On the second trip we took to the National Archives, I had much more success than last time. One particular file of interest was on J.W. Tappan, the chief medical examiner at El Paso. It seems to be an extensive personnel record that includes details about him being dispatched to Eagle Pass to investigate a misdiagnosis issue—a Doctor Hume was apparently diagnosing healthy people with Trachoma. Sumner also came across this same incident; if we were able to find more on this it could be an excellent case study. As of right now we don’t have any evidence of whether the misdiagnoses were accidental or malicious (the files we have are from before Tappan’s visit to Eagle Pass, before he could actually investigate); either way it could provide useful data. In the event that it was accidental, we could glean some knowledge about the evolving nature of medical tests—Sumner’s file mentioned something about how it might be necessary to administer different tests, since Hume’s tests were returning false positives. If it was malicious, it could provide details on how nativism negatively affected immigrants. Either way it is evidence that false positives occurred. If it was malicious I suspect that we might not find much more on the subject; preliminary research on Hume suggests that he held his position at Eagle Pass until his death, so he wasn’t punished for anything, and it is impossible to prove intent without confession. The box that this file came from also has a great deal of other files on doctors working along the border, so it might be worth pulling again to potentially provide a more holistic understanding of medical examinations.
Citation for File of Interest:
Comissioner-General, Washington, DC, to Surgeon General, Washington, DC, July 23, 1912, File 51836/14, Subject Correspondence, 1906-1932, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington, DC).