Gross Memorial Goes Beyond Clinic, Samuel D. Gross Family Plot, West Philadelphia, PA
Within the environs of the Woodlands Cemetery, a West Philadelphia family estate turned cemetery, Samuel D. Gross, M.D. (1805-1884), the subject of Thomas Eakins‘ The Gross Clinic, is memorialized in his family plot. And since his “clinic,” his home(s), his offices, his church, &tc. have all been destroyed or demolished, this means something in its original context.
Samuel D. Gross was an American surgeon and educator of surgery at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. Argued to be one of the most eminent surgeons of the nineteenth century, Gross, a native of the Pennsylvania Dutch, received his medical training in various “old fashion” forms, but ultimately graduated from Jefferson Medical Collegein 1828. He worked for a while in Philadelphia in private practice, research, &tc. In 1840 Gross moved his family to Louisville, Kentucky where he performed surgery and taught at the Louisville Medical Institute where he would remain for 16 years. However, in 1856, his Alma Matta offered him a job as a practicing professor and he accepted moving back to Philadelphia permanently. For the duration of his life he taught and conducted research, building a long list of accomplishments. Born Lutheran, he was a member of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. The greatest description of Gross’ career is the Eakins Painting–The Gross Clinic, where Gross is depicted in the midst of removing a malignancy in the thigh of a young man. This portrays Gross as the surgeon and teacher that he was in the prime of his career.
After Gross’ death, he was memorialized on several different occasions, which included the erection of a bronze statue of him Samuel D. Gross by Alexander Stirling Calder (1870-1945) that was placed on the National Mall in Washington DC opposite the American Medical Museum. It was removed and transferred to Jefferson Medical University in 1970. It is now the centerpiece of the school’s new plaza.
(A descendant of Dr. Gross, John Christian Bullitt LaRue, an attorney of Houston, Texas, pays his respects at the Gross Family Plot in Woodlands Cemetery.)
Like most Americans among the middle to upper classes, Gross is also memorialized in a grave-site memorial, shown in the photographs above. The monument is the crown jewel of his family plot. The monument, typical of the upper middle class of 19th century America, features four sides as to serve as the centerpiece of a family plot. The plot includes: “Samuel D. Gross MD (July 8, 1805 to May 6, 1884), Louisa Ann Wife of Samuel D. Gross M.D. (Aug. 22, 1807 to Feb. 27, 1876), Samuel W. Gross, MD Son of Samuel D. and Louisa Ann Gross (Feb. 4, 1837 to April 16, 1889), Maria Gross Widow of Orville Horwitz (Apr. 10, 1839 to Aug. 25, 1914), Eugene Horwitz M.D. (Dec. 7, 1863 to Nov. 10, 1893),” and on seperate stones “A. Haller Gross; Born March 18, 1844; Died October 28, 1918 and Julia Bullitt, Beloved Wife of Haller Gross; Born May 5, 1861; Died September 10, 1916.”
In fact, A. Haller Gross, a lawyer, lived in his father’s house at 201 South Eleventh Street until after his father’s death when bought a large estate in Langhorne and in married a widow named Julia Bullitt Dick, the daughter of John Christian Bullitt, the eminent lawyer, businessman, and author of the Bullitt Bill. In 1880, the Samuel and A. Haller were living at 201 S. Eleventh with three African American servants including two males and one female, one female mulatto servant, a milliner, and the Craig family who were florists. The latter part of Gross’ census record were obviously renting an apartment from him as well as the storefront that had formerly served as his office for private practice, &tc.
Samuel D. Gross was officially a Doctor of Medicine, a Doctor of Laws, and a Doctor of Civil Laws, but is remember as an eminent surgeon of the 19th century. FYI, the Autobiography of Samuel D. Gross, M.D., by Samuel David Gross, Samuel Weissell Gross and Albert Haller Gross is now on Google Books for free, is interesting reading, and actually quite entertaining as Gross was a poetic writer!
Personal Information: Samuel D. Gross married Louisa Ann Wissell in the same year he graduated from Jefferson, 1828. Louisa Ann Wissell was a 20 year old widow with one child. In 1850, Gross was living in Louisville, Kentucky with his wife, his sixteen year old daughter Louisa, his 13 year old son Samuel, his eleven year old daughter Maria, and his six year old son Haller. While Haller was born in Louisville, his other children mentioned were all born in Ohio, he in Pennsylvania and his wife in England. As previously mentioned the Samuel removed back to Philadelphia in 1856 and it was here that he finally settled as a practicing medical professor at Jefferson Medical College. In 1860, Gross was living on Walnut Street with his 52 year old wife Louisa, their 21 year old daughter Louisa, their 23 year old son Samuel Wissell, their 20 year old daughter Maria, their 16 year old son Albert Haller, and five African American “domestics”. More to come on Gross.