How the 1st female dentist in the U.S. Army survived the 1906 California ‘Exodus’ #womenshistorymonth

Leonie von Meusebach–Zesch survived the horrors of the 1906 San Franscisco earthquake, set up her dental practice in the Presidio Army base during the aftermath and tended refugees in the makeshift camp. She became the first (and only) female dentist in the U.S. Army until 1951.

To begin March’s celebration of #WomensHistoryMonth, Dr. Leonie von Meusebach–Zesch seems a fitting selection.

A Daughter of Aristocrats

Leonie was born in 1882 in Texas, the daughter of German aristocrats. When she was six, she moved with her mother and sister to California. They finally settled in San Francisco, where Leonie attended the local high school and in 1902 earned a degree from the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, then known as the College of Physicians and Surgeons. She became a practicing dentist in June, 1902 after passing the California State Dental Board examination. At first, she began a the practice of a Swedish immigrant dentist, but the work was long and punishing, so much so that after treating patients from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week for some time, she collapsed from exhaustion.

Earthquake, then fire

By the time of the earthquake on April 18, 1906, Dr. Leonie von Meusebach–Zesch had opened her own dental office with a colleague. Unfortunately, on the second day of the disaster, her office succumbed to the fire that destroyed most of the city. Before the building went up in flames, she managed to get inside and save a few instruments.

“Before eight that morning, I was downtown persuading the Phelan Building agent to open the door to my offices. Water, coming through a huge hose from temporarily repaired and newly laid mains, was already breaking in the great front windows, tearing down curtains and flooding rich carpets. I had only time to get my colleague’s leather bag, pick up several dozen of his most cherished forceps and elevators, and save some instruments of my own. I could not get into the safe, so books and papers were destroyed. The roaring of the fire, the drumming of the water on walls, ceilings and furniture, and the frenzied yelling of men drove all but escape from my mind. In less than an hour after it had started burning, the whole large building was gutted.”

Leonie von Zesch, Leonie :A Women Ahead of Her Time

Afterward, the fire continued and forced Leonie and her mother from their rented rooms. They took what they could carry and started for the Presidio Army base, where many refugees were encamped.

“What I call the ‘Exodus’ fled down Van Ness Avenue to the water front, thence along the Barbary Coast and tough water front by an enormously long detour to the ferries; it was the only way, the town streets being on fire and close by the military.”

– Harry C. Carr, Complete History of the San Francisco Horror

There, her mother offered to assist the U.S. Army and Red Cross document survivors. Dr. Leonie von Meusebach–Zesch offered her skills as a dental surgeon with the Army and attended to the many now-homeless people. The Army paid and housed her and her mother. This arrangement went on until early July when the city tried to replace her in this role with a male dentist. Both the mayor, Eugene Schmitz and Brigadier General Funston, in charge of the Army, had her reinstated.

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In total, 30,000 refugees were cared for by the government at the Presidio base.

“It should be called the ‘Exodus,’ for it was a Biblical scene. It was the headlong flight of those who were most terror-stricken to get out of the doomed city.”

Harry C. Carr, Complete History of the San Francisco Horror

Starting Again

By 1907, Dr. Leonie von Meusebach–Zesch tried to start a private dental practice of her own. She did not receive many new clients, but she had additional income from appointments as dentist to the Children’s Hospital and to the Maria Kipp Orphanage. In 1908, she received agreements from commanders of both the United States Pacific Fleet and the United States Atlantic Fleet to bring dentists and lab technicians aboard ships and provide dental services to members of the crews. While this kept her busy, it was not particularly profitable.

On the Move

By 1908, she was on the move again, this time moving back to Texas with her mother. She became licensed in the state and afterward declined one offer from a Dallas businessman to front a statewide chain of dental offices that he intended to manage in the background.

After working for several years in Texas, she moved to Arizona, becoming licensed in that state. She started a business as a traveling dentist, driving around in her Model T, treating school children for free; she also treated many from the indigenous Indian tribes in the area. After being in practice there for a few years, she left for on a visit to her sister and brother-in-law in the territory of Alaska.

Time for New Adventures

She eventually moved her practice to Alaska and served several communities there for a number of years, practicing in remote Inuit villages and even a near-death experience.

More to the Story

There is much more to the amazing Leonie von Zesch’s story. She had many more adventures before dying at the age of 61 in 1944. Information can be found on her Wikipedia page here. Also, you can purchase her autobiography here on Amazon.

She was elected posthumously to the Alaskan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2012.

Celebrate women in dentistry with The Lucy Hobbs Project

Every day Benco Dental salutes women in dentistry, both past and present. The nation’s largest independently owned dental distributor created The Lucy Hobbs Project to promote all women in the profession.

