Foster G. McGaw and the American Hospital Supply Corporation Resource Guide

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A Guide to Resources in the NU Archives

Foster G. McGaw

Foster G. McGaw (1897-1986), founder of the American Hospital Supply Corporation (AHSC), was an entrepreneur and philanthropist whose generosity to Northwestern University enhanced the Evanston campus with the construction of  McGaw Memorial Hall and Alice Millar Chapel, and the Chicago campus with the endowment of new buildings and units for the Medical School.  His close relationship with the university resulted from the proximity of his corporate headquarters in Evanston to Northwestern.  McGaw would readily become friends with Northwestern President J. Roscoe Miller, and it was upon that friendship that McGaw's affection for the university was based.

Upon his death, it was natural that Foster McGaw's heirs thought of the Northwestern University Archives as the repository for his effects of both a personal and business nature.  Taken as a whole, the processed series comprising McGaw's archival legacy constitute a rich resource for a case study in the development of the American healthcare market, since he was a pioneer in the field of provisioning hospitals throughout the nation, virtually inventing that specialty business from whole cloth.

Related Collections in the NU Archives

The six processed series available to the interested researcher at the University Archives reflecting the career of Foster McGaw and the American Hospital Supply Corporation include three that bear directly on the man himself :

--his papers, which afford a detailed account of his business, personal, political, and philanthropic involvements, through materials such as the abundant correspondence affording insight into the business thought of one of America's foremost entrepreneurs of his era; along with many clippings and ephemera that add color to the portrait;

--his scrapbooks, demonstrating the esteem in which he was held by peers and colleagues for both his professional and philanthropic achievements. Typical content among the scrapbook includes clippings, photographs, drawings, invitations, proclamations press releases, programs, and letters of thanks;

--and the American Hospital Supply Corporation records, which contain corporate files reflecting McGaw's own perspective on his business affairs, although the connection between McGaw and his company was so intimate as to make any such distinction among them unimportant.  Among these are advertising records, manuals, ethical codes, correspondence, legal records, and division records.

The remaining three are more directly concerned with corporate affairs:

--the AHSC financial records provide a detailed account of corporate finance under McGaw's aegis.  Among them are journals, ledgers, statements, check registers, and cash receipt records;

--the AHSC catalogs and publications reflect the scope and diversity of corporate activities, in a range of formats covering products and corporate culture;

--and the Don Baxter corporate records, originally part of the AHSC records, comprise a small amount of material reflecting the activities of a small corporation that was taken over by Foster McGaw in 1950.  They include correspondence, administrative  records, and scrapbooks.

Researchers wanting a comprehensive account of McGaw's corporate accomplishments may consult Frederick D. Sturdivant's Growth Through Service: The Story of American Hospital Supply Corporation (Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 1970).


FosterG. McGaw
Foster G. McGaw



AHSC Catalog

Early Catalog, AHSC




AHSC Annual Report

Annual Report, American Hospital Supply Corporation






McGaw Prize

Guide prepared by Allen Streicker and Janet Olson