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Dr. Otto C. Pickhardt Papers

Call Number

MS 488


1919 - circa 1970s, inclusive
; 1942-1945, bulk



0.63 Linear feet

Language of Materials

The documents in the collection are in English.


Papers largely relate to Doctor Otto C. Pickhardt's time in WWII. Also includes material relating to WWI and the Vietnam War.

Biographical / Historical

Otto Pickhardt was a German American citizen born in July, 1887. His parents, Carl Pickhardt and Paula VanScheven, emigrated to the US in 1867 from the Rhineland, Germany. His father, a merchant, was a partner in the firm Kuttroff, Pickhardt & Co., which brought the first synthetic coal dyes to the United States.

Born and raised in New York City, Otto Pickhardt attended Columbia University and became a surgeon. He joined the Department of Surgery in Lennox Hill Hospital in 1914 and remained affiliated with the hospital until his death in 1972. He is perhaps best known as the doctor who treated Winston Churchill when he was hit by a car while visiting New York in 1931. Pickhardt remained friendly with Churchill and when on duty in the UK during WWII he received a telegram inviting him to lunch with the Churchill's at 10 Downing Street.

Pickhardt served in the medical corps in both World War I and World War II. He was drafted into WWI in January, 1918 and served under the rank of captain until October, 1919. He was originally stationed at General Hospital 12, Asheville, North Carolina. He also served overseas and was stationed with the American Expeditionary Forces at the Russian Prisoner's of War Camp at Sagan, Germany in 1919.

In 1941, Pickhardt, who was then 55, again entered the Army as a lieutenant colonel. In March 1942 Otto established the 12th Evacuation Hospital, Lenox Hill Hospital Unit. It was established as an evacuation hospital; a mobile unit designed to operate 12-15 miles behind the fighting troops. It began training in the US after its establishment and received training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, Fort Devens, Massachusetts, and Nashville, Tennessee. The unit was brought to the UK in January 1943. The 12th Evacuation Hospital was compiled of a group of American doctors, nurses and enlisted men. It was originally set up in fields in the countryside of Wales and was the First American military hospital in Britain based in tents. They referred to themselves as the 'Guinea Pig' hospital, and their successes and failures were good guidance for other field hospitals and evacuation units that emerged when the Western invasion began.

After the war, Otto returned to his occupation at Lenox Hill Hospital, serving as Director from 1945 to 1952. He celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife, Helen Pickhardt (nee Kahle), family, and friends on February 5, 1966. Helen Pickhardt died on November 11, 1969 and Otto died on June 13, 1972 in his home in Dorset, Bennington, Vermont. He was survived by his three sons Thomas K., William P., and Roger C.


This collection has been arranged according to subject.

Scope and Contents

The Dr. Otto C. Pickhardt Papers is a small collection containing records relating to Dr. Pickhardt, predominantly during his time serving in WWII. There is little information in this collection relating to Otto's time in WWI. Items in the collection include over 150 V-Mail letters sent from Otto to Helen Pickhardt during his time in the UK establishing the 12th Evacuation Hospital. V-Mail was a system that was used during WWII as a secure way to correspond with soldiers stationed abroad. V Mail reduced the logistics of transferring an original letter across the military postal system as a V-mail letter would be censored, copied to film, and printed back to paper upon arrival at its destination.

The collection also includes a range of ephemera and memorabilia such as a scrapbook, telegrams, newspaper clippings, greeting cards, luggage tags, censorship notices, and personal information cards. There is a variety of photographs included in the collection, most notably, 3 loose scrapbook pages of photographs taken when Otto was stationed at the Russian Prisoner's of War Camp at Sagan, Germany in 1919. Also includes photographs of the 12th Evacuation Hospital in Wales; General Eisenhower is pictured in some of these photographs. Also includes photographs unrelated to either war.

The collection includes a variety of miscellaneous documents, most notably a list of high officials in the Nazi party and a brief statement about them. Also includes an extract of writing about Otto Pickhardt receiving a telegram inviting him to lunch with the Churchill's at 10 Downing Street and attending this luncheon.

Undated letters are included from Pickhardt's grandson, Paul, written during his time serving in the Vietnam War.

Items relating to the Pickhardt's wedding in 1916 and 50th wedding anniversary in 1966 are also included.

Access Restrictions

This collection may be stored offsite. To arrange to consult it, please go to

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff. Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282. Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit:

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as the "Dr. Otto C. Pickhardt Papers, MS 488, New-York Historical Society."

Location of Materials

This collection may be stored offsite. To arrange to consult it, please go to

Collection processed by

Megan Dolan

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2024-01-09 14:42:20 -0500.
Language: Description is in English


New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024