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Dr. William Goodell Papers

 Collection — Box: 1, Box: 2, Box: 3
Identifier: 001
This collection is divided into 3 series: The Civil War, Correspondence, and Penman. Series 1: The Civil War contains the materials from the American Civil War and is divided into two subseries: Camp Paoli/Parole, which contains materials from Dr. Goodell’s time as surgeon in the camp hospital and the Volunteer Bounty Fund, which contains materials from West Chester’s Volunteer Bounty Fund.  Series 2: Correspondence is divided into three subseries: the Bell Family Papers, which contains correspondence and documents from Dr. Goodell’s in-laws, a prominent West Chester Family; General Correspondence, which contains letters and documents relating to Goodell’s professional work including correspondence with publishers, advice from colleagues on medical procedures, and information on professional medical associations; and finally, International Medical Congress of Philadelphia, which contains materials both planning and operational materials from the meeting. Series 3: Penman is divided into three subseries: Photographs and Blueprints contains mostly reproductions of items used in the book; Notes and Drafts contains research for the book as well as book prints; and finally Penman Book, which contains a copy of the book.


  • 1831-1986
  • Other: Date acquired: 1972
  • Majority of material found in 1861-1893
  • Majority of material found in 1968-1988


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.


3.00 Boxes : 1 Record Box, 1 Oversize Box, 1 Medium Clam shell Box

3.00 Boxes


Dr. William Goodell (1829-1894) was a well-known American gynecologist born in Malta.  He served as a doctor for the Union Army in the Civil War at Camp Paoli/Parole in West Chester, PA, treating soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.  The remainder of his career was spent practicing and teaching obstetrics in Philadelphia, PA. This collection contains materials from Dr. Goodell’s time as a surgeon in charge of the Camp Paoli/ Parole hospital as well as correspondence and other documents from his medical career in Philadelphia. The collection also contains drafts, notes and proofs for the book, William Goodell and Camp Paoli, written by Drs. W. Robert and Emily J. Penman.  The collection is not organized according to the book; however, it can be a useful resource when using the materials in the collection.

Biographical Note

William Goodell was born in Malta on October 17, 1829; he was the son of Reverend Dr. William Goodell (1792-1867), an American missionary.  In 1847 he came to the United States to attend Williams College in Massachusetts.  He graduated in 1851; after which he attended Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, graduating in 1854 with a degree of Doctor of Medicine.  Upon graduation he returned to his family in Constantinople and married Caroline Darlington Bell, the daughter of Judge Thomas S. Bell of West Chester, PA, in 1857.
William and Caroline Goodell returned to the United States after receiving an urgent request to visit his father-in-law, whose health was at risk.  Goodell began his practice of medicine in West Chester, Pennsylvania in the Chester County Medical Society but his progress there was short-lived as he was drafted for service when the Civil War broke out in 1863. Unfortunately Goodell had a medical condition, myopia (nearsightedness), which deferred him from taking active part in service. Subsequently Goodell joined the Union Army as a contract surgeon with a pay of $100.00 monthly. He was trained in St. Louis, Missouri and at the Turners Lane Hospital in Philadelphia, and became the Acting Surgeon at Camp Paoli in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Dr. Camp Paoli was a 53 bed hospital in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “The camp cared for 361 sick paroled prisoners from the battle of Gettysburg,” (75, Penman). Goodell cared for many wounded soldiers during his time in Camp Paoli and his experiences there benefitted and primed him for future endeavors. After the Civil War, Goodell was offered a position as the first Master to the then not-yet opened Preston Retreat in Philadelphia. With all his medical education and training and prior experiences in Camp Paoli, Dr. Goodell was fully prepared to take on this position. In January 1866 the Preston Retreat opened under the guidance of Dr. William Goodell.  The retreat cared for carefully selected poor, white, married, pregnant women of Philadelphia. This institution quickly became a success as Goodell proved that it was a safer environment for the secure delivery of babies.  Goodell used his new facility to generate intellectual discussions on ideas, treatments, and other information relevant to medical activity and the budding gynecological field.
Goodell was a great public speaker especially when it came to topics in medical discussions or arguments. He felt that these discussions were an essential component to medical development.  In 1870, his speaking ability, medical knowledge and training earned him a position as Lecturer on the Diseases of Women and later Clinical Professor of Gynecology (1874) in the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Goodell was also the head of the provisions for gentlemanly discussions in the 1876 Centennial Exposition Medical Meetings.
Goodell remained the head of the Preston Retreat for 21 years (1887) until opening his own private establishment in the practice of gynecology. His establishment was located on 1418 Spruce Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Goodell aided in organizing the Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia which is still in existence today and is dedicated to developing knowledge of obstetrics and gynecology. Goodell made significant contributions to the practice of medicine including identification of the Goodell’s Sign, a significant softening of the vaginal portion of the cervix during pregnancy. He attained the minimal puerperal infection rate, and the lowest maternal fatality rate in the entire world. Goodell had a son named Constantine Goodell who died early from a cardiac death. William Goodell died of a brain tumor in 1894. Goodell was an esteemed man whose constructive criticism towards the perspectives of other medical doctors came as a great honor, and became the focus of attention for other medical interpreters.

References: Penman, W. Robert and Emily J. Dr. William Goodell and Camp Paoli. Paoli, PA: Serpentine Press, 1987. “Dr. William Goodell.” British Medical Journal 2 no. 1768 (1894): 1149: . “Dr. William Goodell.” In University of Pennsylvania: its history, influence, equipment and characteristics; with biographical sketches and portraits of founders, benefactors, officers and alumni, Volume 1, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 364. Boston: R. Herdon Company, 1901.


Chronological and Thematic. See individual series arrangement.

Physical Location

Located in Weintraub Room, 609. Range 9.

Method of Acquisition

Collection purchased by Frank Helms, West Chester University Library Services Director (1966-2001), in 1972 from the Pennypacker Auction Gallery in Reading, PA.

Processing Information

Collection Processed by Tatiana Dorval ’11, Elizabeth Korp ’13; and Tara Wink.
Dr. William Goodell Papers
Tatiana Dorval ’11, Elizabeth Korp ’13, and Tara Wink
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the West Chester University Archives Repository