The Journal of San Diego History
SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY QUARTERLY
Spring 1970, Volume 16, Number 2
James E. Moss, Editor

San Diego's Medico-Legal History 1850-1900

By Leland Stanford

Photographs from this article

They were Really "Juris Doctors"

If San Diego's legal profession, 1850-­1900, could be considered her cerebrum of law making and law enforcement, then the local medical profession served as her cerebellum. They were that close. There was a teamwork of brains and balance, and occasionally those faculties were in­terchanged between the two professions.

Although this article will seek some­thing more than a skin-depth analysis of the relationships of law and medicine in San Diego during the last half of the nineteenth century, there is an interesting introductory type of corroboration of the statement made in the opening para­graph.

Of the first dozen doctors who prac­ticed here from the beginning of Califor­nia's statehood, practically every one made substantial official contributions to local courthouse justice.

The first president of the San Diego County Medical Society (1870), Dr. David B. Hoffman, had been appointed as "physician to the county jail" by the board of Supervisors in December, 1853.1 Later, he served three separate tenures as District Attorney.2 He was a Town Trustee in 1856-57, and thereafter was a member of the Board of Supervisors, the county's legislative body. At various times he was coroner and county physi­cian, and represented this community as State Assemblyman.

Dr. William A. Winder was a justice of the peace in addition to being one of the prominent medical practitioners.3

Dr. George McKinstry, closely related to Mr. Justice Elisha W. McKinstry of California's Supreme Court, had served as Sheriff in a northern California com­munity, and while here was a member of the Board of Supervisors in 1854-55.4

Dr. George E. Knight's professional card appeared in the Herald, April, 1856; and the Pioneer Notes of District Judge Benjamin I. Hayes state that in 1856 he admitted "Dr. E. Knight" to practice at the local bar.5

Dr. George Parrish Tebbetts was City Councilman and Mayor for two terms, 1851-52, and was a County Supervisor for five terms between 1854-64. His law enforcement activities also included pur­suing renegade Indians and lynching horse thieves! He even fought a duel.6

Dr. Atkins S. Wright was a member of San Diego's first City Council; and Drs. Frederick J. Painter and John Cou­ger served at different times as Clerk of that body.7

Dr. Jacob Allen was the local post­master, and at different times "City Phy­sician" and member of the Board of Health.8

Dr. Q. A. Snead was officially em­ployed to care for the community's in­digent sick.9

Drs. Edward Burr, Thomas C. Stock­ton, and David B. Hoffman served at various times in the different jobs of Cor­oner and Public Administrator."10 A brief explanation of those positions may help to show the close connection of such doc­tors with the administration of justice.

The first California statute concerning coroners was enacted April 19, 1850, and was not changed substantially in suc­ceeding years. It provided that the coro­ner should perform the duties of sheriff in cases where the latter had a personal interest or was incapacitated. This pro­vision later was removed from the statute.

The principal duty of a coroner was to hold a special jury trial, or inquest, concerning the cause of death of any per­son who "has been killed, or has com­mitted suicide, or had suddenly died un­der such circumstances as to afford a reasonable ground to suspect that his death has been occasioned by the act of another, by criminal means."

Many instances of death in the early west fell within the letter of the quoted statute. The coroner summoned and swore-in members of his jury; sub­poenaed and questioned witnesses, and reduced their testimony to writing; and in cases of suspected or proved foul play he issued a warrant for the arrest of the accused.

The job of coroner clearly was of ju­dicial nature. If the incumbent couldn't perform his duties, the statute provided that a justice of the peace should substi­tute for him. During the closing fifty years of the nineteenth century a San Diego physician occupied that important position more than half the time.

Public Administrators worked closely with the probate court in administering the estates of persons who died without known heirs, and in other cases as pro­vided by law.12

In the 1960's there was a movement in American law schools to grant to their graduates the degree—not of LL.B.—but of J.D., Juris Doctor. A century earlier that degree would have described quite accurately the double abilities of San Di­ego's physicians, who, almost to a man, could have cut the mustard in the court room as easily as a mustard plaster in the sick room.

The Plague Moved In—and out

There may have been more than an ordinary closeness between the earlier lawyers and doctors of San Diego be­cause half or more of the members of the legal profession were sick men. Eugene Field's discerning ditty explains the situation:

When man's all right he's prone to spite
The doctor's peaceful mission;
But when he's sick he's loud and quick
To bawl for a physician.

Tuberculosis was the world's number one killer before the twentieth century. Americans in the east and south who had, or feared they had, the disease were be­ing told to seek warmer and drier places of abode. San Diego had acquired the reputation as such a place. The Union, December 9, 1869, reported, "San Diego has an increasing population of invalids suffering from pulmonary difficulties." The statement was reiterated in the same paper on July 21, 1870.

