Pennsylvania Hospital

po_Pennsylvania-HospitalPennsylvania Hospital (“Pennsy”) is a private, non-profit, 534-bed teaching hospital located in Center City, Philadelphia, affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania Health System (“Penn Medicine”). Founded on May 11, 1751 by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond, Pennsylvania Hospital was the first hospital in the United States. It is also home to the first surgical amphitheatre and first medical library in America.

In 2004, a study in AARP Modern Maturity ranked Pennsylvania Hospital as one of the Top Ten Hospitals in America. The hospital received additional honors for cardiac care, cardiovascular surgeries, infectious care, knee-hip orthopaedics and pulmonary care—all five specialties are also ranked within the top 10 in the nation.

Pennsylvania Hospital was originally conceived in 1751 by Dr. Thomas Bond as an institution “for the reception and cure of the sick poor… free of charge,” and was funded grace to donations of the people of Philadelphia. On September 2, 1751, Mathias Koplin donated the first plot of ground for the new hospital. The first (temporary) building was opened in 1752 on High Street (now Market Street). Elizabeth Gardner, a Quaker widow, was appointed Matron of the hospital. As the hospital received support of the leading families in Philadelphia, its permanence was secured.

Thomas Stretch was among the leading citizens of Philadelphia and one of the founders of Pennsylvania Hospital. He was a member of the Union Fire Company, also known as Benjamin Franklin’s Bucket Brigade and a founder of the social club known as Schuylkill Fishing Company, and the Club’s first governor in 1732, re-elected annually until his death in 1765. Stretch was a director of the Philadelphia Contributionship (Hand-in-Hand fire mark) from 1758 to 1761.

In the Pennsylvania Gazette of May 29, 1755, Thomas Stretch appears as one of the largest subscribers (with Benjamin Franklin and others) to the fund for the Pennsylvania Hospital. In essence, the Stretch family and Benjamin Franklin each provided half of the original capital to found the hospital.