For more information on The Lucy Hobbs Project, click here.

About the blogger

Guest blogger Jenn Ochman, Database Publishing Production Specialist in the Branding and Communication Department at Benco Dental, dedicates her time outside work to historical reenactment. She shares knowledge of dental history with TheDailyFloss.com readers on a monthly basis.

Candy invented by a dentist? #countdowntoHalloween

Antque_cotton_candy_eatingWould you believe that a dentist invented that favorite sugary food of the local fair: cotton candy? It’s true! A dentist named William Morrison created it in 1897 with help from candy maker John C. Warton.

Originally called “Fairy Floss,” Dr. Morrison and Mr. Warton debuted their concoction at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, where it cost 25 cents. Today, that doesn’t sound like much for one of our favorite sugary treats, but in 1904, that was half the price of a ticket to enter the fair. Even though it was expensive, many people were intrigued by the spun sugar confection and more than 68,000 boxes were sold!

The early cotton candy machines were unreliable and often broke down. In 1949, Gold Medal Products of Cincinnati, Ohio, introduced a spring base for the machines that improved them. Today, Gold Medal Products manufactures almost all cotton candy machines.

While Morrison and Warton called their product “Fairy Floss,” I’m not sure the name was ever patented. In 1921 another dentist, Joseph Lascaux, improved on the earlier machine and patented the name “Cotton Candy,”  by which the confection is known today in America.

Antique_candy_bookWhile most dentists these days will tell you to stay away from sugar, cotton candy has less than other treats, simply because it’s mostly air. So, if you have the choice between cotton candy, funnel cakes, or deep fried Oreos at the next fair you attend, go for the cotton candy. Just be sure to brush your teeth when you get home, preferably with a toothbrush purchased from Benco Dental.

About the blogger

Guest blogger Jenn Ochman, Database Publishing Production Specialist in the Branding and Communication Department at Benco Dental, dedicates her time outside work to historical reenactment. She shares knowledge of dental history with TheDailyFloss.com readers on a monthly basis.

Have We Become Sweeter Over Time?

sugar_graphThink about this statistic: in 1900, Americans consumed 90 pounds of sugar per year. By 2008, that number had doubled to 180 pounds per year. The US ranks as having the highest average daily sugar consumption per person. What has happened to our eating habits since 1900?

Hop in the Wayback Machine

Did they just not have accessibility to sugar in the old days? No, sugar has always been around, mostly in the form of honey or maple syrup. Ancient peoples in countries in the Middle East also learned to develop it from cane stalks. This process eventually worked its way to the West Indies. By the 18th century, the majority of sugar for export was produced in the Caribbean, to be sent to American and England.

But Didn’t We Make Sugar Here?

Didn’t we have sugar plantations here? Sure, but due to the relatively short growing season in the American south, US sugar consumption has always relied on substantial imports. In the decade preceding the Civil War, sugar cane producers in the South supplied only about 1/3 of America’s consumption and the cost of sugar fluctuated periodically. Producing sugar was a labor-intensive operation.

Victorian-Era-Candy-Making-1More Sugar, Please!

Still, with the majority of sugar production coming from the West Indies, and with cheap labor and improvements in mechanization, the cost of sugar over time during the 19th century became more affordable. This was reflected in the change in American diets by the middle of the 19th century. Americans began eating more jams, candy, cocoa, and other sweetened foods.

confectioneryKids Will Be Kids

People in the 19th century are not that far removed from us, in their likes and dislikes. In 1857, The Ohio Journal of Education, Volume 6, described an “Object Lesson” where the children were invited to list “things to be seen”. The results were listed by the teacher on the blackboard. Among the items listed were different types of foods, like meats, pies, and of course, candy. They were children, after all. This gives us a convenient list of candy that children of the mid-19th century liked. And there were many. Among them:

Pop-corn, peppermint, cream, molasses, rose, nut, clove, butterscotch, sugar plums, lemon drops, French kisses, cinnamon, wintergreen, sour drops, hoarhound, gum drops, lavender…

More candy…

As the century wore on, mechanization of candy production and sugar-making improved and sugar became cheaper and more readily available. This meant more candy and sweet stuff available and being consumed by the public. Sugar and candy were presented as pure and good for you.

Is this healthy?

