Born of the universal wartime wish for news from home, what originally was called Under the Dome made its debut in January 1945.
Its birth was even heralded in The Baltimore Sun on Feb. 1, 1945, under the headline “Hospital Edits Service Paper.”
World War II still had eight horrific months to go—although few realized then that the Allies were close to victory.
“A new Baltimore publication with a global circulation went into the mails yesterday as the Johns Hopkins Hospital presented Vol. 1, No. 1 of Under the Dome, a news bulletin for staff members now serving in the armed forces,” The Sun reported.
Several thousand copies of the 81/2 x 11, four-page Under the Dome were dispatched overseas and to stateside military camps in response to numerous requests from Johns Hopkins staff members for a news bulletin to keep them updated on developments in their departments, divisions, wards and offices. They also wanted to know how their colleagues were doing, wherever they were.
In a brief letter on page 2—entitled “Greetings!”—the hospital’s longtime director (the title then for hospital president) Winford Smith wrote, “Members of the staff have been writing personal letters trying to satisfy the desire for news. This has not been very satisfactory and there are many people who have not learned of events in which they would be greatly interested. We want everyone to know of these news items.”
He added that in the hospital, which was suffering wartime staff shortages, “Much has happened since Pearl Harbor.”
Some of the stories were of the same variety that modern Dome readers are familiar with: expansion and improvement of facilities (“Harriet Lane Home Erects Premature Private Wards,” “Hospital Corridors Shine”—thanks to a new paint job), administrative issues (“Centralization of Medical Practice Studied”) and personnel changes (“Dr. Emmett Holt, Jr. Accepts New York Professorship”).
War-related news included a brief story that 30 prisoners of war had been assigned to the hospital by the federal War Manpower Commission to scrub walls, wash dishes, collect garbage, help in the kitchen and deliver ice.
Also printed were short, dramatic excerpts from letters sent by physicians, nurses and dietitians who had come under combat fire.
After the war ended in August 1945, Under the Dome continued in print until May 1946, when it no longer was deemed necessary. Six years later, however, in November 1952, it was revived as News from Under the Dome.
Thanks to an ongoing, exhaustive indexing of the publication by Linda Weisfeldt, a volunteer at the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives (and wife of former Department of Medicine director, cardiologist Myron “Mike” Weisfeldt), its evolution can be traced over the past 73 years.
Photograph illustrations were introduced around 1960.
In 1963, the title again became Under the Dome.
Early in 1972, it became The Dome.
In 1973, its size grew from 81/2 x 11 to 11 x 17—although it remained a four-page publication.
In 1975, it was renamed simply Dome, and by 1976, it had expanded to eight pages.
Color photographs first appeared in the summer 1989 issue, with pictures recording celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the opening of the hospital.
Improvements in design, layout, typography—and reporting—have been hallmarks of Dome. During the past two decades, it has won numerous national awards as the best newsletter of its kind.
As it now is transformed into an online-only publication, that tradition will continue.