American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

Surgical Set collection from 1860 to 1865 - Civilian and Military

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John T. Shotwell, M.D. 

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John T. Shotwell was born in Mason Bounty, Kentucky, on the 10th of January, 1807. His parents were immigrants from New Jersey, at an early period in the history of the West, and were among those who established its character as the home of hardy, brave, enterprising men, of indomitable perseverance and of kind-hearted, true-hearted, womanly women.

His father was a farmer during the early period of the life of his three sons; and hU example, as well as his precepts, laid a foundation in their characters for the industrious habits in their several professions, by which they were distinguished.

A love of literature in early life was remarked in the character of John, the eldest son, and his father determined to give him the best opportunities which the West afforded for the cultivation of this taste. This, with other reasons, induced the removal of the family to Lexington, where he entered the Transylvania University in 1822, and graduated in 1825, with so high a reputation for scholarship, that the late Dr. Drake, with that appreciation of character by which he was distinguished, was desirous to hve him embrace the medical profession, and offered all the aids and advantages within his control, to qualify him for that excellence which he foresaw awaited him in that profession.

He entered the office of Dr. Drake in 1826, and continued his pupil until 1830, when he became his partner. His health having been impaired during his pupilage by too incessant devotion to his studies, he was induced in spring of 1829 to try the effects of a journey 'n a more southern climate for its restoration.

He first went to New Orleans, and from thence journeyed on horseback through several of the Southern States and the Indian nations. This journey, although attended with much fatigue and exposure, greatly improved his health ; and his habit of observation, and of making the result of his observations practically useful in the principal pursuits of his life, added strength to his mind in proportion as exercise in open air added to the strength of his body. He became a graduate of Medicine at the Medical College of Ohio in 1832, and having dissolved his connection with Dr. Drake, he commenced practice with the advantages derived from that connexion and the reputation he had already acquired  and then the cholera visited this city, in that year, he became most extensively known as a successful practitioner, and as characterized by that amenity of disposition and anxiety for success in his treatment of cases, which convert patients into friends, and inspire that confidence which facilitates the labors of the physician, as well through a strict observance of his directions, as from the curative influence of faith and hope.

He married in 1832 Miss Mary Ward Foote, daughter of John P. Foote, Esq., of this city, and during the remainder of his life, displayed those amiable qualities as a husband which won so strongly the attachment of all who knew him, both as a physician and a man.

In the year 1832, Dr. Shotwell was appointed adjunct Professor of Anatomy to his friend, the celebrated Dr. Cobb, who then occupied the chair of Anatomy in the Medical College of Ohio, and whose fame as a teacher of that science was rapidly extended throughout this United States, and excited competition in other institutions to obtain the advantages of the talents. Among the offers of chairs made him in other cities, he chose to accept that of the Medical Institute at Louisville, Ky., in which he remained until his bodily health became so affected by his labors as to necessitate an abandonment of the duties of a medical instructor. His resignation of the professorship he held in the Medical College of Ohio, was followed by that of all the other professors except Dr. Locke, who was in Europe at that time, and Dr. Shotwell, who was appointed to succeed Dr. Cobb.

The strong inclination to devote his practice exclusively to surgery, which would naturally be developed by devotion to the duties of his chair, induced him, in 1842, to visit Europe for the purpose of learning from the celebrated surgeons of France and England, any improvment which their extensive practice had enabled them to make in their profession, a knowledge of which would be usefnl to him as an operator. He considered that his journey had been successful, and that the advantages thus obtained were a full compensation for the loss of time and expense of the journey.

