From the Annals of NIH History

Hamsters’ Delight

stage with people in costume performing a play

The Office of NIH History has many collections of old photos and other materials depicting life at NIH. The photo above is from a collection of photographs, production programs, original NIH Record publications, and scripts of plays written and performed by the National Institutes of Health thespian group “The NIH Hamsters.” The group, which included researchers, physicians, and other staff, was formed in 1949 under the leadership of Mary T. Beecher, in the National Heart Institute, and disbanded in the 1960s. The plays were performed in Wilson Hall (Building One) and attended by NIHers as well as by members of the local Bethesda community. Titles of plays included “Life at NIH” and “Carmen Cold.” Here the actors and actresses are performing a hilarious play called “Twice Upon a Time,” which an article in the March 24, 1952, edition of the NIH Record described as “the zaniest production ever [with] scientists and cavemen cavort[ing] through the courtesy of a time machine 100,000 years into the past.” Highlights of the show included a “Clinical Cave with facilities for treating [only] five patients; … a robot who attends official meetings; [and] the Gamster chorus that was especially good in a ‘Blue Genes’ number.” If you recognize anyone in the photo, contact the NIH Catalyst ( or 301-402-1449) and let us know. In upcoming issues of the Catalyst, we will be featuring other photos from the Office of NIH History’s collections.