From December 15 to 17, 1920, the Western Roentgen Society, renamed the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), held its sixth annual meeting in Chicago's Hotel Sherman. Albert F. Tyler, MD, became the new president, and he oversaw the admission of 218 new members. By this time, the American Roentgen Ray Society and the RSNA were the two dominant national organizations in the radiologic field. The American Radium Society (ARS) had formed just 1 year after the founding of the Western Roentgen Society, but its membership was limited due to its focus on the therapeutic use of radium and high-voltage x-rays to treat malignant diseases. Later in the decade, Albert Soiland, MD, a radiation therapist from the West Coast and the 1922 president of the RSNA, was one of 20 radiologists who formed the American College of Radiology (ACR), which initially was an exclusive club limited to 100 of the most outstanding radiologists in the United States.
Financial Struggles Influence Society Decisions
The RSNA, however, was struggling financially. Society leaders therefore decided to cut expenses by limiting RSNA meetings to one per year. Since 1915, a mid-annual meeting had convened in such locations as Kansas City, Colorado Springs, Cleveland, and New Orleans. The last mid-annual RSNA meeting was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1925.
Because the RSNA was considered, by virtue of its name, an organization with a continental scope, a decision was made to hold the annual meeting at locations other than Chicago. In 1922, the first annual meeting outside Chicago was held at the Hotel Statler in Detroit, Michigan. The next year's meeting was in Rochester, Minnesota. In succeeding years, the meeting was held in Kansas City, Missouri, Cleveland, Ohio, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and New Orleans, Louisiana. The meeting returned to Chicago in 1928 where it convened at the Drake Hotel. In 1929, the RSNA held one of its few annual meetings outside the United States when members met on December 2 at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.
In addition, as a way to guarantee the continued publication of the Journal of Radiology, RSNA Executive Committee members created the Radiological Publishing Company, and many RSNA members bought stock in this new venture. President Tyler then oversaw the establishment of editorial operations in Omaha. He made his brother the business manager, and he made himself editor, replacing Bundy Allen, MD, who had been editor of the journal since its inception as the Journal of Roentgenology 2 years earlier.
Meanwhile, RSNA membership continued to grow and had reached 700 by 1921 under the presidency of Alden Williams, MD. During the 1921 annual meeting, again in Chicago's Hotel Sherman, the RSNA began to reach out internationally by conferring "corresponding" membership to eight European radiologists representing the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Sweden. Also, President Williams, realizing that radiology could eventually cease to exist without the support of research, appointed a Committee on Research. Its purpose was to carry on "certain investigations relative to the best manner of cooperating in research already under way in America, and, if necessary, planning for research on certain specific problems about which the members of the Radiological Society might be concerned" (1).
As the organization grew, RSNA leaders made sure the democratic principles on which the Western Roentgen Society was founded were being upheld. Society President Arthur W. Erskine, MD, wrote: "The older members have been proud of the fact that no member, regardless of his obscurity or the modesty of his attainments, has ever been denied the right to raise his voice in either the scientific or executive sessions of the Society" (2).
RSNA Loses Control of Its Journal
One year later, RSNA officers realized they had lost control of their official journal to Past-President Tyler and his brother. Efforts to regain control, led by 1923 RSNA President Russell D. Carman, MD, resulted in expensive litigation between the Society and Dr Tyler. This legal battle ended in a federal court in St Paul, Minnesota, which ruled in the Society's favor. The Radiological Publishing Company was dissolved, and the Journal of Radiology ceased publication.
The RSNA wasted little time establishing a new journal. Maximilian J. Hubeny, MD, of Chicago, was selected to be the editor of the new journal, Radiology, for 3 years. The first issue of Radiology was printed in September 1923. Because the RSNA could not obtain the list of Journal of Radiology subscribers from Dr Tyler, approximately 3,000 copies of the monthly Radiology were published and distributed to promote the publication and rebuild a subscriber list, which further strained Society resources.
Shaping an Identity as an Educational Organization
In 1924, RSNA President Rollin H. Stevens, MD, began shaping the RSNA's identity when he said in his Presidential Address: "The function of the Radiological Society of North America is largely educational. We should aim to make our educational work as broad and deep as possible" (3). Unfortunately, Society plans were postponed when tragedy struck 2 years later. Then Society president, Manly J. Sandborn, MD, who had served 6 years as the RSNA secretary, unexpectedly died in office and was replaced by the RSNA first vice-president, Bertram C. Cushway, MD. This sudden change in leadership was accomplished without rancor due to the effectiveness of the Society's bylaws, which had been drawn up, in part, to deal with such an event.
By 1927, Robert H. Lafferty, MD; John F. Herrick, MD; and W. Walter Wasson, MD, directed by RSNA President Edward R. Rowe, MD, established the Memorial Fund of the RSNA, in remembrance of Dr Sandborn, "to encourage better and more advanced work for the upbuilding of radiology" (4). Five trustees (the president and secretary of the RSNA and three past presidents) were chosen to obtain money and to select a reliable bank to administer the income. Although Society officers hoped a dollar from each member's dues could be set aside for the fund, this did not turn out to be possible because of the tenuous condition of RSNA finances. Instead, they asked Society members to voluntarily contribute to the fund.
Cofounder Becomes President 13 Years Later
By the latter half of the decade, the cofounders of the old Western Roentgen Society were still active and continued to support the RSNA. In fact, Edwin C. Ernst, MD, was the only cofounder of the Western Roentgen Society who served as an RSNA president. He attained that office in 1928 and was succeeded by Radiology Editor Maximilian J. Hubeny, MD, in 1929.
At the end of 1929, the stock market had crashed and the United States was at the beginning of what would be a decade-long Depression. Through the efforts and financial backing of its members, the RSNA had grown throughout the 1920s, but, as the 1930s began, the existence of the Society was threatened.