Dentists I Have Not Known: Dr. Ferdinand J. S. Gorgas, MD, DDS

Some of the lots of cabinet card portraits of dentists I’ve recently obtained have included unidentified men. Working off the theory that these individuals may also have been dentists, I started looking through digitized histories of the University of Maryland Dental Department and the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery.

Jackpot. I was able to match this unidentified gentleman to portraits of the founding Dean of the Dental Department of the University of Maryland, Dr. Ferdinand James Samuel Gorgas (1834-1914).

Compare this image to one on page 400 of  University of Maryland 1807-1907: Its History, Influence, Equipment and Characteristics, volume one, by Eugene Fauntleroy Cordell.

By its subject’s dress, my portrait appears to be of earlier date than the published and widely reprinted portrait of the venerated doctor.

Photographer James S. Cummins’ studio is known to have been located at 5 N. Charles Street ca. 1886-1887 (Kelbaugh, Directory of Maryland Photographers 1839-1900). Given that a number of the portraits of dentists I’ve acquired relate to the University of Maryland Dental Department’s graduating class of 1888, it again seems plausible that Gorgas had his portrait taken around that time.

Dr. Gorgas’ biography and ancestry are well and widely known, so there is little need to belabor it here. He was born on 27 July 1835 in Winchester, Virginia to Mary Ann Smith and prosperous tinner and stove dealer John DeLancy Gorgas (b. abt. 1819, Md.); grew up in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and attended Dickinson College here; graduated from the pioneering Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1855; was appointed Demonstrator there in 1857 and became a full professor in 1860.

Gorgas earned an MD from the University of Maryland in 1863 and served the Union as an assistant surgeon during the Civil War. In 1865, he returned to the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery as Dean, departing in 1882 to become founding Dean of the University of Maryland Dental Department (now the School of Dentistry), a post he held until 1911.

He wrote extensively on dentistry, revising seminal works by pioneer dentist Dr. Chapin Harris many times, and was one of the editors of the American Journal of Dental Science, one of the first professional academic journals on dentistry.

He and his wife, Anna (Swormstedt) Gorgas (1835-1909), had four children, of whom I have identified three: Ellen, Dr. Lawrence D. Gorgas, MD (1861-1924) and Herbert F. Gorgas, DDS (1857-1958). Only their two sons survived to adulthood. Anna, who married Dr. Gorgas in Jefferson County, Indiana in 1855,  was the daughter of Jefferson County, Indiana merchant Lorenzo Dow Swormstedt.

Dr. Gorgas belonged to the Oriental Grand Lodge of Masons, a lavish 1866 Second Empire-style edifice that is now part of the Tremont Plaza Hotel, on St. Paul Place. The building, designed by Peabody Institute architect Edmund G. Lind and expanded by Joseph Evans Sperry in 1909, was rescued from demolition and lavishly restored as meeting and event space in the late 1990s.

For many years the family lived on fashionable North Eutaw, and they may have attended Mt. Vernon Place Methodist Episcopal Church, Mount Vernon Place and Charles Street; the minister of that church presided over his funeral service. Ferdinand and Anna Gorgas are buried in Green Mount Cemetery; their two sons rest in Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois.

Dentists I Have Not Known: Dr. Leonidas Wilson Davis

Based on records where his name appears, he preferred to be known as L. Wilson Davis (1862-1947), but Leonidas was his full first name.

Thanks to the thorough work of family historian and cemetery researcher Glenn Wallace, I was able to find Dr. Leonidas Wilson Davis’ grave in Monocacy Cemetery, Beallsville, Montgomery County, Md., and from there, his family history unfolded.

Dr. Davis was the son of Frederick County, Maryland farmer Isaac Howard Davis (1818-1901) and Catherine (Miles) Davis (1822-1897).

L. Wilson Davis was a member of the University of Maryland Dental Department class of 1888, along with Frank Ryland Steel. He set up practice in Baltimore, and married Mary Harrison Griffith, daughter of merchant and Civil War veteran Francis Moore Griffith (1831-1908) and Elizabeth (Dickerson) Griffith of Beallsville, Montgomery County, Md.