Although the community was still in the economic doldrums, during the half dozen years immediately following the Civil War, twice as many lawyers came to San Diego during that time as the total number who had practiced here at any one period during the first two decades of statehood. Most of them were health seekers. The Union, February 19, 1879, almost bragged that "A recent article in a scientific magazine assigns San Diego to fifth place in the whole world as hav­ing a climate favorable for consumption."

Resort areas for the ill were developed in the city, in El Cajon valley, and else­where, to take advantage of the "climate cure." Local hotels were inadequate, and both the Horton House in San Diego, and Hotel Del Coronado were built to cater to wealthy sick visitors.13

One of the most influential climate boosters was Dr. Peter C. Remondino whose book, The Mediterranean Shores of America, made fabulous claims about patients with regained health because of living in San Diego.14 And many of the good doctor's assertions were true.

It was not until 1865, in France, how­ever, that transmission of tuberculosis was shown to be due to an infecting agent; and not until 1882, in Germany, that Koch discovered the actual cause, the tubercle bacillus.

Experimentation followed. The bacillus was found to be relatively resistant to the usual disinfecting agents; to withstand dying for long periods; but to be quickly killed by sunlight.

It is indeed a tribute to medical learn­ing and influence in San Diego that by January, 1897, the City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting expectoration "on the floor of any street railway car or other public conveyance or public building, or on any sidewalk in the city of San Diego."15

A few months later the same council stated that "No person owning or em­ployed in any laundry or public wash­house within the city of San Diego, Cali­fornia, shall dampen any clothing for the purpose of enabling the same to be ironed, with water emitted from the mouth of such owner or employee."16

The medical men of America, and of San Diego, were the moving force to se­cure proper laws for curbing consump­tion. In 1896, Charles Wilson Ingraham, M.D., read a paper before the Section on Medical Jurisprudence of the Ameri­can Medical Associations:17 wherein he said that "The medical profession must not wait for the politicians to inaugurate suitable medico-legal measures as regards tuberculosis."

Dr. Ingraham urged the sponsoring of laws to accomplish five kinds of official action: 1. Registration of all tubercular patients, and thorough de-contamination of their places of abode when they die or move; 2. Monthly inspection of group workers to catch the "carriers"; 3. In­struction to all tubercular invalids about the dangers of their infecting others; 4. Compulsory state hospitals for poorer consumptives who cannot get elsewhere, either proper care or instruction concern­ing their spreading of the disease; and 5. Thorough control of dairies to rid herds of tuberculin cattle, and the danger of spreading the disease in milk and meat.18 Before the century's end, law and med­icine were working as a team to stop the causes of the spread of the white plague. Older victims could not easily be saved, but prevention became the salvation for millions of the nation's young. Shortly after 1900, tuberculosis ceased to be the number one killer.

Happy Pre-Malpractice Days

Lawsuits for medical malpractice vir­tually were unknown in San Diego in the nineteenth century. For several years the present members of the San Diego County Law Library staff have been re­reading the files of early day litigation in this county. Out of hundreds of cases studied, not one involving malpractice has been discovered.

The infrequency of such lawsuits was the normal pattern everywhere. A quick check of the two law digests for Califor­nia shows only three malpractice actions in the appellate reports of the entire state between 1850 and 1900. Each of those three judgments brushed aside plaintiff's claims, somewhat summarily, and held for the physician.19 Undoubtedly, there were other cases in trial courts that were not appealed, and there may be such cases yet undiscovered in San Diego files.

It is probable that the dirth of mal­practice actions in the nineteenth century—compared with the number being filed today—was because of the relative sim­plicity of medical practice in the earlier era. The chance of stubbing one's toe professionally is many-fold greater today than a century ago. If malpractice actions then were a "no-no," it was because by modern standards, the general practition­er's learning also was a no-know.20

The broad field of "medicine," how­ever, as distinguished from the higher type of bona fide medical practice, des­perately needed regulation in the nine­teenth century in San Diego, as else­where, but actually received nothing more corrective than a few legal pills of paste and water.

The latter half of the past century was "the golden age of the medicine show" throughout the entire United States. Most of the populace was uneducated and gul­lible beyond belief. Even the best doctors did not know the real causes and cures of many common diseases. Quacks, char­latans and ignoramuses infested the land, and profited from suffering humanity.21

In 1875, the State Board of Health re­ported to the Governor that "unrestricted quackery now sits like a vampire upon the body politic."22 And, as late as April, 1896, the State Board of Health reported that "A letter relating to an alleged spring of water near San Diego, said to make hair grow on bald heads, was referred to Dr. Remondino."23

In San Diego the magnitude of oppor­tunity for medical deception was many times above the national norm. It was advertised that over half the people in this town were consumptives, and two medical men reported in "The Pacific Medical Journal" about San Diego that "It is doubtful if there can be found elsewhere a population more extensively contaminated with the tendency to pul­monary disease."24

Under such conditions, quackery at its ugliest flourished here. Fly-by-night char­latans moved from one town to another between our city and Santa Barbara ad­vertising their cures for consumption ranging from dozens of bottled nostrums, on through "animal magnetism" and "in­halators," down to "a diet of dog meat."25

In addition to cases of deliberate fraud, there were many extravagant claims. In the Union, November 13, 1884, San Diego's leading druggist, and son of the city's (probably) leading lawyer, adver­tised his sole agency for a Eucalyptus "Gum Tree Cough Syrup-the only cure for all lung diseases."