By the 1970s, high fructose corn syrup was introduced into the US food industry and soon became prevalent in many foods, even those that don’t seem to require sweetener, like salad dressings and frozen pizza. High fructose corn syrup is cheap to produce and mimics sugar in its taste and function. Consumption of fructose has climbed steadily since the 1970s, from 37 grams per day to 62.5 grams per day in the early 2000s. This is the start of the “hidden sugar” in American processed food. But is all this sugar entirely healthy? The messaging the American public has been getting regarding our diet since the 1970s has been that fat is bad and sugar is, if not exactly good for us, certainly not bad for us. But is that entirely true…

Enter a Dental Crusader

It seems the Sugar Research Foundation, the sugar lobby that is extremely active in Washington politics, working on behalf of the sugar industry, “has worked to influence the types of research questions that our federal agencies pursue, withheld important knowledge about how our bodies metabolize sugar and skewed research to exonerate their product.” This from Dr. Cristin Kearns in the summer, 2019 Incisal Edge magazine. Dr. Kearns sees herself as a dentist-turned-journalist/crusader. She is featured in the summer issue of Incisal Edge magazine, produced by Benco Dental, where she explains that she was a dentist and director of a public health clinic in Denver. She is now at USCF, working to uncover the truth about how harmful sugar can be for our teeth and our diet.

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Guest blogger Jenn Ochman, Database Publishing Production Specialist in the Branding and Communication Department at Benco Dental, dedicates her time outside work to historical reenactment. She shares knowledge of dental history with TheDailyFloss.com readers on a monthly basis.

Heed some 200-year-old advice: Floss your teeth!

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A dispenser of Champion floss in the Benco Dental museum.

A large, heavy glass dispenser, filled with dental floss, is featured at the Benco Dental museum in Northeast Pennsylvania.  This “Champion” dental floss dispenser, from Johnson & Johnson, circa early 1900s, is much different from the lightweight, small floss dispensers we use today.  It has more in common with a paperweight. Still, the floss featured inside is not unfamiliar to people today.
When did flossing between teeth emerge as a health and hygiene practice? Turns out, dentists have been telling patients to floss since the early 19th century!

Quacks in the Profession

Floss came about due to the lack of professionalism in dentistry. Back in the early 19th century, the job of a dentist was not taken seriously. Most dentists of the time were little more than quacks. A Baltimore dentist in 1826 bemoaned this lack of respect in his book, Principles of Surgery:

This unsettled and vague state of practical Dental Surgery, not only exposes the profession and the unwary public to the errors of the dentist, but it also leaves the greatest opening for the most impudent and ignorant pretenders to assume a profession, which they utterly disgrace.… It is a well-known fact that there are quacks in every professions, and in every country; but it cannot be denied that they most particularly abound in the United States of America and England.

Dentists at that time didn’t know enough about how to prevent or treat tooth decay. They didn’t even know what caused it. One man was determined to improve the standing of dentists by learning all he could, and finding ways to help people keep their teeth intact. His name: Levi Spear Parmly. Born in Braintree, Vermont in 1790, he was a practicing dentist in New Orleans by 1818.

Slow Progress

Dr. Parmly stated he blamed the “slow progress of the dental sciences” for society’s lack of respect for dentistry. Parmly’s prescription for progress: “A great improvement of this department of surgery, will depend on pointing out to society the importance of preventing diseases of the teeth.”

Parmly vaguely suggested an institution for this kind of training and education, but nothing came of it. He decided to remedy his own deficiencies by heading to London in 1819, to learn all he could about dentistry. When he returned to America, he knew all there was to know at that time. He set up in New York and became one of the era’s most respected dentists. He believed that cavities were caused by foreign matter on the teeth and the best way to combat them was to keep the teeth very clean. He introduced flossing as the best way to prevent dental disease. It would take another 100 years for the idea to catch on.

In childhood, before the loss of the temporary teeth, the mouth should be regularly cleaned every evening,…the brush should at first be but gently applied, and then particular care taken to pass the waxed silk in the interstices, and round the necks of the teeth, where lodgements of the food (the causes of disease) are usually formed.

From Dr. Parmly’s book, A Practical Guide to the Management of the Teeth (1819).

Champion Floss to the Rescue!

Champion_Dental_floss - Newspapers.com
An ad for dental floss from 1945.

Despite advocating waxed silk to floss between teeth, evidence suggests that few people took up Dr. Parmly on his advice, as there was no commercial floss in the early 19th century.

*  In the early 1900s, Johnson & Johnson had entered the scene with their sterile waxed silk, Champion Floss, which was distributed in small, sterile tubes.
*By the early 1930s, floss was advertised in many major newspapers  throughout the U.S.
* By the 1940s, when silk became scarce due to the war effort, nylon was substituted and the rest is dental history.

