The Russell Vermontiana Collection is a collection of rare books and chronicles about Vermont, works by Vermont authors, photographs, historic documents of all types and sizes, and genealogies. The collection contents are particularly focused on the Vermont towns of Arlington, Sunderland and Sandgate, but there is much from the rest of Vermont, as well as nearby New York & Massachusetts. The collection is the culmination of a life of collecting on the part of Dr. George A. Russell, who started his historic collection at the age of 12 and continued to add to it until his death in May of 1968 at the age of 89.
Dr. George A. Russell was born the oldest son in a family of eight to Quaker parents in Monkton, VT, in 1879. As a child he pursued a number of money-making ventures in order to finance his future education and to support his growing book collection. By his teenage years, young George had acquired a significant compilation of materials related to his beloved state.
While Dr. Russell’s interests in learning and knowledge spanned many fields, he decided to enter the University of Vermont to study medicine. By 1906 he was practicing in northern Vermont, but he is most known for his tenure in Arlington, VT, beginning shortly before World War I and lasting until the late 1960’s.
In a time when most people were skeptical even of shots and immunizations, Dr. Russell diligently advised patients and imparted his knowledge of good health practices. He held clinics on tuberculosis treatment, promoted the use of a district nurse resulting in better health for children, and even caught rabid dogs and transported bitten children to New York City (200 miles away).
His constant thirst for learning drove him to study yearly in clinics specializing in a wide range of medical topics from dermatology to physical therapy and orthopedics. This knowledge proved helpful in his profession at home in Arlington and overseas during World War I, where he inoculated over 30,000 men for typhoid and smallpox. His findings and recommendation for new footwear caused the army to issue a new style shoe during World War II.
After the war, Dr. Russell continued to devote his energy to the care of his friends and neighbors. During one thirty year stint, Dr. Russell never missed a day tending to his patients at the Putnam Memorial Hospital in Bennington.
Not only was he loved for his dedication to the medical profession, and immortalized by Norman Rockwell in his famous painting “The Family Doctor,” but Dr. Russell was also appreciated for his gathering and cataloging historical books, documents, photos, and other ephemera.
Today he is remembered both as an honored humanitarian dedicated to serving the medical needs of men and women, both locally and internationally, and for his efforts to assemble a collection of materials on Vermont and local Arlington history.