The Sacks Collection of the American West
Call No. MS FM MSS 155
Benjamin Sacks was a Johns Hopkins trained physician known for his contributions to the medical literature in cardiac pathology. When his medical career was cut short by ill health, Dr. Sacks turned his research talents and intellectual rigor to the history of the American West.
For the next 20 years, Dr. Sacks created the most extensive annotated bibliography known to exist on the history of Territorial Arizona and the borderlands. His work is considered a masterpiece of historical investigation and exposition.
About the Collection
Stored in four card catalogs, the index includes over 50,000 hand-written, cross-referenced, index cards. One of the distinguishing hallmarks of this index is its comprehensiveness. Dr. Sacks indefatigably searched out relevant, obscure sources in research libraries and archives across the nation, fastidiously examining hundreds of thousands of pages of obscure periodicals, U.S. government publications, government archival records and unindexed newspapers.
The very scope and variety of sources is unusual. Topics include changing border relations with Mexico, Confederate occupation of Southwestern lands, migrations of peoples to Arizona, military and civilian relations with Indians, exploitation and stewardship of natural resources, beginnings of Western towns, frontier law enforcement, railroad development, mining and famous and obscure individuals.
The index cards, which anchor this collection, were among first “exhibits” Sacks created for his own use. The cards are housed in old-fashioned card catalogs. What we see in the index card arrangement today is largely the product of an anonymous “bright young woman.” It would appear that this was completed during Fireman’s tenure. Fireman contributed his own cards to Sacks and regularly sent him packets to add to the existing files.
The card catalog is available in the AHF reading room and is organized into four sections: Biography, Subjects, Place Names, and Newspapers. The index cards include citations to books, newspapers, journals, correspondence, government documents, personal papers, maps, theses, microfilm and more. This collection includes copies of many, but not all, of the source material cited on the cards.
An online database is under construction to link source material with the index cards. This is made possible by grants from the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation and the H.W. Wilson Foundation.
This includes copies of primary and secondary sources, hand-written research notes, annotated bibliographies as well as microfilm. There are a few original documents from the 1800s such as cashed checks, mortuary notes and two issues of the Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. The source material is in good condition. Note that previously non-indexed source material has been integrated from the Sacks Manuscript Collection. Most of the material has been interfiled within existing folders such as newspapers. When necessary new folders were created, i.e. Herman Ehrenberg within Biography Files.
Some source material is contained on microfilm reels. Primarily government documents and newspapers, the microfilm also includes personal papers, theses, maps, and company correspondence. The reels have been integrated into the AHF Microfilm Collection
- TITLE: Benjamin Sacks Manuscript Collection
- DATE RANGE: 1921-1971
- CALL NUMBER: FM MSS #110
- PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: 3.5 linear feet
- PROVENANCE: Donated posthumously by Benjamin Sacks, 1971
- COPYRIGHT: The Arizona Historical Foundation owns the copyright to this collection.
- RESTRICTIONS: This collection is unrestricted.
- CREDIT LINE: Benjamin Sacks Manuscript Collection, MSS #110, Arizona Historical Foundation
- PROCESSED BY: Linda A. Whitaker, July 2009
- BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Benjamin Sacks was born on August 14th, 1896. He graduated from high school in three years and entered college at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, earning recognition as a Phi Beta Kappa for devotion to learning. Sacks advanced his education at Johns Hopkins in the School of Medicine. After he earned his M.D. in 1922, he began his career at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.
In 1923, Sacks, along with partner Dr. Emanuel Libman, discovered an uncommon heart ailment called the Libman-Sacks Syndrome reported in approximately 50% of fatal lupus cases. Sacks’ work earned him respect and praise from the medical community. He was described by peers and supervisors as an extraordinarily able teacher and exceptionally well trained for investigative work.
Due to failing health and unable to continue the rigors of medicine in the 1950s, Dr. Sacks turned to the movie industry where he served as a technical advisor. Sacks worked with actors including Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, and Barry Fitzgerald. Known for his attention to detail, Sacks created film sets that were identical to a real hospital or doctor’s office.
Over time, his interests shifted towards the study of history and genealogy of the American West. His correspondence with repositories and pioneering families eventually led him to Barry Goldwater. Sacks brought a scientific mind to his historical pursuits – a level of detail and intellectual inquiry more commonly found in a hospital laboratory. His research notes are a case in point. Sacks urged historians and repositories to take a more analytical approach to primary sources. He believed there were many more facts to be discovered about Territorial Arizona – a history partially obscured by myth and romance. See Sacks Collection of the American West .
