(Left) Third home of the Indiana Dental College from 1894-1914, located at the southwest corner of Ohio and Deleware Streets.
(Right) Dr. George E. Hunt, Indiana Dental College dean from 1899 to 1913.
Before becoming the Indiana University School of Dentistry, there was the Indiana Dental College. Formed as a result of the 1879 Indiana State Dental Practice Act, which required that dentists practicing in the state have a diploma from a legitimate dental college, the IDC itself was a corporation whose stockholders would all be practicing Indiana dentists. It was only the sixteenth educational institution of dentistry in North America. Electricity, the incandescent light bulb, and the Indiana Dental College all arrived in Indianapolis about the same time. The first semester of classes began on October 1, 1879, and three students graduated the following spring. In 1896, the IDC, Butler College, The Medical College of Indiana, and Indiana Law School formed a loose association known as the University of Indianapolis. Although existing only on paper and holding no real power over its constituent partners, the University of Indianapolis appeared on all Indiana Dental College diplomas and official papers until 1925.
By their thirty-first year of operation in 1909, the graduating class of the IDC had swelled to fifty, with fifteen professors, six demonstrators, and three lecturers. As a result of this steady growth, the Indiana Dental College had occupied three different buildings. By 1909 it was located inside the Columbia Securities Building on Ohio Street in downtown Indianapolis.
The United States was a different place in 1909. The automobile had only begun mass production the year before, and remained a luxury beyond most Americans. However, in 1909 the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was constructed as a competition and endurance testing facility for the emerging automobile industry in Indianapolis. Paved roads were hard to find outside of urban centers as railroads, not highways, linked the major cities. The first successful airplane flight was in 1903. The only readily accessible forms of mass communications were newspapers and journals since experiments in transmitting the human voice by radio had only begun in 1906. Personal correspondence relied on either the US Postal Service or the faster but far more expensive wireless telegraphy.
A dentist in 1909 could expect to earn somewhere in the area of $2,500 a year. By comparison, the average American made between $300 and $500 a year at twenty-two cents an hour (no minimum wage had yet been set). Despite the expanding presence of practicing dentists in rural Indiana, routine preventive dental care was nonexistent. Dentists were only called on when a painful problem arose. However, without a national campaign to promote dental health, or the widespread introduction of fluoride to the public, a dentist could expect to do a fair amount of business in extractions and dentures, crowns, bridges, and other restorations.
American dentistry as a whole was world renowned for its technically advanced prosthetics at the close of the first decade of the 1900’s. But on the other hand, it was seen as woefully lacking in its understanding of the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of oral and dental structures. Too many dentists were opting for extraction over trying to salvage what they could of the original tooth. The Indiana Dental College was among the first in the nation to attempt to correct this failing by including in its curriculum a heavy dose of medical biology and anatomy.
Inspired by an x-ray demonstration in Chicago, Dr. Howard R. Raper, then only a second year clinical instructor at the Indiana Dental College, convinced Dean George E. Hunt to purchase the equipment for experiments in adapting the technology for use in dentistry, and the Department of Radiology was established in the 1909-1910 academic year. By 1913, IDC students were the first to attend regular classes in oral roentgenology (later known as oral radiology). Dr. Raper also wrote one of the first textbooks on radiology.
Educational requirements for acceptance into the three year Indiana Dental College program had just been raised for the 1909-1910 academic session from the completion of three years of high school to four. Otherwise, passage of an equivalency examination held by the State Superintendant of Public Instruction, at the IDC’s expense, was needed. Circumstances allowing for matriculation without an entrance exam included having credentials showing an education equal to completion of the fourth year of high school, passing the admission test of another recognized college, or having already received a collegiate degree. Given that only 6% of Americans at the turn of the last century were able to attend or even complete four years of high school, let alone travel beyond their own hometowns, these requirements were high indeed.
Admission to advanced placement at the Indiana Dental College was allowed. Undergraduate students who had been accepted and attended classes in recognized medical colleges were excused from lectures in areas that they had previously received credit. Medical school graduates could enter into the second year, junior, level, and were excused from lectures on general anatomy, chemistry, histology, physiology and pathology. From the beginning, the IDC was one of the first dental schools in the country to include a basic medical training in its curriculum. Of course, students admitted from other recognized dental schools were allowed to enter based on their previous academic level, and upon approval of the respective departmental instructors. In any case, in order to receive a diploma from the Indiana Dental College, at least the senior level coursework had to be completed.
“The candidate for the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery must be twenty-one years of age, must possess a good moral character and must have been a student of good deportment while in college.” ~ 1909-1910 Annual Catalogue and Announcement: Indiana Dental College
The matriculation and general ticket fees to attend the Indiana Dental College totaled $155 per year for the three year program, with seniors paying an additional $15 diploma fee. It was recommended that each student should bring with them around $235 to cover all expenses for the first month of the semester. This included tuition, books and laboratory equipment for the term, as well as room and board, which was left up to the individual to find. All students were to report personally to the Dean immediately upon their arrival in Indianapolis in order to pay their tuition in full and receive their ticket to begin classes. All baggage was asked to be left at the railway depot to save on hotel bills until a boarding house could be found.
A room, with meals provided, was estimated to cost a student anywhere from $2.50 to $4.50 a week, depending on the accommodation. Without food services, the price ranged from $2.00 to $8.00 per month, with the inclusion of furniture as the determining factor. The Indianapolis Public Library was located only two blocks from the Dental College at that time, and was available to students as a study area and source of information materials.
If the students needed any dental work performed on themselves, the infirmary in the Dental College building was open to them all year round for a one-time fee of $25. This considerable expense for the time was deducted from the next year’s school fees.
Additional costs could be incurred if any damage in the chemical and biology labs resulted from their work and desks were inspected after every class.
Classes and lectures for the Indiana Dental College 1909-1910 academic year began the first week of October. The first semester did not end until the middle of January, with a two day break before mid-term exams at the end of that month. Similarly, the school year ended in May with a small break before finals. Commencement was held the first week of June.
Upon completion of their freshman year, students were encouraged to spend the summer working in the Indiana Dental College’s infirmary and laboratory. These facilities were open every day, apart from legal holidays, and served any patron who happened to visit. The summer practical course cost $25, which was credited to the next year’s tuition. Students worked a regular eight hour day under the guidance of a clinical demonstrator, and some remained at the school in this capacity until the start of the next academic year.
First offered in the 1905-1906 Annual Catalogue and Announcement, a summer session at the Indiana Dental College for practicing dentists was created to meet demands for instruction in the latest dental techniques. The full course for 1909 ran from June 15 through August 1, and covered all areas of dentistry, with a special focus on the rapid advances in porcelain and gold inlays, crown and bridge work. The fee for the entire session was $40, but one could pay $25 and receive the training in inlays only. Applicants were invited to stay in the IDC clinic for as long as they would like to perfect what they had learned.
History of Dental SurgerySurgery, Koch, Charles E. “Indiana Dental College”, Hunt, George E. 1908. 492-496.
Annual Catalogue and Announcement: Indiana Dental College “Department of Dental Surgery of the University of Indianapolis”. 31st annual session. 1909-1910.
Hine, Maynard K. “A Century of Dental Education in Indiana: 1879 – 1979”. Indiana University School of Dentistry Alumni Bulletin. Spring 1979. 1 – 41.
Kremenak NW, Squier CA. “Pioneers in Oral Biology: the migrations of Gottlieb, Kronfeld, Orban, Weinmann, and Sicher from Vienna to America”. Critical Reviews in Oral Biology and Medicine. 1997. 8(2):108-28.