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About this collection

This digital collection contains a subset of papers of Charles Rice, who served as Chair of the USP Committee of Revision.  Born in Germany on October 4, 1841, Charles Rice immigrated to the US and eventually became the chief pharmacist at Bellevue Hospital in New York City in the 1880s.  He was a member (1870-1880) and later Chair (1880-1901) of the USP Committee of Revision.  He died at age 59 on May 13, 1901, just one year into his third term as Chairman of the Committee of Revision.

The scope of the collection and ownership of the circulars is the following:

  • One gigantic, 1000-page volume (aka “Tome”) for the 1880-1890 cycle. The Tome is a unique historical artifact due to its large bound size.  The Tome is owned by the University of Wisconsin Department of Special Collections, General Library System (GLS), and is maintained by and on display at the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) in Rockville, Maryland.
  • Six volumes are owned by and maintained at the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS), including Volumes I and III of the 1890-1900 revision cycle, Volume I and III of the 1900-1910 revision cycle, and two duplicate volumes.
  • Two volumes are owned by and maintained at USP in Rockville, Maryland, including Volume II for the 1890-1900 revision cycle and Volume II for the 1900-1910 revision cycle.

The purpose of the pilot project was to conserve, describe, and selectively digitize a sample volume comprising the extensive writings, correspondence, and revision work of Charles Rice. This body of work spanned 30 years, from 1880-1910 and later included the work of Joseph Remington, who became Chair of the Committee of Revision in 1901, upon Charles Rice’s death.  This digital collection comprises Box 1 of Volume I of the 1890-1900 USP revision cycle, including Circulars 1-58 in 65 folders, encompassing a leaf count of 590.  We are currently working to archivally describe the remaining circulars housed at WHS, but not to digitize them.

This collection of circulars is pivotal due to the scientific and procedural information that was meticulously captured during a period of transition from physician- and pharmacist-compounded medicines to manufactured medicines in the midst of the US Industrial Revolution.

During this period, there was tremendous growth in the development of the understanding of chemical medicines, and the need to fully characterize not only the new chemical medicines but also plant-based traditional medicines in the interest of public safety.  One primary theme during this time was the conversion of USP monographs from formulas or “recipes” of drugs to those including modern pharmacopoeial assays and analytical methods of evaluation and identity.  By the end of this 30-year period, nearly all chemical medicines in the USP included a pharmacopoeial assay.  Other scientific areas of focus during this time were reagents, volumetric solutions, and inorganic chemicals; the movement from the apothecary to metric measurement, and the use of volatile (essential) oils.  Other interesting events occurred during this period, including the discovery and use of the diphtheria antitoxin and a related USP subcommittee led by Walter Reed; early participation of USP volunteers in meetings on the development of internationally harmonized standards and the beginnings of the International Pharmacopoeia; and the introduction of the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act, which prompted a reprint of USP VIII to improve it due to the newly mandated legal recognition.

The ways in which information were conveyed also is of interest.  The hectographic printing process was an emerging technology at the time, and the scrapbooks within which the circulars were kept were deliberate.  In fact, by 1890, Committee of Revision members were provided empty scrapbooks and instructions on how to properly store their circulars. The voting process that was instituted by Rice in 1880 is similar to the one in use today.  The US Postal Service was used to distribute the information to Committee of Revision members across the country in an era in which the primary forms of transportation were horse, buggy and train.

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