Dr. Parmly was right all along:

Flossing is the best way to remove decay-causing food particles from your teeth. So whether you use old-fashioned waxed nylon floss, or Benco’s newest teeth-cleaning tool, the PRO-SYS® JetFloss, floss your teeth! Your mouth will thank you.

WaterFlosser
Benco Dental’s newest tool for fighting tooth decay – the PRO-SYS Jet Floss.

About the Blogger

Guest blogger Jenn Ochman, Database Publishing Production Specialist in the Branding and Communication Department at Benco Dental, dedicates her time outside work to historical reenactment. She shares knowledge of dental history with TheDailyFloss.com readers on a monthly basis.

Arguments for equality in dentistry and in life #tbt #WomensEqualityDay

The blog is part of a series paying tribute to pioneers in dentistry. Celebrate changemaking women in dentistry at the 7th annual Lucy Hobbs Project Celebration, set for October 3-5 at The Blackstone in Chicago. Register today: https://www.regmadeeasy.com/benco/the-lucy-hobbs-project/2019/

I am writing this post on August 26, #WomensEqualityDay. It’s the 99th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, that gave women the right to vote. Today, I’m focusing on a few voices that advocated for and against allowing women to practice dentistry. There were many against, but only a few brave souls who felt women were equal to men and that dentistry was a place where women could excel.

Sarah Grimke, Early Suffragette
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I ask no favors for my sex. All I ask our brethren is that they will take their feet off our necks. – Sarah Grimke, early suffragette.

Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor

The Dental Times Dispute

If you follow The Lucy Hobbs Project, you’re familiar with the story of Lucy Hobbs, the young woman who sought a career as a dentist, but was constantly denied entrance to dental school based solely on her gender. This was common across a range of educational institutes; law schools, medical schools, and dental schools, among others, frequently denied women admittance to their programs.

Dental Times

Around the same time Lucy Hobbs was finishing up her dental studies in Ohio, a dispute was brewing in Pennsylvania between the pages of The Dental Times, featuring arguments both for and against allowing women to be dentists.

The 1866, Volume III, Number 4 issue of The Dental Times featured two articles, one advocating for women in dentistry, and the other arguing they are “not fitted physically for such taxing work”.

girl-graduates

The first article is the Valedictory address of James Truman, DDS, dean of the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery from 1865-1876. In it, he states:

The recognition of the right of every human being to an equal share in the privileges that we enjoy, has not yet become a principle of faith and practice, as I think it should. We say to one-half of the human family, stitch, stitch, darn stockings, make shoes for a shilling, stand behind counters for two or three dollars per week, do anything, but don’t enter the sacred precincts that we have marked out for our peculiar benefit…Talent is of no sex, color or clime…

This thought was revolutionary for the time and Dr. Truman knew it.

…It may be that I stand alone in these views, both with the Faculty of this College and the audience; but I trust not, as in my judgement, the advancement of the world depends, to a large extent, upon their adoption.

The Opposing View

JesseCastleLaMoreaux

Within the same scientific journal, there came the opposing view, with the glaring title, “Dental Surgery – Should Females Practice It?” Its author, Dr. George T. Barker, editor of The Dental Times, emphatically believed women were not suited for the physical rigors of dentistry.

Dr. Barker states, in part:

Should females be encouraged to enter the dental profession? I contend they should not, and it is with no disrespect that the assertion is made. The same reason holds good against females practicing dentistry that it does against a feeble male, for the reasons as previously stated. The very form and structure of a woman unfit her for its duties…

By 1872, three women were admitted to the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery; however, after completing the first year, they were not allowed to return because they were women. When that occurred, there was a dissenting vote by a member of the faculty. The matter then was brought to a committee of members of the board, who rendered the decision that “a student could not be cast out without due cause.” In 1874, two of the three women graduated from the college. Obviously some agreed with Dean Truman, regarding women in dentistry.

1911-Suffragettes

On this #WomensEqualityDay, we are glad that more and more people are of the mind of Dr. Truman rather than Dr. Barker. Here’s to more women in dentistry and to the pioneers, like Lucy Hobbs Taylor, Henriette Hirschfeld, and others who defied convention to become dentists.

Next year, the 19th Amendment turns 100! Here’s to more “firsts” for women!

About the blogger

Guest blogger Jenn Ochman, Database Publishing Production Specialist in the Branding and Communication Department at Benco Dental, dedicates her time outside work to historical reenactment. She shares knowledge of dental history with TheDailyFloss.com readers on a monthly basis.

