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George Baehr papers

Call Number: MS 841

Scope and Contents

The Baehr Papers consist of seven linear feet of correspondence and subject files, writings, scrapbooks, and photograph albums. The papers are very fragmented and often routine, and provide limited coverage of Baehr's career-long involvement with the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, Inc. There is almost no material from Baehr's term as president and medical director of H.I.P. and what information there is concerns the establishment of H.I.P. rather than the administration of the organization. The papers do, however, include some information on the Mayor's Committee on Medical Care, selected items regarding the founding and operations of H.I.P., and a few general correspondence files from 1941 forward. The scrapbooks and photograph albums cover Baehr's service during World Wars I and II and also include personal and family photographs and other materials. The papers are organized in three series: CORRESPONDENCE AND SUBJECT FILES, WRITINGS, and PERSONAL PAPERS.

Series I, CORRESPONDENCE AND SUBJECT FILES, is organized in three sections: General, Mayor's Committee on Medical Care, and Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, Inc. The General files are arranged alphabetically and span the years 1941 to 1975. The files include correspondence, circulars, announcements, mimeographed reports, and other material. The two folders for the United States Office of Civilian Defense contain memoranda regarding Baehr's travels in the United States during 1941-1944, a diary from a 1942 trip to England, and statistics on shortages in medical personnel. The files for several organizations in which Baehr was active including the Public Health Council of New York State, the Committee for National Health Insurance, and the State Communities Aid Association, contain material regarding fluoridation of water supplies, national health insurance, and other medical and public health issues. The other files in the section date primarily from the period after Baehr retired from H.I.P. The material, though frequently routine in nature, reflects Baehr's involvement in a wide variety of professional and civic organizations and his contacts and interaction with public officials and leaders in public health and medicine.

The Mayor's Committee on Medical Care section consists of eight folders of correspondence, memoranda, minutes, draft reports, and print material from the Subcommittee on Plan and Scope.

The Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York section extends from 1940 to 1978 but is fragmentary. The early material includes information on the Vladeck Houses program and on the founding of H.I.P.; folder 103 contains several historical sketches of the plan.

Series II, WRITINGS, is arranged chronologically and consists of approximately eighty reprints and fifty mimeographed speech texts spanning the years 1935 to 1977. It also includes a draft bibliography prepared by Baehr, circa 1970, and miscellaneous programs and letters.

The series represents only a portion of Baehr's total writings. The principal topics represented are medical economics, medical and hospital care, and public health. Fifteen reprints and speech texts directly concern H.I.P., and several others use the plan as an example to illustrate trends in health care. With the exception of several articles on Lupus Erythematosus, mostly from the 1940s, the series contains almost none of Baehr's medical research papers.

Series III, PERSONAL PAPERS, is organized in three sections: General, Photographs, and Scrapbooks. The first section extends from 1917 to 1978 and is arranged chronologically. It includes correspondence concerning family personal business, curriculum vitae, certificates and honors, newsclippings, and a variety of biographical material. The transcript and audio recording of "An Evening with George Baehr," American Public Health Association, Medical Care Section annual meeting (1965 Oct), is of special interest. The section also includes the transcript of an oral history interview with Baehr conducted by the Columbia University Oral History Research Office.

The Photographs section includes two albums, one from Baehr's service with the American Red Cross Typhus Commission and the other from his service as commander of an army base hospital in France, which provide interesting documentation of public health and medical conditions in two areas of Europe during World War I. Other material in the section includes personal and family photographs from 1942 to 1977.

Scrapbooks consists of five books of correspondence, photographs, personal items such as medals, awards, and certificates, and a variety of memorabilia. The section also contains two bound volumes received by Baehr at a testimonial dinner in 1957. The material in the five scrapbooks was removed and microfilmed in 1981. These filmed scrapbooks contained a large quantity of deteriorating newsprint which was discarded after filming. The remaining material was foldered and is included in the section.

The five filmed scrapbooks (See: MICROFILM HM 123) each focus on a specific period or topic, although each contains a few items unrelated to the topic. The books are described below in the order in which they appear on the film:

Book 1 (1912-1913, 1933-1941), Baehr's European trip of 1912-1913, where he conducted postdoctoral research in the Universities of Freiburg and Vienna: miscellaneous items from the 1930s. Microfilm frames 1-91.

Book 2 (1941-1947), Baehr's tenure as chief medical officer of the Office of Civilian Defense, including the trip to the Mexican "Primer Curso Regional Administration de Hospitales" which Baehr undertook as O.C.D. representative; miscellaneous items. Microfilm frames 92-508.

Book 3 (1942) 1947-1949), Baehr's chairmanship of the American Public Health Association's Lasker Award Committee; miscellaneous items. Microfilm frames 509-681.

Book 4 (1943-1954, 1963), Baehr's presidency and medical directorship of the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, Inc. (H.I.P.); miscellaneous items. Microfilm frames 682-847.