People who are desperate and almost hopelessly ill always have been "willing to try anything." In San Diego, one of the more substantial M.D.'s advertised himself as "Physician, Surgeon and Elec­trician." His electrical apparatus was sug­gested for cure of many diseases, includ­ing all "chronic affections of the respira­tory organs."26

As an illustration of the fine line that may separate perversions and reputability in any profession, one of this city's most respected physicians operated the largest tubercular sanitarium in town. All the while, he made sure of new incoming waves of patients by distributing widely across the nation, under his name and professional title, such statements about San Diego's curative powers for con­sumption as "very often, with nothing but the hygiene of common sense and climate, the patient glides into recovered health almost insensibly.27

There were no Federal pure food and drug, or other, laws to dampen the ardor of advertisers of "snake oil" until after 1900, and most publishers of small town papers were happy to spread testimonials, regardless of their validity, for a price. The San Diego County Medical Society was not organized until 1870, and did very little to police its own profession until much later.

The first state law in California with reference to conduct of physicians was Penal Code, Sec. 346, enacted in 1872, as follows: "Every physician who, in a state of intoxication, does any act as such physician to another person by which the life of such other person is endangered, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

In 1876, the legislature passed "An Act to regulate the practice of medicine in the State of California."28 Together with its amendments of 1878,29 this law provided for certification of doctors by a Board of Examiners. Holders of diplomas from recognized medical schools were admitted automatically; other applicants were given an examination.

The Board was ordered to refuse cer­tification for unprofessional conduct, and was permitted to revoke licenses for the same cause. In either event, the applicant or practitioner was granted a hearing.

The same law provided that itinerant vendors of drugs, nostrums, etc., must pay a license fee of $100.00 per month. No attempt was made to halt quackery; those engaged in the cruel business merely were charged for the privilege.

If benefits resulted from the state law, they were negligible. There was no defi­nition of unprofessional conduct, and the practices regularly reported during the final quarter of the century were little different from those that preceded 1876.

On the local level, the drafter of a San Diego City Ordinance of 1887 not only spelled out the feebleness of official re­strictions upon charlatanism, but clearly defined for subsequent generations exact­ly what the customary goings-on were in Victorian-age San Diego. Ordinance No. 87 merely demanded a license fee of "twenty dollars per month, payable invariably in advance" for one "To engage in selling any medicine, implement, ap­pliance or merchandise, or to advertise any physician, quack, surgeon, dentist or other person or business calling or voca­tion by crying the same, singing songs, making addresses, telling anecdotes, jokes, etc., or performing instrumental music upon any of the public streets or places of the city of San Diego, from any carriage, wagon, platform, or other­wise....30

In 1899, Ordinance No. 659 raised the license fee to five dollars per day for such activities if performed out in the open and ten dollars per day if "under a canvas or tent."31

Indeed, in a figurative sense, nothing about medical ballyhoo of the 1800's was in the open. It was the age of P. T. Barnum; it was all "under a tent." Al­though tuberculosis was claiming five hundred lives every twenty-four hours in the United States, a new sucker was be­ing born every minute.

About Medi-Gents and Indigents

In earlier years of California's state­hood, San Diego was the end of the line—both by trail and by sail. Although many sturdy souls came and departed, this southern bay town, like San Fran­cisco to the north, was the veritable Dead Sea of travel for countless unfortunates who had lost both their means and vital­ity in crossing the mountains and desert, and for shiploads of sick emigrants from foreign lands and from around the Horn.

As one studies the story of San Diego's indigent sick in the decades after 1850, he is led to divide his sympathy between the impoverished ill and the pauperized community that tried to assist them. Oc­casionally some sardonic humor brightens the record, as when Dr. 0. A. Snead pre­sented the town with his bill of $250.00 for medical services to one W. M. Babbitt, whom he claimed was an in­digent. The claim was rejected. It ap­peared that the patient actually was a "Babbitt," a poor credit risk, but not an indigent, and further, that no one offici­ally had asked Dr. Snead to attend him.32 Dr. E. Knight had his claim of fifty dol­lars unanimously rejected for similar reasons by the County Board of Super­visors in 1856.33 Dr. Frederick J. Painter presented a bill for boarding a sick in­digent during the same time that Louis Rose was boarding the same man. Dr. Painter had an "in" with the Council (he soon was appointed its clerk). His bill was allowed; Rose's was "laid on the table."34 Early-day doctors frequently boarded their patients, and presented their claims for payment.

