Western Dental College
Kansas City, Missouri
Joseph F. Jacobs’ 1949 History of the University of Kansas City, School of Dentistry has a section on Western Dental College. Another good short history is Ralph W. Edwards’ 1959 “A History of the Western Dental College.” The 1913 ad is from the University Missourian.
Western Dental College was chartered on June 24, 1890. Dr. Drury J. McMillen, who organized the effort, ultimately became the sole owner of the school. Classes opened that fall for 60 students with a faculty of 9. McMillen was Dean and Professor of Operative Dentistry. The initial school term was six months. Matriculates had to have a good moral character and to have passed an examination on “all the branches usually taught in the common schools.” Western advertised itself as a school of “Practical Dentistry,” so professors were expected to be able to demonstrate the dental principles about which they lectured.
The first commencement of 1891 saw nine graduates. After the first year, Western followed the national guidelines for matriculation and graduation. Matriculates had to be high school graduates with at least 15 credits. Graduation required three terms of coursework.
In 1892 Western offered a post-graduate course in Crowns and Bridgework.
By 1894 Western was accepted for member ship in both the National Association of Dental Faculties and the National Association of Dental Examiners.
McMillen died in 1913. Western was so identified with him that it had difficulty in maintaining stability. It began to have trouble in attracting students and so began to admit unqualified students and to advertise as a trade school from which students could earn “big money.” In both 1915 and 1516 it’s practices were investigated by the Missouri State Board of Dental Examiners.
In 1908 Western students received a chapter of the Xi Psi Phi dental fraternity, and by 1914 they created a fraternity house for members. Also in 1914 Western students received the Delta Phi chapter of the Psi Omega dental fraternity.
In 1919 Western merged with the rival Kansas City Dental College, the new school becoming the dental college of the University of Kansas City in 1941 and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1961.
Casey Stengel (left) with members of the Western Dental College baseball team. Image used by permission of Huggins and Scott Auctions.
Bricks and Mortar
Western Dental College began in 12 W. 10th Street in downtown Kansas City. Even before classes began, McMillen saw that seating in the lecture and operating rooms was too limited for the enrollment. By 1896 classes had been moved to the upper floors of the Navaho Building at 716 Delaware Street. In 1900 McMillen—also a real estate mogul—had a new four-story structure built on the southwest corner of 11th and Locust streets, across from Central High School. The new building was 240 feet long, with shops occupying the ground floor. In addition to the operating room and two lecture halls, the building contained a museum as well as laboratories for histology and bacteriology and for chemistry and metallurgy.
After the merger, classes moved to the Kansas City Dental College Building. The 11th and Locust location was razed in 1936 to make way for the new City Hall skyscraper.
The 11th and Locust building.
Team name: Dentals
School colors: Yellow and White
College Football Data Warehouse shows one game for the Dentals: a 35-7 loss to Wentworth Military Academy in 1918. However the Kansas City Daily Journal shows a 26-0 loss to Westport High School in 1899.
In 1918 the Lexington Intelligencer shows that Wentworth Military Academy and Western played a three-game baseball series. But Casey Stengel attended Western in 1911, and as the photo above shows, played baseball there, so Western’s baseball history may be considerably larger.
Basketball was Western’s major sport. The 1907 NCAA Basketball Guide shows a ten-game schedule against high school, college, YMCA, independent and military teams. The 1917 Dentals won the Kansas City Collegiate Conference defeating Kansas City Dental College, Kansas City Veterinary College, Huff’s Commercial College and Kansas City School of Osteopathy.
(left) The 1906 Dental basketball team. 1907 Official National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball guide