Vilray P. Blair Photographs and Drawings

Operating room of Vilray P. Blair. Operating room of Vilray P. Blair. Detail of operating room of Vilray P. Blair. Operating room of Vilray P. Blair. Detail of operating room of Vilray P. Blair. Detail of operating room of Vilray P. Blair. Detail of operating room of Vilray P. Blair. Operating room of Vilray P. Blair. Operating room of Vilray P. Blair. Detail of operating room of Vilray P. Blair. Detail of operating room of Vilray P. Blair. Gisella Loeffler posing with her artwork in the operating room of Vilray P. Blair. Studio portrait of Vilray P. Blair. Exhibited plaster casts of faces of Dr. Blair's plastic surgery patients. Reproduction of portrait of Dr. Harry Sturgeon Crossen by Scott McNutt. Group portrait of Vilray P. Blair, A. B. Wallace, John Straite Davis, and Sigmund A. Weslowski. Christmas card with portrait of Vilray P. Blair. Christmas card with portrait of Vilray P. Blair and unidentified man. Studio portrait of Dr. William G. Krenning. Electrical apparatus, likely at Washington University School of Medicine.
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Reference code


Level of description



Vilray P. Blair Photographs and Drawings


  • 1900-1950 (Creation)
  • 1900-1950 (Creation)


0.45 cubic feet (2 boxes)

Name of creator


Biographical history

Vilray Papin Blair is most known for his pioneering work in plastic surgery. A native of St. Louis, Blair graduated from Christian Brothers College in 1890 and subsequently enrolled in the St. Louis Medical College. There he was greatly influenced by Elisha Hall Gregory, a professor of surgery. He graduated in 1893 and began an internship at Mullanphy Hospital under distinguished surgeon Paul Yoer Tupper.

In 1894 Blair was appointed instructor with the Anatomy Department of St. Louis Medical College (which had joined Washington University in 1891). In 1896 he took a leave from medicine to join the crew of a merchant vessel bound for Europe, a decision that led to him becoming a ship surgeon for a journey to Brazil and then a military surgeon for British troops sailing to West Africa.

Upon his return to St. Louis in 1900, Blair established a private surgical practice and resumed teaching at the School of Medicine. He was named to the visiting staff of St. Louis City Hospital in 1910. In 1917 Blair joined the U.S. Army Corps entering World War I and was named chief of oral and plastic surgery. On his return to St. Louis he was active in the Medical Reserve Corps and served as attending specialist in plastic surgery at the Jefferson Barracks Veterans Hospital.

Blair served as assistant professor of clinical surgery at the School of Medicine in 1922 and was named professor in 1927. He also served as professor of oral surgery at the Washington University School of Dentistry. He became an emeritus professor of both schools in 1941. Throughout his career, Blair published many influential books and articles in the areas of plastic and oral surgery. Another foremost achievement was his leadership in creating the American Board of Plastic Surgery, which helped seal his place as a pioneer in establishing plastic surgery as a unique branch of medicine.

Scope and content

This collection consists of 85 photographs and drawings documenting a range of subjects in the personal and professional life of Dr. Vilray P. Blair (1871-1955). The collection includes photographs of Blair, his family and colleauges, and his residence in Florissant, Missouri. Other depicted subjects from Blair's professional career include his operating room at Barnes Hospital specially decorated by artist Gisella Loeffler (1900-1977), his plaster cast shop, and a selection of his plastic surgery patients. Several of the patient photographs appear in Dr. Blair's published papers, including: "The Surgical Restoration of the Lining of the Mouth" (1923), "The Full Thickness Skin Graft" (1924), and "The Problem of Bringing Forward the Retracted Upper Lip and Nose" (1926).

System of arrangement

Some items have been previously removed from this collection, which has led to an incomplete sequence of numbered items.

Conditions governing access

The collection is open and accessible for research.

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Users of the collection should read and abide by the Rights and Permissions guidelines at the Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives.

Users of the collection who wish to cite items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication must request, sign, and return a Statement of Use form to the Archives.

For detailed information regarding use of this collection, contact the Archives and Rare Book Department of the Becker Library (

Preferred Citation:

Item description, Reference Code, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University in St. Louis.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Custodial history

At the time of Dr. Blair’s death, his papers were in the possession of his secretary, Della Cooper. They were transferred thereafter to the Blair Family and were for many years in the possession of a daughter, Mrs. Nancy Blair O’Leary. On December 15, 1978 Mrs. O’Leary donated the papers to the Archives of the Washington University School of Medicine Library, where they were accessioned as Faculty Collection 25. The collection was opened to the public July 1, 1980. Some bound materials arrived in Accession 1984-005. Fifty-four photographs and three certificates originally in series 5 and 6 of the papers of Dr. Blair have been added to the Archives Visual Collection.

Immediate source of acquisition

Gift, Nancy Blair O'Leary, 1978, (1978-017). Gift, Nancy Blair O'Leary, 1984, (1984-005).

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

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Alternative identifier(s)

Rules or conventions

"Describing Archives: A Content Standard, Second Edition (DACS), 2013."

Sources used

Archivist's note

© Copyright 2019 Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives. All rights reserved.

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