A Peek into a Dentist’s Office in 1893

Dr. Albert Galileo Bowman

The below description of a visit to a dentist’s office was found in a rare 1893 newspaper.  It offers a rare peek into the dental practices of long ago.  As you read, notice there is no mention of pain relief procedures.  Another thing that struck me, was that there was very little privacy for the patient!  Just a screen between them and the waiting room!  The building that Dr. Bowman practiced dentistry in, still stands in the 100 Block of South Grand.

Thirty or forty years ago the profession and practice of dentistry was neither very lucrative nor very scientific, but of late years the rate of progress in the science and practice of dentistry has kept up with the advance in every other science.  As a result the D.D.S. of to-day is altogether a different character from the “toothpuller” of forty years ago.

Prominent among the practicing dentists of Monroe and North Louisiana is Dr. Albert Galileo Bowman, a native Louisianian.  He has resided in or near Monroe since 1874.  He studied medicine with his brother, Dr. M.L. Bowman, for two years, after which he entered the Missouri Dental College in 1888 and graduated in 1890.  Since that time, with the exception of one year in New Orleans, he has practiced his profession very successfully in this city.

            Dr. Bowman is a bright young man, a member of the Knights of Pythias, a director in the Young Men’s Athletic Club, and prominent in political as well as social circles.

A reporter had cause to consult Dr. Bowman recently and sought him at his office in the second story of the Mealy building on Grand street.  Opening the door he entered one of the most handsome dental parlors in the State, one which in appointments and furnishings will rival anything in New Orleans.

            Upon entering the door an electrical alarm bell announced our entrance, and summoned the doctor from behind the screen where he was engaged with a patient.  Coming forward he greeted us cordially and gracefully extended his hand in salutation.  Arranging a chair for our convenience he asked us to “be seated,” and excused himself so as to give his attention to his patient, explaining that he would “soon be through.”

Realizing that we were destined to wait, we began to examine the apartments, and at once found them not only conveniently arranged, so as to obtain all the light possible, but furnished throughout as handsomely as any we have ever seen.  The lovely Brussels carpet, with its handsome border, displays the greatest taste and judgment in its selection and forms a harmony of analogy with the splendid antique oak furniture in the room which convinces one that the doctor is an adept in the art of office decoration.

            Every appointment for the comfort of guests is just as it should be.  Sofas, divans, spring bottom chairs, all with the choicest and loveliest upholsterings, are dotted around here and there.  The walls are decorated with magnificent crayon pictures, natural as life, encased in handsome and natural frames.

A large frame, containing a group of his classmates of the Missouri Dental College, is highly prized by Dr. Bowman, but more highly appreciated than all of these is a hand painting of the property of Roland Filhiol, of Logtown, the work of Mrs. Bowman, which shows great skill in point of execution, and would easily be taken for the work of one of the masters of the art.

            A peep behind the screen reveals one of the latest improvements in a dental operating chair and stand.  Immediately to the right, and within easy reach, stands the dental cabinet, with a rotary movement, and as it is opened up it reveals endless quantities of dental instruments, which the doctor explained were of the very latest design and improvements.  A large mirror, washstand, comb and brush – and, in fact, everything that can in any way contribute to the comfort of the patient – is prepared, and so arranged as to make the room at once poetical and attractive.  Going into the adjoining room we saw what we supposed was the laboatory [sic], if such places are utilized by the dental fraternity.  At any rate, call it what you may, it was “chock full” of all kinds of mechanical devices for turning out work.  And in this, as in the operating room, the reporter was impressed with the idea that it was furnished with an eye to comfort and convenience.

            We could not undertake to enumerate what we saw there, or tell for what uses the various contrivances were intended.  We were shown an oxyhydrogen blow pipe, with a carburetter [sic] attachment, a dental engine, a vulcanite press for rubber work, a celluloid press for celluloid work, together with a tread motion, redman lathe, and many other things which impressed us with the thought that a thorough knowledge of one’s business or profession is not enough, of itself, to constitute what is properly called a well informed man.  On the contrary it requires all this machinery so to speak to enable him to successfully overcome the barriers.  In this particular the doctor seems to know what he needed, and spared no pains or money to obtain them.

            After transacting his business with the doctor, who had finished with the patient with whom he was engaged, the reporter left, much edified with his visit to Dr. Bowman’s palace dental parlors.

            Recently Dr. Bowman’s business has so increased that he has found it necessary to take into partnership with him Dr. John M. Thurmon, of Ruston.  Speaking of the change to a reporter, Dr. Bowman said:

            “My operative work having increased to such an extent I found it necessary to have a thorough, conscientious and competent dentist with me, and I have been fortunate enough to secure the association of Dr. John M. Thurmon, of Ruston, who has practiced his profession for twenty-five years and who is too well and favorably known to receive any comments at my hands.

            “We will practice our profession in co-partnership in future.

            “I will add that we are fully prepared to do all kinds of the higher art of dentistry.  Crown, bridge and fine plate work will be done in the most improved and artistic style.

            “I will give my personal attention to the oral cavity and its diseases.  Chronic abscessed teeth can be cured permanently.  Fine gold fillings will be made a specialty.”

            Dr. Bowman can be found at his office in the Mealy building at all hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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