Rush Archives FAQs: The Early Years

By Nathalie Wheaton

Chartered in 1837, Rush Medical College is the oldest component of Rush University Medical Center, and the Rush Archives staff often answers the same questions related to the history of the school. Here are some brief answers to some of those frequently asked questions about the early years of Rush Medical College. Want more information? Don’t hesitate to contact the Rush archivists, Heather Stecklein and myself. We’re here to help.

Is Rush really older than the city of Chicago?

Technically, yes. Rush Medical College obtained its charter, March 2, 1837. Two days later, the city of Chicago was incorporated. At the time, Chicago had a population barely over 4,000 people. Unfortunately, the Panic of 1837 hit Chicago, and many of the donors who planned to support the school lost their funds. The school did not open until Dec. 4, 1843.

Was Rush Medical College the first medical school in Chicago?

Yes. The predecessor of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, the Medical Department of Lind University, later Chicago Medical College, was founded in 1859, several years after Rush opened.

Why the name “Rush?”

Surgeon Daniel Brainard (1812-1866) obtained the charter for Rush Medical College in 1837. He chose to name the school after a well-known and well-respected American physician, Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) of Pennsylvania. Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and attended the Continental Congress. He was close friends with many of the Founding Fathers. Chicago was a small frontier town, and Brainard was only 24 years old with no reputation of his own. The lofty name of Rush matched the high hopes Brainard had for his endeavor. Continue reading