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The Rush Archives: Saving RUSH’s Past and Telling Our Story Today

Archival portrait labeled John Edwin Rhodes '86, Secretary of the Alumni Association


You probably know today’s RUSH dates back to the founding of Rush Medical College on March 2, 1837, two days before the city of Chicago was chartered. But did you know that the Rush Archives traces its founding back to 1895? The Rush Archives hold extensive records from the 1890s. A major reason for that lies in the work of Rush Medical College alumnus John E. Rhodes, MD.

By the 1890s, Rush Medical College had not only survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 but had grown exponentially in size and reputation. In 1883, Rush Medical College established its teaching hospital, Presbyterian Hospital, which is part of the foundation of today's RUSH University Medical Center.

At RUSH, Dr. Rhodes served as Lecturer of Diseases of the Throat and Chest. He also served on the faculty of Northwestern University's Woman's Medical School as Professor of Physical Diagnosis and Clinical Medicine.

Dr. Rhodes, class of 1886, served as secretary of the Alumni Association for many years.

In 1895, Dr. Rhodes was appointed by the faculty of Rush Medical College to serve as the school's first historian. The December 1895 issue of The Corpuscle, Rush's student and alumni newsletter, announced that appointment by stating the following:

"He is endeavoring to collect everything in the way of letters, pamphlets, books, programs, etc., which are in any way associated with the college. Such letters...are not only of great interest to present readers but are of great value to the historian of the college and will be of surpassing interest to future generations as reflecting more accurately than anything else the inner life and thought of the students of by-gone days."

Alumni and faculty helped build the initial archives of RUSH by sending Dr. Rhodes a variety of records and papers that helped fill in the gaps of RUSH history.

In the years since, this collection grew to include the records of RUSH’s historic hospitals and nursing schools. And, today, our collection continues to grow, although with the addition of digital files, our more recent collections might look a bit different nowadays.

But one thing hasn't changed. The Rush Archives still depends on the donations of archival material and transfers of records from RUSH alumni, faculty, staff and students.

The Rush Archives still needs YOU to continue Dr. Rhodes’s legacy. If you have a story to share about your time at RUSH or have photographs, letters, blog or social media posts, programs, flyers, or anything else that helps tell your story, please reach out to us! Your story matters!

Want to learn more about the history of Rush or the Rush Archives collections? Explore the Rush Archives website, or contact the archivist, Nathalie Wheaton, MSLS at

Hundreds of the Rush Archives’ most used documents have been digitized and are available online. These digital collections include annual reports and newsletters from Rush University Medical Center and its predecessor hospitals, as well as yearbooks, annual catalogs, and newsletters from RUSH University and its predecessor schools. These publications provide significant information and photographs regarding the advancement of health education, developments in research, changes in patient care, and the evolution of community partnerships during RUSH’s more than 180 years of serving Chicago communities.