Dr. Davis was interested in what became known as orthodontia, as well as the care of teeth as a public health concern. In 1900, he was part of a committee that authored a proposal for a pilot project for the examination of children’s teeth in Maryland schools, and for the education of children in dental hygiene.

Dr. Davis’ brother, Isaac Howard Davis Jr. (1859-1918), also became a dentist as well as an MD. Isaac Davis was part of the University of Maryland Department of Dentistry’s first graduating class in 1884, and was a professor of dentistry at the University of Maryland at the same time as Dr. John C. Uhler and Dr. James H. Harris, succeeding Dr. Harris as professor of Operative and Clinical Dentistry, a position he still held at the time of his death.

According to Ross Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers 1839-1900, Richard Walzl’s studios, where Dr. L. Wilson Harris had his portrait taken, were located at the addresses indicated on the bottom of the cabinet card ca. 1887-1893. This photograph of young Dr. Davis may well have been taken on the occasion of his graduation from dental school in 1888.

Dentists I Have Not Known: “I am yours very truly” James Howell Harris, MD, DDS

This cabinet card portrait of Dr. James Howell Harris, MD, DDS, is dated 2 March 1888, the date of the 1888 commencement ceremony for the Dental Department of the University of Maryland, where Dr. Harris was a founding faculty member.

Harris’ life and career are fairly well-documented in the history University of Maryland, 1807-1907.

Harris was born on 31 October 1834 in Albemarle County, Virginia, to blacksmith Alanson Harris (1811-1866) and Sophia Ann Harris (1815-1893).  In 1861, James Harris earned the newly-emerging credential of Doctor of Dental Surgery from the prestigious Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. He obtained a medical degree from the Baltimore College of Physicians and Surgeons.

After the Civil War, he taught at his dental alma mater, then in 1882  left to help organize the newly-formed Dental Department at the University of Maryland.

There he held a professorship of Operative and Clinical Dentistry until his death in Baltimore on 12 December 1910. He was a colleague of Dr. John Uhler, about whom I wrote in a recent post.

Fellow Virginian Dr. Charles Lowndes Steel, Sr. (1860-1904; DDS Baltimore College of Dental Surgery 1881), brother of  Dr. Frank Ryland Steel DDS (University of Maryland Dental Dept. Class of 1888) boarded in the Harris home  on North Eutaw, and married Dr. Harris’ daughter Ella Harris (1868-1924).

His brother, Franklin Lewis Harris (1848-1911; DDS 1870, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery) and two of his sons, Charles C. Harris and James Edwin Harris (DDS, 1884, University of Maryland Dental Dept.), followed him into the dental profession.

Several obituaries mention that Dr. Harris served in the Confederate Medical Corps (Baltimore American 13 Dec 1910; Baltimore Sun 13 Dec 1910). I found a passing reference to his service in Company I of the 4th Virginia Cavalry (Marylanders in the Confederacy, Daniel Hartzler, 1986).

Harris is portrayed as a beloved  and devoted teacher who avoided public life.

Dr. Harris was, according to his biographer, “of a genial disposition and strong domestic habits” and an “active, enthusiastic and beloved teacher of successive classes of dental graduates.” 

One of his eulogists described him thus: “His students at the university were so deeply attached to him and he to them that they spent many of their evenings at his home” (Baltimore American 13 Dec 1910).

During his funeral, said the Sun, the senior class of the Dental Department gathered in front of his residence and marched “in a body” to Emmanuel Episcopal Church at Read and Cathedral streets “to pay their last respects” (Baltimore Sun 14 Dec 1910).

He is buried in Woodbine Cemetery, Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, Virginia, along with his second wife, Elizabeth Ann (Hardesty)  Harris (1841-1918).

