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Organization of the Dental Corps

AMEDD Corps History > U.S. Army Dental Corps > Walter D. Vail and the History of the U.S. Army Dental Corps


VOLUME 4, NO. 3 (JULY 1933)



(Continued from page 78, April issue)

The organization of the Dental Corps progressed rapidly. Apparently anticipating approval of the Act of Feb. 2, 1901, the Surgeon General wrote (Jan. 25, 1901) the Adjutant General of the Army a letter, outlining his recommendations concerning regulations relating to the appointment and duties of dental surgeons to be appointed under that Act. (S.G. 77614 A).

On Feb. 1, 1901, the Surgeon General had apparently selected two of the three dental surgeons who were to be appointed for “the special service of conducting the examination and supervising operations,” as on that date he notified by letter Drs. John S. Marshall, (Chicago, Ill.) and Robert T. Oliver (Indianapolis, Ind.) of their pending appointment and stated that “a contract will be mailed for your signature on the 11th instant together with orders directing you to proceed to this city, where meetings of the board will be held.” (S.G. 70760, 70929).

On Feb. 9, 1901, Honorable Boise Penrose, U. S. Senator (Pa.), wired the Surgeon General, requesting that he be advised “by wire when and where examinations will be held to determine the eligibility of those who desire to be appointed as dentists in the Army.” In reply the Surgeon General informed him “examinations will be held in this city, commencing Feb 25th” (S.G. 2486-173).

On Feb. 11, 1901, the Surgeon General wrote Drs. Marshall and Oliver, inclosing a contract for signature (in quadruplicate), “* * * three copies to be returned to this office, together with the oath of office (which should bear the date of contract) duly executed. Sign your contract before starting on your journey.

“A copy of the order which you are directed to obey at the earliest practicable date is also inclosed, together with an order for transportation. Present the latter to the railroad ticket agent and receive in exchange a ticket to Washington, D. C.


“Upon your arrival at Washington, D. C., the Post Paymaster will settle your mileage accounts upon presentation of your contract and orders” (S.G. 70760).

On the same date he wired Dr. R. W. Morgan, (Lynchburg, Va,) “Are you prepared to assume duty as supervising dental surgeon? Answer by telegraph. Give name in full” (S.G. 78281 B).

On Feb. 19, 1901, the Surgeon General issued instructions to the board of dental examiners as follows: “The following named dentists, having been appointed, with the approval of the Secretary of War, as dental examiners as provided in “an Act to increase the efficiency of the permanent military establishment of the United States,” approved Feb. 2, 1901, will constitute a dental examining board, viz: John S. Marshall, Robert W. Morgan and Robert T. Oliver. The board will meet at the Army Dispensary, No. 1814 G St., N.W., Washington, D.C., and will examine such applicants for appointment as may be ordered by the Surgeon General of the Army to report for examination.

“In conducting this examination the board will be governed by the provisions of the act referred to and such special instructions as it may receive from the Surgeon General.” (S.G. 79325).

In connection with Dr. Morgan’s appointment there is an interesting record concerning the origin of the dental provision of the Act of Feb. 2, 1901. Although Dr. Morgan’s appointment was sponsored by others, the Honorable Peter J. Otey, M.C. (Va.), appeared to be especially active. In a communication supporting the appointment of Dr. Morgan, Mr. Otey made the following statements:

“I submit I was author of the bill. For two years and more I have worked before committees and before Congress for its passage. I especially took charge of it while others made fun of it * * *. The dentists in the country had not asked for the law. I had not thought of it. It was Dr. R. W. Morgan who suggested it. Then the dentists who had been asleep took it up and did good work to accomplish the results.”

He submitted a statement signed by seventeen of the then prominent members of the House, which reads “It is due to Mr. Otey that he has recognition for his early, long and successful advocacy of the dental surgery provision, and I hope his ap-


plication (for appointment of Dr. Morgan) will be successful.” Mr. Otey stated further that he had received a vote of thanks for his efforts from the Second Dental Society, State of New York, and that he was a special guest of the National Dental Association in the City of Washington, and was commended by it for his efforts. (S. G. 79281).

