New Year, New Teeth — 1877
by Paula Bosse
The exclamation mark is a nice touch — 1878
by Paula Bosse
It’s a new year. Time again to check if the women-folk in your household need a new set of false teeth!
Dallas Herald, Dec. 30, 1877
“A Present. While you are thinking about what to select as a New Year’s present for your wife or daughter, don’t forget to examine their mouths and see if they are in need of a set of artificial teeth, or fillings to preserve their natural ones. Don’t forget this, and if you find they need the work, send them to Dr. Thomas, dentist, at 701 Elm street, over Rick’s furniture store, whom we recommend as a first class operator.”
(While you’re waiting for your wife’s new choppers to be installed in the doctor’s office upstairs, you can browse for a nice new stool for the spinet downstairs at Rick’s.)
But wait, there’s more. Dig a little deeper and you find this:
Galveston Daily News, July 28, 1889
Dallas Morning News, July 28, 1889
ADJUDGED INSANE: The Wreck of a Mind High in Professional Standing.
Dr. William Thomas, the dentist, was adjudged insane yesterday by a jury de lunatico inquirendo and he will be forwarded within days to the lunatic asylum at Terrell. The doctor’s mind had been failing for some time, but reason only left him entirely a few days ago. Last Friday evening he entered the Sanger Brothers’ store and offered to buy the contents for a present to the Buckner orphans’ home. In court his mind and tongue rambled incessantly and he at one time wanted an adjournment of the proceedings so that he could have a chance to eat dinner. The doctor seems to be affected with a derangement of the intellect.
I’m not quite sure what all that was about, how much time he spent in the Terrell “lunatic asylum,” or how “insane” the good doctor really was (I suspect he was using a lot of cocaine — see below). The only other mention of Dr. Thomas I found was a mention in the Buckner orphanage’s annual report of 1898 in which his name appeared in a group of doctors who were thanked for their services rendered to the children free of cost.
Top ad from the 1878 Dallas city directory.
Dr. Thomas probably wasn’t actually “insane.” I wonder if perhaps he hadn’t been dipping into his own medicine chest and availing himself of the cocaine that most dentists of the time used as a painkiller during dental procedures? An interesting article on just that topic is here.
Happy New Year! And don’t forget to floss!
Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.
Now that is quite a bite of a story…..hahah Happy New Year…
Living in an age in which attitudes toward mental illness were little advanced from the twelfth century and in which journalism was yellow as often as not, William Thomas certainly had his work cut out for him.
Paula mentioned Dr. Thomas’ favorable mention in the Buckner home’s 1898 annual report, and I found him listed in the censuses of 1900 and 1910; in the first evidently still practicing, and in both married to his spouse of 1880. Makes one think perhaps he had his house in some sort of order.
There is a death record in Dallas County for a William Thomas who died on August 1, 1918, and it looks to be a good match for the troubled dentist. Perhaps there is an obituary?
Thanks. I couldn’t find further info.
I think more people should finish their list of professional credentials with an exclamation mark!
I agree! That was my favorite part of that ad. (I also like that so many fonts were used in such a short ad,)
Did a little checking on Dr. Thomas in old Dallas city directories. In 1905 he and his son Harry had a joint practice as Thomas & Son, in the Juanita Building on Main Street. At that time the doctors Thomas lived at 418 and 416 Gaston Avenue. In 1915 William Thomas had his office in the Sumpter Building in the 1600 block of Main and resided at 3920 Gaston; Harry officed elsewhere and was no longer his father’s neighbor. So whatever the indisposition of 1889 was all about William Thomas was able (in the journalistic parlance) to put it behind him.
Thanks for the investigative update, Bob.
[…] Mention: “New Year, New Teeth — 1877.” This gets its own little category because the ad is slightly amusing, but the story behind the […]
[…] And, heck, see my other cocaine-related post, “New Year, New Teeth — 1877” — about a dentist who might have been dipping into his own medicine chest a little too frequently — here. […]