One of the first official acts of the Common Council—effective two weeks after statehood of California on Septem­ber 9, 1850—was to provide a "boarding officer" to go onto ships entering the harbor and check against the landing of diseased persons.35 This procedure as­sumed even greater importance under a state statute of 1852, to be mentioned shortly hereafter.

San Diego was a chartered city for only slightly over two years, having gained that status even before San Francisco; whereupon like Caesar it fell in the Ides of March. On the first Monday of that month in 1852, the legislature repealed its charter and placed governmental pow­ers in three Trustees. The community was bankrupt because of improvident management.

During part of those first two years the ailing poor were given direct help by resolutions of the Council.36 Insolvency made such assistance impossible, and the same state legislature that disincorporated the town passed another Act on April 16, 1852 authorizing the newly created Trus­tees "to draw upon the State Treasurer, for any sum not exceeding two thousand dollars during each year to be applied towards the maintenance and relief of such indigent sick persons as may arrive at the Port of San Diego, in such man­ner as said Trustees may deem most beneficial to such persons."37

On August 26, 1852, the Trustees passed a Resolution to draw upon the State Treasurer for $2000.00. No record has been found of any such payment in 1853, and the statute itself was repealed as of July 1 of the latter year.38 There­after, state aid to San Diego's sick pau­pers was handled in the manner now to be described.

By an enactment of 1852,39 and amendments thereto in 1855,40 Califor­nia's legislature provided a "Hospital Fund" to aid the state's indigent sick. Initially this Fund was financed by pay­ments demanded of vessel commanders for every person disembarking at any California port from other than a purely intra-state voyage. Additional payment was required for landing anyone deter­mined by port authorities as likely to become a public charge. Fines and pen­alties against vessels involved in illegal disembarkings also went into the same Hospital Fund.

Under terms of the 1852 Act, the collected moneys were divided between three state hospitals in San Francisco, Sacramento and Stockton. A provision added in 185341 authorized County Judges throughout the state to order sick indigents of their jurisdiction trans­ferred to the state hospital in San Fran­cisco for medical care. This obviously was too costly a procedure as far as the distant counties were concerned.

In 1853, the Hospital Fund had allo­cated to it "all sums paid into the State Treasury for license for auction, gaming, billiards, ten pin and bowling alleys, hawkers and peddlers, or collected as fines or penalties for a violation of the same." The Act also provided for dis­tribution among all counties in propor­tion to their populations of one-half the newly augmented Hospital Fund.

In 1855,42 all moneys in the Fund were ordered distributed to the counties in proportion to population, and each county Board of Supervisors was author­ized to levy an additional county tax to augment moneys received from the state. Cities and towns were authorized to con­tract with their county Board of Super­visors for care of the indigent sick of the urban area.

The stage thus was set in each county for a thirty-year run of a local melo­drama that eclipsed "The Drunkard" in its embroilment of heroes, heroines, and villains, and an occasional guffaw.

Supervisors annually called for the lowest bids for: 1. Board, lodging, nurs­ing care, etc., for the indigent sick; and 2. Medical care for them. The result was cut-throat bidding, with the winner of the contract able to furnish only the poorest and smallest of service.

Indignation mounted in the office of the State Board of Health. On August 15, 1874,43 Thos. M. Logan, M.D., Perma­nent Secretary of the State Board of Health, addressed a communication "To the Supervisors and Hospital Physicians of the various counties in the State" in which he branded the low-bid practices as "abuses" and "impropriety." Subse­quently, he commented that few counties had made any change in the system, in spite of his cautionary remarks.

In San Diego County the practice worsened. In 1874, the low bid for board, room, care, etc., of the indigent sick was $1.30 per day per patient.44 The next year it was down to $1.10 per day;45 in 1876, 900 per day;46 for 1878, 75¢ per day;47 by 1882, 65¢ per day;48 and 1883, 54¢ per day.49

The medical bidding was just as bad. Physicians competed for the county con­tract. In 1874, Dr. C. M. Fenn was al­lowed $45.00 per month to furnish med­ical attention and medicine to the sick in the county hospital.50 For 1878, Dr. P. C. Remondino bid $29.00 per month,51 but lost to Dr. T. C. Stockton at the bid of $54.00.52 By 1882, however, Dr. Remon­dino was bidding at $19.00 per month53 and for 1883, he was given the contract at $9.00 per month!54

The figures given above become more startling when compared with the number of patients being treated. Statistics are not available for every year, but they are for the years 1876 and 1885.

