government understood the problem but saw immediate change as all but impossible. They thought it would take at least a generation to implement any significant changes. Dr. Coit found that timetable unacceptable, and along with other interested physicians he formed a private organization to educate farmers and then persuade them to produce and handle milk under strict sanitary standards for both the cow and the milk. The farmers who wanted to join this program would sign a legal contract that outlined all aspects of creating “certified milk”. In return for their trouble these farmers were able to secure higher prices for their milk. They were also subject to inspection of their farm/cows and testing of their milk for bacteria and pathogens. The first farmer to join this movement as a “certified milk” producer was in Caldwell, New Jersey. The “certified milk” was available for physicians, their patients and the public. How many lives were saved by improving the milk supply? Many, undoubtedly. Just as important, was the fact that people could buy this milk with confidence and knew it wouldn’t sicken them or their children. This is something we take for granted today so the impact of this innovation has been mostly lost to history.
In 1928, the growing hospital raised $560,000 through a building fund drive. A new facility was constructed at 15 Roseville Avenue, in the Roseville section, a fine residential area. The hospital and a Nurses Home was dedicated in January 1930. It was formally named Babies Hospital- Coit Memorial in honor of its founder.
In 1958, Babies Hospital made its final move when it moved two blocks west to So. 9th Street to merge with the Newark Eye and Ear Infirmary, the Presbyterian Hospital and the Hospital for Crippled Children to form United Medical Center. The Children’s Hospital as it was now called evolved into a complete diagnostic and treatment center for infants, children and adolescents. It folded in 1997 when United Hospitals closed. The building at 15 Roseville Avenue,(pictured above) is now apartments.
The theatrical program included in this blog was for a benefit production of The College Hero at the Sam Schubert Theater at 570 Broad Street. The list of “Patronesses” are a veritable who’s who of Newark society at that time. I’ve included two pages from that program in this blog.