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ACP History: A Brief Introduction to the Early Journals of the College

The publication and distribution of medical knowledge was one of the central goals envisioned by the founders of the College upon its creation in 1915. With the conclusion of the First World War, around 1919, the Councillors of The American College of Physicians decided to publish a medical journal, "in the interests of American Medicine." April 1920 marked the debut of the Annals of Medicine. Intended to be published quarterly, at $10.00 for a yearly subscription, Annals of Medicine offered articles from leading medical writers and a section for Abstracts from the Current Literature.

First Issue of Annals of Clinical Medicine

The first issue contained a list of both ACP members and members of the American Congress on Internal Medicine current to that period. The central article of the first issue, "The Field of Internal Medicine," was authored by the College's first president: Reynold Webb Wilcox. The journal was also filled with photos of ACP officers and Convocation events, which was held in Chicago on February 20, 1920.

Unfortunately the journal was canceled after its first volume. According to ACP historian William Gerry Morgan, such an endeavor was ultimately "too ambitious for a young and struggling organization." The College's next journal, Annals of Clinical Medicine, began publication in July of 1922 as the "official publication" of the College and the American Congress on Internal Medicine (which merged with ACP in 1926). This bimonthly publication was published for the College by the Williams and Wilkins Company of Baltimore. The original design of this journal was to have each yearly volume consist of approximately 600 pages and cost $6.00 for an annual subscription in the United States; $6.25 in Canada, Mexico and Cuba; and $6.50 everywhere else. College members were offered a discounted rate of $5.00 annually.

Beginning with Volume 2 in July of 1923, College members in good standing were offered the journal free of charge. The price structure for subscriptions changed the following year in 1924, as nonmembers in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Cuba had their rate raised to $7.00, while the subscription rate in other countries was now $7.50. By its third year, the Annals of Clinical Medicine had become successful enough to have evolved into a monthly publication; year-long volumes were now over 1000 pages. A concerted effort was made to forge the Annals of Clinical Medicine into a journal that would address all the potential needs of internists. Articles were not simply geared to issues of internal diseases, but towards those areas where internal medicine intersected with other branches of practical medicine.

Friction had developed between the Editor's office and the Williams and Wilkins Company by 1924. This was mostly due to the publishing contract, which the College came to view as being almost totally in favor of the Williams and Wilkins Company. The Board of Regents directed Executive Secretary Edward R. Loveland to survey the publishing contract in May of 1926.

The College was eventually able to have the contract with the Williams and Wilkins Company legally terminated. As a result the College could neither publish their journal nor call a journal the Annals of Clinical Medicine, as that title was the copyrighted property of the Williams and Wilkins Company. The leadership of the College chose the name Annals of Internal Medicine for it next publication, which began July 1, 1927. Eighty-four years later, this publication has not only developed into the leading journal for internal medicine but has become one of the most influential medical journals in the world.

-Prepared April 2011 by Eric Greenberg, based on materials from the Archives of the American College of Physicians and Morgan, W. G. (1940). The American College of Physicians It's First Quarter Century. Philadelphia: American College of Physicians.