THE WILLIAM AND MAMIE BACKENSTOE AFRICAN MEDICAL MISSIONARY ARCHIVE
Natal, South Africa and Portuguese Mozambique: 1903-1932. A collection of photographs, postcards, medicines, and personal artifacts belonging to Dr. William A. Backenstoe of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and his wife Mamie Backenstoe of Windsor, New York, who worked as medical missionaries under the auspices of the Free Methodist Church of North America in Natal, South Africa and Portuguese Mozambique between 1903 and 1932.
1. Approximately 948 photographs relating directly to the Backenstoes’ time in Africa between 1903 and approximately 1932, including their journey from the United States, their travels in Africa, their homes and work in Inhambane, Edwaleni, and Izingolweni, and the communities within within which they lived and worked. Photographs vary significantly in size, from w 8.5 in x h 6.5 in to w 1.5 in x h 0.75 in. BG consignment.
a. A photograph album dating from the early years of the Backenstoes’ time in South Africa, including 110 photographs with handwritten captions dated between 1902 and 1905. (Several photographs in this album appear to be gifts from other people, as the 1902 date suggests). Good-. Light rubbing to spine and corners of binding; binding splitting in several places; photographs and pages with at least light to light+ age-toning, but some photographs with significant age-toning.
b. A photograph album dated 1906 with the dedication “To My Dear Mother / Wishing you a Merry / Christmas. / 1906,” apparently dating from the Backenstoe’s residence in Inhambane. The album contains 69 photographs with handwritten captions, mostly affixed to the pages of the album but with some loose photographs tucked between the leaves. Good+, with some minor wear and insect damage to album binding. Some photographs loose or loosening; all photographs and pages with light to light+ age-toning.
c. A photograph album containing 84 photographs. The photos with dated inscriptions are largely from the years 1905-1908, but later photos have been tucked between the leaves of the album. Overall fair condition with individual pages in good and good+ condition. Moderate bumping and discoloration to binding, including a small white stain on rear cover and a small open tear to front upper edge near spine. The cord that originally held the album together is no longer affixed to the first five leaves, and only loosely affixed to subsequent leaves. Photographs in good to very good- condition. Most show light to light+ age-toning, but some with moderate or significant age-toning, creases to corners, small tears to edges, etc.
d. A photograph album, undated, but containing images from the construction of the Ebenezer Hospital in Izingolweni in 1920 and 1921, as well as pictures of patients and staff at the hospital after it was completed. 127 photographs present in total, many having loosened from their pages or never having been formally placed in the album at all; some but not all of those still in their original positions in the album have captions, and some loose photos have text on their versos. Fair to good+; light+ discoloration and wear to spine and corners of binding; approximately half of the original pages in the album have been roughly cut out; photographs mostly with light or light+ age-toning, but some with moderate or substantial age-toning.
e. An undated photograph album without captions containing 131 photographs which, except for the large image of the Ebenezer Hospital tucked between the front cover and the first leaf, seem to predate the Backenstoes’ time in Izingolweni. Good; light wear and discoloration to binding; some photos loose or loosening from their adhesive corners. Most photos with light or light+ age-toning; some with moderate or significant age-toning. One photo creased and partially torn at right edge, having been damaged during repeated opening and closings of the album over decades. Several other photos with creasing to corners.
f. An undated photograph album containing 200 photographs without captions that appears to date to the Backenstoes’ early days in South Africa: several of the individuals and buildings depicted in photographs in this album are identified elsewhere with the city of Inhambane and the years 1903-1905, approximately. Good to good+. Light+ wear to binding, particularly at spine and corners; photos mostly with light or light+ age-toning, but some with moderate or significant age-toning. Some loosening or loose from the pages to which they were affixed; a few of those that have come loose show creased corners.
g. An undated photograph album containing 180 photographs without captions which appear to date to the Backenstoes’ early days in South Africa: several of the photographs of individuals and buildings appear in other albums with early material, and this album contains no photographs of the Ebenezer Hospital at Izingolweni. Good. Moderate wear to binding, particularly at spine and corners; two large (1.5 in and 2.25 in) split in the leather at the tail of the spine. Photos mostly with light or light+ age-toning, but some with moderate or significant age-toning. Some loosening or loose from the pages to which they were affixed; a few of those that have come loose show creased corners.
h. An undated blue photo album containing 13 photographs without captions. Very good. Light bumping to corners of boards. Photos with light+ age-toning; one photograph with spotted yellow discoloration.