In the latter year fifty persons were admitted to the hospital compared with forty-two in 1876; and the average num­ber hospitalized at any one time was fourteen in 1885, as against six in 1876.55

It was time for something to happen—and it did. The State Legislature in 1883,56 prohibited county supervisors from giving contracts to the lowest bid­der for medical and other care of the "dependent poor."

At almost the exact date of the taking effect of the above state law, the San Diego Supervisors appointed Dr. Remon­dino as County Physician at $50.00 per month,57 with duties identical to those he agreed to perform for $9.00 per month. Further, and contrary to any precedent shown in the minutes, the Board had been allowing this doctor hundreds of dollars in additional authoriza­tions for care of sick indigents—all dur­ing the period the $9.00 per month con­tract was in effect.58

It hardly comes as a surprise, then, that the Board minutes of July 3, 1883, came out with this firecracker: "Salary to County Physician, $66.30; postmortem, $25.00; disbursements of cash for in­digents, $39.50; total, $130.80; Stockton and Remondino for care of indigent sick $231.00." In October, the same two doc­tors were paid almost $900.00 for care of the indigent sick.

A few months later, Dr. Remondino put in a claim for $75.00 for three post mortem examinations. But here, the Board balked. They postponed the mat­ter, called in Dr. R. J. Gregg, M.D., heard his testimony, and thereupon re­jected the Remondino claim.59

It would be improper to conclude this section about indigents and their medical care without commenting that the records contain many instances of wonderful and unselfish service to their community by San Diego's early physicians. A typical case is that of one doctor who charged only $12.00 for services that ordinarily would cost over $200.00.60

Concern of members of San Diego's medical profession for the less-privileged also is illustrated by the Union news re­port, November 3, 1870, that great ex­citement was caused in the meeting of the state Medical Association when our Dr. D. B. Hoffman presented a resolution that qualified women should be admitted. The resolution was tabled!

The Board was the Big Stick

Never before in history, and probably never since, has the medical profession been as interested in law as it was in the two decades, roughly 1870-1890. That, in a sense, was the seeding, growing time, and harvest of preventative medicine; and, to do the farm work, the profession put on the hat of its alter ego, "The Board of Health."

The principal story of this era in Cali­fornia began with the creation of The State Board of Health by the legislature in 1869-7061; but there was a short pref­ace as far as San Diego was concerned.

As with Acts of Incorporation of other California cities, the statute creating theCity of San Diego in 185062 gave local authority "to establish a board of health; . . . to erect and maintain poorhouses and hospitals; to prevent the introduction and spreading of diseases." It also made it the mayor's duty "to recommend to the Common Council the adoption of all such measures connected with the public health, cleanliness, and ornament of the City, [etc.], as he shall deem expedient."

Mention has been made heretofore of actions of the City during its first two or three years in regard to the care of its indigent sick,63 and its use of state funds to police its port against diseased emi­grants64. There were some other laws on the local level that are worthy of notice.

At its meeting of September 5, 1850, the Council, by ordinance, established a Board of Health consisting of Charles Haraszthy, Dr. A. S. Wright, W. E. Rust, and Dr. John Conger, with instructions for the members to recommend to the Council the best means to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases in the community.

This Board of Health immediately ap­pointed one of its members as boarding officer to check the health of passengers disembarking from ships. It probably made other recommendations, because ordinances were passed to prevent wash­ing of clothes, or other kinds of contami­nation, in the San Diego River above the local spot from which drinking water was taken for domestic use.65 Other ordi­nances prohibited the slaughtering of ani­mals in, or depositing any rubbish or filth upon, a public street.66 Occupants of buildings were ordered to clean dirt and rubbish at least once a week from the area not less than fifteen feet in front of their respective premises.67

Apparently, these and similar rules were enforced. The 1852 grand jury re­ported unfavorably about filth on the streets; and a year or two later a subse­quent grand jury indicted a prominent citizen for discharging "dirty and offen­sive water" from his premises upon the streets.68

For fifteen years after the city was disincorporated,69 there was almost noth­ing in the minutes of the succeeding Town Trustees relative to sanitation or medical matters. The minutes of the County Supervisors during the same per­iod show an occasional allowance of a claim to be charged against the Hospital Fund,70 but nothing in the records of either body reflects any serious community health problem.