For the purpose of relinquishing all except surgical practice, he formed a partnership with , his former pupil, Dr. H. E. Foote, intending to be relieved, by this association, from as much of his ordinary regular practice as possible. Had he been permitted to carry this plan into full effect, his valuable life might perhaps have been spared. But during the cholera season of 1850, his regular patients would not dispense with his attendance, and many others, in their anxiety to obtain his services, added to the fatigue, labor, and exposure he was compelled to undergo. His own health soon yielded to his solicitude for the health of others, and one evening, on his return home from a very arduous series of labors, he found himself unable to do more, and went to bed with a determination to take that rest which he found had become absolutely essential to the preservation of his power to continue his usefulness. Foreseeing that calls would be made upon him during the night, his family determined that all of them should be dismissed without his knowledge. This was done with several applicants, but at length one of them insisted so strongly on seeing him, and asking at his bedside for advice in the case of his wife, whom he considered in a peculiarly dangerous condition, that he was permitted to do so, and being there, he represented to the doctor that the life of his wife depended on seeing him — that her confidence in his skill was such that the mere sight of him would be more efficacious for her recovery than any medicine that could be administered. The doctor could not resist this appeal, and left his bed, to which he returned after his visit, but never left again. In the eloquent memoir of him, by his attached and steady friend, Dr. J. L. Vattier, the following statement is given of the commencement and termination of his disease : " On the morning of the 14th of July,-he visited the Hospital. On his way home, finding himself quite unwell, he called at my house to rest himself. He looked pale and haggard: remained twenty minutes and left for his home. That night he was summoned to attend a patient on Third street, and while preparing for the visit, was assailed with unmistakable symp toms of Cholera. He, however, attended the call, and while yet at the house of his patient, the symptoms becoming more aggravated in their character, he was forced to resort to medical remedies to enable him again to reach his home.

The next morning his friend, that excellent physician, Dr. Walcot Richards, was summoned to attend' him, and continued to have the principal charge of his case up to the time of his death. I saw him frequently, as did many others of his numerous friends.

His disease assumed a malignant character, and he was for a while considered in imminent danger; at last, however, medical skill obtained the mastery, and he commenced to convalesce, and continued to do so for several days. He was patient under suffering, and looked forward with hope to a speedy restoration to health; but this hope proved false, for with him all life's scenes were fast drawing to a termination. The improvement in his condition was not destined to be permanent; reaction became too violent: congestion of the brain set in, and though every means was resorted to that medical skill could suggest, death closed the scene at 11 o'clock, P. M., on the 23d of July."

His death was regarded as a public calamity by all classes of citizens ; and a stranger, on seeing the immense assemblage at his funeral, anxious to pay the last tribute of affection and respect, would have understood that a great man had fallen; and if he had inquired what manner of man, and who it was that had such power after death over the hearts and feelings of such a multitude, he would have been told that a good man was lost to a numerous body of friends, who justly appreciated his virtues and talents; that a heavy affliction was laid on the poor who had experienced their benefits; and that the science of medicine had lost one of its most promising cultivators, in the death of John T. Shotwell. — Cin. Med. Obser.

From Google Digital books


John T. Shotwell was born in Mason county, Kentucky, January 10, 1807. In 1822 his father sent him to Transylvania University, where he remained until 1825. Later he came to Cincinnati and began the study of medicine in the office of Dr. Drake, who was his cousin. For three years he studied in Drake's office. He then became a student in the Medical College of Ohio, receiving his degree in 1832. He opened an office on Walnut street below Third street. The cholera epidemic of 1832 gave him a chance to show his mettle, and he made a splendid record. In 1835 he was made demonstrator of anatomy; the following year he was appointed adjunct professor of anatomy. In the upheaval of 1837 Shotwell became master of the situation. John Locke was in Europe; John Eberle, J. C. Cross, Jedediah Cobb and A. G. Smith had resigned. Shotwell being the only member of the faculty left, made himself dean. Drake, his cousin and preceptor, who had founded the Medical Department of Cincinnati, became his rival and bitter enemy. Shotwell's reputation suffered much in the struggle.

In the latter part of 1849, to save the apparently moribund institution, Drake was earnestly solicited to return. He accepted the chair of theory and practice, and delivered the opening address November 5, 1849. At the end of the session he resigned, and went back to Louisville. In 1852 he was again importuned to return. He began his work, but took sick in October, and died November 6, 1852.

On February 22, 1851, an important meeting of the trustees was called by Dr. John L. Vattier. Dr. Thomas O. Edwards, professor of materia medica (1850-5), was authorized to go to Columbus and aid in making certain changes in the charter, and get permission to obtain a loan for erecting a new building. A special committee was authorized to procure a loan of twenty thousand dollars by issuing forty bonds of five hundred dollars each, the capital to be paid back in ten years. Subsequently twenty more bonds of like amount each, were issued. Within one year the building, a Gothic structure of imposing appearance, and considered the finest and most practical edifice of its kind in this country, was ready for occupancy. It contained two large amphitheatres, each capable of accommodating between five and six hundred students; rooms for clinics, library, museum, laboratories, dissecting rooms, and private apartments for the faculty.