According to Ross Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers, the studio of James S. Cummins‘ (1841-1895) was located at 5 N. Charles Street ca. 1886-1887, which fits nicely with my speculation that Dr. Harris gave this portrait as a token of affection to an unknown dental graduate in March 1888.

Dentists I Have Not Known: Dr. Frank Ryland Steel

Baltimore photographer William Ashman (1863-1902) took this cabinet card portrait identified in period ink on the reverse as Frank Ryland Steel (b. abt. 1867, Virginia), DDS. Steel may have sat for this photograph upon the occasion of his graduation from the Dental Department of the University of Maryland in March 1888.

After completing his studies, Frank followed his father,  George B. Steel (1835-1916), and his half-brother Charles Lowndes Steel (1860-1904) into the family dental practice in Richmond, Virginia. Charles had also studied in Baltimore–earning his DDS from the  Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1881.

Frank got his middle name from his mother, Martha “Mattie” Ryland Fleet (1839-1871). His father married three times in all, so the Steel household was a large one. All told, there were 12 siblings and half-siblings.

Frank Ryland Steel married a much younger woman, Dora Robertson,  in 1924; it appears they had no children, and by 1930 he was a widower, living alone in the small tidewater town of Urbanna, Virginia.

I have not been able to trace the Steels back beyond the census of 1860. Frank’s father George B. Steel was active in Richmond politics, and a 1911 campaign advertisement says only that George B. Steel’s father was “George Steel, a former merchant of this city” (Richmond Times Dispatch, 16 September 1911).

However ordinary his life appears, someone cared enough about Frank Ryland Steel to keep his portrait in their collection of dentists all these years.

Dentists I Have Not Known: Dr. George Douglass Rouse

As far as I can tell, Dr. George Douglass Rouse, DDS (1870-1948), lived a quiet life in Charleston, South Carolina.

Although I have not been able to locate him among the graduates of Baltimore’s two pioneering schools of dentistry, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery and the University of Maryland’s Department of Dental Surgery, his obituary says that he studied dentistry at the University of Maryland and the University of Tennessee.

I did find a record, in a history of the dental profession in South Carolina, of George D. Rouse being admitted to the practice of dentistry by the South Carolina Dental Association in 1894 (History of the South Carolina Dental Association, 1869-1950, p. 146).

Dr. Rouse may not have been a ground-breaking dentist, but he did have something special: pedigree.

George D. Rouse could trace his lineage back to an ancestor who had fought in the American Revolution. His great-great-grandfather, William Rouse, joined the Continental army,  fought in the “Siege of Savannah” in 1779, and was taken prisoner by the British.

Thanks to the careful records kept by the Sons of the American Revolution, George knew that William Rouse was born in Leeds, England, in 1756 and died in Charleston in 1829.

According to the Preservation Society of Charleston, Rouse was a tanner, and served as the city’s “intendent” or mayor from 1808 to 1810. There is a plaque in the First Baptist Church of Charleston commemorating William Rouse’s service.

Dr. Rouse’s parents were Cordelia Lucretia Reeves (1849-1920) and George Washington Rouse (1838-1914), who was, according to his obituary in the Charleston News and Courier,  a Confederate officer and reputed  Confederate spy and, in his later years, a Charleston magistrate.  For a period, at least, he operated a restaurant in Charleston. He, his wife and his children, including Dr. Rouse, are buried in Charleston’s Magnolia Cemetery<.

According to Dr. Rouse’s obituary in the same paper, he held the rank of major in the Army Dental Reserve Corps and was for 40 years a member of the South Carolina National Guard (Charleston, South Carolina News and Courier, 4 November 1948, p. 2).

Blessing and Co. would have been a logical choice of photographic studio for a southern man. Though born in Frederick County, Maryland, John Philip Blessing (1835-1911) spent 25 years living in Texas with his brothers, where he operated photography studios in Galveston and Houston. and served with the Galveston Confederate volunteers and the Confederate navy.