There was, however, an alarming peril from a smallpox epidemic that scourged the county in 1862-63. San Diego had no newspaper throughout most of the 1860's to leave record of such an event, but fortunately, District Judge Benjamin Hayes left records of the period, includ­ing a Los Angeles newspaper article, various items of personal correspondence, and his own Order, as Judge, attempting to enforce cleanliness, vaccination, and isolation of persons with the disease.71

There is another legal record in the local court file of People v. W. B. Couts, a prominent north-county resident who shot and killed a man who was attempt­ing to bury a person, dead from small­pox, in the cemetery at San Luis Rey. Couts was indicted for murder, and depo­sitions taken; so excellent records are available to show the conjuncture of the legal and medical professions here in a time of great calamity. Dr. D. B. Hoff­man, for instance, rendered yeoman serv­ice in vaccinating-among others-hun­dreds of the county's Indians.72

Five years later, the community had another smallpox fright; this time the minutes of the Town Trustees recorded quick and careful official action. It should be noted that the era of New, or "South," San Diego had begun, and that a new spirit and life seemed to have entered the citizenry.

In February, 1869, a new Board of Health was appointed and given authority to make rules for presenting the spread of smallpox. The Marshal and Chief of Police were ordered to enforce such rules.73 A small Pest Hospital was started for patients with contagious diseases, and strict isolation demanded for homes containing persons suffering from small­pox.74 In March and April, 1869, numer­ous bills were allowed for work on the Pest Hospital for furnishings, and for transfer and care of patients there.

Following 1869, very little appeared about health matters in the Town Trustee minutes until another five years had elapsed. But that year marked the be­ginning of a successful effort to have California's legislature enact the law cre­ating a State Board of Health, effective in 1871—the beginning of a monumental and effective effort of medicine and law to prevent disease and assure better health for untold millions of Californians.

This writer has just completed a three-­week task of reading the four thousand pages, much of it in fine print, of the biennial reports from 1872-1900 of the California State Board of Health. The project was informative, even illuminative—like watching the evolving growth of a five-year-old child through his gradua­tion from college. Because its connection with San Diego, while vitally important, is nevertheless somewhat tangential, it must be summarized briefly.

With child-like honesty, early physi­cians on the State Board admitted that they didn't know the causes of such scourges as tuberculosis, diphtheria and yellow fever.75 They knew how to control smallpox, but could get no public co­operation or legislative action.76 The thrill of four thousand sometimes-tedious pages is to see the light of science slowly over­come black ignorance, and public apathy be replaced by energetic legislative action.

The humor in the early reports is in the emphasis on inconsequentia; cura­tive powers of California's hot mineral springs (including several in San Diego County),77 planting eucalyptus groves to stop the spread of fevers,78 the prophy­lactic benefits of cold sea-water bathing (bu-r-r-r! ),79 and the desirability of keep­ing on one's hat at outdoor funerals—preventative of pneumonia or sunstroke, as the case might be.80 Strong recommen­dation also was distributed about the value of wearing long flannel under­wear.81

The real power in the State Health Board reports lies in their insistent de­mand for state legislation to enforce (sometimes step-by-step) the things that they knew had to be enforced to main­tain healthiness in the state: control of sewerage to prevent contamination of wells and other sources of drinking water, pure food and drug laws, quarantine of cases of communicable disease, manda­tory local health boards to check evils at their source and to furnish vital statistics to the State Board, quarantine of trains and vehicles at Yuma and other land bor­der towns, careful regulation of ceme­teries and burials, elimination of diseased meat and milk, compulsory vaccination of school children, and free distribution of anti-toxin for diphtheria.82

It seems almost unbelievable today that in every such instance opposition had to be overcome. Many of the reports, in disheartened tone, concede failure. But finally, in 1894, the temporary goals were attained, and for the first time in twenty years the Report of the State Board of Health reported that it had no additional laws to recommend.83

Mission accomplished!

In addition to the over-all values in achievements of the State Board, its re­ports have much value for San Diego. The local Health Department has no rec­ords of statistics before 1900, but the State Reports do.

In them can be found a study of water purity in our city;84 that our hospital in 1880, was at the "Franklin House on `K Street near the bay";85 how San Diego effectively controlled its sewerage prob­lem;86 the story of the Federal quarantine station at Point Loma;87 etc.

Among California's other budgetary needs of 1870, there had been some problems in finding room for a State Health Board. Subsequent events proved that many times over it was worth its room and board.

Prometheus Unbound

The last thirty years of the nineteenth century (and, coincidentally, the first thirty years of existence of the San Diego County Medical Society), were not un­like the unparalleled thirty years in Ath­ens, twenty-four hundred years earlier, when mankind first lifted its mind to the high places and set its spirit free.

As one pursues, from 1850 forward, the medico-legal history of our commu­nity in the hundred and more volumes of state legislation, and local city and county ordinances, he slowly becomes aware, as the century closes, that he has replaced with a sort of latter-day Aris­totle and Plato all the superstitious, ig­norant written nonsense of an immedi­ately past five thousand years.

