The History of New York State
Book 12, Chapter 13, Part 9

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


Earlier, the larger cities had dental service always within reach, but the smaller places had to await the coming of itinerants, who toured the country about as frequently as Supreme court justices. Possibly, they timed their coming to court days, for those occasions used to attract the people from the countryside to the county seats. Also, we may trace the progress of dental practice by the lines of the judicial districts, for since 1868 the State has been divided into dental district co-extensive with the judicial districts.

The First Judicial District, and also Dental District, is New York County. The first resident dentist in the Second District (Long Island) was T. Jefferson Jones, M. D., who began to practice in Brooklyn in 1828. Practice was apparently not very lucrative, for he also opened a drug store at 4 Sands Street. At this address, Dr. Jones, according to one of his advertisements, was prepared to give dental service to Brooklyn people. "Teeth of every description, from one to an entire set" could be "inserted." He could also clean, file, and fill teeth, "so as to add much to their durability and beauty." It would seem, however, that Long Islanders had little use for dentists in those days, for even ten years later Brooklyn had only two resident dentists, and in both cases the practitioners were graduates of medical schools. They were, therefore, qualified to practice medicine, which no doubt they did, when opportunity offered.

There was no resident dentist in the Albany (Third Judicial) District prior to 1822, when Dr. Josephus Brockway, Sr., settled at troy and began to practice. He "was the only settled dentist from Canady on the North to Albany on the south, from the White Mountains on the East to the Rockies on the West," states a paper written in 1869. Earlier, northern and western New York were served by itinerant practitioners, who went "from place to place, with their meagre stock of instruments, setting 'pivot' teeth to some extent, doing some filling, and in rare instances attempting a piece of plate work." Most of these visiting dentist came into northern New York from Vermont. There were seven Parmlys brothers, and some of them practiced frequently in the Third District. Other pioneer itinerants were Doctors Fitch, Brewster, Davidson and Gardette.

In the same year, 1822, that Dr. Brockway settled at Troy, an itinerant took up his abode in Utica. He, Eleazer Gidney, toured western New York, covering probably the Seventh and Eighth Judicial districts. However, Dentist Gidney soon gave up practice and went to Europe. It is claimed that the first resident dentist in Western New York was Dr. George E. Hayes, who came to buffalo from Canandaigua in 1829. A year earlier, however, Buffalo was visited by Samuel Bigelow; but he, like Gidney, was an itinerant. In 1829, Dr. Hayes opened a small apothecary's shop in buffalo to supplement his meagre medical and dental earnings. Dr. Hayes was a man of "excellent attainments." In 1830 he performed his first dental operation in Buffalo, his patient being a Mr. Parkinson, an ex-sheriff of London. In 1830 he made some gold plate "which remained in use and in place until 1881." In 1842, Dr. Hayes experimented in the manufacture of porcelain teeth" and two years later produced some good examples of that art." In 1834, he made "the first whole set of teeth produced in Buffalo.' In the 'thirties, also, he made some porcelain "gum teeth"--"the first used in Buffalo, and probably the first made in this country." In this connection, it might be remarked that Dr. Charles h. Roberts, a graduate of Albany Medical College, who practiced dentistry in Poughkeepsie from 1846 to 1856, "was the first to cover the entire place over the roof of the mouth with gum and body." He was one of the pioneers in the use of local anesthetics in dental surgery. The first dentist to settle in the Sixth Judicial District was Dr. J. C. Roble, who opened an office in Binghamton, in 1838.

