Papers (1882-1954, undated [bulk 1882-1920]) of U. S. Navy surgeon, including correspondence, reports, and miscellany.
John W. Baker, a native of Aurora Indiana, served as a surgeon and lieutenant in the United States Navy. He was officially commissioned as a surgeon on January 21, 1897. While in the Navy, Baker served at the Boston Naval Hospital, the U.S. Naval Hospital, Chelsea, MA, the U.S. Naval Hospital, Yokohama, Japan, and in various recruiting stations. He also served on several warships, including the USS WABASH, USS MONOCACY, USS DETROIT, USS JUNIATA, USS KEARSAGE, USS MICHIGAN, USS MONITOR NANTUCKET and the USS PALOS. He received a Victory Medal and Button for his service in WW I, as well as a Spanish Campaign Medal for his service in the Spanish-American War.
In addition to his routine surgical duties, Baker also conducted studies of diseases among naval personnel and peoples in Latin America, China and Japan, and traveled extensively while overseas to further his research. In early 1897, while in Central America, he fell seriously ill and was forced to recuperate for several months in a naval hospital. During the same period, Baker also filed a legal claim of difference in the rate of pay allowed to him on "waiting orders" versus shore duty pay. The case eventually went all the way to the U.S Court of Claims in 1902 before being settled.
Over the next few years, Baker served in varying capacities with the Navy, changing his residence more than once. At one point, he was placed on a retired list and later reinstated for duty. Although the official year of Baker's retirement is not evident, there is correspondence between him and the Navy personnel department as late as 1954.
The papers consist of correspondence, reports, and miscellany, and have been retained in their original order. For a detailed list of the materials, refer to the container list. Much of the material consists of Baker's correspondence with the Navy and his attorneys regarding his efforts to obtain compensation for his travel expenses and for the difference between his shore pay level and the sea duty pay level that he claimed. Also included is a 1902 U.S.Court of Claims petition related to the same pay dispute.
Other correspondence consists of letters from Baker's past patients and parents of officers who were discharged and in his care. Of particular interest is correspondence (1887) regarding the treatment of a scalp wound by Dr. J.B. Cordeiro and the apparent controversy regarding his technique. One letter is from Cordeiro to Baker asking if he can send a sworn statement of what he witnessed to the medical examining board. Baker was working with Cordeiro at the Navy Recruiting Station in Boston at the time of the incident. Also of interest is a letter (1888) from Third Class Apprentice Henry Bentley to Dr. Baker. In the letter, Bentley mentions the fact that he has been locked up for six days and is very sad. He also asks for forgiveness and to be set free from his incarceration. The letter is signed "Your Obeinted Servent [sic]" by Bentley. Also included is correspondence (1917) regarding the death of Apprentice Seaman George T. Hughes. Hughes went missing from his ship, the USS KEARSARGE, and was first reported as a deserter. Later, it was determined that he apparently fell overboard and drowned. Baker was consulted on the case.
Also present is a small amount of personal correspondence from Baker. These include letters (1883) written while aboard the USS JUNIATA to his brother, sister and mother. Specifically, in the letter to his sister, Baker describes the many places in Asia he has visited while on duty, including various descriptions of local scenes, including women's dress. In a letter to his brother, Baker mentions the wonder of the museums in the Boston area and the possibility of them going together. Also mentioned is the mutual interest of outdoor activities such as canoeing. Baker also discusses his great interest in nature, including his own observations and those of naturalist authors.
Purchased with The Sara S. Batten Special Collections Endowment Fund
Processed by Megan G. Atkins, March 21, 2007
Processed by Dale Sauter, June 16, 2008
Encoded by Apex Data Services
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.