In 1964, Sacks published Be It Enacted: the Creation of the Territory of Arizona described a masterpiece of historical investigation and exposition for which he received the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History. In 1970, Sacks released his second book, Arizona’s Angry Man: United States Marshal Milton B. Duffield. His abiding interest, however, was Herman Ehrenberg. Years of exhaustive research did not result in a book publication.
Dr. Benjamin Sacks died on May 2, 1971 with boxes of historical documents at his bedside – a researcher to the very end.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE:
Original order is unknown. This collection has been re-processed and weeded of non- manuscript materials, miscellaneous research notes, and other documents that are now embedded within the Sacks Collection of the American West. Folder titles largely reflect the originals. Where possible, documents are arranged chronologically within each folder.
Sacks’ personal correspondence and writings span 50 years representing various phases of his professional life – physician, pathologist and medical researcher; screen consultant and script writer; historian. Very little biographical material remains. Background notes for Sacks’ historical writings are extensive. The Bert Fireman correspondence is voluminous providing lengthy discussions of discoveries found on numerous research trips. See the Bert Fireman Collection.
ARRANGEMENT: Arranged in four series and alphabetically within:
- I. Personal – includes many photographs from the Hollywood years;
- II. Correspondence – organized by sender, topic; or repository;
- III. Writings – includes speeches as well as published and unpublished works; and Publications – organized by topic, includes many difficult to locate journal articles and documents.
|1||1||Personal, Biographical Materials (includes news clippings and Fireman’s press release of Sacks’ death)||1956-1971|
|2||Personal, Photographs Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History||1964|
|3||Personal, Photographs “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife” (movie set with Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert)||1938|
|4||Personal, Photographs Medical Colleagues and Classmates||1886-1910|
|5||Personal, Photographs “Miss Susie Slagle’s” (movie set with Sonny Tufts, Joan Caulfield, Lillian Gish, Veronica Lake, Renny||1944|
|McEvoy, Lloyd Bridges, and others; movie released in 1946)|
|6||Personal, Photographs Movie Stars (various; some autographed)||1938-1940s|
|7||Personal, Photographs “People Will Talk” (movie set with Gary Cooper and Jeanne Crain)||1947|
|8||Personal, Photographs Various (includes unidentified photos)||1940s-1966|
“Welcome Stranger” (movie set with Joan Caulfield, Bing Crosby, Wanda Hendrix)
|10||Correspondence, Abajian, James de T. (California Historical Society)||1953-1969|
|11||Correspondence, Altshuler, Constance Wynn||1966-1967|
|12||Correspondence, Arizona Pioneers Historical Society||1964-1968|
|13||Correspondence, Barrick, Nona (see also Taylor, Mary)||1962-1966|
|14||Correspondence, Brainard, Margaret||1966|
|15||Correspondence, Brinckerhoff, Sidney B. (Arizona Pioneers Historical Society)||1964-1970|
|16||Correspondence, Butler, Frank (motion picture industry)||1951-1956|
|17||Correspondence, Casebier, Dennis (includes photo)||1969|
|18||Correspondence, Casebier, Dennis||1970|
|19||Correspondence, Casebier, Dennis||1971|
|20||Correspondence, Cleveland, June||1954|
|2||1||Correspondence, Critiques of Dr. Sacks’ Lecture on Herman Ehrenberg||1967|
|2||Correspondence, Davenport, Harbert||1955-1956|
|3||Correspondence, Ehrenberg, Herman (Professor Günter Mönch)||1940-1956|
|4||Correspondence, Ehrenberg, Herman||1952|
|5||Correspondence, Ehrenberg, Herman||1953-1954|
|6||Correspondence, Ehrenberg, Herman||1955|
|7||Correspondence, Ehrenberg Project||1960s|
|8||Correspondence, Finch, Boyd||1966-1968|
|9||Correspondence, Fireman, Bert (Arizona Historical Foundation)||1954-1959|
|10||Correspondence, Fireman, Bert (Arizona Historical Foundation)||1961|
|11||Correspondence, Fireman, Bert (Arizona Historical Foundation)||1962|
|3||1||Correspondence, Fireman, Bert (Arizona Historical Foundation)||1963|