Many of the early dental surgeons of New York City have prominent place in the national records of the profession. Morris Levett, who came from England and settled in New York City in 1836 was the first physician in the United States to use atmospheric pressure in connection with dentistry. Dr. Gardner Quincy Colton studied medicine and surgery under Dr. Willard Parker of New York City for two years, but then turned to chemistry and electricity. He was the first to discover the remarkable properties of nitrous oxide, in its effect upon the human system. His public lectures and experiments with his "laughing gas" caused Dr. Wells, of New York, in 1844, to suggest the use of gas for extracting teeth. Dr. Wells himself became the first subject, a tooth being extracted from his jaw while he was under the influence of nitrous oxide. Dr. Colton, in this way, demonstrated the use of the gas as an anesthetic. Leonard Maynard, another New Yorker, was one of the leading dental surgeons of American during his period of practice --1836-1890. He invented many dental instruments. "His announcement, in 1836, of the existence of dental febriles, based upon his discover that sensitive dentine could be cut with less pain in particular directions that in opposite ones, were reported in the Transactions of the American Society of Dental Surgeons before any announcement of the discovery of such febriles was made, by the aid of the microscope." He was the first, in 1838, "to successfully practice the filling of the nerve cavity with gold foil, including the nerve canals, in molar and bicuspid teeth, an operation he demonstrated in Europe in 1845." His discovery of the great diversity of situation, form, and capacity of the maxillary autra was made known to the faculty of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgeons in 1846. Dr. John Allen, a native New Yorker, came into prominence in Europe and America as a dental scientist long before he opened an office in New York City, in 1853. When he began to experiment in the making of mineral teeth, since or block teeth mounted on gold plate, "was considered the highest standard of artificial teeth"; but his experiments in so filling the cavity as to restore the original form of the mouth brought him into international notice. The American Society of Dent Surgeons recognized his service to dental science by awarding him their gold medal in 1843. Dr. James E. Low, a native of Otsego County, New York, became one of the most distinguished dental surgeons of the Middle West. He introduced what was at first termed the "no-plate method" of affixing artificial teeth, the method later generally known as "bridge or crown work." Dr. William Jarvie, who as associate of Dr. A. A. Wheeler of Brooklyn, from the year 1863, was the first dentist to attach porcelain crowns to bicuspid roots. The device known as the rubber dam was introduced about 1865, by Dr. S. C. Barnum of New York. It solved one of the most troublesome problems in the operation of filling teeth. The use of the mallet in gold filling became general, mainly through the persistent advocacy of Dr. W. H. Atkinson, of New York, in the 'sixties.

Other brilliant New York surgeons have followed their pioneers in putting American dentistry into pre-eminent place. Many New Yorkers also have had worthy part in the ethical elevation of the dental professions. The first regularly organized dental society of any importance was founded in New York, through the initiative of New York practitioners, mainly. This was the American Society of Dental Surgeons, which came into being on August 18, 1840, with Horace H. as president. In 1845 this organization was succeeded by the American Dental Association, and later by the existing national society. In 1856 the National Convention of Dentist was organized, with Dr. John B. Rich, of New York as president. At the fifth annual meeting of the American Dental Association, Dr. John Allen, of New York, prepared and read the first Code of Ethics considered by the dental profession.

The first local society of dentist of New York State seems to have been the Long Island Association of Dental Surgeons, which was organized in Brooklyn in August, 1835. "this preceded any dental organization in New York City proper.' It’s stated purpose was ";the improvement and elevation of dental science, and the establishment of a proper sentiment of respect among dental practitioners." In 1862 the Brooklyn Dental Association was formed, with W. C. Parks as president. In 1863 the Colton Dental Association was organized by Dr. Colton, at Cooper Institute, in New York City. In 1863, dentist of Albany and Troy organized the Hudson Valley Dental Society, "the first of its king in northern New York." Western New York, however, already had a society, the Western New York Dental society being formed in October, 1862, with Dr. Charles W. Harvey as president. Many other local societies of dental practitioners came into existence in different parts of the State with a few years, and in 1868 the profession was thoroughly organized throughout the State. The Buffalo Dental Association was found in May, 1864, the New York Odontological Society came into existence in 1867, and in 1868 the Brooklyn Society of Dental Science and Art was formed. This, in the next year, became the Brooklyn Dental Society, which is still an active body.

New York was the second State in the Union to pass a law to regulate dental practice. This occurred in 1868, ten years before the English Parliament enacted a law for the same purpose. The New York law provided for a dental society in each of the eight judicial districts of the State, eight practitioners from each of the eight districts being required to meet at Albany to organize a State Dental Society. Action was promptly taken, both in the formation of the State society, and of a district society in each of the judicial districts. These societies, with the regents of the University of the State of New York, still govern the practice of dentistry in New York State, and most of them date their organization to 1868.

New York was without a College of Dentistry until 1865, when the New York College Dentistry was founded. Its states object was to "educate men to practice dental surgery as a specialty of medicine. The curriculum included the fundamental departments, with operative surgery and oral prosthetics." The matriculation and graduation requirements were not very rigid in those days, and even yet the entrance requirements are not as difficult as are required of regular medical students, but a graduate of dental college today is, nevertheless, a man well grounded in general academics as well as in surgical science.

In 1908, when Dr. Augustus S. downing assumed direction of professional education in the State of New York, dental education was in the hands of proprietary schools. Early in his administration he saw the fallacy of this plan and about 1910 he began to advocate that the dental schools become integral parts of universities. With courage and persistence he kept working toward this end until finally, in 1925, the last one of the dental schools of this State became affiliated with a university.

