Archives Guide ~ Public Health Commission (7000)

Historical note

The Boston Public Health Commission, whose mission is to protect, preserve and promote the health and well-being of all Boston's residents, particularly the underserved, began in 1799 when an ordinance was passed to create a Board of Health for the Town of Boston. The Public Health Commission was formed in 1996 as a result of the merger between the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Boston University Medical Center. Both the Department of Health and Department of Hospitals were city departments and functioned as separate entities from the time of their creation until 1965, when they merged in order to provide a more efficient health care system. The Department of Hospitals included Boston City Hospital, the Boston Specialty and Rehabilitation Hospital (Mattapan Chronic Disease Hospitals), and the Long Island Hospital. From 1970 through the early 1990s, great effort was made to reorganize and modernize Boston City Hospital's physical plant, including building a new Boston City Hospital. In 1996, however, the Mayor's Special Commission on Health Care was formed to study the challenges of health care provision and administration in the 21st century and it recommended that the Department of Health and Hospitals merge with Boston University Medical Center.



7000.001 Board records 1958-2007 2 volumes and 11 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Includes summary minutes of the Public Health Commission Board and administrative records, correspondence, subject files, committee records, budgets, etc. of the Public Health Commission and Department of Health and Hospitals. Also includes Board of Directors meeting packets which include minutes and supporting documents for the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Boston Public Health Commission for the years 1977-1985 and 1991-2007.

Link to finding aid


7000.002 Annual reports and publications 1864-1971 92 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes copies of annual reports of predecessor boards/departments including Trustees of Boston City Hospital, Board of Health and Department of Health and Hospitals; Digest of Health Laws and Rules and Regulations, 1904 and 1923; History of Boston City Hospital, 1906; Proceedings of the Dedication of City Hospital, 1865; and publications on Health Units, statistics and other topics. Annual reports can also be found in the City Documents series.


7000.003 Burial permits 1988-2006 51 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
The Burial Permit Office of the Public Health Commission issues the official disposition, removal or transportation permit for any person who dies within the City of Boston. Burial Permits are issued to Funeral Personnel, after presenting a completed and correct certificate of death. Burial Permits are issued for the burial, cremation, or transportation of a person’s remains. The Burial Permit consists of a three part form. Section one is the stub to be retained by the Burial Permit Office, section two is the official disposition and transportation permit and section three is to be returned immediately to the Burial Permit Office, properly endorsed by the superintendent, cemetery or crematory.

Includes the stub and section 3 endorsed by superintendent of cemetery or crematory for burial permits issued from 1988-2006.


7000.004 AIDS/HIV Planning Council proceedings 1993-2006 19 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
The Planning Council is an independent federally required planning body working with the City of Boston to organize, evaluate, and prioritize Ryan White HIV funding in the Boston Eligible Metropolitan Area (EMA). The Ryan White Act was created to fill gaps in existing medical and supportive HIV services and contains several parts. Part A provides the funding for the Boston EMA and other urban areas most heavily impacted by the HIV & AIDS epidemic.

Includes proceedings of the Boston AIDS/HIV Planning Council. Includes meeting minutes, agenda, transcripts, etc.



7010 Health Department

Historical note
The first Board of Health in Boston was established in 1799, under the special statute of February 13, 1799. This Board of Health was abolished by the first city charter. From 1822-1873, the functions of the Board were exercised through the City Council. The last Board of Health was established by ordinance passed December 2, 1872. By Chapter 1 of the Ordinances of 1914, 2nd series, the Health Department was placed in charge of one
executive, the Health Commissioner, who appointed the deputy commissioners. Chapter 1 of the Ordinances of 1927 abolished the Boston Sanatorium Department and placed the Tuberculosis Hospital at Mattapan under the jurisdiction of the Trustees of the Boston City Hospital; all other powers and duties, as well as the Out-Patient Department, were transferred to the Health Commissioner. Chapter 656 of the Acts of 1965, accepted January 6, 1966, created the Health and Hospitals Department, merging the former Health Department and former Hospital Department.


7010.001 Vaccinating Committees of the several wards proceedings 1816 June 8-November 2 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
Minutes of the meetings of the Vaccinating Committees for the several wards of the cities to discuss plans for the use of kine pock for the vaccination of residents against small pox.


7010.002 Board of Commissioners for Health of the Northern and Western Districts proceedings 1832 2 volumes

Scope and Contents note
For the purposes of preventing the introduction of Asiatic Cholera and limiting its ravages, the City Council ordered, in June of 1832, the creation of a Board of Commissioners of Health with full power to carry into execution all the authority vested in the City Council by the laws of the Commonwealth and by the ordinances of the City, relating to the internal health of the City. The City was divided into four districts: the Northern, Western, Southern and Middle Districts. The Northern District included wards 1, 2 and 3 and the Western District included wards 5, 6, and 7.

Includes one volume of the minutes of the Board of Health Commissioners for the Northern District, 21 June-12 December 1832 and one volume of the minutes of the Board of Health Commissioners for the Western District 20 June-2 November 1832.


7010.003 Nuisance complaints 1825-1826, 1828 2 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes two volumes documenting complaints of nuisances and disposition of complaints for 1825-1826 and 1828.



7010.004 Stable petitions 1889-1952 (Bulk, 1889-1936) 13 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Chapter 89 of the Acts of 1889, an "Act Relating to the Use of Buildings in the City of Boston for Stables", transferred the power to regulate stables from the Board of Aldermen to the Board of Health. Includes petitions numbered 1-6696 to occupy stables presented to the Board of Health.


7010.005 Proceedings 1873-1939 with gaps 40 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Summary minutes of the Board of Health from 1873-1880, 3 September 1889-20 December 1890 and 1895-1915; and of the Health Commissioner from 1919-1939.

Link to finding aid



7020 Hospital Department

Historical note
The Boston City Hospital was opened June 1, 1864. The hospital was established for the reception of those in need of temporary relief during illness or from injuries. The Trustees were incorporated by Chapter 174 of the Acts of 1880, and Chapter 91 of the Acts of 1893, as The Boston City Hospital. The Trustees also had charge of the South Department for infectious diseases, the Convalescent Home in Dorchester and the Relief Stations. The Relief Stations were closed to patients on March 15, 1938. The East Boston Relief Station was reopened on a 24 hour basis on October 15, 1945. The Convalescent Home in Dorchester closed in March of 1932. By Ordinance of 1954, the Institutions Department was abolished and the powers and duties in relation to Long Island Hospital were transferred to the Hospital Department. Chapter 656 of the Acts of 1965, accepted January 6, 1966, created the Health and Hospitals Department, merging the former Health Department and former Hospital Department.


7020.001 Proceedings 1880-1954 with gaps 27 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Summary minutes of the Trustees of Boston City Hospital, 3 May 1880-22 April 1892, 3 January 1919-27 April 1934, and 31 July 1940-15 November 1954.

Link to finding aid



7030 Department of Health and Hospitals

Historical note
Chapter 656 of the Acts of 1965, accepted January 6, 1966, created the Health and Hospitals Department, merging the former Health Department and former Hospital Department. The Board of Health and Hospitals by this same statute was incorporated as the Trustees of Health and Hospitals of the City of Boston. In 1996, the Department of Health and Hospitals merged with the Boston University Medical Center to form the Public Health Commission.


7030.001 Proceedings 1968-1996 22 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Summary minutes of the Board of Health and Hospitals, 1968-1996 and the Trustees of Health and Hospitals, 1969-1996.

Link to finding aid