|2||Correspondence, Fireman, Bert (Arizona Historical Foundation)||1964-1965|
|3||Correspondence, Fireman, Bert (Arizona Historical Foundation)||1966|
|4||Correspondence, Fireman, Bert (Arizona Historical Foundation)||1967|
|5||Correspondence, Fireman, Bert (Arizona Historical Foundation)||1968-1971|
|6||Correspondence, Fireman, Bert (Arizona Historical Foundation)||n.d.|
|7||Correspondence, Goldwater, Barry M.||1955|
|8||Correspondence, Goldwater, Barry M.||1956-1969|
|9||Correspondence, Hall, Martin H.||1965-1971|
|10||Correspondence, Harte, John Bret (Arizona Historical Foundation)||1967-1969|
|11||Correspondence, Henson, Pauline||1963-1970|
|12||Correspondence, Hinton, Harwood P.||1964|
|13||Correspondence, Hoxie, Frances||1966|
|14||Correspondence, Hufford, Kenneth||1966-1969|
|15||Correspondence, Inscore, Ray P.||1969-1970|
|16||Correspondence, Melendy, Howard B.||1953|
|4||1||Correspondence, Motion Picture Industry (includes news clippings and magazines)||1936-1954|
|2||Correspondence, Murray, Richard Y.||1965-1971|
|3||Correspondence, Shields, Mark A.||1963|
|4||Correspondence, Southwest Museum||1952-1960|
|5||Correspondence, Taylor, Mary||1962-1966|
|6||Correspondence, Texas State Library Archives Division||1955-1956|
|7||Correspondence, Wallace, Edward S.||1957-1961|
|8||Correspondence, Yount, Florence B.||1967-1971|
|13||Correspondence, G||1933, 1965|
|23||Correspondence, V-W (includes unidentified correspondents)||1953-1970|
|24||Writings, “A Hitherto Undescribed Form of Valvular and Mural Endocarditis (Transactions of theAssociation of American Physicians)||1923|
|25||Writings, “A Standardized Procedure Suggested for Microscopic Studies of the Heart with Observations on Rheumatic Hearts” (Archives of Pathology)||December 1930|
|26||Writings, “Atypical Verrucous Endocarditis” (Proceedings of the New York Pathological Society)|
|27||Writings, “Arizona Silver for a Tiffany Inkstand: Poston’s Gift to President Lincoln”||n.d.|
|28||Writings, Arizona’s Angry Man: U.S. Marshall Milton B. Duffield (notes) 1 of 3||n.d.|
|29||Writings, Arizona’s Angry Man: U.S. Marshall Milton B. Duffield (notes) 2 of 3||n.d.|
|5||1||Writings, Arizona’s Angry Man: U.S. Marshall Milton B. Duffield (notes) 3 of 3||n.d.|
|2||Writings, Be It Enacted: The Creation of the Territory of Arizona||n.d.|
|3||Writings, Be It Enacted: The Creation of the Territory of Arizona (Part II)||n.d.|
|4||Writings, Be It Enacted: The Creation of the Territory of Arizona (references and footnotes)||n.d.|
|5||Writings, Be It Enacted: The Creation of the Territory of Arizona (notes, memos) 1 of 3||n.d.|
|6||Writings, Be It Enacted: The Creation of the Territory of Arizona (notes, memos) 2 of 3||n.d.|
|7||Writings, Be It Enacted: The Creation of the Territory of Arizona (notes) 3 of 3||n.d.|
|8||Writings, Be It Enacted: The Creation of the Territory of Arizona (reviews)||1963-1965|
|9||Writings, “Be It Enacted: The Tale Behind the Book||n.d.|
|10||Writings, “Charles DeBrille Poston Prince of Pioneers”||n.d.|
Writings, “Columbo the Magnificent” (plot proposal
for movie film; includes correspondence with co-author John Fante)
|12||Writings, “Dr. Napoleon” (film script)||n.d.|
|13||Writings, “Episcleritis – A New Method of Approach” (Archives of Opthalmology)||1921|
|6||1||Writings, “Herman Ehrenberg 1816-1866”||n.d.|
|2||Writings, Introduction for Fred Allen (spoof)||n.d.|
|3||Writings, “Little Top” (plot proposal for movie film)||n.d.|
|4||Writings, “Milton B. Duffield First U.S. Marshall of Arizona: Fanatical Censor of the Territorial||n.d.|
|5||Writings, On Dr. Stewart Halsted||n.d.|
|7||Writings, “Proclamation in the Wilderness: The Salary Clause in the Territorial Act with a Note on Illegal Payments to Gov. Goodwin” (The Journal of Arizona History)||Fall 1964|
|8||Writings, Radio Script (spoof advertisement)||circa 1941|
|9||Writings, Sacks’ Review of John Spring’s Arizona by A.M. Gustafson||1966|
|10||Writings, Sack’s Review of Early Arizona by Jay Wagoner||1970|
|11||Writings, Speech on Pursuing Arizona History||n.d.|
|12||Writings, Speech on Territorial Law (notes, drafts) 1 of 4||1968|
|13||Writings, Speech on Territorial Law (notes, drafts) 2 of 4||1968|
|14||Writings, Speech on Territorial Law (notes, drafts) 3 of 4||1968|
