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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Famed Dodge City dentist was also a dairy farmer and sculptor

By Beccy Tanner
The Wichita Eagle

As a frontier dentist, O.H. Simpson seldom hesitated to make do with primitive materials.

In a time when town barbers were often the go-to person and a pair of pliers was the tool to cure toothaches, Simpson — trained at the Ohio College of Dental Surgery — was known to craft dental impressions in the field from melted beeswax and the tin he found in tin cans.

In 1885, Simpson opened his dental office in Dodge City. His first patients were cowboys. He looked at their teeth using coal oil lamps.

Gold crowns were popular and the cowboys’ demand for them was such that Simpson’s supply of gold plate began to run low. By placing gold coins on the railroad track at Dodge City and having the “Santa Fe Flyer” train engine run over the coins, it is said, he soon replenished his supply.

In August 1930, the Dodge City Globe — in a feature on Simpson — credited him with being one of the originators of the modern dental inlay, and one of the first to use a gasoline blowpipe for dental use. It reported that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1912 determined Simpson was the inventor of the cast inlay, “having used the word ‘cast’ in speeches he made in 1903. In 1907, a man named Taggart had applied for a patent which brought forth a law suit.”

At the turn of the 20th century, Simpson was often sought out as a speaker at national dental association meetings, and articles were published about him in journals. He served as a member on the Kansas State Board of Dental Examiners and was president of the Kansas State Dental Association.

And then, in 1914, Simpson abruptly retired from dentistry to run a dairy near Dodge City with another Dodge City dentist. The two bought 15 Holstein cows and a bull.

The goal was to produce clean milk from a dairy with no flies. Their dairy soon became noteworthy and was featured in February 1914 in Country Gentleman, a national weekly magazine.

In his later years, he took to sculpting concrete. His work can still be seen today. He sculpted the famed Cowboy Statue — a 2,000-pound, 8-foot-tall cowboy that sits on Boot Hill — near the old city building.

The famed dentist, dairy farmer and sculptor died in March 1935. He was 73.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com.

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