Dr. Crumbine: Get the health out of Dodge

A pocket park across from the Kansas Statehouse honors Dr. Samuel Crumbine.  Throughout the park inscriptions quote the good Doctor. The bike racks are shaped like flyswatters.

So, you might wonder why is there a park and statue dedicated to this guy?

Samuel Jay Crumbine was born in a log cabin located in Emlenton, Pennsylvania on September 17, 1862,

He graduated from Cincinnati College of Medicine and Surgery in 1888.

He moved to Dodge City to start a medical practice, and married Katherine Zuercher in 1890. They had two children Warren and Violet.

Interesting note: Crumbine was the model for “Doc Adams” on the television show Gunsmoke.  Doc was played by Kansan Milburn Stone!

In 1899, Crumbine was appointed to the Kansas State Board of Health and along with his family moved to Topeka.

This picture and the picture of Dr. Crumbine above are courtesy: kshs.org

Beginning in 1904 he served as Secretary and Executive Officer of the State Board of Health. From 1904 to 1923 he went after tainted food, contaminated water, and phony medical patents.

Among the doctor’s many health campaigns was a crusade to stop the spread of tuberculosis. He advocated for and got a law passed banning “common” drinking cups in public places and replacing them with paper cups.

He also took on reusable roller towels, encouraging residents to use disposable paper towels.

He waged war on flies which commonly carried typhoid fever.  He created a newsletter called the “Fly Bulletin.” The paper included information about why flies could be dangerous to humans. And in 1905 he created the flyswatter, an improvement on the earlier “fly bat” produced by Frank Rose.

He is best known for his healthy advice imprinted on bricks and placed in Topeka’s sidewalks. “Swat the Fly,” “Bat the Rat” and “Don’t spit on the sidewalk” were the most popular ones. 

In 1929, Dr. Crumbine wrote, “The Most Nearly Perfect Food: The Story of Milk.” In this book, he argued for milk producers to embrace pasteurization.

In 1948 he wrote another book called, “Frontier Doctor: The Autobiography of a Pioneer on the Frontier of Public Health”, recounting stories about his advocacy and life.

He also spent time as Dean of Health for the University of Kansas.

Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine died in 1954 at the age of 91.

The statue was created by Kansas artists Carson and Charles Norton. The statue shows the doctor standing on a soap box.  Bike racks that look like fly swatters surround the area.  His sayings including, “Ban the public drinking cup,” and “Out with the common roller towel,” are imprinted on the bricks around the plaza.  Interesting note: The park is right in front of the department of Health.

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