Thursday, July 17, 2014

He Changed Deformity into Beauty

The year is 1872 and the place is a large medical clinic in New York City. The surgeon of the day was Dr. Lewis Sayre, the leading orthopedic surgeon at the time. To this clinic came patients who suffered from all kinds of deformities, congenital and acquired. Among them was a tall, thin, poorly clad woman bearing all the evidence of extreme poverty. She held a baby in her arms and presented him to Dr. Sayre in the hope that he might be cured. “His deformity was one of the most conspicuous and distressing that ever saddened a home. The child had a double cleft lip and a complete cleft of the palate.” Dr. Sayre took the child and explained to the class the nature of the deformity. He said, "nothing can be done.” The mother left with tears streaming down her face knowing the dark future for her child.

In the clinic that day was Truman William Brophy who had just graduated from the Pennsylvania Dental College and was making a tour of clinics in the East before returning to his home in Chicago. The pale face of that mother never left him and the voice of the premier American orthopedic surgeon rang in his ears throughout his life. He became possessed to devise a method to cure those afflicted with the cleft palate.

Truman William Brophy was born in Will County, Illinois, on April 12, 1848. His grandfather had immigrated from Ireland to Canada in 1811. His father was born in Hemingford, Quebec, 1819. His mother, Amelia Cleaveland was also born in Hemingford. Truman was the second of six children. The family moved to Illinois in 1844 and the father would later make a trip to California by ox-team during the days of the gold rush.

When Truman was about 12 years old an itinerant dentist visited the home. He was fascinated by the work he saw and “the impulse of the moment strengthened into a resolved to become a dentist himself.” He was eager to help the dentist in every way he could and afterwards in referring to this incident he would say “that his first work as a dentist’s assistant was to hold his horse.”

The family moved to Blackberry, Illinois, now called Elburn, and Truman attended Elgin Academy for two years. During the winter of 1866 the family moved to Chicago and on April 1, 1867, Truman entered the office of Dr. J. O. Farnsworth to begin the study of dentistry. In 1870, he purchased the practice and moved the location to 30 Washington St. Dentists were not licensed at the time.  In October, 1871 fire destroyed the downtown section of the city including the building where Dr. Brophy had his office. Somehow his operating chair and dental library were rescued, “transported to the Illinois Central railroad a few blocks distant and loaded on the flat car on which they were found days later some 4 miles away.” With no office but with money in the bank he decided to enroll at the Pennsylvania Dental College. Upon his return to Chicago he decided that a medical education was necessary to reach his goals and so began considering Rush Medical College. However, enrollment was postponed and I will let Dr. Trophy tell why in his own words:

He was walking along the Monroe Street one day in 1872 when his eyes fell on an equipage by the curb – a Victoria drawn by a splendid pair of matched blacks. Seated in it was a dark eyed girl gowned in black velvet. “A Victoria,” said Dr. Trophy, “was made for beautiful women.” The young lady looked straight ahead and the young man strode past with great dignity and unconcerned, but neither was unaware of the other. She afterward confessed to imagining she saw a young minister, the rather formal attire of the young men of the day, including frock coats and high hats, allowing for the illusion. A little later at Martine’s Dancing Academy which was then a center of social life, he met the lovely girl of the Victoria and, as he said there, it took only a little deliberation to satisfy himself that a winters study at Martine’s was more important than a winter at Rush College. He justified his decision by marrying the beautiful girl, Miss Emma Jean Mason in May, 1873.

Here is the Scottish connection. I don’t know the heritage of Dr. Brophy. I do know that he married a Scottish girl and was surrounded by Scots named Mason and MacArthur. In fact, the Masons, McArthurs and Brophys are all buried in contiguous lots at Rosehill cemetery, Chicago, Illinois. The book, I have been reading, Truman William Brophy, A Memoir, was sent to me by Vickie Dandridge who lives in San Diego, California. She inherited much of the remaining possessions of Major George Mason and has been very kind to send me many, many items. The book was privately commissioned by the children of W. T. Brophy and published in 1936. I doubt there are many copies remaining, so we are happy to have this one. His children were: Jean Brophy Barnes, Florence Brophy Logan, Truman Brophy, Jr. And Alberta Brophy Holloway. (Any descendants who read this please call me at 630-629-4516.)

He worked until the day he died on February 4, 1928. He performed more than 10,000 surgeries and taught hundreds of others how to rebuild the cleft palate. He traveled to France at the end of WWI and rebuilt the faces of those injured in battle and for this he was made an Officer of Legion of Honor. He fought for and finally was successful in constructing a building at Wood and Congress Streets which became the Chicago College of Dental Surgery. (He once declared that the west side of Chicago would become the medical center of the world.) He wrote several books dealing with the clefts of the palate and lip. He was an international leader in organizations dealing with dentists and medical issues.

In 1913, the Chicago Dental society gave a testimonial banquet for Dr. Brophy at the Hotel LaSalle. One of the gifts was a “bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln, made from life by Volk in 1869 on behalf of the American Dental Society of Europe.” (Anyone know where that bust is today?) There were other expensive gifts and you wonder what happened to all of them. Dr. Brophy gave the initial gift which made possible the construction of a ten story Y.M.C.A. building on Wood St. for medical students. The list of his accomplishments goes on and on, but I have run out of space for this blog. There will be more later.