Book 5 (1950-1951, 1959-1962), further material relating to H.I.P. and the Lasker Award Committee, as well as miscellany. Microfilm frames 848-908.

The Baehr Papers were presented to Yale University Library by Dr. Baehr's daughter, Dr. Barbara Baehr, in 1978. The Baehr Papers are part of the Contemporary Medical Care and Health Policy Collection.


  • 1915-1978


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Existence and Location of Copies

Scrapbooks are available on microfilm (1,008 frames on 1 reel, 35mm.) from Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, at cost. Order no. HM123.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Dr. Barbara Baehr, 1978, and Arthur J. Viseltear, 1979.


Arranged in three series: I. Correspondence and Subject Files. II. Writings. III. Personal Papers.


5.5 Linear Feet (13 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Correspondence, writings, scrapbooks, photographs and subject files. While the papers do not fully document Baehr's active career, particularly as president of the Health Insurance Plan, 1950-1957, the extensive correspondence (1941-1975) reflects Baehr's activity in a wide variety of public positions and professional organizations. Included are files for the Public Health Council of New York State, the Mayor's Committee on Medical Care, 1937-1943, and the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, 1940-1978. The writings are not complete but include reprints of articles and the text of speeches for 1935-1977. The principal topics are medical economics, medical and hospital care and public health. There is also a small amount of family correspondence and biographical material. Photographic documentation includes albums showing the work of the expedition to the Balkans and Russia of the American Red Cross Typhus Commission (of which Baehr was a member), albums of World War I photographs and scrapbooks relating to his career (1912-1963). These papers form part of the Contemporary Medical Care and Health Policy Collection.

Biographical / Historical

George Baehr (1887-1978), in his seventy-year career as a medical educator, clinician, and group health prepayment plan founder and administrator, bridged the fields of medical care and clinical medicine. Born in New York City, Baehr completed the required one year of undergraduate work at Columbia College in 1904 and entered the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he received the M.D. degree in 1908. After completing an internship and residency in surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City, he studied pathology, physiology, and biochemistry at the Universities of Freiburg and Vienna from 1911 to 1913. Baehr returned to Mount Sinai in 1913, where he held a succession of appointments and served as attending physician, director of medicine, and director of clinical research from 1927 to 1950. While at Mount Sinai his research contributions covered a wide area and included work in collagen diseases, renal complications of heart disease, and hematology. He was also a pioneer in the field of continuing medical education.

Baehr became involved in public health during World War I, as a member of the American Red Cross Typhus Fever Commission to the Balkans and the Ukraine in 1915-1916. After America's entry in the war, he served as commander of an army base hospital in France from 1918 to 1919.

In 1931 Baehr established an early experiment in prepaid medical care at Mount Sinai, establishing the Consultation Service for People of Moderate Means which provided medical services for a flat fee. Following the election of his long-time friend, Fiorello LaGuardia, as reform mayor of New York in 1933, Baehr acted as mayoral advisor on health and social planning and served on a number of boards. In 1939 LaGuardia and Baehr established an innovative health care program for residents of the Vladeck Houses, the first low-income city/state housing. By opting to add one dollar to their monthly rent, residents could receive physician care for their families in their homes.

On LaGuardia's recommendation Baehr was appointed Chief Medical Officer for National Civilian Defense in 1941, and on his travels throughout the country Baehr was able to study existing group practice and prepayment plans. Baehr brought this knowledge, in 1943, to LaGuardia's Mayor's Committee on Medical Care. which had been created to develop a health services program for the city. When the committee was unable to reach a consensus among three proposed health delivery systems: compulsory health insurance, prepaid group practice, or a fee-for-service indemnity plan with limited benefit coverage, LaGuardia opted for the prepaid group practice which Baehr espoused. Baehr was then appointed chairman of the Subcommittee on Plan and Scope.

This subcommittee outlined a group practice prepayment plan which, four years later, provided the basis for the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, Inc. (H.I.P.). In 1945, as physicians were released from military service, Baehr and Dr. Dean Clark began recruiting them for medical group practices in the city, and with support from several foundations, Baehr and others succeeded in establishing in 1947 the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, Inc.

Baehr served as president and medical director of H.I.P. from 1950 to 1957, during which time the plan struggled successfully, against opposition from organized medicine, to expand its program and to become one of the largest and most effective prepayment group practice plans in the country. Following his retirement in 1957, Baehr continued to serve H.I.P. as a special medical consultant.

In addition to his professional appointments and service as an advisor to Mayor LaGuardia, Baehr participated in a variety of state and national medical and public health societies, was a member of the New York State Public Health Council from 1933 to 1975 (chairman 1955-1969), and was recognized nationally as an influential spokesman for reform of health care delivery systems.

Guide to the George Baehr Papers
Under Revision
compiled by R. Joseph Anderson, Nancy Robertson, and Alan Hoffman
October 1981
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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