From the Archives: The famous watch and thimble

Pocketwatch and thimble

Watch and thimble once owned by a young TB victim whose death may have inspired the founding of City of Hope

City of Hope will celebrate its centennial in 2013.  This exciting event is rekindling interest in our institution’s rich history.  City of Hope began as the Los Angeles Sanatorium, founded by the Jewish Consumptive Relief Association of California to provide free, compassionate care to victims of tuberculosis–or consumption, as it was often called then.  As stories of the early days have been retold, some of them have taken on legendary proportions. One such story tells how Sam Cook, a tailor, was the spark for the creation of the Jewish Consumptive Relief Association of California. Cook supposedly watched his boarder, a 21-year-old tailor from St. Louis, die of consumption. According to one version of the story, the young man gave Cook his thimble and pocket watch to care for and then collapsed in the street and died. The man was destitute, so Cook used an American flag to collect money from people on the street to send the man’s body back to his family.

This young man’s watch and thimble came to symbolize the tragedy of tuberculosis and the need for a place where TB victims could receive care and live out their days in comfort and dignity.  These artifacts now reside in the City of Hope Archives, as befits their place in City of Hope history.

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