Saturday, August 14, 2010

Arthur G. Griffin

Years Served: 1883 to 1887

Arthur Griffin was born October 30, 1853 in Litchfield, New Hampshire. He went to preparatory school in Colby Academy, New London, NH and then graduated from Brown University in 1877 with an A.B. degree. Subsequently he attended Harvard Medical School (1878-82) and graduated in 1883. After Dr. Charles Archelaus Huse resigned as the Assistant Port Physician on May 8, 1882, Griffin was selected to fill the post. Democratic Mayor Albert Palmer appointed him as the eleventh Port Physician on August 8, 1883 when Dr. Alfred B. Heath transferred to the Board of Health as a Medical Inspector. Griffin contended with some of the most challenging public health issues of any previous port physician as over 170,000 immigrants entered Boston harbor during his term in office. With only the help of his assistant Charles Cogswell, Griffin worked tirelessly to process over 25,000 immigrants through the harbor every year. Hordes of European immigrants left their motherland hoping for a better life in America. Undoubtedly, many got through quarantine inspections by pretending to be well for the brief few seconds the doctor made his on board inspection. If passenger inspections were not enough to keep him busy, from 1883 to October 1887 Griffin also served as the Assistant Resident Physician on Rainsford and Deer Island hospitals – both of which were within a mile by boat from Gallop’s Island.

He married Mary Shirley on October 12, 1887 and, like previous port physicians, this spelled the end of his quarantine island career. After his marriage, the town of Malden hired him as their City Physician, a post he held until 1892. On December 1, 1900, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported Griffin had been appointed a member of the staff of the Malden Hospital. He was a member of the American Medical Association and the Massachusetts Medical Society. He died at the age of 76 on June 7, 1930 while on a fishing trip to Rangeley, Maine.


1. History of Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis & Co., 1885, 878 pgs, p. 486.
2. Delta Phi Catalogue, 1827 to 1907,
4. Boston City Document #107, Eleventh Annual Report of the Board of Health of the City of Boston, Financial Year 1882-83, p. 91..
5. Dr. Griffin Made Port Physician, Boston Daily Globe, August 7, 1883, p. 5.
7. Harrington, Thomas, The Harvard Medical School: A History, Narrative and Documentary, Vol. 3, 1905, New York, p. 1570 for a brief resume.
8. Medical News, JAMA, December 1, 1900, p. 1417.
9. Deaths, JAMA, July 19, 1930, p. 218.

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