Iowa History Project
Medicine in Iowa
by D.S. Fairchild, M.D., F.A.C.S.
reprinted from The Journal of the Iowa State Medical Society, 1927
transcribed from the original book for the Iowa History Project by S. Ferrall
Part Eighth - Iowa Medical Journalism
page 167 - 184
Three events of fundamental importance to medical progress occurred in Iowa in 1850. We have already noted the beginning and growth of the Keokuk College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Iowa State Medical Society.
The organizing of the medical college, suggested the necessity of a medical journal as an aid to the interests of the institution. It is interesting to know that the leading men in all three activities were the same individuals: Dr. John F. Sanford of the State Medical Society, and Drs. Sanford, J. C. Hughes and McGugin of the Medical College and the Medical Journal.
The first number of the Western Medico Chirurgical Journal was published in Keokuk, September 1, 1850. In the editorial introducing the Journal to the medical public the editor says:
The writer in a moment of prophetic enthusiasm expressed himself in rather stilted phrases, but those were days when the eyes of men were turned to the future and Keokuk being the gateway of Iowa, the editor felt justified in expressing himself in terms of his own. The writer goes on to say:
The Journal was conducted hy the Faculty of the Medical Department of the Iowa University, Dr. J. C. Hughes, editor-in- chief.
The first paper in number one, volume one of this pioneer medical journal, was by John Forest Dillon, M.D., of Farmington, Iowa. (Dr. Dillon soon gave up the practice of medicine, took up law and became a famous attorney, judge and professor of constitutional law in Columbia University, New York.)
The title of the paper was A Case of Rheumatic Carditis; Autopsical Examination. It appears that this man had been under the care of a class of practitionersthe lineal ancestors of a group that we have with us now and always will have with us. The doctors who treated the case were known as Thompsonians, Beachitis, Electics and Homeopaths with which our Western country is so disgracefully flooded. This man, it appears died after being treated by a Thompsonian doctor with large quantities of lobelia which was the favorite remedy with this class of practitioners in early days. Dr. Dillon performed the autopsy twelve hours after death.
Under the head of surgery, there is an article on nitrate of silver by Professor J. F. Sanford, who states;
In the October number (1850), we are informed of a visitation of cholera which came upon the people of the Mississippi Valley, especially afflicting Burlington through the wisdom of Providence, for it is stated in these words: "It is not our purpose to write an extended article upon this terrible pestilence which in the wisdom of Providence has again visited us. In Keokuk, so it is recorded, in the months of May, June, July, and August there were forty cases of cholera with twenty-five deaths. In Burlington, it is reported that during the same time or rather a little later, on the night of the fourth of July, the number of cases attacked from that time on to October, was between 400 and 500. The number of deaths from 80 to 100. This in a population of about 5,000.
It does not appear that the remedies used had much effect, although Dr. McGugin said, in his opinion, Calomel was the sheet anchor; not given as a specific, but as a remedy which more frequently than any other, would excite the secretion of the liver, diminish the congestion of the viscera, determine the circulation to the surface and extremities and thus cure the patient. The doctor recommended calomel in doses of from 20 to 30 grains and stated: This was the course pursued by myself and several other physicians, and we saw no reason to change it, though of course, it was not successful in every case.
Keokuk and Burlington no longer fear a visitatation of cholera, thanks to medical science, Almost sixty-nine years later another visitation came to Burlington in the form of an influenza and pneumonia; there were 2,500 cases with 500 deaths. If Dr. McGugin in 1850 had predicted that in a few years, cholera would disappear, forever would it seem less strange than to prophesy today that influenza likewise will disappear through the discoveries of medical science?
In the October number, 1850, is an editorial review of the first meeting of the Iowa State Medical and Chirurgical Society (Iowa State Medical Society) in which it is stated that;
The Medico-Chirurgical Journal (later Iowa Medical Journal) maintained a watchful care over Iowa medical interests in their infancy and the energies of the strong men of that day were unselfishly devoted to strengthening by voice and pen the professional activities they had set their hands to.