Then the movement to bring about the affiliation of the dental schools was well under way, he then began to advocate the amending of laws governing the practice of dentistry in the State of New York. He was the principal and prime mover of the amendments to the dental law in 1916. New York State was the first State in the Union to require annual registration for licensed and practicing dentists. It was also one of the first States to adopt the four year course in its dental schools. This requirement became effective in 1916. It was also one of the first States to require, in addition to a high school course, one pre-dental year's work in college of liberal arts and science for matriculation.

Dr. Downing has been consistently and courageously advocated all these advancements in dentistry which eventually became operative.

He is an honorary member of the State Dental Society and of the American Association of Dental Schools. He is looked upon by the dental educators of this country as one of the foremost men in their ranks. He is admitted to all of their councils and is constantly sought for advice and guidance in all their deliberations. He seems to have a better knowledge of what dentistry needs in many instances than the dentist themselves. It was principally through his efforts that the first great step was taken by the dentist of this State in 1916 when the laws were amended creating annual registration, requiring four years' study in the dental schools, providing for prosecution of illegal practitioners by the Attorney General, creating the position of Secretary to the State Board of Dental Examiners and finally culminating in an amendment in 1926 permitting dentistry in this State a greater latitude in the expenditure of the fees and fines derived from the operation of the law.

Dr. Downing has always been interested in dental education from the time of his appointment as Assistant Commissioner for Professional Education and his constant efforts toward raising the standards of dental education have borne fruit, bringing dentistry on the same plane academically as medicine. Today, almost entirely through the efforts of Dr. Downing, dentistry in New York State stands pre-eminent among the States of the Union.

The interchange of licenses began in 1898 through the initiative of New York State, the New York dental law of that year authorizing the regents of the University of the State of New York to issue their license to any one holding a license granted by a State Board of Dental Examiners, provided that in other professional respects the applicant meet the statutory requirements of New York. The State Board of Dental Examiners and the dental societies vigilantly guard the gateway to dental practice in New York State, and some colleges demand of dental matriculates an A. B. degree. Early in 1927, the trustees of Columbia University announced that its medical department, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, would establish a school of dentistry which, in the teaching and practice of dentistry and oral surgery would be placed on the "same high professional basis as any department of medicine." It was announced that "in order that education may be thorough and be made as individual as possible in the teaching f surgery, medicine and research,' the new dental school would be opened in the main building to be occupied by the College of Physicians and Surgeons at the new medical Centre, Broadway and 168th Street. This is necessary as, in this age of specialization, dental science is already dividing into special parts, just as medicine and surgery have divided during the last twenty years.

Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research.--The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, found in 1901, both in its scope and in its achievements, may be considered a unique institution in the field of medical research. It is a philanthropic corporation created under the laws of the State of New York, its original charter being revised by special act of the Legislature in 1908. This permitted a considerable enlargement of the scope of its work. The charter states that:

The object of said Corporation shall be to conduct, assist, and encourage investigation in the sciences and arts of hygiene, medicine and surgery, and allied subjects, in the nature and cause of disease an the methods of its prevention and treatment, and to make knowledge relating to these various subjects available for the protection of the heal of the public and the improved treatment of disease and injury. It shall be within the purposes of said Corporation to use any means to those end which from time to time shall seen to be expedient, including research, publication, education, the establishment and maintenance of charitable or benevolent activities, agencies or institutions appropriate thereto, and the aid of any other such activities, agencies or institutions already established or which may hereafter be established.

The institute has been generously endowed by Mr. John D. Rockefeller through a series of gifts which have from time to time provided for its growing needs, including the establishment of a service pension fund for member of the scientific staff. The total endowment in 1927 was in excess of $25,000,000. The institute also administers a legacy from the late Henry Rutherford for the promotion of cancer research.

The institute's charter provides for a board of trustees and a board of scientific directors. The board of trustees, which includes two representatives of the board of scientific directors, is charged with the maintenance and care of the endowment and property of the institute. Income from the endowment, after taxes and other charges on the capital have been paid, is available for expenditure by the board of scientific directors. The board of scientific directors has control of all the scientific work and of the administration of the several departments of the institute. Its stated meetings are held quarterly. The expenditures are made under its direction in accordance with an annual b budget framed by a budget committee consisting of three members of the board of scientific directors and two members of the board of trustees.

There are three departments of the institute: The general laboratories, the hospital and the department of animal pathology. At the head of each of these departments is a director.

The routine administration of the institute is in charge of an executive committee of the board of scientific directors which acts chiefly through a business manager. The fiscal year begins July 1.

