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Rush University Medical Center Archives: Central Free Dispensary, 1873-1961

Welcome to the Rush University Medical Center Archives. The Rush Archives, a department of the Library of Rush University Medical Center, is the official archival agency of Rush University Medical Center and Rush University.



  • Central Free Dispensary, Harrison St.1873: The Central Free Dispensary was founded in 1873, and served as a free clinic for patients on the west side of Chicago. The Central Free Dispensary began after the Great Fire of 1871 by combining the efforts of the Herrick Free Dispensary, est. 1871, and the Brainard Dispensary, est. 1868. The new united dispensary was incorporated in 1873 with a fund of $11,000. This fund was loaned to the Rush Medical College to help with the cost of a new college building at the corner of Wood and Harrison streets. In exchange for rooms, the dispensary contracted to make its medical facilities available to the College for medical education. The union of the two institutions gave the sick poor of Chicago access to medical care and provided the college with patients for the teaching program. 
  • 1940s: The Central Free Dispensary became the outpatient service for Presbyterian Hospital in the 1940s.
  • 1961: The Central Free Dispensary became the Presbyterian-St. Luke's Health Center.

Several items from the Central Free Dispensary Records, #4761, have been digitized and are available online.

  • Annual Reports, Central Free Dispensary 
  • Because of the Central Free Dispensary's close relationship with Rush Medical College, please explore the Rush Medical College collections tab above for further information regarding the history of the clinic.

Using the Rush Archives

Rush Archives Service Hours: 

The Rush Archives offers on-site services one day a week. Often, we can assist researchers using digital resources.

Please explore this webpage and our online resources before contacting the Rush Archives for assistance.

Summer 2022 Update: We will have limited appointment availabilities this summer but will try our best to accommodate researchers.

Ask the Archives buttonContact the Archivist: 

Submit Request to Nathalie Wheaton, MSLS, Archivist: Ask the Rush Archives

Note for researchers: Internal reference requests are given precedence. External requests will be addressed as time allows. However, our website will lead you to a number of digital resources from the Rush Archives that may meet your information needs.

Visiting the Rush Archives: In-person visits from researchers must be approved by the archivist ahead of time.

Location: 1700 W. Van Buren Street, Suite 086, Chicago, IL 60612.

Using our Material in your Publication/Exhibit/Presentation: Contact the Archivist for a Permission to Publish form and fee table.

Citing our Collections: Footnotes or captions should indicate the collection or other identifying information from our finding aids. Please contact the Archivist for more information. Basic format for citation:

[Identification of item], in the [Name of Collection] [Collection Number], Rush University Medical Center Archives, Chicago, Ill.

Looking for Medical Records/Patient Records? Visit Rush University Medical Center's Health Information Management Office.

Looking for Student Records/Transcripts? Visit Rush University's Office of the Registrar.

Looking for Verification/Credentials for Residency or Fellowship Programs? Visit Graduate Medical Education.

Looking for Birth, Death or other Vital Records? Visit the Illinois Department of Public Health.

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