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Doctor who put Kansas on map for healthcare gets statue

A Statue of Samuel Crumbine, the Kansas frontier doctor who became internationally known by ended community drinking cups and starting a campaign to “Swat the Fly” will be dedicated in November at Kansas Health Institute.
A Statue of Samuel Crumbine, the Kansas frontier doctor who became internationally known by ended community drinking cups and starting a campaign to “Swat the Fly” will be dedicated in November at Kansas Health Institute. Courtesy photo

Samuel Crumbine is about to get some long overdue attention.

The frontier doctor from Dodge City was one of the nation’s leading public health officials at the beginning of the 20th century.

Next month, the Kansas Health Institute is dedicating a statue of Crumbine at its recently renovated office building in downtown Topeka at 212 SW 8th Avenue, right across from the Kansas state capitol building.

“Since our organization is focused on improving health in Kansas, it made sense for our pocket park and statue to highlight public health efforts and a public health leader in the state,” wrote Bob St. Peter, the institute’s CEO, in an email to the Eagle. Dr. Crumbine “realized the need to address the spread of infectious diseases that were devastating people of the time.”

Crumbine was the doctor who started the “Don’t Spit on Sidewalk” campaign to stop the spread of tuberculosis and the “Swat the fly” campaign.

In 1898, he was appointed to the state board of health and, in 1904, was named Kansas’ first public health officer.

Over the next two decades, Crumbine led efforts to make Kansas one of the first places in the world to develop public health standards.

He encouraged the Legislature to pass water and sewage bills.

He tackled communicable diseases.

For instance, tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that can be spread from one person to another by coughing, sneezing or close contact.

At that time, most community gathering places had a common cup used by everyone who wanted a drink of water.

Watching as people suffering from tuberculosis would cough, spit on the floor and then drink from a community cup, Crumbine began a campaign to encourage communities to get rid of community drinking cups.

By 1909, Kansas became the first state to outlaw the public drinking cup.

Crumbine encouraged brick manufacturers to stamp “Don’t Spit on Sidewalk” on the bricks used for sidewalks. Most communities in Kansas soon sported the bricks.

Crumbine also encouraged the use of paper towels in public restrooms instead of the common cloth “roller towels.”

Using newspaper articles, brochures and other media, Crumbine also worked to rid restaurants, homes and businesses of flies.

Flyswatters came into use as did screens on windows.

And he demanded that hotels regularly change the sheets on their beds.

“He was recognized nationally and around the world for his innovative campaigns to educate the public about hazards to their health,” St. Peter wrote. “We felt a park built around the theme of health education and public health, that featured Dr. Crumbine, was a fitting tribute.”

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner

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