It has been noted in the editorial above referred to that high ideals were held by our first editorial writer. Seventy years have passed since the editorial was written and changes of immeasurable importance have occurred touching the dignity and character of the profession, and it is sincerely to be hoped that the Journal which represents the Iowa profession today has not fallen short in honest endeavor to maintain the same ideals.
It must be remembered that not more than one-half of the men practicing medicine in Iowa betwečn 1850 and 1870 had received a medical degree and the number who had received a literary degree was very small indeed, and the true professional spirit was confined to comparatively few men. The profession as such did not stand very high in public esteem, it being looked upon only as a bread-winning business, but the individuals we refer to in these writings were big men and much honored in the state.
We are informed that the next (second) meeting of the state medical society will be at Fairfield, Jefferson county on the first Wednesday in May, 1851.
A vigorous editorial protest is made in relation to an unethical offer by the Evansville Medical College to admit the Sons of Temperance at one-half the regular fees in consideration of an agreement to recommend the school as in every way worthy of public confidence.
It appears that in 1851 some plans were being considered for contracts with families to render professional services by the year. In the March number (1851), is an editorial condemning this practice as being unethical, mercenary and unworthy of the members of a dignified profession and savoring too much of the dealer of matches, the butcher, the ice man, etc. It does not appear that any movement materialized to establish this method of doing medical practice.
In the April, (1851) number, after giving notice of the meeting of the State Medical at Fairfield the editor asserts that
In the June, (1851) Journal a rather exhaustive paper appears on Medical Topography and Diseases of Iowa by J. F. Henry, M.D. In those days the relation of climate to disease was regarded as very close, and climatic studies were much thought of.
It was during these early years that much jeolousy existed among the proprietary medical schools and found expression in many editorials in official, or in friendly journals and the Keokuk Journal did not fail in this respect.
In August, 1853, the name of the Journal was changed from the Medico-Chirurgical Journal to the Iowa Medical Journal, edited by the faculty of the Medical Department of the Iowa University. It is to be presumed that Dr. J. C. Hughes was editor-in-chief although his name does not thus appear until some years later.
The Iowa Medical Journal first appeared monthly printed at the Whig Book and Job Office, subscription price $2.00 annually in advance. Later the Journal appeared every alternate month, edited by Dr. J. C. Hughes, printed at the Gate City book and job rooms. Notwithstanding the announcement that the Iowa Medical Journal would appear every alternate month, numbers two and three, volume five, for January, February, March and April appeared in April, 1868 and number four, January and February, volume five, appeared in February, 1869. Numbers two and three, volume five, 1868, makes the first claim of being a real medical journal, as stated in the following language:
We are informed that with the completion of the fourth volume the Iowa State Medical Journal suspended for several years, probably for a period of ten years. The reason for the temporary suspension is given in the announcement for volume five in 1867:
The Journal makes the following announcement to advertisers:
The first number of volume five was for November and December, 1867; number 2, January and April, 1868; number 4, January and February, 1869. Notice appears in this last number that Dr. John F. Sanford, the founder of the Iowa State Medical Society
The first number of volume 5 was issued in December, 1867, and number 4 of the same volume was issued in February, 1869. In this number, Editor Hughes writes rather despondingly, evidently the profession of Iowa was not quite ready for a local medical journal. Another factor had had its influence; the medical department of the State University had been established at Iowa City. It had been the fond hope of the Keokuk faculty that the medical department would remain permanently at Keokuk and that the Iowa Medical Journal would serve as an advertising medium for the medical school but now the Journal must exist as an independent organ with an uncertain support.
In number four the editor states that:
The editor evidently kept his word for the Journal suddenly disappeared. Whether volume five was completed we do not know, for number four was the last number we have been able to discover. Editing a medical journal is not one of the most encouraging employment a man can engage in, and yet there is something attractive in it, that cannot be measured by dollars and cents. There is something in keeping in touch with a profession that the world cannot do without. It is probably true that well people say things, and do things about doctors, that are not always complimentary, or pleasant, but the time comes when almost every man and woman anxiously turns to the doctor as the best and most desirable of all human beings. Trade, commerce and all the world, depends upon medical science for health, safety and happiness in all their activities. It may be now, that the pills and powders of our first editor, are about to give place to health and welfare activities and organization which will render the personal attention of the Doctor in great measure unnecessary.