The Lucy Hobbs Way

While we generally profile great women from dentistry’s past, we do not want to neglect any woman of the past who has advanced the cause of equality for women and the advancement of society in general. On the run-up to the 100th anniversary of American women getting the vote (women were enfranchised via the 19th amendment on August 26, 1920) we are profiling a woman who worked tirelessly for others in the medical field as a nurse and also championed women’s right to vote – Mary Bartlett Dixon Cullen. She displayed the tenacity and persistence, along with the will to make things better, that we at Benco Dental and the entire Lucy Hobbs Project hope to support in today’s women dentists.

Mary-Bartlett_Dixon_Photo - Newspapers.com
Photo from The Baltimore Evening Sun, August 14, 1912.

Mary was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1873. Her father, William T. Dixon, was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Johns Hopkins University Hospital before becoming President of the hospital; he also owned the Dixon-Bartlett Company and was president of the National Exchange Bank. Mary Bartlett Dixon was admitted to the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, as many other young women were starting to do, as the Civil War had opened that career up for females.

At the time of her enrollment, the student nurses worked longer hours than the Principal of the School of Nursing, Adelaide Nutting, thought they should. She figured with the President of the university’s daughter enrolled, he would see and hopefully, reduce, the number of hours the nurses toiled. This strategy worked, and Mr. Dixon reduced the hours, however; Miss Dixon worked twice as hard as her peers and graduated in 1903.

No Longer Neutral

As she started working, Mary chafed at the neutral stance nurses were expected to exhibit in the face of political inequality. At one point, she wrote a letter to the editor of the American Journal of Nurses criticizing the journal’s neutral position on women’s suffrage. She rapidly realized that one could not separate women’s health with women’s rights – they were undeniably linked. How could you improve people’s health if you couldn’t improve their lot politically? In October 1908, Dixon published an essay titled “Votes for Women” in the Nurses’ Journal of the Pacific Coast. Dixon asserted, “no other issue or matter could be attended to until nurses were politically oriented.” She urged nurses to find out the voting laws in each state, as some states (particularly in the West) allowed women to vote in local elections, although by the early 1900s, if a state had allowed women to vote in certain elections, they might have revoked such rights and no woman could vote in a national election. Most states had some combination of rules that allowed almost any one, (sometimes they needed to own property) over the age of 21 and who lived in a community for one year to be eligible to vote ‘except women, children, idiots, and criminals,” Mary found.

Pushing Ahead

By October 1909, Mary was the chairman of the Woman’s Suffrage Association of Maryland, compiling a pamphlet championing the cause of women to vote. Along with working tirelessly for suffrage, she continued her nursing. She worried that there was no nursing school or hospital in Easton, the seat of Talbot County, Maryland.  In 1907, she and Elizabeth Wright set up a school of nursing with no money – it was all staffed by volunteers. The school eventually became the MacQueen Gibbs Willis School of Nursing and then part of the Allied Health program at Chesapeake College. She was also the founder of the Talbot County Children’s Aid Society.

Not Afraid to Suffer for the Cause

Mary_Bartlett_Dixon_groupphoto
Caption: “Some of the picket line of Nov. 10, 1917.” Left to right: Mrs. Catherine Martinette, Eagle Grove, Iowa. Mrs. William Kent, Kentfield, California. Miss Mary Bartlett Dixon, Easton, Md. Mrs. C.T. Robertson, Salt Lake City, Utah. Miss Cora Week, New York City. Miss Amy Ju[e]ngling, Buffalo, N.Y. Miss Hattie Kruger, Buffalo, N.Y. Miss Belle Sheinberg, N.Y.C. Miss Julia Emory, Baltimore, Md.

Credit: Photograph by Harris & Ewing, Washington, D.C., November 10, 1917. Cropped version of the photograph published in The Suffragist 5, no. 95 (Nov. 17, 1917). Available from the Library of Congress, National Woman’s Party Records, Group II, Container II:276, Folder: Group Photographs Nos. 77-87, and online at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mnwp.276023.

A few years later the issue of women’s suffrage was facing several important votes. A portion of the suffrage movement known as the National Woman’s Party led by suffragist Alice Paul became the first “cause” to picket outside the White House. The ladies marched with signs and held mostly peaceful protests. In March 1913, Woodrow Wilson received the first suffragists in the White House—led by Alice Paul, and including Mary Bartlett Dixon and three others. Because state level suffrage was met with great resistance, suffragists like Dixon knew that a constitutional amendment was the only way to gain equality everywhere. On November 10, 1917, Dixon posed with a group of women protestors for a photograph including the suffrage banner and a critique of President Wilson. That day, Dixon was arrested for picketing the White House. She was sent to the Occoquan Workhouse along with many other suffragists.

