The Friedenwald family of Baltimore is the focus of the first section of Beyond Chicken Soup, but they appear elsewhere in the exhibit as well: Dr. Aaron Friedenwald’s academic regalia can be found in the University section.
Take, for example, the gown. The voluminous style is based on medieval examples that have been maintained at academic institutions for centuries. The three velvet bands on the bell sleeves indicate the owner’s doctoral degree, and their color – matching that of the velvet facing on the collar and front – shows his or her field of study: in this case, green for medicine. Though some universities adopted school-specific styles and colors, for the most part these basic symbols are still used today, over 100 years after the gown was worn.
And what symbol informs us that this was, in fact, Dr. Friedenwald’s gown? That indicator is both hidden and easy to read: a name tape in the back of the collar.
The nametape tells us that this dates from Dr. Aaron Friedenwald’s long tenure as a professor at the Baltimore College of Physicians and Surgeons; he joined the faculty in 1873, a year after the school was founded, and taught there for several decades. His name can be found throughout the school’s annuals, and one of his many addresses to the student body was reprinted in his son Dr. Harry Friedendwald’s book, Life, Letters, and Addresses of Aaron Friedenwald, M.D., By his son Harry Friedenewald, M.D., 1906.
By the mid 19th century, few U.S. schools required daily regalia; today, gowns are worn by graduates during commencement and, unless they go into academia themselves, are seldom used again. Even the most dedicated professor generally trots out her regalia only once or twice a year. However, the many repairs and mends evident on Dr. Friedenwald’s gown show that this was a well-worn garment, in use for many years and on many occasions.
That’s the gown’s ownership sorted. The hood, however, is a little more problematic. Though we presumed it, like the labeled gown and cap (to be featured in another post), belonged to Dr. Aaron Friedenwald, its symbolic indicators point us toward another possibility. It has the green velvet that belongs to a medical doctor, but the lining silks, which usually indicate where the owner received his or her degree, are gold with a purple chevron…. i.e., not the colors for the University of Maryland Medical School, where Dr. Aaron Friedenwald graduated in 1860. Evidently the College of Physicians & Surgeons’ sports team colors were purple and gold. Perhaps Dr. Friedenwald chose to represent his teaching school, rather than his own alma mater, and acquired the hood once he began his professorship – or this hood belonged instead to his son Dr. Harry Friedenwald, who did in fact graduate from the College in 1886. Unfortunately, no convenient name tape is here to tell us for certain.