The trustees of the institute, who are the custodians of its property, and the scientific directors, who had unrestricted charge of all phases of its scientific work, together constitute the corporation. The corporation meets at least once a year to receive reports from the trustees and directors, who consider together, from a common standpoint, the affairs of the institution as whole. This organization of the governing boards has fostered the aims of the institute in a most gratifying way, giving, as it does, to the scientific directors the advantage of wise and sympathetic counsel in the relationship of the institution to the community, and affording to the trustees opportunity to share in the problems, the outlooks, and the successes, which are the inspiration of the scientific staff.

The members of the board of trustees in 1927 were: F. T. Gates, president and chairman; R. B. Fosdick, secretary; W. H. Welch, M. D.; Simon Flexner, M. D.; John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and J. D. Greene.

At the founding in 1901, Mr. Rockefeller pledged the sum of $200,000 to be expended in ten years. Originally the funds of the institute were applied in the form of grants to investigators in different institutions throughout the world, but in 1904 the institute established its own laboratory in quarters rented pending the construction of the first of the present buildings on land purchased for the institute in New York City. Latterly grants have been limited to the support of investigations related to studies conducted at the institute. Grants are made for a single academic year ending June 30, unless otherwise agreed.

The work of the institute is carried on in a group of buildings situated in New York City, on the cliff overlooking the East River and lying between Sixty-fourth and Sixty-eighth Streets. This location insures excellent light and air, and greater quiet than could be secured in the more accessible parts of the city. The group consists of two laboratory buildings with an animal house, two hospital buildings, and central power house, all connected by service tunnels.

The central building, containing laboratories, library, and administration offices, was completed in 1906 and was formally opened May 11, 1906. It covers an area of 136 feet by 60 feet, and contains five main floors, a light basement, and a suite of surgical rooms and kennels on the roof. The second or North laboratory Building, opened in 1916 uncovering 150 feet by 62 feet, contains six floors and two basements. Both the above buildings are fire-proof and so constructed that all interior partitions may be altered or removed as occasion requires. Provision is made for supplying hot and cold water, steam, gas, compressed air, suction, and electricity to all laboratories. Refrigeration by means of a brine circulation is carried to central positions in these buildings, and numerous incubating rooms form part of the permanent equipment. Pipes, drains, vents, and conduits are either exposed or carried inaccessible ducts, wherever possible, to facilitate inspection or alteration. In these buildings largely devoted to laboratories are the assembly room and quarters, for the various auxiliary divisions such as publication, illustration, library, storeroom, x-ray, section cutting, and media preparation.

The animal house occupies a building by itself, 77 feet by 66 feet, six stores in height, constructed as an easterly extension of the north laboratory building. In this building are kept small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, monkeys, etc., as well as sheep, goats, and horses. Its special equipment includes two cold rooms for serum and aquaria, rooms for the storage and preparation of foods, the sterilization of cages, the incineration of refuse and a garage. All walls and floors are finished so that they can be washed down, and cages are suspended from ceilings on metal racks rather then being placed on the floor.

The hospital, opened in 1910 and covering 165 feet by 54 feet is an eight-story building, with two additional basements floors in the wall of the East River cliff. It is connected by a covered bridge at the level of the third floor with a four-story and basement building containing an isolation ward, laboratories, and operating room, and living quarters for hospital personnel. The first floor of the hospital provides for the administration and reception rooms, and for the quarters of the resident staff. The second floor is entirely occupied by nurses' quarters. The third floor contains a number of small rooms for the accommodation of one or two patients each. The fourth and fifth floor are arranged for ward patients. On the fourth floor is situated the main diet kitchen arranged for special dietary studies. On the same floor there has been built a chamber in which the oxygen content of the air can be accurately regulated. This chamber will accommodate two patients and is being used for the study of the therapeutic effects of oxygen in cases of pneumonia and heart disease. The hospital is planned with the idea of enabling the staff and nurses to give an unusual amount of attention to each of a small number of patients. The general wards are for only six or eight beds each. The balconies at each end of the building are large enough to permit all the beds to be rolled out in suitable weather. The sixth,. Seventh and eighth floors are at present devoted to laboratories, including an electrocardiograph station.

A power house built and operated by the institute provides the buildings with heat, light, electric power, pressure, refrigeration, vacuum, and filtered water. It has ample reserve capacity for future buildings.