Unstoppable

Mary_Bartlett_Dixon_float - Newspapers.com
Image of Mary Bartlett Dixon on a float in front of the Talbot County Courthouse, circa 1911-1912. The Easton Star Democrat, April 5, 2018.

This stint in the workhouse apparently did not stop Mary from continuing her quest for universal suffrage. She went back to Maryland and continued the fight.

Gaining the Vote

Mary Bartlett Dixon was married shortly before she gained the right to vote. She married Dr. Thomas S. Cullen, a gynecologist at Johns Hopkins, in a small ceremony surrounded by family on April 6, 1920.

Last Accolades

In 1949 the Board of the Memorial Hospital of Easton decided to name establish a new fund in Mary’s name, the Mary Bartlett Dixon Cullen fund for Nursing Education.

After her husband died in 1953, she donated her Baltimore home to the American Cancer Society.

A Quaker, she was a member of the Friends Meeting in Easton, Maryland. Mary Bartlett Dixon Cullen died on September 6, 1957, at her home, Moreling Chance, near Easton. She was buried in Spring Hill Cemetery, in Easton, Talbot County, Maryland.

For more information on the unsung life of Mary Bartlett Dixon, see this biographical sketch here.

For more information on the Benco Dental Lucy Hobbs Project, supporting women in dentistry, click here.

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Some modern-day suffragettes, displaying their colors at a vintage event.

Guest blogger Jenn Ochman, Database Publishing Production Specialist in the Branding and Communication Department at Benco Dental, dedicates her time outside work to historical reenactment. She shares knowledge of dental history with TheDailyFloss.com readers on a monthly basis.

Practically Painless Dentistry?

A group of dentists working together in a central location and offering all sorts of dental procedures, painlessly – that’s a modern invention, right? Wrong! Back at the turn of the last century, there were several dental groups that advertised “Painless Dentistry”.

False Advertising

Painless_dentist_SpokaneChronicleWash_oct21_1904 - Newspapers.co

How painless were they? It’s hard to determine that now, but several made that claim. The first outfit I came across that advertised “…teeth extracted, filled or crowned without pain…” was the Boston Painless Dentists (shown at left), advertising, not in Boston, but way out in Seattle, Portland, and Tacoma in 1904. My first thought was that they were probably using cocaine, or some other now-banned drug to help with the pain. They did not reveal their pain-relief methods.

Then there was the Chicago Painless Dentists (shown below), again, not practicing in Chicago, but in Portland, Oregon. They claimed to extract teeth, “…WITHOUT PAIN. Nothing inhaled – no gas, no chloroform or ether – and above all, no cocaine…” That sounds good, doesn’t it? Possibly better than the Boston Painless Dentists.

A Fairy Tale You Say?

Moving East toward the middle of the United States, we run into the New York Painless Dentists (shown below). Why are all these groups of dentists named for Eastern towns? I don’t know; possibly because it made them sound more professional, being from “back East”. They apparently operated out of the Kansas area, although they also claimed to have offices in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

FtScottDailyTribuneKansas6/14/1911 - Newspapers.com
Ft. Scott Daily Tribune, Ft. Scott, Kansas, June 14, 1911.

Again, they do not state what they do (or don’t do) that makes their dentistry painless, so we can only guess. If you read the testimonials, they apparently had many satisfied customers. If they used some mixture of alcohol or cocaine, I’m not surprised they had happy customers (and pain-free procedures!

Painless Romine — Man of Mystery

Painless Dentist Oshkosh Northwestern, Wisconson, 7/2/1910 - New
The Menasha Record, Wisconsin, April 18, 1910.

One other dental group I identified in newspaper ads placed during the turn of the century was practicing painless dentistry in the Midwest — the Union Painless Dentists, fronted by a dentist by the name of Romine (sometimes misspelled “Romaine”). In the advertisements (one shown above), he is sometimes referred to as the Manager of the Union Painless Dentists.

While he may have started off as a real person, he eventually becomes a figurehead for the Union Painless Dentists. He is at first referred to as S.A. Romine, M.D.H.D, D.D.S., but after a few years, the advertisements I found simply refer to him as “Painless Romine”. I could not find any information regarding his dental degree, schooling, or town of origin. He claimed to make dentistry painless by way of drugs he had developed: Anzone, Man-No-Pain and Nox-U. Needless to say, the ads list no ingredients. They claim exclusivity to Union Painless Dentists and Dr. Romine.

Post_Crescent_AppletonWisc_June4_1910 - Newspapers.com
The Post Crescent, Appleton, Wisconsin, June 4, 1910.

Setting Up Shop

The method for the Union Painless Dentists and various other dental groups, was to create a permanent office in one town, then travel to surrounding towns and set up shop in local hotels. The dentists would advertise to the public that they were available to treat patients for a limited time in the temporary location.