On the state level, in 1880, a law was passed to regulate the sale of poisons;88 in 1891, action was taken to prevent the importation of opium;89 and in the latter year the profession of pharmacy first was placed under control.90

In San Diego, continuous action was being taken to eliminate contamination of the community's many wells by seepage from cesspools and outdoor toilets. When sewers were finally installed, legal actions were taken or threatened to abate nuis­ances due to their bad repair.91

Venereal diseases were openly at­tacked, and regulated.92 Ordinances were enacted to insure the sale of meat only from healthy animals93—action that clearly had been needed earlier.94

The health ordinances carefully de­manded the quarantine of ships,95 a major problem. In one year, for instance, from 10/1/93 to 10/1/94, 313 vessels entered San Diego harbor, 180 of them from foreign ports.96

Train quarantine also was enforced both within city limits and upon a spur track of the Southern Pacific Railroad at Cabazon in the northeastern part of the county.97

As the new century arrived, the nine­teenth century's scourges of children and adults were both understood and under control. Our doctors, figuratively by beat­ing with insistent fists upon the mortality table, and our lawmakers by adding min­utes continuously to their minutes, had combined to add many more years to the average human life. Instead of being its sanitarium, San Diego became the play­ground of the world.

Notes

1. Minutes, San Diego County Board of Su­pervisors, December 19, 1853.
2. Stanford, San Diego's L.L.B., pp. 99-101.
3. San Diego Union, January 13, 1870.
4. Smythe, History of San Diego, pp. 601, 723.
5. Smythe, History of San Diego, p. 601; Hayes, Pioneer Notes, p. 140.
6. San Diego History Center Quarterly, Vol. IX, pp. 23-26, April, 1963.
7. Smythe, note 5, p. 600, 721; Minutes, City Council, July 8, 1851.
8. Smythe, note 5.
9. Minutes, City Trustees, December 3, 1853.
10. Smythe, note 5, pp. 601, 727.
11. Stats. 1850, p. 264; 1862, p. 552; Pen. Code, Sec. 1510.
12. Stats. 1851, p. 488; Pol. C. (1880) Sec.4303; Calif. C.C.P. Sees. 1726-1743 (1874).
13. Baur, The Health Seekers of Southern California, pp. 62-64.
14. Baur, note 13, pp. 10-11.
15. Ordinances of the City of San Diego, Vol. II, (1900) p. 60. (Ord. No. 409).
16. Note 15, p. 75, Ord. No. 466. Early re­ports of the State Board of Health had much to say about consumption; and see Baur, note 13, passim.
17. Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 27, p. 693 (May, 1896).
18. In 1894 a test of eleven cattle in the dairy herd of a state institution in Stockton showed that eight of the eleven cows had tuberculosis: Appendix to the Journals of the Senate and Assembly (31st session, Calif., 1895) Vol. VI, pp. 183-5. Two years later, the State Board of Health urged local regulation of tuberculin tests for cattle. App. to Journals, Vol. VI, (1897) p. 7. In San Diego, Ord. No. 441 (1897) provided for sanitary inspection of dairies. The victory in the fight to elimi­nate tuberculin cattle did not come until several years after the beginning of the 20th century.
19,. Moor v. Teed (1853), 3 Cal. Reps., 190. Wooster v. Paige (1878), 1 P.C.L.J. 324, and same case in I Cal. Leg. Rec. 188. Bole v. Polls (1888), 76 Cal. Reps., 304.
20. The earlier reports of the State Board of Health frequently confess ignorance of the real causes of many then-common diseases. See Appendix to Journals of the Senate and Assembly; 21st Session, Vol. 3, page 3; and 25th Session, Vol. IV, p. 14.
21. Baur, note 13, pp. 86-91.
22. Appendix to Journals of Senate and Assembly, 21st Session, Vol. 3, p. 6.
23. Appendix to Journals, etc.. 32nd Session, Vol. VI, p. 26.
24. Pacific Medical Journal, 1881, Vol. XXIII, pp. 403-404. Same in Appendix to Jour­nals, etc., 24th Session, Vol. II, pp. 74-76.
25. Note 21.
26. San Diego City, County Directory, 1886, part II, p. 44. In the Union, April 21, 1885, a Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Bailey offered to cure consumption and many other dis­eases "by the Divine Gift of laying on of hands." They called themselves "Magnetic Healers."
27. Baur, note 13, p. 11.
28. Stats. 1875-6, p. 792.
29. Stats. 1877-8, p. 918.
30. Note 15, Vol. 1, p. 109.
31. Note 15, Vol. II, p. 123.
32. Minutes, Town Trustees, Dec. 3, 1853.
33. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, July 21, 1856.