This building was the home of the college until 1896, a period of forty-four years, when the college became the Medical Department of the University of Cincinnati, and was removed to its present location. The opening of the new building was the beginning of the prosperous career of the college. The organization of two new schools, (the Cincinnati College of Medicine and Surgery in 1851, and The Miami Medical College in 1852), did not in any way injure it. During the decade 1850 to 1860, the faculty was made up of the ablest men in the profession; such men as Henry E. Foote (1857-60); Jesse P. Judkins (1857-61); George Mendenhall (1857-61); C. G. Comegys (1857-60, and 1864- 68); N. T. Marshall (1853-7); Samuel G. Armor (1854-57); John A. Warder (1854-7); George C. Blackman (1855-71) ; James Graham (1855-74); Leonidas M. Lawson (1847-56); John Locke (1837-50, and 1851-3).

In this group of able men George C. Blackman stands out as one of the most brilliant and scholarly surgeons of his time. His reputation was international. In the hospital amphitheatre, with the patient on the table before him, he was the demi-god of more than three hundred students who looked down upon him from the benches. He was irritable, quarrelsome with his confreres, and vain to a degree. This latter characteristic was encouraged by the students who would gather around him. At times, however, he was most agreeable. His ambition, and his ability to work were boundless. Under the most distressing poverty, and much of the time in ill-health, he spent months abroad in study.

In 1853 he translated Vidal's "Treatise on Syphilis," and later Velpeau's "Operative Surgery," in three large volumes. For several years before his death he was engaged with the Hon. Stanley Mathews of the United States Supreme Court in preparing an exhaustive work on "Legal Liability in Surgical Malpractice." At the same time he was gathering material for a work on the "Principles and Practice of Surgery." His minor works and articles in the journals were numberless.

At the same time (1855) Dr. James Graham entered the school. Equally brilliant as a teacher, and successful as a practitioner, he was in some respects the counterpart of Blackman. While decided in his opinions, he was never contentious. He acted among his confreres as a peacemaker. A striking contrast to these two was Dr. C. G. Comegys. Of commanding appearance, dignified, affable, scholarly, always mindful of the interests of his profession, enthusiastic in everything that belonged to educational progress, he worked to the last for the advancement of the school, and the interests of the university. His principal literary work was the translation of "Renouard's History of Medicine."

It is not to be inferred that all was harmonious during these years. Resignations and new appointments were constantly taking place. The troubles, however, were confined to the faculty for the most part. The profession and the public were friendly to, and interested in, the welfare of the school.

In the year 1857 two full courses were given, and two commencements held. In most of the western schools at that time two courses of five months each were required for graduation. In the east six months constituted a term. The question of a higher education agitated the profession then as now. There were a number who urged the possession of a baccalaureate degree as'a requirement for matriculation.

In 1853 Dr. Thomas Wood was appointed demonstrator of anatomy. In 1855 he became professor of anatomy. In 1857 the chair of anatomy was divided between Wood and Jesse Judkins, the former teaching surgical, and the .latter descriptive anatomy. In 1858 microscopy was added to Wood's subject. In 1859 he resigned. Wood was one of the remarkable men of his day. He was a great surgeon, a poet, litterateur, journalist, and inventor. Among his inventions was an instrument called the "Lineal Mensurator" for which he was granted a patent. The purpose of the instrument was to enable anyone to find the exact number of square feet in a piece of ground no matter how irregular in outline. He also designed a dirigible balloon. A goodly number of his poems appeared in the journals, and he left an equal number of unpublished ones.

On October 2, 1871, he made a hip-joint amputation in the new Cincinnati hospital, two hours after Dr. M. B. Wright had delivered the address at the formal dedication of the institution.

The reorganization of the faculty before the session of 1860-61, was a delicate and difficult matter. Every member of the old faculty had resigned except Graham, on account of their hostility to Blackman. The trustees finally decided to create the chairs of Clinical Medicine and Clinical Surgery. The other members of the new faculty were: L. M. Lawson, professor of theory and practice of medicine, John Davis, professor of anatomy, Jesse P. Judkins, professor of principles of surgery, George Mendenhall, professor of obstetrics, C. G. Comegys, professor of physiology; John A. Murphy, professor of materia medica, Henry E. Foote, professor of chemistry, B. F. Richardson, professor of diseases of women and children. The trustees made a rule enjoining the professors from speaking ill of each other. Graham and Blackman accepted the rule; the other professors promptly resigned.

