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Barnes Medical College

St. Louis, Missouri



The State Historical Society of Missouri has the catalogs for Barnes Medical College, source for the school logo and the football photo.   Washington University has recently made available archival materials for both Barnes Medical College and its partner American Medical College.  Faculty from Barnes Medical College edited The Medical Era, often including articles about the college.  



Barnes Medical College was organized in 1892 as a for-profit school by a group of St. Louis physicians and business leaders.  While the school was named for philanthropist Robert Barnes, it received none of the money he had bequeathed to a hospital.  Barnes quickly became the largest medical college in the city.  The 1899 graduating class totaled 203.  The Medical Era praised Barnes as being among the first medical schools to advocate for a higher standard of education for candidates preliminary to their entering medical school and as being among the first to adopt a four-year program.


After the college added Centenary Hospital in 1902, students then had an adjoining clinical facility. 


In financial difficulties, Barnes offered itself to the University of Missouri as a facility for the last two years of medical training.  Newspapers at the time indicated that the offer had been accepted.  However, despite negotiation over the next two years, the merger never was realized.


Barnes students had chapters of the YMCA and the Medico-Chirurgical Society.  They also published a college journal. 


In 1909 Abraham Flexner was very critical of Barnes Medical College.  In his Carnegie Foundation Report, he noted that entrance requirements were less than a high school education.  He was also critical of the clinical opportunities for students since Centenary Hospital was mostly private.  He termed the building arrangement “shockingly bad,” with most rooms in poor condition and lacking proper equipment.  Overall he called the school “feeble and without promise.”


At that time enrollment was down to 124.  Barnes absorbed the even smaller Hippocratean Medical School and in 1912 merged with American Medical College. Both of those schools were rated by Flexner as “Utterly Wretched.”  The merged colleges closed in 1918.

Bricks and Mortar

Barnes Medical School opened in a new building at the corner of Lawton and Beaumont in downtown St. Louis.  By 1896 enrollment had increased so that a second building became necessary.  That was a five-story building on the northeast corner of Lawton and Garrison.  In 1902 Centenary Hospital was completed, providing a clinical facility for the college as well as a dispensary, a dental school, and training school for nurses.  It adjoined the main building.


In 1904 the original building—now called Douglass Hotel—was renovated as a hotel and hall for blacks.  In 1919 Centenary Hospital became a City Hospital #2, a hospital for blacks.  The structures were razed in the 1960’s. 



Barnes Medical College (St. Louis: its history and ideals, prepared for the sixty-first annual session of the American medical association, June seventh, eight, ninth and tenth, 1910, by Philip Skrainka, M. D. <;view=1up;seq=129>   accessed 10-25-2017

1906 Barnes football team.  Note that the ball carries the initials BU for Barnes University, the name taken by the school that year. (Catalog, courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri)



Like most medical schools, Barnes fielded a football team—at least as early as 1900.  College football Data Warehouse shows ten games scattered between 1900 and 1910.  Among opponents were Marion-Sims Medical College, Washington University, St. Louis University, Southeast Missouri State, Shurtleff College, Haskell Institute, Rolla School of Mines, Eastern Illinois, and DePauw.


Students writing in 1904 believed, “With a little practical financial encouragement . . . with which to purchase an outfit and Barnes would be right in the front row of college athletics in St. Louis.”  That “financial encouragement” may have come because the catalog describes the 1906 team  as “Medical Champions State of Missouri.”  







Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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