The founder of the institute has made general provision for its future physical growth by the gift of land lying between Avenue A and the East River water-front, which, including a recent addition, now extends from Sixth-fourth to Sixty-eighth streets. Unoccupied portions of this property adjoining Avenue A, for some years, have been placed at the disposal of the National Plant, Flower and Fruit Guild, for the maintenance of children's gardens. In 1920, on the removal of the War Demonstration Hospital, the entire Avenue A frontage from Sixty-fourth to Sixty-seventh Street was devoted to this expression of good will to the mothers and youngsters of the neighborhoods. Pending the development of the work of the institute, which may require the use of the northerly plot, between Sixty-seventh and Sixty-eighth streets, with its high bluff facing the river, the trustees have arranged for its temporary assignment to such form of park and playground activities as the site and the neighborhood conditions may invite. Control, administration, and support of this playground and its equipment were assumed in June, 1921, by the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association of New York.

In the autumn of 1914, the institute acquired about 400 acres of land on the east side of Carnegie Lake, opposite Princeton, in the township of Plainsboro, New Jersey, for the department of animal pathology

There the following buildings have been erected: A laboratory building, which is equipped for work in pathology, bacteriology, protozoology, and biochemistry, and which contains the library, general offices, and assembly room; animal buildings, which are designed for the maintenance of large and small animals; outdoor enclosures for large and small animals under experimentation; a power house which supplies the necessary heat, electricity, refrigeration, and water from a deep driven well; an intermittent filtration sewage plant to provide for the safe disposal of fluid wastes from laboratory and animal buildings. As a necessary adjunct tot he scientific work conducted by the laboratories, a considerable part of the land is under cultivation, requiring an organization and department of farm buildings sufficient for its needs. The location of the department being remote form thickly settled sections of the town, it has been necessary to develop the community by the erection of the institute property of a number of homes for the staff, employees, and the director of the department.

Dr. Simon Flexner, director of the institute, is also the director of the department of the general laboratories which was organized in 1905. The work of these laboratories, which has since undergone considerable expansion and differentiation, is conducted under several divisions and subdivisions as follows: The division of pathology and bacteriology, the division of chemistry, the division of experimental surgery, the division of general physiology, and the division of biophysics. Special lines of investigation relating to cancer are pursued in this division with the support of the Rutherford Fund. The lines of research pursued in the several division and subdivisions of the general laboratories are numerous and varied.

In the course of the orderly development of the institute, the department of the hospital was added to the department of general laboratories in 1910. It is obvious that many of the investigations undertaken in the general laboratories have for their ultimate end the amelioration and even the prevention of disease in man. To attain these ends it is important that the manifestations of any given disease be studied not only in animals in which it is experimentally induced, but also in human beings in whom the disease has naturally arisen. Moreover, at present it is impossible to transmit certain human diseases to animals. Hence, in a comprehensive program of research into the sources, incitants, prevention, and cure of diseases in man, the hospital is an essential component. Moreover, the direct stuffy of disease in man affords not only inspiration and stimulation to research in new directions, but it tends to prevent certain lines of collateral inquiry from straying too far from the problems of human disease.

Dr. Rufus Cole has been director of the hospital since its establishment in 1910. The hospital has been so organized and equipped that, first, the patients may receive due attention to their personal comfort and the benefit of the best forms of modern treatment; and second, the manifestations of disease in the patient may be observed with the highest standards of exactness and the observations carefully recorded and preserved. It is, moreover, believed to be important that special lines of inquiry suggested by the observation of patients should be pursued by the physician themselves who make these observations, and for this purpose the hospital has been provided with laboratories equipped for the employment of methods developed in such contributing sciences as chemistry, physics, physiology, and bacteriology.

The major problems at present studied in the hospital are divided as follows: Acute respiratory disease, acute rheumatism, cardiac disease, nephritis, and blood chemistry, respiration, and chicken-pox.

The department of animal pathology, of which Dr. Theobald Smith is director, was organized in 1916 and the buildings were completed in 1917. The object of this undertaking was to develop a comparative pathology of animal life, which is to open that way for a study of the general processes of disease and recovery, and in virtue of the close relation existing between the higher animals and man in the biological sense, is to throw light upon obscure details of human disease. Such a comparative pathology should be founded upon an accurate knowledge of the diseases of various groups of animals, whereas our present knowledge of these diseases is more or less incomplete and fragmentary. This is true of the economically as well as medically important diseases of our domestic animals and birds, and for this reason the resources of the department from the beginning have been largely directed towards a renewed study of these diseases.

In animal life, living agents such as bacteria, protozoa, and higher animal parasites dominate the disease processes. Bacteriology and parasitology have, therefore, up to the present, formed the major lines of research. Intimately associated with these are pathological conditions due to hereditary characters, to inadequate good rations, and to toxic substances in the food. To disentangle these conditions and to assign to each one its proper place in the production of disease is considered by the department the most important work of the near future. These problems are being approached from the directions of bacteriology, parasitology, immunology, pathology, anatomy, and biochemistry.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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