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  • Part 4: 1920's Financial Crisis

  • Throughout the 1920s, the RSNA obtained revenue from [i]Radiology[/i] advertisers, from commercial exhibitors who rented floor space during the annual meeting, and from members' dues. This was barely enough to cover expenses. Then, on October 29, the stock market collapsed, and the United States entered the worst economic depression in its history.

    Chemical Foundation Subsidizes Radiology 

    RSNA leaders believed that it was important for Radiology to continue publication in spite of the tremendous economic hardships facing the Society. In 1930, the Publicity and Educational Committee asked for $1,200 for the journal to keep "radiological information trickling through the country," and the Executive Committee, led by President Robert J. May, MD, was determined to grant the request (1).

    At that time, a nonprofit organization, called the Chemical Foundation, with large assets resulting from the seizure of German dye patents during World War I, offered to support the journal financially in exchange for the complete publication of original articles and abstracts of the world literature on cancer.

    RSNA Executive Committee members had misgivings over this arrangement, remembering when the RSNA lost control of its Journal of Radiology a decade earlier. Yet, because of the Society's economic straits, the Executive Committee accepted the offer. Consequently, the size and scope of Radiology were greatly enlarged.

    As the months passed, the Chemical Foundation began making other demands on the RSNA. Eventually, the Chemical Foundation proposed that the bylaws of the Society be superseded by a new constitution that would have destroyed the democratic ideals on which the RSNA had been based. In addition, the Chemical Foundation wanted the RSNA managed by a small governing body and a single executive officer (2). When RSNA leaders rejected this proposal, the Chemical Foundation withdrew its support of Radiology.

    Rise of Dr Childs 

    With the Chemical Foundation's support gone, the RSNA's economic struggles worsened. To the credit of the RSNA Executive Committee and 1931 Society President and former Journal of Roentgenology Editor, Bundy Allen, MD, the RSNA continued to publish Radiology and held its annual meeting in St Louis. Nevertheless, the limited funds threatened to destabilize the RSNA.

    In the middle of this crisis arose one of the most important figures in RSNA history, Donald Smythe Childs, MD. Born in Syracuse, NY, in 1888, Dr Childs graduated from medical school in 1909 and hoped to become an orthopedist. In his spare time, he pursued a hobby in photography. By 1914, he had been asked by Robert B. Osgood, MD, who founded the Osgood Orthopedic Clinic in Boston and was aware of Dr Child's interests, to repair x-ray equipment at the clinic. Later, Dr Childs joined the Army Medical Corps during World War I and, based on his experience at the Osgood Clinic, was assigned to Fort Sam Houston as the "x-ray man." After the war, he returned to Syracuse to practice radiology and osteology (3).

    Dr Child's initial contributions to the RSNA were recognized by Society members in 1927 when he was elected second vice-president of the Society. After the Chemical Foundation withdrew its support for Radiology, Dr Childs was made the journal's business manager. In 1932, under the RSNA presidency of Francis Carter Wood, MD, Dr Childs became the RSNA secretary-treasurer. He replaced Isadore S. Trostler, MD, a charter member of the Western Roentgen Society, who had been an officer of the RSNA since its inception. During the 1930s, RSNA presidents such as Byron H. Jackson, MD, W. Herbert McGuffin, MD, Lloyd J. Bryan, MD, and Thomas A. Burcham, MD helped the Society through the Depression, but it was Dr Childs, working in the background, who made the critical decisions that saved the RSNA from economic disaster.

    An Executive Director and a Permanent Headquarters 

    Dr Childs believed the work of the RSNA had become too involved and complicated to be handled in piecemeal fashion by Society leaders at their respective offices, with the occasional assistance of their spouses. Through mutual friends, he approached Marguerite Hogan, a single woman who worked in the advertising department of a commercial service company, and tried to persuade her to oversee publication of Radiology and the day-to-day management of the RSNA. However, Marguerite was planning to get married and would not accept his offer until after her wedding. Consequently, Marguerite Hogan Henry became the first executive secretary, later called the executive director of the RSNA. Next, Dr Childs set up the first official headquarters of the Society in an office in Syracuse where Marguerite would be working.

    The first task for Dr Childs and Marguerite was to save the floundering journal Radiology. Without the subsidy from the Chemical Foundation, its publication from month to month was questionable. With the permission of the Society's Executive Committee, Dr Childs and Marguerite searched for a company that would print and mail Radiology to all RSNA members at a reasonable price.

    After prolonged discussions with Society leaders, a small company in Easton, PA, Mack Printing, was selected for the job. Meanwhile, Dr Hubeny, who thought he was going to be the Radiology editor for only 3 years when he took the job in 1923, retired in 1931. Leon J. Menville, MD, from New Orleans, LA, succeeded Dr Hubeny, and became the new editor of Radiology.

    According to Marguerite, the survival of Radiology was a tribute to Dr Childs. "He was a business man, with a keen mind and the ability to evaluate human nature," she once said. "His inherent honesty, fair play, and outgoing personality were superb attributes" (2).

    Dr Childs also turned his attention to the RSNA annual meeting. With meticulous care, he evaluated each potential meeting site and, with Marguerite's help, planned the event so it would be, above all, cost effective. He also scheduled each meeting during the last week of November to obtain the best convention rates for the RSNA and its members. As a result, the Society held an educational meeting each year throughout the 1930s, convening in cities such as Memphis, Detroit, and Cincinnati. The annual meeting also periodically returned to Chicago where Dr Childs believed the venue offering the best rates was the Palmer House in the city's Loop. Consequently, the RSNA held its annual meeting in the Palmer House for the first time in 1933.

    References 

    1. Report from the Publicity and Educational Committee to the RSNA Executive Committee, 1930.
    2. Erskine AW. Personal communication to Howard P. Doub, MD.
    3. Childs, DS. Personal communication to Theodore J. Wachowski, MD.
    4. Henry M. Personal communication to Theodore J. Wachowski, MD
    Donald Smythe Childs, MD
    Marguerite Hogan Henry
    Max J. Hubeny, MD