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NLM to host Public Program "A History of the Food and Drugs Act Notices of Judgment - From the First Case of 1908 to the Digital Archive of 2014" on May 7, 2015

In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Federal Food and Drugs Act, one of many Progressive Era legislative efforts giving the federal government the authority to intervene in economic and social affairs to improve the health, safety, and well-being of the American populace. Under the Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Chemistry, which later became the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was directed to inspect food and drugs for misbranding and adulteration; medical devices and cosmetics were added under the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Violators were prosecuted in federal courts, and the proceedings summarized and published as Notices of Judgment, intended as a deterrent to future violations.

On May 7, 2015, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) will host a public program – in collaboration with the FDA History Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – to mark NLM's recently released final addition to its digital archive of the Notices of Judgment published between 1908-1966. The legal history of some of the world's best-known consumer items of today, such as Coca Cola, and companies like Merck Pharmaceuticals, can be traced in the digital archive, where users can search by full-text and browse the archive by Case Title, Defendant Name, Adjudicating Court Name, Geographic Seizure Location, and Case Publication Date.

The Notices of Judgement are resources in themselves, but also lead users to NLM's 2,600+ linear foot collection of the seizure case files used to prosecute each case. These files include materials such as correspondence, lab results, photographs, and product samples and labeling. This collection offers insight into U.S. legal and governmental history, as well as the evolution of clinical trial science and the social impact of medicine on health.

Speakers at the May 7 program, which is part of the NLM History of Medicine Division's 2015 lecture series, will include John Rees, Archivist and Digital Resources Manager in the NLM's History of Medicine Division, Suzanne Junod, PhD, Historian, FDA History Office, and John Swann, PhD, Historian, FDA History Office.

Together, Rees, Junod, and Swann will cover the history of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and subsequent acts, the seizure case records, the Notices of Judgment that summarized prosecutions under these laws, and efforts over the last decade to preserve and provide public access to these records. They will also provide insight into the medical marketplace of the 20th century that these published and unpublished collections can provide to researchers and scholars.

Learn more about the FDA Notices of Judgment from Dr. Junod’s post on Circulating Now, the blog of NLM’s History of Medicine Division.

The FDA History Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services traces its origins to March 1968, when Commissioner James Goddard assigned Wallace Janssen, a Public Information Specialist and Special Assistant to the Assistant Commissioner for Education and Information, the responsibility of establishing an agency-wide historian's office. Learn more about the office through its Web site.


Since its founding in 1836, the National Library of Medicine has played a pivotal role in translating biomedical research into practice and is a leader in information innovation. NLM is the world's largest medical library, and millions of scientists, health professionals and the public around the world use NLM services every day.