It must be remembered that when Dr. J.C. Hughes wrote the discouraging editorials, Iowa was thinly settled, transportation slow and uncertain, and not far from one-half of the medical profession had never even had the advantages of a two-term course of sexteen weeks medical college training and only a common school education as a preparation; mental culture was not then a weakness among the doctors as it is now, although we have seen a six months' supply of the state and national journals without the wrappers disturbed unless by cobwebs.
In 1895 the Iowa Medical Journal again appeared with Dr. J.W. Kime of Fort Dodge as editor. The first number bears the date April, 1895. The editor states:
The first volume contained 710 pages and presented a very creditable appearance showing that the editor was well fitted for the undertaking. Dr. Kime in July, 1900 on account of other interests transferred the Journal to Dr. E. E. Dorr of Des Moines. The following announcement appears in the July number:
The Journal remained an entirely independent organ until 1906 when the Iowa State Medical Society contracted with Dr. Dorr to publish its transactions for a period of five years assuming nominal control through a committee on publication.
At the close of the five year period the House of Delegates of the State Medical Society organized a Journal of its own in accordance with a plan generally adopted by State Medical Societies under the name of the Journal of the Iowa State Medical Society with Dr. Fairchild as editor. The Iowa Medical Journal continued as a private medical journal edited by Dr. E.E. Dorr until June, 1914, when it was purchased by the Iowa State Medical Society and merged with the Journal of the State Society.
The Iowa State Medical Reporter was organized in 1883 with Dr. F. F. Cruttenden of Des Moines as editor and publisher.
In the first or July number, 1883, the editor makes the following appeal to the medical profession of Iowa:
In the June number, 1884, the editor announces the end of the first volume in an editorial not particularly encouraging. The financial returns did not warrant an increase in size, but hopes for something better in the future, and states: During the coming years, the Reporter will be under the following management: editor and publisher, F. F. Cruttenden of Des Moines; associate editorial staff, G.M. Hobby, Iowa City; L. C. Swift, Des Moines; D. S. Fairchild, Ames; W. L. Allen, Davenport, and H. B. Young, Burlington.
The first number bears the date July 1, 1883. The journal was published monthly and the twelve numbers contained 182 double column pages. The Reporter continued for a period of three years when it was discontinued on account of the demands of the private business of the editor, Dr. F. E. Cruttenden.
The Interstate Medical News, an independent medical journal of medicine, surgery and allied sciences. J. H. Talboy, M.D., editor; Charles M. Wade, M.D., associate editor, and publisher. A journal bearing the above title appeared in Sioux City, published quarterly. The first number appeared February 15, 1895 and contained thirty-eight pages. The announcement was a modest one, not even explaining its purposes or hopes. Two numbers appeared and then suspended publication, we assume for the want of financial support.
In 1900 Dr. Woods Hutchinson of Des Moines entered the field of Iowa medical journalism by editing and publishing an attractive journal bearing the title of Vis Medicatrix Nature. Notwith standing the skill of a brilliant editor the journal survived only nine months.
About this time another medical journal appeared in Des Moines edited by Dr. Overton. It did not appear regularly, or apparently have any definite purpose. It soon disappeared.
We have endeavored to trace in a brief outline, the history of medical journalism in Iowa. The difficulties were great and the financial returns small.
The Iowa Medical Journal first edited and published by Dr. J. W. Kime of Fort Dodge, was the first to take on the form and character of a real medical journal.
A reference to the first volumes of this Journal will reveal evidence of careful editing, admirable form and execution, but it proved then, and has proved since that local private medical journalistic undertakings involves a vast amount of work with small returns, if not actual loss. It is doubtful if the profession, realize how much work is involved in publishing a medical journal. The difficulty is not so great when the circulation is guarenteed as in the case of the state society journals. Even with the state journals, the rapidly increasing medical activities, the more complex economic relations of the profession and the complicated interests places the editor often in an unenviable position.
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