Joseph W. Pryor papers and x-rays,


Correspondence and glass negative x-rays related to the research of Dr. Joseph W. Pryor, primarily from 1905-1948.

Descriptive Summary

Joseph W. Pryor papers and x-rays,
Pryor, Dr. Joseph William
3.8 cubic feet (12 boxes)
Pryor, Joseph William, 1856-1956.
University of Kentucky. College of Medicine. Department of Anatomy and Physiology.
Bones -- Kentucky.
Physicians -- Kentucky -- Lexington.
Finding Aid Author
Processed by Archives Staff and rearranged by Jennifer Howard in May-June 2006 under the supervision of Deirdre A. Scaggs, University Archivist.; machine-readable finding aid created by Encoded by
University of Kentucky

Collection Overview

Biography / History
Dr. Joseph William Pryor, professor of Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Kentucky from 1890-1929, was a locally respected physician and known in the international medical community for his work with early x-ray technology to study ossification (the formation of bones) in the hands.
Dr. Pryor was born April 3, 1856, in Palmyra, Missouri, the son of Dr. Joseph William Pryor, Sr., and Frances Bailey Pryor. After attending St. Paul's College and Palmyra Seminary, he entered the University of Missouri Medical School in October, 1875, and graduated in a special ceremony in honor of the United States centennial on July 4, 1876. Beginning in 1877, Dr. Pryor served as an assistant to Dr. John T. Hogden, Dean of the St. Louis Medical School, before returning to Palmyra to practice.
Dr. Pryor married Maggie Cheney of Woodford County, Kentucky, in 1881, and the couple moved to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1882. In July of that year, Dr. Pryor was one of the founding organizers of the Lexington and Fayette County Medical Society. He also led the attempt by that society to establish a free dispensary for the poor of Lexington, which opened in October of 1882.
Dr. Pryor was the physician of several "firsts" in Lexington, including being the first to administer ether as an anesthetic and the first to perform a rib resection. He served as City Physician for two terms beginning in 1886, and was a member of both the city and county boards of health in the early 1900s. He was also involved in charity work at several Lexington hospitals.
Dr. Pryor's association with the University of Kentucky began in 1885, when he became Medical Examiner for the school. In 1890 he was chosen as chair and professor of the Department of Anatomy and Physiology and began teaching. By 1894, he had developed an interest in the establishment of standards for preparatory education for medical school, including developing a certificate program at the University of Kentucky which would be accepted by several medical schools.
Following his wife's death in 1896, Dr. Pryor married Eleanor Hancock, a former student, on July 4, 1898. The couple's only child, a son, was born in June of 1899 but died slightly over a year later. Eleanor Pryor painted the portrait of her husband which was later hung in Memorial Hall on the University of Kentucky campus.
Dr. Pryor's work with x-rays began in February of 1896, only three months after Wilhelm Roentgen of Wurzburg, Germany, announced his discovery of the technology. Dr. Pryor, working with another professor, developed an x-ray of the hand of one of his patients. Dr. Pryor had previously amputated the hand, and used the x-ray to evaluate how the hand was healing. Later, Dr. Pryor used x-rays of the hands of children in the public city schools to study ossification (the formation of the bones) in the hand. He also studied x-rays of subjects of multiple births, particularly quadruplets, to discover if the births were mono or poly-zygotic. Dr Pryor published multiple journal articles on these topics.
Dr. Pryor retired from the University of Kentucky in 1929, but remained an Emeritus Professor and professor on special assignment until his death on March 17, 1956, only three weeks before his hundredth birthday.
Scope and Content
The Joseph W. Pryor papers and x-rays predominantly consist of correspondence, manuscripts written by Pryor, publications including reprints, artifacts from his tenure, and a glass portrait of Dr. Pryor. It also includes glass negative x-rays related to the bone ossification research of Dr. Joseph W. Pryor.

Restrictions on Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open to researchers by appointment.