What a great contribution this man made to the welfare of humanity.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

NOTE: The History Club tour scheduled for this Saturday, July 17 has been canceled due to a lack of participants.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

John Crerar

One of our readers in Michigan wrote asking if the John Crerar library at the University of Chicago is connected to the same person who gave the Lincoln statue, and the answer is “yes” it’s the same person. In his will, he left $2 million for the creation of a free public library to be called The John Crerar Library. You can find the complete history on the Internet but after several locations, it is now part of the University of Chicago and contains over one million volumes. Please read the previous blog for more information.

John Crerar was a member of the Second Presbyterian church and attended services each Sunday. He read the Bible daily and his favorite chapter was Romans 8 which he had committed to memory. Somewhere, I read that you could not understand John Crerar apart from his religion.

He was a life member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and while most of our records have been destroyed by several fires, he must have been a regular supporter. The Society was remembered in his will, and overtime those funds were distributed to help the poor and needy. He was a member of the YMCA and left money for the American Sunday School Union and the Salvation Army. (You can find his entire will on the Internet. There were many gifts.)

The Saint Andrew Society held a special meeting at the Sherman House on November 29, 1889 and passed a resolution honoring John Crerar for his gift to the Society. Daniel Ross Cameron, John Alston and Andrew Wallace drafted the resolution. The resolution was then engraved, framed and presented to Norman Williams and Huntington Wolcott Jackson, the executors of his estate. I wonder if the library still has the framed resolution?

Although Crerar left money for a statue of Abraham Lincoln, he desired "a plain headstone" for himself. Judge B. D. Magruder took note of this: "With a modesty that bespeaks the greatness of his own soul, he orders a simple headstone to be placed at his own grave, but that a colossal statue be raised to the man who abolished slavery in the United States. The millionaire is content to lie low, but he insists that the great emancipator shall rise high." (Goodspeed’s historical sketch, 1920). This is the statue we will visit on our summer history tour.

On the Sunday before Christmas, December 23, 1889, a memorial service was held in the Central Music Hall located on the southeast corner of State and Randolph. (The great building was demolished in1900 to make room for Marshall Field & Company.) More than 2,000 men filled the music hall to overflowing and the doors were closed an hour before the service began. There were several speakers, some vocal music and Mrs. Crosby played the great pipe organ.

I think of all the speaker, Franklin MacVeagh said it best. “He began slowly and deliberately, weighing each word as it fell from his lips, his intense manner adding eloquence to his well-chosen language.”

“One who is here this afternoon to say a word cannot but be reminded that this is not an ordinary audience. You have not come to hear anyone speak in particular. And we, as speakers, have come, each burdened with some affection or sentiment toward John Crerar.”

“I am here because I knew John Crerar. There was much in his life to attract and charm us, to gain our admiration and affection. He was above all a pure man.”

“He lived and died a private citizen. He is now no longer a private citizen. What makes this change? It is not the revelation of his possession of this great wealth. We knew about that before, and he still remained a private citizen. There are others now living who have great fortunes. It is not the possession of that wealth which has made the difference. It is the use he made of that wealth. He has arisen from a private citizen to the ranks of creative men--poets, artists, philosophers, and statesmen.”

“There is a spiritual power in wealth, and John Crerar found the secret of it. He has taught us a lesson, not new, but never more beautifully taught. He has done more than that. He has set us an example of the right uses of wealth, the great uses of wealth, the permanent uses of wealth, and the final uses of wealth.”

“There are two ways of looking at property--one selfishly, as simply personal property; the other recognizing the claims of the community, the claims of the world to share at least in the surplus of wealth. He came to teach us this lesson at an opportune moment--a time when we are growing rich, when the accumulation of wealth is exceedingly pronounced, before it has been tested what will be the ultimate influence of democracy on wealth. It comes while we are still young, have still not made up our minds, when it is still possible for us to learn this lesson.”

“He did one other thing which I cannot omit. He showed a loyalty to Chicago, and the example of that was needed. Prophetic spirit! He saw this city entering upon a career that would make it metropolitan in wealth and power and appreciated its needs and responsibilities as the heart of the continent. He rose the conception of the spiritual side of wealth; he rose to the conception of the spiritual side of progress. Let us believe he did so knowingly, that his fame shall be certain and his name immortal.”

The plain headstone that marks his grave says simply “A just man, and one who feared God.”

(Quotations are from the Chicago Tribune)

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

HISTORY TOUR - July 19, 2014:

Luxury bus arrives at Scottish Home at 11:00 a.m.
Bus departs Scottish Home promptly at 11:30 a.m.
1st stop - Grant Park, Logan Statue
2nd stop - “Seated” Lincoln, Grant Park
3rd stop - Millennium Park - Visit the Bean, play in the water, Military Museum
4th stop - “Standing” Lincoln in Lincoln Park
5th stop - Robert Burns statue in Garfield Park

Cost is $25 per person. Children under 10 admitted free. Box lunch and soft drinks furnished. Call 708.447.5092 or 630.629.4516 to make reservations.