Yale University Library News

A Cure for What Ails You: Songs from the Medical Library’s Sheet Music Collection

Thursday, January 23, 2014 - Friday, May 2, 2014
Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library foyer 3
33 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06511

This exhibit celebrates a new collection of medically themed sheet music recently donated to the Medical Historical Library by William Helfand, retired pharmaceutical company executive, historian of medicine, and collector extraordinaire. There are over a thousand items in the collection on medical providers, purveyors of remedies, ailments both real and imagined, cures for all purposes (especially for lovesickness), health songs for children, and music advertising patent medicines. Most of the music was written for public entertainment, whether in London music halls, Parisian theaters, or American vaudeville and early musicals. Later songs in the collection were aired on the radio, featured in movies, recorded on record labels, or served as themes for TV shows on doctors and hospitals. Songs range from “The Cork Leg,” a traditional Irish song about a self-propelling prosthetic cork leg, to Loretta Lynn singing about the advantages of “The Pill.” The engraved and lithographed covers of the music provide striking images of medicine and popular culture. Discover the entire collection through the finding aid: http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/med.pam.0005

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