The trustees were disgusted, and in turn resigned. The governor accepted their resignations, and the next day reappointed them. They met and organized. Then they appointed Blackman, professor of surgery; Graham, professor of theory and practice of medicine; M. B. Wright, professor of obstetrics, and Mr. Charles O'Leary, professor of chemistry. At the end of the term Mr. O'Leary resigned.

The appointment of the remaining professors was left to the four above named. They elected James F. Hibbard, professor of physiology and pathology; John C. Reeve, professor of materia medica; L. M. Lawson, professor of theory and practice of medicine; Jesse P. Judkins, professor of anatomy; John S. Billings, demonstrator of anatomy. The latter entered the army, and Wm. W. Dawson took his place. In 1862, C. G. Comegys reentered the faculty.

In 1867 the college building was purchased by Joseph C. Butler, and leased to the faculty. Some of the men who entered the faculty in the sixties were: W. W. Dawson (1861); Roberts Bartholow (1864) ; Theophilus Parvin (1864) ; Wm. H. Gobricht (1866); Phineas S. Conner (1868); Samuel Nickles (1865); W. W. Seely (1865); James T. Whittaker (1869) ; Chauncey D. Palmer (1870). During the late sixties the number of students was more than three hundred each year. In 1872 the college graduated a class of ninety. In 1878 there were about eight hundred medical students in Cincinnati. Of these about three hundred and fifty were in the Medical College of Ohio. The following year (1879) one hundred and twenty-one graduated. For several years thereafter the number was never less than one hundred. In 1871 Dr. Bartholow suggested buying the college building and presenting it to the university for its medical department. Drs. Graham, Dawson and Bartholow were appointed a committee to interest the citizens in the matter. The plan, however, was a failure. Fifteen years later the Medical College of Ohio became nominally the medical department of the university. The arrangement, however, conferred no rights, and imposed no obligations on either the college or university.

In 1894 the length of the session was increased to six months, and a graded course of three years was established. In the following year the curriculum was extended, making a four-years' course compulsory for obtaining a degree. A closer affiliation was effected April 27, 1896. when the trustees of the university and the faculty of the college signed an agreement, provisionally merging the college into the university. The latter gave to the college a new home in the McMicken University building. The trustees of the university were to be the governing body. At a meeting of the faculty, held June 4, 1896, the plans and estimates for the buildings presented by Dr. Reamy, appeared to be satisfactory, and it was voted that the matter be left to Drs. Reamy and Hyndman, with power to act. and that they be limited to seven thousand dollars for the dispensary building. The treasurer was authorized to borrow, as required for building purposes, a sum not exceeding ten thousand dollars. On October 17, 1896, the faculty invited the trustees of the Medical College of Ohio to inspect the alterations made in the old building. These included new laboratories, lecture- rooms, and the clinical buildings. The sum expended was fourteen thousand dollars. Of this seven thousand, five hundred was applied to the new clinic building on McMicken avenue.

In 1906. the lectureship on hygiene was made a full professorship. In the same year laboratories for instruction in electro-therapeutics, embryology, and pharmacology were established. In 1907 a professional chair of medical jurisprudence and economics was established. A post-graduate course was founded, beginning about the middle of April and ending June ist.

In 1909, the union of the Medical College of Ohio, then the medical department of the university, and the Miami Medical College, was effected. The new establishment was to be known as the Ohio-Miami Medical College, the medical department of the University of Cincinnati. Instructors on full time and pay were appointed in pathology, bacteriology, and chemistry, laboratory methods of teaching being employed. The professors of pathology and bacteriology had charge of the laboratories of the Cincinnati hospital.

Entrance requirements were advanced to one year's university work in physics, chemistry, biology and a modern language.

In 1910 the instructors in anatomy and physiology were put on full time and pay.

During the current year (1911) the following advances have been made: Cooperation with the board of health; a library established and equipped; seniors to act as clinical clerks in the wards of the Cincinnati hospital.

Ohio-miami Medical College.
Joseph Eichberg Endowment

(The personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which may or may not be completely documented)


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