|15||Writings, Speech on Territorial Law (notes, articles, drafts) 4 of 4||1968|
|16||Writings, “Sylvester Mowry: Artillery Man, Libertine, and Entrepreneur” (drafts)||n.d.|
|7||1||Writings, “The Case Illustrating the Leucocytosis of Progressive Myocardial Necrosis Following Coronary Artery Thrombosis” (The American Heart Journal)||February 1927|
|2||Writings, “The Disturbances of the Cardiac Mechanism in Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis and Rheumatic Fever” (The American Heart Journal)||April 1927|
|3||Writings, “The History of the Founding of Fort Buchanan” (drafts, notes)||n.d.|
|4||Writings, “The History of the Founding of Fort Buchanan: The Facts and the Myth”||n.d.|
|5||Writings, “The History of the Founding of Fort Buchanan in the Gadsden Purchase:||n.d.|
|6||Writings, “The Long Nightmare” (plot proposal for movie film; John Fante co-author)||n.d.|
|7||Writings, “The Occurrence of Glomerulonephritis in Association with Verrucous Endocarditis” (Proceedings of the New York Pathological Society)||January-May 1923|
|8||Writings, “The Pathology of Rheumatic Fever. A Critical Review” (The American Heart Journal)||August 1926|
|9||Writings, “The Reticulo-endothelial System” (Pathological Reviews)||July 1926|
|10||Writings, “The Riddle of Herman Ehrenberg”||circa 1955|
|(unpublished; drafts, citations, notes)|
|11||Writings, “Under the Gun” (plot proposal for movie film)||1948|
|12||Writings, “Were Salaries Paid to Arizona’s First Officials Contrary to Law?”||n.d.|
|13||Writings, Westerners Speech||n.d.|
|14||Publications, Arizona History (various)||1868-1964|
|15||Publications, California History (various)||1889-1966|
|16||Publications, “Government in the Territories” (speech by Senator John A. Dix of New York)||1848|
|17||Publications, Massachusetts and the West (various)||1843-1966|
|18||Publications, Texas History (various)||1841-1939|
|19||Publications. “To Repeal the Fugitive Slave Bill: (speech by Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts||1852|
Benjamin Sacks Biography
Benjamin Sacks was born on August 14th, 1896. He graduated from high school in three years, and began his collegiate career at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, earning recognition as a Phi Beta Kappa for devotion to learning.
Sacks advanced his education at Johns Hopkins in the School of Medicine. After he earned his M.D., he became licensed to practice medicine in 1922 in the State of New York. His career began at The Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.
In 1923, Sacks, along with partner Dr. Emanuel Libman, discovered an uncommon heart ailment called the Libman-Sacks Syndrome.(1) This particular type of heart ailment is reported postmortem in approximately 50% of fatal lupus cases.
Sacks’ work at The Mount Sinai Hospital earned him respect and praise from the medical community. Louis Gross, M.D., the Director of Laboratories for Mount Sinai, had this to say about Dr. Benjamin Sacks in a letter of recommendation to United States Surgeon General Hugh S. Cumming:
|Dr. Sacks is a man of striking personality. He is what is called a “natural born leader of men.” He is an extraordinarily able teacher and is a constant stimulus to those about him. He is exceptionally well trained for investigative work.(2)|
In the earley 1950’s Dr. Sacks served as a technical advisor on for the movie industry. By 1959, he had moved to Los Angeles. Sacks worked with actors including Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, and Barry Fitzgerald. Dr. Benjamin Sacks was known for his attention to detail, creating sets that were identical to a real hospital or doctor’s office.
|[Sacks] was flattered when a Los Angeles medico visited the set [of ‘People Will Talk’, a medical drama starring Cary Grant], scrutinized everything with a critical eye, and then said, “All right, wheel the patient in. I am ready.” (3)|
Sacks was an essential part of any production team he served. When asked what his job entailed, Sacks said, “I start with the story and make certain the dialogue shapes up correctly from a physician’s point of view. I talk over the backgrounds with the art department, look at costumes for both men and women, and work closely with the property department to see that every detail matches real life.”
