Shortly after the founding of Dodge City, civilization took a giant step in figuring out how contagious diseases spread. An early Dodge Citian was largely responsible for making that leap for mankind.
That person was Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine.
Bricks bearing the slogan "Don’t Spit on the Walk" and the phrase "Swat the Fly" are his brainchild.
Crumbine was born in Pennsylvania in 1862, and began his career as a pharmacist and patent medicine salesman in the 1870’s. Back then the requirements for practicing medicine were not stringent.
In the 1880’s he doctored and sold medicine in Ford County while still working on his medical degree. After getting his degree, he returned to Dodge City with his wife and stayed until 1904 when he moved to Topeka to head the Kansas State Board of Health.
Later he served as Dean of the KU School of Medicine.
During his initial stay in our area, he became adept at treating gunshot wounds and tuberculosis. He scolded patients in the first category for not ducking, while he searched for ways to keep people from coming down with the second affliction.
Even in the early years he recognized how communicable disease spread. Seeing that milk at the Harvey House restaurant was poured from a common pitcher, he became the driving force behind serving milk in individual sealed bottles.
While in Topeka, he constantly worked to correct unsanitary practices such as communal drinking cups and hand towels.
He convinced railroads to use "Dixie Cups," and got the roller towel, where the same piece of cloth was used repeatedly, outlawed.
Crumbine ascertained that germs were spread by saliva and other body fluids. With this in mind, he convinced brick makers to make bricks that read "Don’t Spit on the Walk" to curb tuberculosis.
He also realized that flies disseminated diseases such as typhoid fever and started the "Swat the Fly" campaign. It was in his honor a hardware store owner invented the first flyswatter.
One of his most challenging endeavors was successfully regulating the sale of the substance he sold early in his career – patent medicines. These "medicines" were mostly alcohol. Under their influence a patient either died or got better, but was probably too inebriated to notice.
In 1923 Crumbine and his wife moved to New York City where he headed the American Child Health Association until he retired in 1936.
In 1948 he wrote an autobiography, Frontier Doctor.
Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine passed away at the age of 9l in 1954. His legacy lives on in the form of the Crumbine Award, a national honor given yearly to environmental health jurisdictions for food protection programs.
We can be proud this forward thinking doctor got his start in the field of public health and disease prevention here in Dodge City.