Contents of the Collection

Correspondence, , 1905 - 1956

The Correspondence series consists of letters and postcards received by Dr. Pryor, mainly having to do with the exchange of journal articles written by Dr. Pryor with other physicians in the United States and around the world. There are several letters from Dr. Thomas Morgan Rotch of Harvard discussing shared research interests in the 1909-1911 correspondence, and letters from Dr. William C. McCarthy of the Mayo Clinic, a former student of Dr. Pryor's, are present throughout. Letters are arranged chronologically; postcards are housed separately and also arranged chronologically.

Letters, , 1905-1906

  • Box 1, folder 1
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Letters, , 1907-1908

  • Box 1, folder 2
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Letters, , 1909-1911

  • Box 1, folder 3
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Letters, , 1912-1916

  • Box 1, folder 4
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Letters, , 1917-1924

  • Box 1, folder 5
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Letters, , 1926

  • Box 1, folder 6
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Letters, , 1928-1930, 1933-1935

  • Box 1, folder 7
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Letters, , 1936

  • Box 1, folder 8
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Letters, , 1937-1939

  • Box 1, folder 9
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Letters, , 1940-1943

  • Box 1, folder 10
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Letters, , 1948, 1954, 1956, and undated

  • Box 1, folder 11
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Postcards, , 1906-1948

  • Box 3, folder 12
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The Manuscripts series contains two autobiographical texts written by Dr. Pryor, both are undated. The first manuscript has thirty-four handwritten pages and is addressed to Professor Gillis of the University of Kentucky. The second is 314 typed pages and is entitled "Experiences: The Intimate Life of a Physician and Teacher," and is a draft of Dr. Pryor's published autobiography, Doctor Pryor.

"Experiences..." Forward - Chapter 8

  • Box 1, folder 12
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"Experiences..." Chapters 9 - 14

  • Box 1, folder 13
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"Experiences..." Chapter 15 - 16

  • Box 1, folder 14
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untitled manuscript

  • Box 2, folder 1
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The Publications series consists of originals or reprints of Dr. Pryor's published journal articles from 1905-1948, and includes articles from ten journals. Some are: The Bulletin of the State College of Kentucky, The Journal of Heredity, and reprints from other anatomy and physiology journals.

1905, 1908, 1916

  • Box 1, folder 15
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1923, 1925, 1928 - 1929

  • Box 1, folder 16
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1933, 1936, 1939, 1948

  • Box 1, folder 17
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Other Materials

The Other Materials series includes two of Dr. Pryor's patients' registers, an identification plaque which hung under Dr. Pryor's portrait in Memorial Hall, and a glass negative portrait of Dr Pryor that was brought to the Archives by Stanley Littral? of the Botany Department.

Kentucky Academy of Science program, 1918; Doctor Pryor publication announcement

  • Box 1, folder 18
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Patients registers, 1886-1889; Identification plaque

  • Box 4
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Glass negative portrait of Dr. Pryor

  • Box 11, item 105
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The X-ray series has approximately 110 glass negatives that were used by Dr. Pryor for his research in bone ossification. They were mostly taken from 1905-1909 and are either of hands or ankles. The x-ray subjects were mostly children (under age 20), but some are of adults. Age and gender is noted on most of the x-rays. Note: Several negatives are cracked or otherwise damaged. Ferrotyping is also present on much of the collection.

Hands, female

  • Box 5, item 1-15
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Hands, female

  • Box 6, item 16-30
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Hands, female and male

  • Box 7, item 31-45
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Hands, male

  • Box 8, item 46-60
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Hands, male (one female)

  • Box 9, item 61-75
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Hands, male or no gender identified

  • Box 10, item 76-90
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Hands and ankles, male and female

  • Box 11, item 91-104
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Hands (flexible film)

  • Box 12, item 106-110
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Researchers are required to have an SCRC Researcher Account in order to request or order digital copies of materials. Research Account set-up and use instructions can be found at:

If you are visiting the Breckinridge Research Room, please request materials at least 48 business hours in advance of your arrival.

For all other questions, contact us at:


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