On Feb. 25, 1901, the Surgeon General wrote the Secretary of War the following letter: “I have the honor to inform you that the board of dental examiners authorized by Act of Congress, approved Feb. 2, 1901, are now in this city and ready for duty, and to request that suitable rooms in building corner 18th and G Sts., N.W., now under the control of the War Department, be made available for their immediate use.”

On the same date the Surgeon General wrote the following letter to the board: “I have to inform you that the following named dentists have been directed to report on Monday, Feb. 25, 1901, for examination for employment as dental surgeon, U.S. Army, viz: Luciam Quisenberry Nelson, Lincoln D. Kelly of Md., Walter Bryant Currier of Mass., Chas, Henry Lorence of N.J., Clarence Edward Lauderdale of N.J., Clifford Adrian Whitehead of N.C., Chas. Clifford Fry of Pa., Siebert Davis Boak of W. Va. Upon the completion of the examination of each class you will please report to this office the result in each case. It is desired that a separate report be made of each individual, showing the several subjects or branches in which examined and the degree of proficiency in each (expressed :in parts of 100), also the general average attained.” (S.G. 79321).

Two members of this, the first class examined for appointment in the Dental Corps, were found physically and professionally qualified and subsequently received appointments. They were Seibert D. Boak and Clarence E. Lauderdale. (S.G. 79325-D.E.).

As previously stated, the Surgeon General recommended the publication of regulations concerning appointment and duties of dental surgeons, under date of January 25,1901. They were published as an additional paragraph to Army regulations in General Order No. 52, Headquarters of the Army, Washington, April 17, 1901. The following exract contains the regulations he recommended:



1395½. Candidates for appointment as dental surgeons must be not less than twenty-four nor more than forty years of age. They must be graduates of standard medical* colleges, trained in the several branches of dentistry, of good moral and professional character, and prior to appointment will be required to pass a satisfactory professional examination before a board of dental surgeons convened for that purpose by the Secretary of War.

Contracts with dental surgeons will be made for three years, but may be annulled at any time by the commanding general of a military department, after official investigation, for conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline or by the Surgeon General when in his opinion a termination of the contract would be in the interests of the service.

Dental surgeons are attached to the medical department and will be assigned to duty in accordance with the recommendations of the Surgeon General of the Army or the chief surgeon of a military department.

A dental surgeon when assigned to a station will apply to the post commander for a suitable operating roam. If no other room is available the surgeon of the post may assign him a room in the hospital.

Each dental surgeon will ordinarily be allowed one enlisted man as an assistant, who will be detailed from the acting hospital stewards or privates of the Hospital Corps, and whose duty it will be to assist the dentist in his operations, in caring for the instruments and other public property, in keeping the records, and in the performance of such other official work pertaining to this position as he may be directed by the proper authority to do. When a member of the Hospital Corps is detailed as dentist’s assistant he will receive cummutation of rations at the rate of $1.00 daily, and will be provided with a suitable room as quarters by

*The error of omitting the words “or dental” after the word medical, as stated in the law, was called to the attention of the War Department by The Surgeon General, April 20, 1901.


the Quartermaster’s Department, except while on duty at a post, when he will be attached to the Hospital Corps or other organization for rations and quarters.

Necessary dental instruments and supplies will be purchased by medical supply officers under instructions from the Surgeon General and in accordance with a supply table to be approved by the Secretary of War.

Dental surgeons will be held strictly responsible for all instruments and supplies issued to them and will be governed by Army Regulations and orders now in force, or hereafter to be issued, with reference to accountability for Government property.

In accordance with the act of Congress authorizing their employment, dental surgeons will “serve the officers and enlisted men of the Regular and Volunteer Army.” The families of officers and civilian employees attached to the Army are not entitled to their services. In this connection acting assistant surgeons are to be regarded as commissioned officers.

Dental surgeons will operate between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m, only upon those officers and enlisted men who are entitled to their services. They may operate upon others not entitled to free service before and after these hours when their services are not required by those entitled to them, but material issued to them by the Government will only be used in operation upon officers and enlisted men of the Army.