Painless_Dentist_ad_LeotiStandard_Kansas_Jan12_1905 - Newspapers
Leoti Standard, Kansas, January 12, 1905.

It appears “Painless Romine” and the Union Painless Dentists continued until the early 1920s, or at least after that period ads were no longer in newspapers. By the 1920s, the Union Painless Dentists group was referred to as the Union Dental Company and they advertised “practically painless” dentistry, not completely painless dentistry. Perhaps their remedies weren’t so effective, after all.

“Painless Romine” had the last laugh, though, as this little newspaper blurb states.

Painless_Dentistry_SalinaKS_March 19_1920 - Newspapers.com
The Salina Daily Union, Kansas, March 19, 1920.

Guest blogger Jenn Ochman, Database Publishing Production Specialist in the Branding and Communication Department at Benco Dental, dedicates her time outside work to historical reenactment. She shares knowledge of dental history with TheDailyFloss.com readers on a monthly basis.

A Very Victorian Fourth of July from TheDailyFloss historian

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Cats, kids, and explosives! What could be more American?

Ah, the Fourth of July! That most American of holidays: enjoy a day off from work, relax with family and friends, cook meats on the grill, and then set off dangerous, but legal, fireworks in the evening. There’s no other holiday like it.

Greased Pig, Anyone?

Since my specialty is mid-to late 19th century social history, I’m sharing a bit about how our ancestors marked the Fourth of July. Did they celebrate with quiet reflection of what it means to be American? Apparently not.

After doing some research and reading, it seems that our fore-bearers celebrated much the same way we do, although with a bit more physical exertion and a lot more fireworks. They held all manner of activities, such as parades, bicycle races, picnics, and band concerts.

The following advertisements illustrate the wide range of activities and fun our great-grandparents enjoyed. Baseball (or Base Ball in the 19th century) seems to be pretty popular.  And you thought the Victorians were stuffy and boring. How would you like to spend your Fourth of July chasing a greased pig? On a side note, I once went to a country fair where I witnessed this event. Fun seemed to be had by all involved (well, maybe not the pig).

July-4-at-Great-Bend.-Events.-The-Great-Bend-Weekly-Tribune-of-Great-Bend-Kansas-on-June-21-1895
An advertisement from The Great Bend Weekly Tribune, Great Bend, KS. July 21, 1895
Old-Time-Celebration.-Part-1.-The-Philipsburg-Mail-of-Philipsburg-Montana-on-June-13-1889
Ad found in The Philipsburg Mail, Philipsburg, Montana. June 13, 1889
Clipping from The Times - Newspapers.com
The Times, Philadelphia, PA. July 4, 1890

An Explosive Celebration

fireworks_ad_Phila_1866 - Newspapers.com
The Times, Philadelphia, PA. July 5, 1892

And they set off fireworks! Lots of fireworks! It seems fireworks during this era, like ours, were cheap and plentiful. Despite the very real danger of fire (especially in a time when most buildings were made of wood), every town seemed to have some sort of fireworks display, not just large cities like Philadelphia.

An article in The Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania), lists a myriad fireworks for July 4, 1899 and they sound dazzling.

Clipping from Reading Times - Newspapers.com

Below is a snippet of copy from the above article from The Reading Times. It details all the wonderful fireworks available for purchase in Reading, Pennsylvania circa July, 1899.

“The Fourth of July Fireworks will be right up to date. There will be “Klondike Fountains”, “X-Ray Photographs”, “Old Harry’s Visiting Cards”, and “Money to Burn”.

I don’t know what any of those are, but I’d love to see them, wouldn’t you?

However you celebrate your Fourth of July, make it a safe and happy holiday. Don’t let those “Klondike Fountains” get you!

Jenn Ochman at the 2018 Fourth of July celebration in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

About the blogger

Guest blogger Jenn Ochman, Database Publishing Production Specialist in the Branding and Communication Department at Benco Dental, dedicates her time outside work to historical reenactment. She shares knowledge of dental history with TheDailyFloss.com readers on a monthly basis.

Legends of lost teeth: A word on European mice with sharp teeth, Dr. Rosemary S. Wells and Tooth Fairy Barbie

Ever wonder where the legend of the Tooth Fairy comes from? You know, the little entity that takes away a baby tooth and exchanges it for money or a small gift? Are Americans the only people with a crazy ritual to mark the loss of a primary tooth? Apparently not!

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Illustration from an antique children’s book. Image in the public domain/ Free Vintage Illustrations.