34. Minutes, Common Council, May 22, 1851.
35. Minutes, Common Council, Sept. 5, 22, 1850.
36. Minutes, Common Council, March 31, April 10, May 22, 1850.
37. Stats. 1852, Ch. LXV, p. 137.
38. Stats. 1853, Ch. CLXXIX, at p. 287.
39. Stats. 1852, Ch. XXXVI, p. 78.
40. Stats, 1855, Ch. LVII, p. 67.
41. Stats. 1853, Ch. CLXXIX, Sec. 19, at p. 285.
42. Stats. 1853, Ch. CLXXIX, p. 281.
43. Appendix to Journals of Senate & Assem­bly (Calif.), 21st Session, Report of the Permanent Secretary, State Board of Health, p. 49.
44. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, Jan. 9, 1874.
45. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, Jan. 14, 1875.
46. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, Jan. 10, 1876.
47. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, Nov. 3, 1877.
48. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, Oct. 21, 1881.
49. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, Oct. 5, 1882.
50. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, Jan. 13, 1874.
51. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, Nov. I, 1877. Dr. Remondino was allowed $350.00 per month as City Health Officer by the Trus­tees, Union, June 14, 1877.
52. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, Nov. 6. 1877.
53. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, Oct. 4, 1881.
54. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, Oct. 13, 1882.
55. Appendix to Journals of Senate and As­sembly (Calif.) 22nd Session, p. 29; 27th Session, p. 102-in each case "Report of the State Board of Health."
56. Stats. 1883, Ch. LXXV, at p. 304.
57. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, May 23, 1883.
58. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, 12-23-82, 4-2-83, 4-5-83, 5-14-83, 5-15-83, 5-21-83, 5-23-83.
59. Minutes, Board of Supervisors, April 11, 1884.
60. The San Diego Union, March 18, 1858.
61. Stats. 1869-70, p. 329.
62. Stats. 1850, p. 122.
63. Note 36.
64. Notes 37 et seq.
65. Minutes, City Council, Feb. 27, 1851.
66. Minutes, City Council, Sept. 30, 1850; City Trustees, Sept. 11, 1855.
67. Minutes, City Council, Sept. 15, 1851. 68. Stanford, San Diego's LL.B., p. 87. 69. Scats. 1852, p. 223.
70. Supervisors collected their share of state Hospital Funds, Minutes, 11-28-53 (exam­ple), and from time to time levied local taxes of from 5f to lOf per $100.00 val­uation to augment the local fund to aid the indigent sick.
71. Hayes, Pioneer Notes, pp. 281-4, The Union, Dec. 12, 1868, reported smallpox in the county, and noted that the Board of Supervisors had ordered a "general vacci­nation." 72. Hayes, note 71, pp. 282-3.
73. Minutes, Town Trustees, Feb. 20, and March 16, 1869.
74. Note 73.
75. Note 20. Also Appendix to Journals, etc., 22nd Session (1878) Vol. 3, p. 22.
76. Appendix, etc., 27th Session, Vol. II, p. 32 (1887).
77. Appendix, etc., 24th Session, Vol. 2, pp. 27-57, (1881). This is one of many evalua­tions of curative waters.
78. Appendix, etc., 21st Session, Vol 3, pp. 133 et seq. (1875).
79. Appendix, etc., 23rd Session, Vol. 2, p. 98 (1879).
80. Appendix, etc., 30th Session, Vol. III, p. 154. (1893).
81. Appendix, etc., 23rd Session, Vol. 2, p. 104 (1879).
82. Appendix, etc., 31st Session, Vol. VI, pp. 5, 6 (1895).
83. Note 82.
84. Appendix, etc., 22nd Session, Vol. 3, p. 12. (1878).
85. Appendix, etc., 24th Session, Vol. 2, p. 17. (1881).
86. Appendix, etc., 28th Session, Vol. VI, p. 60. (1889).
87. Appendix, etc., 28th Session, p. 6; 29th Session, p. 32; 30th Session, p. 17; 31st Session, p. 6; 32nd session, p. 25.
88. Stats. 1880, p. 102.
89. Stats. 1891, p. 526.
90. Stats. 1891, p. 86.
91. Minutes, Town Trustees, July 30, 1881. 92. Minutes, Town Trustees, Jan. 13, 1876. 93. Ordinances of the City of San Diego, Vol. 1, (1900), pp. 168-174.
94. Appendix, etc., 29th Session, Vol. VII, pp. 91-2.
95. Note 93. 96. Appendix, etc., 31st Session, Vol. VI (1895), p. 177.
97. Appendix, etc., 32nd Session, Vol 6, (1897), pp. 10, 11, 25.


Leland Stanford came to California from Nebraska, where he was born, in 1906. His father, Ira W. Stanford, was in the dairy business here. Mr. Stanford has had a full career. He has been a sports reporter, a law school teacher, a law writer, a practicing attorney, and at present is county law librarian.

He is the author of several books and articles, including "San Diego's LL.B.," "Tracks on the Trial Tail," "Footprints of Justice," and "Judges of the Plains."