According to his biography in The History of Washington County, Maryland, Blessing returned to Maryland in 1879 with his Texan wife, Mary A. A. Sterns, and opened a photographic studio in Baltimore at 214 N. Charles Street. His daughter, Rosa, married his partner, Henry Fenge. Blessing is buried in St. Lukes Episcopal Church cemetery in Brownsville, Washington County, Maryland.

Dentists I Have Not Known: Dr. Charles William Hartwig

This cabinet card photograph is one of a deliciously obscure collection of dentists’ and physicians’ portraits from Baltimore that recently began appearing on an internet auction site.

Son of German immigrant grocers Ann and George D. Hartwig, Charles William Hartwig (b. 18 December 1866, Md.) was a Baltimore physician who also studied the newly-emerging profession of dentistry. He received his DDS degree from the University of Maryland’s Department of Dental Surgery in March 1886–the date marked on the back of the photograph.

He obtained his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1889. Among his multiple appointments:  Resident Physician at Bayview Hospital, Resident Physician and Assistant Surgeon at the Presbyterian Ear, Nose and Throat Charity Hospital, and demonstrator of anatomy, anesthestics,  and dentistry at the University of Maryland. His private practice  was at 111 W. Saratoga Street. (The Medical Annals of Maryland, E. F. Cordell, 1903, p. 432)

Hartwig seems to have been a progressive physician. In 1895, a Baltimore American article speaks of his successful treatment of a diphtheria case with an anti-toxin, a revolutionary treatment developed by Emil von Behring.

In 1896, Dr. Hartwig published an article on the surgical treatment of ear infections entitled “Aural Catarrh.” Drawing on experience from his practice at the Presbyterian Hospital, he urged that hearing loss could  be avoided if aural swelling and pain were  relieved immediately by opening, draining and cleaning the ear drum–apparently not a widespread practice at the time (Maryland Medical Journal, v. 33, pp. 367-368).

Passport applications and a mention in a medical journal indicate that Hartwig traveled to Europe at least once, in 1914, at the same time as another, much more prominent physician, the learned and charismatic medical professor Dr. Ridgley Brown Warfield (1864-1920), scion of an old Howard County family who had graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1884 and taught there.

Young Hartwig sat for his portrait at the studio of John Philip  Blessing (1835-1911) and Franklin Kuhn, located ca. 1882-1886, Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers tells us, at 46 N. Charles Street. Hartwig chose a vignetted bust style for his portrait, as had Dr. John C. Uhler. Hartwig likely encountered Uhler as a student at the University of Maryland, where Dr. Uhler was an instructor in the Dental Department.

Uhler, Hartwig, and the others must have met one another during their schooling in Baltimore and in the practice of their professions. Perhaps they exchanged portraits upon graduation. But who collected these Baltimore portraits of dentists and doctors of the 1880s and kept them so carefully all these years? Not that I’m complaining.

Dentists I Have Not Known: John Willis White Lyle

Occasionally I have the good fortune to find a photograph that is so well-identified that I can trace something of the history of the sitter.

On the back of this Richard Walzl cabinet card photograph is written “Uncle Jno. Willie White Lyle-Picture made first year in Baltimore Dental College, Baltimore, Md., 1893.”

Several family historians on Ancestry.com have traced this gentleman’s roots and descendants in census and other records.

John W. W. Lyle (1869-1948) was born in Scott County, Mississippi to wealthy Georgia-born farmer Matthew Lyle (1818-1890) who had served in the Confederate Army with the 5th Mississippi Infantry.

John Lyle received his DDS from the storied Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in March 1895.

After dental training in Baltimore, John returned to his home state and settled in the town of Good Hope, and then Lena, Leake County, with his wife, Ouda White Lyle, to practice dentistry and to farm on Cash Road. They had three children: John Matthew Lyle, Maggie, and Gilbert G. Lyle  (1904-1999).

John W. W. Lyle is buried in Cash Cemetery, Scott County, Mississippi, along with several other family members.

The photographer has improved upon the old style of vignetted busts by using  a soft, cloud-like background that adds texture without distracting from the subject.