It seems many countries and peoples have legends and observances regarding the loss of a primary tooth. Most involve 1. the tooth, 2. an action, 3. prayers to an animal known for its strong teeth, to ensure the adult teeth grow in strongly. For instance, in some American Indian cultures, the child (or the adult) was instructed to throw the tooth in a certain direction, then run around the house four times, all the while reciting, “Beaver, put a new tooth in my jaw.” Other American Indian groups directed the child to bury the tooth at the entrance to the lodge.

My, what sharp teeth you have

Many European cultures associated the mouse with good dentistry, due to its sharp teeth, so there were many customs linking the mouse with expired deciduous teeth. They involved people throwing the baby tooth over their shoulders, out a window, or out of the house. At the same time, a request was made of the mouse to replace it with a stronger tooth. In France, the child was directed to throw the tooth under the bed for the mouse to eat and then replace with a new, strong one.

So how does this mutate into the Tooth Fairy?

By the late 19th century, the French ritual evolved so that the mouse no longer replaced the tooth with a new one, but instead exchanged it for a small gift or coin. French children left the tooth in their shoes and the little mouse exchanged it overnight. From here, the ritual crossed the Atlantic and in the early 20th century, the mouse morphed into a good fairy in America.

Fascinated with fairies

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Image in the public domain/Free Vintage Illustrations.

In the early 20th century, America and Britain were fascinated by the thought of fairies, with artists and writers discovering anew the mystery and enchantment. Why shouldn’t a fairy bring gifts to young children suffering the trauma of a lost tooth?

The Tooth Fairy seems to be a wholly American invention, first appearing in print in a children’s play in 1927. The legend existed some time before that, as its inclusion in the play meant the public was familiar with the concept.

By the middle of the 20th century, with the popularity of Disney, fairies became an accepted component of childhood.

The Tooth Fairy has Dr. Rosemary S. Wells to thank

A retired dental professor even created a museum (now closed) in her home, collecting all manner of memorabilia related to the Tooth Fairy. Dr. Rosemary S. Wells operated the Tooth Fairy Museum in Deerfield, Illinois, starting in 1993. Information can be found about it here. She was considered the foremost authority on the Tooth Fairy until her death in 2000.

tooth_fairy_Barbie

Most cultures still associate an animal with a fond farewell to baby teeth, but Americans look to the Tooth Fairy. She’s such an enshrined part of American culture, that in 1994 the Mattel toy company created a Tooth Fairy Barbie (above).

If that’s not the ultimate sign of celebrity status, then what is?

About the blogger

Guest blogger Jenn Ochman, Database Publishing Production Specialist in the Branding and Communication Department at Benco Dental, dedicates her time outside work to historical reenactment. She shares knowledge of dental history with TheDailyFloss.com readers on a monthly basis.

Tommy Tucker’s Tooth: Walt Disney touted dental care before Mickey Mouse was king

Early film showcased everything from horror to zany comedy to … dental education films.
Yes, that’s right, one of the uses of early silent film was to educate children on proper dental hygiene!

Tommy_Tucker's_ToothOne of the first films of its kind, Tommy Tucker’s Tooth (1922) was produced by none other than Walt Disney, six years before he introduced the world to Mickey Mouse in 1928 in Steamboat Willie.

In December of 1922, a Kansas City dentist named Thomas B. McCrum went to the office of the Laugh-O-Gram film studio, where a very young Walt Disney was working; he wanted Disney to create an educational film about children’s dental health. He signed a contract with Disney to have him produce and create 500 copies of the film called Tommy Tucker’s Tooth. Disney went on to use the money from this production to move to Hollywood and start up his own cartoon studio.

TommyTuckerToothThe resulting production was a silent, 15-minute live-action film with animated inserts, focusing on two boys, Tommy Tucker, a young man who takes care of his teeth and appearance, and Jimmy Jones, who neglects his oral hygiene. When Tommy is hired for the job both youngsters apply for, Jimmy realizes the error of his ways, cleans up his mouth and his act, and eventually finds gainful employment.

Clarateeth Disney produced another dental film for Dr. McCrum, called Clara Cleans Her Teeth. The role of Clara was played by Disney’s own niece. By then, he had a studio set up in Hollywood and the credits on this picture reflect that. Disney went on to make more educational films for the dental market for 30 years, as well as produce plenty of cartoons starring everyone’s favorite mouse, Mickey.

 

About the blogger

Guest blogger Jenn Ochman, Database Publishing Production Specialist in the Branding and Communication Department at Benco Dental, dedicates her time outside work to historical reenactment. She shares knowledge of dental history with TheDailyFloss.com readers on a monthly basis.