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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Springfield in Sangamon County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Lincoln's Dentist

 
 
Lincoln's Dentist Marker image. Click for full size.
By Beverly Pfingsten, June 16, 2011
1. Lincoln's Dentist Marker
Inscription.
Americans had poor oral hygiene in Lincoln's era.
Rotten teeth and foul breath were common (halitosis was not yet a social evil). Calomel frequently prescribed by doctors for fevers caused many people to have loose teeth. Dentistry was plagued by ignorance and quackery. Barbers were the usual practitioners of tooth extraction, wielding the dreaded "turn-key" (pictured below) used to twist out stubborn teeth. Various craftsmen tinkered at creating dentures, including carved ivory, metal plates that occasionally featured old sheep;s teeth, or even hickory plugs soaked in creosote. After Dr. Amos W. French arrived from New York in 1848, he soon acquired a reputation as one of the best "mechanical dentists" in the West. He was also a book collector; his upper-floor office looked more like a library than a dentist's office. He and Lincoln studied German together---but Lincoln kept the class in turmoil with his storytelling. After the Civil War, French participated in the scientific revolution that transformed the dental profession.

Lincoln had a bad experience with a dentist before Dr. French arrived. In an 1841 letter, he wrote about having a painful tooth extracted: "I had it torn out, bringing with it a bit of the jawbone; the consequence of which is that my mouth is now so sore that I can neither talk, nor eat."

Lincoln's Dentist Dr. A. W. French image. Click for full size.
By Beverly Pfingsten, June 16, 2011
2. Lincoln's Dentist Dr. A. W. French
An 1843 store account shows that Lincoln bought a toothbrush. Perhaps this reflects Mary's refining influence. As president, he took precautions when visiting the dentist, for he reportedly took along a small bottle of chloroform to help deaden the pain of having a tooth pulled. When the doctor approached with forceps, Lincoln surprised him by administering the analgesic to himself before proceeding. The practice of analgesia in dentistry was not common at the time.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Looking for Lincoln marker series.
 
Location. 39° 48.033′ N, 89° 38.93′ W. Marker is in Springfield, Illinois, in Sangamon County. Marker is on E. Adams Street. Click for map. Between 5th & 6th Streets. Marker is in this post office area: Springfield IL 62701, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Curran's Jewelry Shop (here, next to this marker); Soldiers of the War of 1812 (a few steps from this marker); Soldiers of the American Revolution (a few steps from this marker); 1859-1911 (a few steps from this marker); Departure Point of The Donner Party (a few steps from this marker); President - Elect Abraham Lincoln
Dental Tools image. Click for full size.
By Beverly Pfingsten, June 16, 2011
3. Dental Tools
(a few steps from this marker); Abraham Lincoln - Eighth Judicial District (a few steps from this marker); Streetscape 1859 (within shouting distance of this marker). Click for a list of all markers in Springfield.
 
Categories. Science & Medicine
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 408 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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