Dr. Charles N. Combs Memorabilia
Dates:  1897-1952
Accession Number:  771117
Description:  One document case


Charles Nathan Combs (1880-1960) was a prominent Terre Haute physician and hospital administrator.  A native of Mulberry, Indiana, Combs earned his AB degree from Indiana University in 1900, followed by a medical degree from the Medical College of Indiana in 1903.  He did post-graduate work at Harvard Medical College and at Flower Hospital in Toledo. 

After graduation from medical school, Dr. Combs began his practice in Terre Haute in 1903.  His career as an anesthetist continued for more than half a century.  He joined the staff of Union Hospital in 1904 and was associated with that institution until his retirement.  Combs was secretary of the medical staff for one year and served as president in 1921.  As a hospital administrator, Combs was superintendent of Union Hospital from 1910 to 1941 and its medical director from 1941 to 1948.  He was also a founder of the Associated Physicians and Surgeons Clinic.

Dr. Combs was active in several medical organizations at both the state and local level.  During his career he was a member of the Vigo County Medical Society, the Terre Haute Academy of Medicine, and the Aesculapian Society of the Wabash Valley, and had served as president of all three professional organizations at some point.  He was secretary of the Indiana State Medical Association for fifteen years and was a member of the editorial board of their journal for two terms.  Combs was a fellow of the American College of Anesthesiologists and served as president of the Midwestern Association of Anesthetists in 1929.  He was made an honorary member of the Indiana Society of Anesthesiologists in 1950.

During his years of active practice, Dr. Combs contributed many articles to medical publications.  He also completed The History of Medicine in Vigo County, Indiana, 1818-1951 (with a second edition covering 1818-1959), a history of the Aesculapian Society and a history of Union Hospital.  Combs was closely associated with the local community theatre where he appeared in numerous productions.  In 1954 he published The History of the Community Theatre of Terre Haute, Indiana, 1926-1953.

Note:  Charles N. Combs was the father of another prominent Terre Haute physician,  Stuart Combs (1911-1973) whose signature is on some of the letters in this collection.

Combs was an active member of the following organizations:

Vigo County Medical Society 

The first meeting date of the Society is unknown; the earliest authenticated meeting date is 1846.  At that time, the population of Terre Haute was 2,500 and there were approximately twelve doctors in town.  The Society was continuously active until the outbreak of the Civil War.   After the war, the Society met infrequently.  It was rehabilitated in l874 as the Terre Haute Medical Society.  The name was changed to the Vigo County Medical Society in September 1876.  Meetings were first held in doctors' offices, but since 1927 they have been held at one of the two hospitals.  Beginning in 1911, guest speakers were invited to present programs at the meetings.

Terre Haute Academy of Medicine

The Terre Haute Academy of Medicine was founded in 1921.  It grew out of a concern that Union Hospital doctors were dominating the Vigo County Medical Society.  The Academy became one of the most influential societies in fostering continuous post-graduate education of the profession and it promoted the support of physicians outside of the Terre Haute community as guest speakers.  In 1939, the Vigo County Medical Society and the Terre Haute Academy of Medicine merged, with the Academy now being known as the Post-Graduate Section of the Vigo County Medical Society.  Any member of the Society could automatically become a member of the Academy simply by paying his/her annual dues.  In 1950, after 29 years, the Terre Haute Academy of Medicine folded.

Fifth District Medical Society

The Fifth District Medical Society was the regional part of the State Medical Association and comprised the counties of Vigo, Parke, Vermillion, Putnam and Clay.  Because of the well-established Aesculapian Society of the Wabash Valley, the Fifth District did not do as well as the other Districts of Indiana.  The first meetings were held in 1909; the meetings were held twice a year until about 1918.  Then the meetings became irregular, but were held at least once every three years.  Finally, meetings were held each spring and each fall.

Aesculapian Society of the Wabash Valley 

In 1846, a few local physicians met in Lawrenceville, Illinois to organize a medical society for the purpose of "exchanging views, sharpening their professional wits and bringing about closer professional relations."  (Proceedings, Volume 1, page 1)  The original founders were Dr. David Adams, Dr. J. M. Boyle, Dr. Elisha C. Banks, and Dr. Charles M. Hamilton.  Although first incorporated as the Lawrenceville Aesculapian Medical Society, the organization gradually grew in membership and influence and its name changed (circa 1893-94) to the Aesculapian Society of the Wabash Valley to more aptly describe its geographic representation. 

During the Civil War, many members of the Aesculapian Society served as surgeons in the Union Army.  In the late nineteenth century, the organization worked with the Illinois State Legislature to enact a State Board of Health to regulate the practice of medicine and to provide for the registration of births and deaths. 

By 1903, the Society had 241 members which included the following counties:  Crawford, Clark, Edgar, Vermillion, Champaign, Douglas, Coles, Cumberland, Jasper, Effingham, Shelby and Moultrie in Illinois; Sullivan, Vigo, Vermillion and Parke in Indiana.  The Society held two formal meetings each year - the Annual meeting in Paris, Illinois in October and the Semi-Annual Meeting in different designated cities in May. Members presented papers on physicians' daily practice and on current issues in medicine. As of May 28, 1903, the publications committee decided to publish the papers delivered at the Society's annual and semi-annual meetings.  

In the year 2002, the Aesculapian Society of the Wabash Valley continues to be an active professional organization for area physicians.

Content and Scope of Collection

The items in this collection relate to Dr. Charles N. Combs' activities as a member and officer in various local medical societies.  

Document Case 1





Folder 1

Vigo County Medical Society: Constitution and bylaws

1903, 1908


Vigo County Medical Society: Constitution and bylaws






Terre Haute Academy of Medicine:  bylaws



Terre Haute Academy of Medicine: bylaws





Envelope 1

Vigo County Medical Society:  Postcard
   invitations/announcements to Dr. C. N.  Combs

1904, 1905, 1907
  1910, 1915,




Folder 2

Terre Haute Academy of Medicine:
  Invitations to regular meetings    

Oct. 31, 1949
Sept. 29, 1952




Envelope 2

Terre Haute Academy of Medicine:
  Programs of annual meetings

1933, 1936, 1937




Envelope 3

Programs of joint meetings:

  Terre Haute Academy of Medicine

  Vigo County Medical Society

  Fifth District Medical Society

  Aesculapian Society of the Wabash Valley





Envelope 4

Programs for banquets and dinners

1902, 1904, 1906, 1908, 1909, 1925, 1926, 1928




Envelope 5

Vigo County Medical Society:  Monthly bulletins   

  1934, 1935




Envelope 6

Vigo County Medical Society:  Programs
  of annual banquets 

1897-1948 [missing dates]


Programs for certain years

1898, 1905-1907,




Envelope 7

 Fifth District Medical Society:  Program
  of meeting






Vigo County Medical Society and Terre
  Haute Science Club:  Invitation to a public meeting





Folder 3

Items from an old scrapbook:

 (includes Fifth District Medical Society programs; Vigo County Medical Society programs, fee bill, clippings and humor)

1906, 1908-1914
  1921, 1930, 1932
  1933, 1949, 1950,