In the mid-1950’s, Sacks fell victim to failing health, and was forced to stop practicing medicine. He continued his role as a technical advisor to the film studios. His interests shifted towards the study of history, and Sacks found himself engaged in researching the Southwest, specifically Arizona. He was captivated by the years 1850 to 1875, when Arizona became a Territory after ceding from Mexico as a result of the Mexican-American War. For close to 20 years, he traveled the country and searched in repositories great and small.
Dr. Sacks went about his research much like a detective would go about solving a crime, piecing together new hypotheses and theories while collecting data and pieces of the puzzle. He thought about his work while driving in his car, and even when lying in bed.(4)
In 1959, Dr. Sacks met with Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater and Phoenix historian Bert Fireman in Washington, D.C. Out of this meeting was born the Arizona Historical Foundation, an institution “dedicated to preserving Arizona’s rich political, business and legal history.”(5) Goldwater was founder and the original president, Fireman executive director, and Sacks historical consultant.
Sacks’ desire was to see the historical societies in Arizona take a more scholarly approach to analyzing their state’s rich history, and to focus on answering new questions that had yet to be considered.
In 1964, Sacks published his first book about the history of Arizona. Entitled “Be It Enacted: the Creation of the Territory of Arizona,” Sacks delved into the Library of Congress archives and spent countless hours mining the country for information on the pioneers of the Arizona Territory.
His work “will be long remembered in Arizona as a masterpiece of historical investigation and exposition,” believed John Alexander Carroll, then a Professor of History at the University of Arizona.(6) The exhaustive research received an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Loral History.
In 1970, Sacks released his second book, “Arizona’s Angry Man: United States Marshal Milton B. Duffield.” In the foreword, Senator Goldwater praised Sacks for his exceptional research. The study was the result of
|relentless research and astute scholarship of B. Sacks, retired physician and Historical Consultant of the [Arizona Historical] Foundation, who for two decades has devoted his entire energies to research into a multitude of problems in the early Territorial history of Arizona. At the same time he has been of willing and erudite assistance to many scholars, both within and outside our universities and state, offering advice and in many instances providing access to the remarkable research material he has accumulated.(7)|
This wealth of knowledge, now known as The Sacks Collection of the American West, is located at the Arizona Historical Foundation in the Hayden Library on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University.
A perfectionist in every sense of the word, Sacks compiled note cards containing bits of information, and filed them by subject in an exceptionally large card catalog. Many of the cards have a stamped number on them, which can be traced to the Manuscript Collection. Sacks often copied primary documents by hand, and filed them in boxes to keep his research in order. The attention to detail is an unusual, remarkable quality that is often not seen in collections of this size.
Dr. Benjamin Sacks died on May 2nd, 1971. His achievements will continue to enrich the lives of those who seek his knowledge, and the body of research he left behind will support generations of avid historians of Arizona.
Cory Williams is a senior at Arizona State University. His interests include European history and American Manifest Destiny. He is also captivated by Wall Street, and would like to be a politician in the future.
(Cory standing in front of the Sacks card catalogs.)
1. Libman, Emanuel and Benjamin Sacks. A Hitherto Undescribed Form of Valvular and Mural Endocarditis. New York: Transactions of the Association of American Physicians, 1923.
2. Gross, Louis, and Hugh S. Cumming. Letter. Sacks Manuscript Collection, Arizona Historical Foundation, Tempe.
3. Redelings, Lowell E. “Men Behind the Scenes.” Hollywood Citizen News 9 April 1951.
6. Carroll, John Alexander. Introduction to Be It Enacted: the Creation of the Territory of Arizona, by B. Sacks, M.D., vi-x. Phoenix: Arizona Historical Foundation, 1964.
7.Goldwater, Barry. Foreword to Arizona’s Angry Man: United States Marshal Milton B. Duffield, by B. Sacks, M.D., i. Phoenix: Arizona Historical Foundation, 1970.