Dental surgeons will not perform any operation upon officers or enlisted men of the Army or prescribe medicines for them other than those necessary for the treatment of the teeth and gums. This prohibition does not apply to eases of emergency where no medical officer is within reach, and where a dental surgeon is able to render the necessary surgical assistance to meet the immediate emergency.

Emergency work whether for officers or enlisted men should always have precedence. Plate work or restoration of teeth by any method will only be done for those who have lost teeth in the service and in the line of duty. For plate work or filling teeth only the cheaper materials will be supplied, but gold may be used, if the operating dentist sees fit to use it, at the expense of the individual operated upon.

Enlisted men requiring the services of the dental surgeon


will, at an hour prescribed by the commanding officer, be conducted to the designated place under a noncommissioned officer, who will take with him and hand to the dentist a list of those reporting for treatment. This list will be entered in a daybook ruled in column for surname, given name, rank, company, regiment, etc.; all headings to be the same as those borne on his monthly report.

All cases requiring treatment involving future appointment will be so noted, and the others will be marked according to the circumstances, as “treatment unnecessary,” “further treatment unnecessary,” “should be sent to the surgeon,” etc. When future treatment is necessary the dentist will forward a card as follows:

. . . . . . . . . ., 19

The Adjutant,


Sir: I have the honor to ask that _________________ be directed to report to me from ___________ M. to __________ on _________ instant for treatment.

Very respectfully,


Dental Surgeon.

Dental surgeons will submit a monthly report in duplicate (on prescribed blanks) of all official work done by them, giving all required data in every case in which professional services have been rendered. This report will be an exact, copy of the register kept for the period. One copy will be sent on the last day of the month to the Surgeon General and one to the chief surgeon of the department in which the denial surgeon is serving.

(End of extract)

General Orders No. 39, Headquarters of the Army, Washington, March 21, 1901, authorized the purchase of subsistence stores by contract dental surgeons when stationed within a military post or serving with troops in the field on the same basis as officers of the Army.

Regulations pertaining to uniform of contract dental sur-


geons were published April 18, 1901, as part of General Orders No. 53, Headquarters of the Army, Washington. They read as follows:

“Contract dental surgeons will be permitted to wear the undress and field uniform of an assistant surgeon with the rank of first lieutenant, the straps and ornaments to be in silver instead of gold, and gold block letters “D.S.” in silver embroidery to be placed between the bars of the shoulder straps.”

The contract entered into by dental surgeons stated that:

“_______ promises and agrees to perform the duty of a dental surgeon agreeably to Army regulations, and the said Surgeon General, U.S. Army, promises and agrees, on behalf of the United States, to pay, or cause to be paid, to the said D.S., the sum of $150.00 for each and every month he shall continue to perform the services above stated, both when on duty and when absent therefrom by proper authority, the regulations as to leaves of absence for commissioned officers governing. When on duty at a post or station where quarters in kind are furnished by the United States, he shall receive the quarters allowed by regulations to an assistant surgeon of the rank of first lieutenant; and, when travelling under orders, the travel allowances prescribed by laws and regulations in force for the time for contract surgeons. And it is further agreed, at the expiration of his term of service, the said ______ shall receive travelling allowances, as aforesaid, for actual travel only, to ______; provided said contract is not annulled for misconduct or neglect of duty, in which case no travelling allowances will be furnished.” (Quoted from contract signed by dental surgeons).

A supply table, “Outfit for Contract Dental Surgeons, U.S. Army,” was published as Circular No, 4, War Department, Surgeon General’s Office, Washington, May 29, 1901.

The Surgeon Generals Annual Report to the Secretary of


War for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1901, contained the following comment on the organization of the Dental Corps:

“The corps of 30 contract dental surgeons authorized by the Act of Congress approved February 2, 1901, is in progress of formation. Up to June 30, 1901, only 17 had been employed, and 3 of these were the supervising dental surgeons who constituted the examining board for this service. Of the 14 who passed the examining board and were given contracts for three years, 1 was assigned to the Department of Cuba, 11 to the division of the Philippines„ and 2 were stationed at post in the United States.”

(To be continued)