The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery—The World’s First Dental College


One of the creepier artifacts that we curate at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab has got to be this set of dentures from a residential neighborhood in the Fell’s Point section of Baltimore. Curatorial assistant Erin Wingfield came across this unusual artifact several years ago while re-housing a collection of artifacts from the Queen Street Lot (18BC52) and she made it the focus of one of her Curator’s Choice essays:(http://www.jefpat.org/CuratorsChoiceArchive/2012CuratorsChoice/Oct2012-TheDisturbingHistoryOfDentures.html). The porcelain teeth are attached with metal pins to the vulcanized rubber (vulcanite) gums and palate.

Figure 1.  Vulcanite and porcelain denture fragments from the Queen Street Lot site (18BC52).

Figure 1. Vulcanite and porcelain denture fragments from the Queen Street Lot site (18BC52).

When I discovered that Maryland was home to the world’s first dental college, I couldn’t resist hauling out the dentures for an encore performance! The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery was chartered in 1840 by the Maryland General Assembly. The mission of this college, founded by Drs. Chapin A. Harris and Horace H. Hayden, was to provide a systematic formal education for dental practitioners (UMSD 2013).

The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery was the birthplace of the Doctor of Dental Surgery degree and served as a prototype for other dental colleges established throughout the United States. Its establishment is considered one of three crucial steps that laid the groundwork of the dental profession in the United States (BCDS 2013); the other two steps were the formation of the American Society of Dental Surgeons and the creation of the first dental journal, the American Journal of Dental Science. All three of these important steps occurred between 1839 and 1840 (Ring 2005).

Figure 2.  Dr. Chapin A. Harris (left) and Dr. Horace Hayden (right).

Figure 2. Dr. Chapin A. Harris (left) and Dr. Horace Hayden (right).

Horace Hayden established himself as a dentist in Baltimore at the turn of the nineteenth century (Windsor 2008). He began advocating for the formation of a dental society as early as 1817. He ultimately found a great collaborator in Chapin Harris. Harris—a student of Hayden—was instrumental in helping Hayden establish the American Society of Dental Surgeons. His prolific writing on the subject of dentistry, including The Dental Art, a Practical Treatise on Dental Surgery (1839) has earned him the title of “founder of dental literature in the United States”. During the lifetimes of these two dental pioneers, dentistry evolved into a scientifically-based profession; a far cry from the days of barber-surgeons.

Figure 3. A partial set of Vulcanite dentures.

The present dental school—the University of Maryland School of Dentistry—evolved through a series of consolidations involving the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, the Maryland Dental College, the Dental Department of the University of Maryland, and the Dental Department of the Baltimore Medical College. You can see artifacts from dentistry’s past at the Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry, opened in 1996 in Baltimore.

References
BCDS (Baltimore College of Dental Surgery)
2013 Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. Wikipedia. Website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_College_of_Dental_Surgery accessed 10-1-2013.

Ring, Malvin E.
2005 Founders of a profession: The Original Subscribers to the First Dental Journal in the World. The Journal of the American College of Dentists 72 (2): 20–5.

UMSD (University of Maryland School of Dentisty)
2013 History. Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. University of Maryland School of Dentistry. Website http://www.dental.umaryland.edu/history.html, accessed 10-1-2013.

Windsor
2008 Horace Henry Hayden 1769-1844; “Father of the Dental Profession”. Windsor Historical Society, Windsor, CT. Website http://hartfordds.org/hd/docs_linkedto/HoraceHayden.pdf accessed 10-2-2013.

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