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Dr. Benjamin M. Gasul Collection, 1936-1940

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Collection Identifier: C.2007-04
Extent of collection
5 reels of 16mm film totaling 1,410 feet
Inclusive Dates
1936 - 1940
Bulk Dates
1936 - 1940
The Benjamin Gasul Collection includes 5 reels of 16mm home movies shot by a well-respected Chicago area pediatrician, Dr. Benjamin M. Gasul. The films date from 1936 to 1940 and include footage of Brookfield Zoo and trips to Mackinac Island, Niagara Falls, Cuba, Miami, New Orleans and the 1939 New York World's Fair.
Most of the footage was shot by Dr. Benjamin Gasul, but his occasional appearance in the films suggest his wife Lala was at times behind the camera. The films document the couple’s vacations. Gasul was a successful doctor and had the means to purchase color film stock and 16mm cameras. The films document the couple’s travels to Mackinac Island and Niagara Falls in 1936, Miami and Cuba in 1937, the New York World’s Fair in 1939, and Florida in 1940. The films mostly contain landscapes and city architecture, but the Gasuls and their close friends, the Senelicks, sporadically appear in the films.
Gasul, Benjamin M. (Benjamin Morris) (created by)
Benjamin Morris Gasul-----1898-1962 Born in Riga, Latvia, Benjamin came to the United States as a teenager and joined his father who was living in Kenosha, Wisconsin. After receiving his undergraduate degree art the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Benjamin went to Rush Medical College in Chicago and trained as a pediatrician.

He then became engaged to Lala May Rosenzweig who was studying to be an opera singer. Ben then went to Vienna for further study with the promise that he would return in six months. When he decided to continue his studies in Vienna, Lala persuaded her parents to let her go to Vienna where they were married in the late 1920's. Two years later they returned to Chicago and Ben opened a pediatric practice on the north side. He developed a great interest in children with rheumatic heart problems which led him to begin investigating this new field of pediatric cardiology while still continuing his pediatric practice.

In 1946, Dr. Gasul was asked to head the new pediatric cardiology department at what was then called the Cook County Children's and Presbyterian Hospitals. Ben and his associates would be responsible for developing methods of diagnoses and medical therapy. He decided to give up his pediatric practice and devote all his time to this new field. Traveling all over the U.S. and Europe to visit pediatric cardiology departments, he became a master diagnostician, lecturer and teacher. Children with heart problems that were difficult to diagnose were brought to him because of his expertise. He collaborated with surgeons to correct the problems of these children commonly referred to as "Blue Babies". No one was ever turned away for financial reasons.

After his death, the department at Cook County Hospital was named in his honor. Dr. Gasul initiated weekly conferences at Cook County Hospital open to all physicians who cared for children with congenital heart disease. He used these conferences to encourage the sharing of new advances in the field as well as leading discussions on ways to work on difficult diagnoses and treatment problems. The social hour preceding the conference became a bonding time for heart specialists in Chicago. After his death, these monthly meetings were continued under the name of "The Gasul Club". This sharing of information continued on for over forty years.

Dr. Gasul was instrumental in spreading the gospel of pediatric cardiology throughout Illinois and neighboring states. In the 1950's and 1960's, fellows who had been trained by Dr. Gasul were leaders in pediatric cardiology at many Chicago area hospitals including Presbyterian-St. Luke's, Children's Memorial, St. Francis in Evanston and the University of Chicago. Although Dr. Gasul had published many scientific reports and chapters in texts, he now wanted to put all his knowledge together in one book. Working with Dr. Renee Arcilla and Dr. Maurice Lev, their book, Heart Disease in Children--Diagnosis and Treatment, was to be the culmination of that desire. Unfortunately, Dr. Gasul died before the book could be finished. However, the two co-authors plus friends and associates, each an expert in their field, worked together to finish the book. Films donated by the 3 Gasul daughters--Gloria Gasul Gottlieb, Sandra Gasul Dreyfuss, Judy Gasul Simon
Custodial History
Judith Gasul Simon, daughter of Benjamin and Lala Gasul, cared for her parent's films after their deaths. In 2006 she donated two films related to the Jewish experience in Poland and Israel to the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at the United States Historical Memorial Musuem. In 2007 she donated the rest of the collection to Chicago Film Archives.
Language of Materials
Access Restrictions
This collection is open to on-site access. Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives. Due to the fragile nature of the films, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.
Use Restrictions
Chicago Film Archives holds the copyright for the films in this collection.
Related Materials
The Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum holds a reel of film from Gasul that documents a 1939 trip to Europe that includes footage of the Warsaw Jewish Quarter. For more information see