2. 36 loose snapshots of the type included in the albums, including several duplicates. Three of these images are very small (w 2.75 in x h 2 in) color photographs showing the Ebenezer Hospital and Dr. William Backenstoe’s grave in Edwaleni. Very good-; slightly age-toned with moderate spotting to one of the color photographs.
3. 47 loose family photographs, mostly studio portraits, including many duplicates presumably intended as gifts. Twelve of the photographs are signed by William Backenstoe. Good+ to very good; light bumping to some corners and light foxing to some photographs. Light to light+ age-toning to all photographs.
4. Two glass negatives (both gelatine dry plates, both w 8.5 in x h 6.5 in) showing front and rear views of what came to be called the Backenstoe Memorial Hospital in Izingolweni. Good condition only; both plates show multiple scratches to gelatin coating and significant silver mirroring throughout dark areas of negatives.
5. An album containing 426 postcards. Most of these are from Africa, including some which are labeled Inhambane; others are from the Holy Land and Palestine, Italy, England, and other European destinations. Good+. Moderate wear to binding; postcards with light+ age-toning, with some postcards loose or loosening; tissue protectors moderately age-toned; long closed tears to several pages.
6. A staple-bound booklet entitled A Photographic Souvenir of Natal, hand-addressed to “Mrs. Mary A. Backenstoe / Emaus, / Penn. / U.S.A.,” stamped and postmarked November 30, 1906, from Durban, Natal. The contents of this booklet consist of 12 black and white photographs of Natal. Good+. Light wear to wraps; photographs lightly age-toned; staple rusted with associated minor staining.
7. One cloth-bound album entitled A Souvenir of South Africa, containing 12 color postcards. Good+. Light+ bumping and fraying to corners of binding; postcards lightly age-toned.
8. Seven pairs of glasses, including one pair of pince-nez and three pairs of bifocals, contemporary to the Backenstoes’ tenure in South Africa; each pair of glasses is housed in a case. Good- to very good-. All glasses with some amount of scratching to lenses, one pair of bifocals with chipped glass; several pairs with rust damage to frames.
9. Two early twentieth-century leather medicine cases with glass vials
a. One case containing six glass vials with cork stoppers and metal caps. All six vials are labeled (“Pills for Cold,” “Digestive Pills 1 after Meals,” etc.); all but one still contain pills. Good condition. One of the glass vials (once containing Sal Hepatica) is not original to the set; the cork stopper from another vial has broken off, resulting in the loss of the metal cap. The leather case shows moderate wear with some red rot.
b. One case of “Alkaloidal Granules” produced by the Abbott Alkaloidal Co. of Chicago. Nine of 24 glass vials with cork stoppers, all original to the set, labeled and containing pills. The lower row of bottles conceals a small pocket within the case (see photographs). Very good condition. The leather case shows minor wear.
10. A book on the history of William Backenstoe’s family, along with a folder full of news and magazine articles and typewritten documents providing context for the Backenstoes’ work in South Africa and insights from individuals who worked alongside them.
1. Approximately 948 photographs relating directly to the Backenstoes’ time in Africa between 1903 and approximately 1932, including their journey from the United States, their travels in Africa, their homes and work in Inhambane, Edwaleni, and Izingolweni, and the communities within within which they lived and worked. Photographs vary significantly in size, from w 8.5 in x h 6.5 in to w 1.5 in x h 0.75 in.
Dr. William Backenstoe and his wife, Mary Stillson “Mamie” Backenstoe, were married on November 4, 1903 and sailed for Natal, South Africa three days later. They traveled widely during their early years in Africa, visiting mission stations throughout South Africa and residing for more extended periods at Fairview Station in Edwaleni, Natal and in Inhambane, Portuguese Mozambique. In 1911, William and Mamie returned to the United States, and in 1913, they moved to Edinburgh, where William enrolled in a two-year program at the University of Edinburgh. William’s American medical degree did not authorize him to treat patients in British-controlled South Africa; while he had found ways to use his expertise when they first arrived, the Edinburgh training would enable him to practice medicine as he had originally intended. In 1916, following another year-long stint in the United States, the Backenstoes returned to South Africa, this time to Izingolweni, Natal. In about 1920, construction began on Ebenezer Hospital in Izingolweni; photographs of the building, its staff, and its patients feature heavily in the Backenstoes’ photo albums. The couple returned to the United States again in 1925 and remained there at least into the summer of 1927. Sometime thereafter they made a final journey back to Natal, where they resumed their medical work. William was buried at Fairview Mission Station in 1932. Mamie returned to the United States by 1935.